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In Samuel Johnson’s classic philosophical tale, the prince and princess of Abissinia escape their confinement in the Happy Valley and conduct an ultimately unsuccessful search for a choice of life that leads to happiness. Johnson uses the conventions of the Oriental tale to depict a universal restlessness of desire. The excesses of Orientalism―its superfluous splendours, its despotic tyrannies, its riotous pleasures―cannot satisfy us. His tale challenges us by showing the problem of finding happiness to be insoluble while still dignifying our quest for fulfillment.
The appendices to this Broadview edition include reviews and biographies, selections from the sequel Dinarbas (1790), and the complete text of Elizabeth Pope Whately’s The Second Part of the History of Rasselas (1835). Selections from Johnson’s translation of the travel narrative A Voyage to Abyssinia, as well as his Oriental tales in the Rambler, are also included, along with another popular tale, Joseph Addison’s “The Vision of Mirzah,” and selections from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters.About the Author:
Thomas Keymer is Chancellor Jackman Professor of English at the University of Toronto. He co-edited The Cambridge Companion to English Literature from 1740 to 1830.
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