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The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) and Two Rambler

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The Augustan Reprint Society


_The Vanity of Human Wishes_ (1749)


Two _Rambler_ papers (1750)

With an Introduction by Bertrand H. Bronson

Publication Number 22 (Series VI, No. 2)

Los Angeles William Andrews Clark Memorial Library University of California 1950


H. RICHARD ARCHER, _Clark Memorial Library_ RICHARD C. BOYS, _University of Michigan_ EDWARD NILES HOOKER, _University of California, Los Angeles_ H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., _University of California, Los Angeles_


W. EARL BRITTON, _University of Michigan_ JOHN LOFTIS, _University of California, Los Angeles_


EMMETT L. AVERY, _State College of Washington_ BENJAMIN BOYCE, _University of Nebraska_ LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, _University of Michigan_ CLEANTH BROOKS, _Yale University_ JAMES L. CLIFFORD, _Columbia University_ ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, _University of Chicago_ SAMUEL H. MONK, _University of Minnesota_ ERNEST MOSSNER, _University of Texas_ JAMES SUTHERLAND, _Queen Mary College, London_


The pieces reproduced in this little volume are now beginning to bid for notice from their third century of readers. At the time they were written, although Johnson had already done enough miscellaneous literary work to fill several substantial volumes, his name, far from identifying an "Age", was virtually unknown to the general public. _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ was the first of his writings to bear his name on its face. There were some who knew him to be the author of the vigorous satire, _London_, and of the still more remarkable biographical study, _An Account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage_; and a few interested persons were aware that he was engaged in compiling an English Dictionary, and intended to edit Shakespeare. He was also, at the moment, attracting brief but not over-favorable attention as the author of one of the season's new crop of tragedies at Drury Lane. But _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ and _The Rambler_ were a potent force in establishing Johnson's claim to a permanent place in English letters. _The Vanity_ appeared early in January, 1749; _The Rambler_ ran from March 20, 1749/50 to March 14, 1752. With the exception of five numbers and two quoted letters, the periodical was written entirely by Johnson.

As moral essays, the Ramblers deeply stirred some readers and bored others. Young Boswell, not unduly saturnine in temperament, was profoundly impressed by them and determined on their account to seek out the author. Taine, a century later, discovered that he already knew by heart all they had to teach and warned his readers away from them. Generally speaking, they were valued as they deserved by the eighteenth century and undervalued by the nineteenth. The first half of the twentieth has shown a marked impulse to restore them, as

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