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

Reading Experience Database UK Historical image of readers
 
 
 
 

Record Number: 22174


Reading Experience:

Evidence:

''It gives me much pleasure to observe, that however Johnson may have casually talked, yet when he sits, as "an ardent judge zealous to his trust, giving sentence" upon the excellent works of Young, he allows them the high praise to which they are justly entitled. "The 'Universal Passion' (says he) is indeed a very great performance,--his distichs have the weight of solid sentiment, and his points the sharpness of resistless truth." But I was most anxious concerning Johnson's decision upon "Night Thoughts", which I esteem as a mass of the grandest and richest poetry that human genius has ever produced; and was delighted to find this character of that work: "In his 'Night Thoughts', he has exhibited a very wide display of original poetry, variegated with deep reflections and striking allusions; a wilderness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy scatters flowers of every hue and of every odour. This is one of the few poems in which blank verse could not be changed for rhime but with disadvantage". And afterwards, "Particular lines are not to be regarded; the power is in the whole; and in the whole there is a magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese plantation, the magnificence of vast extent and endless diversity". But there is in this Poem not only all that Johnson so well brings in view, but a power of the [italics] Pathetick [end italics] beyond almost any example that I have seen. He who does not feel his nerves shaken, and his heart pierced by many passages in this extraordinary work, particularly by that most affecting one, which describes the gradual torment suffered by the contemplation of an object of affectionate attachment, visibly and certainly decaying into dissolution, must be of a hard and obstinate frame. To all the other excellencies of "Night Thoughts" let me add the great and peculiar one, that they contain not only the noblest sentiments of virtue, and contemplations on immortality, but the Christian Sacrifice, the Divine Propitiation, with all its interesting circumstances, and consolations to "a wounded spirit" solemnly and poetically displayed in such imagery and language, as cannot fail to exalt, animate, and soothe the truly pious. No book whatever can be recommended to young persons, with better hopes of seasoning their minds with [italics] vital religion [end italics], than Young's "Night Thoughts".'

Century:

1700-1799

Date:

Until: 31 Dec 1781

Country:

n/a

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:

James Boswell

Age:

Adult (18-100+)

Gender:

Male

Date of Birth:

29 Oct 1740

Socio-Economic Group:

Professional / academic / merchant / farmer

Occupation:

writer and lawyer

Religion:

n/a

Country of Origin:

Scotland

Country of Experience:

n/a

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

n/a


Additional Comments:

n/a



Text Being Read:

Author:

Samuel Johnson

Title:

[Life of Young in 'Lives of the Poets']

Genre:

Essays / Criticism, Biography

Form of Text:

Print: Book

Publication Details

n/a

Provenance

owned


Source Information:

Record ID:

22174

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:

1111-12

Additional Comments:

n/a

Citation:

James Boswell, R.W. Chapman (ed.), Life of Johnson, (Oxford, 1980), p. 1111-12, http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/reading/UK/record_details.php?id=22174, accessed: 04 March 2021


Additional Comments:

Originally published 1791.

   
   
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