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408 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 subtle threads of jonson's art one can see the conventional dramatic victory of virtue over vice. To make this victory even more impressive, and to depict his good characters solely in terms of their moral worth, jonson has even denied his virtuous couple any romantic connection' (p 85). Mr. Puff could not have put it better. The unstated factor in Reibetanz's view of jonson is irony: and we must conclude that he has yet to see Volpone on stage. lf Volpon e, then, depicts 'a triumph of right over wrong: how of King Lear? '... the first and last scenes of King Lea,ยท are mutually illuminating, and work together in pointing us to the Christian vision beyond the Lear world. Edgar's desire to "Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say:' for instance, shows that he has recognized the great value that resides in Cordelia's plainness, as opposed to her sisters' pleasing surfaces' (p 121). Even Cordelia, after five acts of the consequences of speaking what she feels, might be thought to have learned something. Reibetanz has not. The possibility of a tragic ambiguity is denied: 'Any interpretation that advances the prospect of ambiguity as the final meaning of King Lear must therefore be looked on with extreme scepticism' (p 120). So there it is. Cordelia is right to 'Speak what we feel,' Edgar to applaud: our final experience unambiguously intimates the Christian myth, based on 'the association of Cordelia with Christ' (p 120). I regret that this book should have been permitted to appear with the major Canadian university press. Its positive features - which include a discussion of King Lear's departure from narrative, its stage-managed scenes, the hope-despair alternations in the final act, and the connections with Erasmus's Praise of Folly - are altogether overwhelmed by its weaknesses: imprudent assertion, lax argument through parallelism, an absence of theatrical awareness, indulgent and prolix writing. The manuscript should have been returned to its author for severe and disciplined revision. As it is, much of the book recalls that past from which one had thought Shakespearean criticism had emerged. But the march of the human mind, as Burke.observed, is slow. (RALPH BERRY) Samuel Johnson. Political Writings. Edited by Donald J.Greene Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, volume x Yale University Press, xlvi, 482. $30.00 johnson's political writings have been undervalued ever since Boswell's time, but recently their repute has begun to rise, thanks largely to the work of Donald Greene, a Canadian scholar teaching in California, who, first in The Politics of Samuel Johnson (1960, rpt 1973) and now in volume x of The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, has set them into context and explained their arguments. For most readers the problem has HUMANITIES 409 been that Jolinson was no systematizer - not a man to remove himself far enough from the heat of the fray to put together compendious treatises. All his political writings were comments on people and happenings in the news or answers to arguments put forward in controversy rather than expressions of his whole mind. So the reader needs what nobody before Greene ever provided, an account of the circumstances in which each was written and of other relevant contemporary pamphlets. Johnson was not without basic principles; indeed, the power in his writings on most subjects came from the intensity with which he held them. In his generous introductions Greene has explained Johnson's political principles fully, but when Johnson himself wrote on politiCS he was more concerned with actual situations than with speculations about principles. Taxation no Tyranny, the last and most misunderstood of these writings , is a case in point. An answer to a resolution passed by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774 and to pamphlets appearing in England in support of the American cause, it deals mostly with constitutional issues. Greene explains these clearly, with quotations from not only eighteenth-century documents but also from the writings of modern historical scholars, and contends that on the whole Johnson was right. But political morality is not merely a matter of constitutional law...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 408-410
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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