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Johnson, Writing, and Memory by Greg Clingham

By Greg Clingham

This research demonstrates the significance of reminiscence in Samuel Johnson's paintings. Greg Clingham argues that this idea of reminiscence is derived from the method of ancient and inventive writing; it really is embodied in works of literature and different cultural varieties. He examines Johnson's writing; together with his biographical writing, because it intersects with eighteenth-century proposal on literature, heritage, fiction and legislation and its next compatibility with and resistance to fashionable thought.

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Example text

Evidently, Johnson felt that Dryden’s lines expressed his thought and feeling here most fully. The “secret happiness” of this poem, and particularly of the lines quoted by Johnson, turn on the paradoxical denial of its explicit statements: an apparently passive and subservient relation to the past is transformed into a triumph over the acknowledged limiting facts of life and of the past.  The historical distance between the past and present is accepted, and then effortlessly erased; and the sameness in difference, and the larger consciousness arising therefrom, are part of Johnson’s perception of the present as this essay defines it.

Just as the mind makes contact with a world “beyond” itself – or a past differentiated from the present – and constructs a present through memory, so Johnson’s prayers and sermons work towards a dependence on God (as he defined prayer) by playing off his past experiences against the uncertainties of Providence. The movement of thought in question is indicative of the structure of the prayers; for example: Almighty God, who hast brought me to the beginning of another year, and by prolonging my life invitest to repentance, forgive me that I have misspent the time past, enable me from this instant to amend my life according to thy holy Word, grant me thy Holy Spirit that I may pass through things temporal as not finally to lose the things eternal.

Action is a particularly human form of being – “Rambler”  and Dryden’s version of Horace’s th Ode of the Third Book triumphantly declare that neither beast nor God, but only humankind can undo the past – yet the application of the will produces, in time, consequences different from intentions. The ends of action cannot be fully determined by the individual will, itself subject to nature and time. ” Yet, for all Johnson’s melancholia in the works of the s and s, and various ironic attitudes in the Lives, this view does not quite describe either Johnson’s tone or his intentions in the Lives.

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