Reading Experience Database
1450-1945

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Record 22175

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: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: n/a
Listeners present if any:
(e.g. family, servants, friends, workmates)
n/a
Additional comments: n/a

 

Text Being Read:

Author: Edward Young
Title: Night Thoughts
Genre: Poetry
Form of Text: Print: Book
Publication details: n/a
Provenance: unknown

 

Source Information:

Record ID: 22175  
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://can-red-lec.library.dal.ca/Arts/reading/recorddetails2.php?id=22175, accessed: 04 February 2023

Additional comments:

Originally published 1791.

 

 

Reading Experience Database version 2.0.  Page updated: 27th Apr 2016  3:15pm (GMT)