Samuel Johnson and the Sense of History

Title Details

Pages: 224

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 01/01/2009

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3377-9

List Price: $29.95

Samuel Johnson and the Sense of History

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  • Description
  • Reviews

No area of Johnsonian studies has been less appreciated and more misunderstood than Johnson's response to history. Popular notions to the effect that he was insensitive to history have discouraged scholars and critics from discovering the role history played in his thinking. In this first book-length investigation of the subject, John A. Vance concludes that few misconceptions about Samuel Johnson have been so glaring as his supposed dislike of history.

More specifically, in separate chapters Vance examines the development of Johnson's historical sense—from his readings, heritage, and travels to historical sites; Johnson's recall and use of historical figures and events, most notably the seventeenth-century attitude toward the most maligned member of the historical family, antiquarianism.

The author also devotes two chapters to Johnson's historical writings—that is, those works in which he either incorporates history into his critical, biographical, and political discussions or those in which he clearly assumes the role of historian himself. Vance furthermore considers Johnson's views on historical facts, educative and moral history, the broadening scope of historical investigation, the nature of historical truth and skepticism, historical research, historical causation, and the historian's style.

An excellent work, it knocks on the head an old and influential legend about Johnson. . . . Required reading for anyone seriously interested in Johnson and eighteenth-century intellectual history.

—Donald Greene

About the Author/Editor

JOHN A. VANCE is a professor of English at the University of Georgia. His essays in periodicals include studies of Milton, Dryden, Swift, Johnson, and Boswell, and his books include an annotated bibliography of Joseph and Thomas Warton and a literary biography of the two; he is also the editor of a collection of essays, Boswell's Life of Johnson: New Questions, New Answers (Georgia), and coauthor (with Donald Greene) of A Bibliography of Johnson Studies. William Wycherley and the Comedy of Fear is his most recent book.