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The Life And Works Of Samuel Johnson

1112 words - 4 pages

The Life and Works of Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson, a prominent English writer of the early eighteenth
century, brought vivid life to the literary realm of that era. He is
known by many to be a writer of great intellect, thought, and positive
influence in the writings of literary to follow. Johnson has been
hailed as a literary giant in his day, as well as in present times.
Samuel Johnson is a great writer because of the critical approval of
specific elements, namely satire, the moral romance, and the
biography.

The first element for which the critics have praised Johnson is his
powerful satire. Johnson's best example of this is displayed in his
work The Vanity of Human Wishes. In this highly regarded poem, Johnson
intertwines moral elegance and majestic verse in this satirical
masterpiece. The Vanity of Human Wishes is hailed as one of Johnson's
greatest literary accomplishments. This wonderful work illustrates,
according to Albert Perry Walker in his book Life of Johnson, "The
futility of man's ambitious struggles for happiness..."1 Samuel
Johnson had a keen sense of his surroundings, as he was a common
figure in English society. Johnson did not, however, begin his life in
a stately position within the class system. He grew up beneath the
weights of poverty as his family struggled to make ends meet.
Determined to get the best education possible, Samuel Johnson worked
hard to earn his acceptance into Oxford where he eventually received
his degree from. A decade or so upon graduating from the university,
Johnson compiled the satirical poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes, which
keenly expounds on his tragic yet comical view on life. Despite
growing up in poverty and the unfortunate death of his wife, Johnson
sees life as a cherished gift that should not be taken for granted. In
The Vanity of Human Wishes, Johnson clearly expounds on his views
toward life using well-embodied satire.

Another element for which the critics have praised Johnson is his
moral romance. A moral romance in eighteenth century literature is
equivalent to the modern-day adventure. Samuel Johnson's Rasselas is
his most famous work in the category of moral romance. The Arabian
Nights served as Johnson's primary source of thought in developing
this work. In Rasselas, "the story serves merely as the connecting
thread of a series of moral disquisitions, but no attempt is made to
solve the problem of life,"2 says Albert Perry Walker. As Johnson
incorporates moral dilemmas in his piece, he draws parallels from The
Vanity of Human Wishes. In Johnson and English Poetry Before 1660 by
W. B. C. Watkins he says, "There is in all Johnson's work, scholarly,
critical, creative, a striking unity, proceeding from the clarity of
his mind and purpose, from the integration of personality and age.
This unity, which is very...

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