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Friday, March 30, 2012

The History of Rasselas Prince of Abissinia


The History of Rasselas: Prince of Abissinia
by Samuel Johnson
p. 1759
Oxford World's Classic Edition 1998 version
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by J.P. Hardy

  Samuel Johnson is one of the founding figures of modern English prose- specifically since he wrote the first English language dictionary in 1755.  The Oxford English Dictionary wasn't completed for another 150 years, and during that time Johnson's dictionary was THE dictionary. He also dominated the London literary scene in the mid 18th century and wrote a variety of essays, poetry and this proto-novel, The History of Rasselas.

  The obvious comparison to make is between Rasselas and Voltaire's Candide.  Both take the form of the travels of a young man, accompanied by a teacher, travelling the world and seeing all the bad stuff that can happen to people.

  I read this book a couple years back but didn't review it because it isn't really a Novel, it may be an important book that had a huge influence on later Novelists and the Audience when it was published, but its hardly a Novel.   It's more like a philosophical inquiry attached to an episodic narrative.

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