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biography Literary form that describes the events of a person's life. The first known biographies were Lives by Plutarch in the 1st century ad. In English literature the first biographies appeared in the 17th century, notably Lives (1640–70) by Izaak Walton and Lives of Eminent Men (1813) by John Aubrey. The first ‘modern’ biography was the Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell, which is rich in detail and first-hand recollections. See also autobiography