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Copy of Samuel Johnson and The Rambler Number 4: On Fiction

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Kati Voigt

on 23 April 2014

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Transcript of Copy of Samuel Johnson and The Rambler Number 4: On Fiction

Samuel Johnson
Biography
September 18, 1709-December 13, 1784
Born in Lichfield, England on September 18, 1709
From infancy, suffered from a condition scrofula, which left him blind in his left eye, deaf in his left ear, and with scars on his face
Attended Oxford University in 1728 at age 19, but dropped out a year later due to financial difficulties
Married Elizabeth (Tetty) Porter in 1735. She was 46 and he was 25
Moved to London and wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine
Was hired in 1749 to comprise the first English dictionary, The Dictionary of the English Language
contained 40,000 words
Was buried in West Minister Abbey in 1784
Lexicography
- "The editing or making of a dictionary"
The Dictionary of the English Language
It required 9 years and the help of 6 assistants to complete
Samuel Johnson
and
The Rambler No.4
The Rambler No.4
(On Fiction)
" Many writers, for the sake of following nature, so mingle good and bad qualities in their principal personages, that they are both equally conspicuous; and as we accompany them through their adventures with delight, and are led by degrees to interest ourselves in their favor, we lose the abhorrence of their faults, because they do not hinder our pleasure, or, perhaps, regards them with some kindness for being united with so much merit."
After reading the previous passages, how would you relate it
to the characters shown here?
Literary criticism
-noun
1.a written evaluation of a work of literature
2.the informed analysis and evaluation of literature
Why this wild strain of imagination found reception so long in polite and learned ages, it is not easy to conceive; but we cannot wonder that while readers could be procured, the authors were willing to continue it; for when a man had by practice gained some fluency of language, he had no further care than to retire to his closet, let loose his invention, and heat his mind with incredibilities; a book was thus produced without fear of criticism, without the toil of study, without knowledge of nature, or acquaintance with life.
"Why this wild strain of imagination found reception so long in polite and learned ages, it is not easy to conceive; but we cannot wonder that while readers could be procured, the authors were willing to continue it; for when a man had by practice gained some fluency of language, he had no further care than to retire to his closet, let loose his invention, and heat his mind with incredibilities; a book was thus produced without fear of criticism, without the toil of study, without knowledge of nature, or acquaintance with life."
What are the criticisms he makes in these two passages?
The Novel
"The works of fiction, with which the present generation seems more particularly delighted, are such as exhibit life in its true state, diversified only by accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by passions and qualities which are really to be found in conversing with mankind."
"This kind of writing may be termed not improperly the comedy of romance, and is to be conducted nearly by the rules of comick poetry. Its province is to bring about natural events by easy means, and to keep up curiosity without the help of wonder..."
Based on these passages, how do you think he is defining the novel?
Do you think Johnson's idea of the novel the same as we think of it today?
Johnson was one of the most profound literary critics of his time.
Some of his criticisms include:
The Rambler ( 1750-52) and The Idler (1758-60) were two periodicals in which Johnson wrote critical essays on literature as well as religion and morals.
The Preface (of Shakespeare) (1765) was another one of his popular literary criticisms.
The Lives of Poets (1779-81) was his last critical work.
B.F.F.
Samuel Johnson and Frances Burney (author of Evelina) became close friends after being introduced by a mutual friend named Hester Thrale.
They shared such a close bond, that he referred to Frances as his "little Burney."
There are records in Burney's diary that talk of Johnson's praise for her novel, Evelina.
Evelina
This novel written by Burney deals with "real life" situations and contains a more realistic plot than other fictional works of this era.
How do you think that Evelina compares with Johnson's standard of the ideal novel given in the Rambler No. 4?
Johnson acquired the nickname "Dictionary Johnson"
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