We speak of Johnson as an Augustan, yet in both The Vanity of Human Wishes and Rasselas he is concerned not to condemn the nonconformist characters who make the central interest, but to portray the inevitability and the poignancy of their urge to move beyond their lots, to become, rather than simply to be. His subject is, like Gray’s, frustration, though here a frustration which is a feature of all life, not of only one section of it, and which is present even at the moment of self-fulfilment. Johnson laments the circumscription of life: his search for observation with extensive view is in part the expression of his urge to break down the walls of the world and fly beyond.


Single View Considerable Doubt Extensive View Universal Truth Iron Gate 
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Copyright information

© C. N. Manlove 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. N. Manlove
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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