“My other works,” Samuel Johnson is reputed to have said, “are wine and water; but my Rambler is pure wine.” Posterity has come to accept this verdict. Yet, surprisingly enough, the most widely used edition of the Rambler has been the wholly unauthoritative one of 1825. In furnishing an accurate, carefully annotated text of the 208 numbers of the Rambler, periodical essays that appeared twice a week between March 20, 1750, and March 14, 1752, this new edition this meets a long-felt need. An Introduction by W. J. Bate probes the moral vision that pervades most of the essays; and since the Rambler is by far the most heavily revised of Johnson’s writings, the many thousands of variant readings provide a rare and fascinating glimpse of Johnson at the task of polishing his style. Here, then, meticulously edited for the first time, is the quintessential Samuel Johnson.
This selection of the cream of the writing from Volumes III–V of the Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson fills the largest remaining gap in easily available eighteenth-century texts for the student and general reader. The edition provides in popular form the amplest selection available of Johnson’s essays, ranging from his great moral pieces to the valuable essays on literary criticism. The volume is fully annotated, and Bate provides a concise summary of the publication history of the essays and the moral vision that pervades them.
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