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the experience of reading in Britain, from 1450 to 1945...

Reading Experience Database UK Historical image of readers
 
 
 
 

Record Number: 21182


Reading Experience:

Evidence:

' [Johnson said of Goldsmith] "Take him as a poet, his 'Traveller' is a very fine performance; ay, and so is his 'Deserted Village,' were it not sometimes too much the echo of his 'Traveller.' Whether, indeed, we take him as a poet,—as a comick writer,—or as an historian, he stands in the first class." Boswell. "An historian! My dear sir, you surely will not rank his compilation of the Roman History with the works of other historians of this age ?" Johnson. "Why, who are before him?" Boswell. "Hume, —Robertson,—Lord Lyttelton." Johnson. (His antipathy to the Scotch beginning to rise). "I have not read Hume; but, doubtless, Goldsmith's 'History' is better than the [italics] verbiage [end italics] of Robertson, or the foppery of Dalrymple." Boswell. "Will you not admit the superiority of Robertson, in whose 'History' we find such penetration—such painting?" Johnson. "Sir, you must consider how that penetration and that painting are employed. It is not history, it is imagination. He who describes what he never saw draws from fancy. Robertson paints minds as Sir Joshua paints faces in a history piece: he imagines an heroick countenance. You must look upon Robertson's work as romance, and try it by that standard. History it is not. Besides, sir, it is the great excellence of a writer to put into his book as much as his book will hold. Goldsmith has done this in his 'History'. Now Robertson might have put twice as much into his book. Robertson is like a man who has packed gold in wool: the wool takes up more room than the gold. No, sir; I always thought Robertson would be crushed by his own weight,—would be buried under his own ornaments. Goldsmith tells you shortly all you want to know: Robertson detains you a great deal too long. No man will read Robertson's cumbrous detail a second time; but Goldsmith's plain narrative will please again and again. I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: 'Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' Goldsmith's abridgement is better than that of Lucius Florus or Eutropius; and I will venture to say, that if you compare him with Vertot, in the same places of the Roman History, you will find that he excels Vertot."'

Century:

1700-1799

Date:

Until: 30 Apr 1773

Country:

England

Time

n/a

Place:

n/a

Type of Experience
(Reader):
 

silent aloud unknown
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown

Type of Experience
(Listener):
 

solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown


Reader / Listener / Reading Group:

Reader:

Samuel Johnson

Age:

Adult (18-100+)

Gender:

Male

Date of Birth:

18 Sep 1709

Socio-Economic Group:

Professional / academic / merchant / farmer

Occupation:

writer

Religion:

Anglican

Country of Origin:

England

Country of Experience:

England

Listeners present if any:
e.g family, servants, friends

n/a


Additional Comments:

n/a



Text Being Read:

Author:

Oliver Goldsmith

Title:

Roman History From The Foundation of The City of Rom

Genre:

History

Form of Text:

Print: Book

Publication Details

n/a

Provenance

unknown


Source Information:

Record ID:

21182

Source:

Print

Author:

James Boswell

Editor:

R.W. Chapman

Title:

Life of Johnson

Place of Publication:

Oxford

Date of Publication:

1980

Vol:

n/a

Page:

527-8

Additional Comments:

n/a

Citation:

James Boswell, R.W. Chapman (ed.), Life of Johnson, (Oxford, 1980), p. 527-8, http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/reading/UK/record_details.php?id=21182, accessed: 01 March 2021


Additional Comments:

Originally published 1791.

   
   
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