Samuel Johnson after Deconstruction: Rhetoric and the Rambler

By Steven Lynn | Go to book overview

2
(Mis)Reading The Spectator: The Rambler in Bloom

Speaking of Homer, whom he venerated as the prince of poets, Johnson remarked that the advice given to Diomed by his father, when he sent him to the Trojan war, was the noblest exhortation that could be instanced in any heathen writer, and comprised in a single line:

Aἰὲν ἀριστεύειν, καὶ ὑπείροζον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων

which, if I recollect well, is translated by Dr. Clarke thus: semper appetere praestantissima, et omnibus aliis antecellere.

-- William Maxwell qtd. in Boswell


Johnson Had No Competitors

According to Sir John Hawkins, when The Rambler first began to appear "Johnson had no competitors for applause; his way was open, and he had the choice of many paths" (261). This assessment by Johnson's friend and biographer is intriguing. For one thing, the announcement of Johnson's series in the Gentleman's Magazine indicates, as we might well expect, that he did have at least one immediate competitor: "Two new designs have...appeared about the middle of this month, one entitled, The Tatler revived; or, The Christian Philosopher and Politician....The other, The Rambler" ( March 1750; 20:126). Boswell, seemingly ever eager to triumph

-21-

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