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

Reading Experience Database UK Historical image of readers
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Thomas Erskine


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Samuel Richardson : [novels]

'Fielding being mentioned, Johnson exclaimed, "he was a blockhead :" and upon my expressing my astonishment at so strange an assertion, he said, "What I mean by his being a blockhead is, that he was a barren rascal." Boswell. "Will you not allow, sir, that he draws very natural pictures of human life?" Johnson. "Why, sir, it is of very low life. Richardson used to say, that had he not known who Fielding was, he should have believed he was an ostler. Sir, there is more knowledge of the heart in one letter of Richardson's than in all 'Tom Jones'. I indeed, never read 'Joseph Andrews.'" Erskine. "Surely, sir, Richardson is very tedious." Johnson. "Why, sir, if you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment." I have already given my opinion of Fielding ; but I cannot refrain from repeating here my wonder at Johnson's excessive and unaccountable depreciation of one of the best writers that England has produced. "Tom Jones" has stood the test of publick opinion with such success as to have established its great merit, both for the story, the sentiments, and the manners, and also the varieties of diction, so as to leave no doubt of its having an animated truth of execution throughout.'

Century: 1700-1799     Reader/Listener/Group: Thomas Erskine      Print: Book


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