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HUMANITIES 421 achieved. Blewett is the first to explain (in a discussion hitherto available only in a journal) why for satiric purposes of joining contemporary attacks on eighteenth-century masquerades Defoe conceived the 'central scenes of Roxana' in such a way that they 'take place simultaneously in the reign of Charles II and of George I' (p 126). Almost equally refreshing are places where Blewett shows the value for interpretation of taking Defoe's prefaces as more than conventional gestures aimed at warding off charges offrivolous intent. Less original but no less helpful in clearing away misunderstandings are the many places where Blewett points out Defoe's success at including details for effects more important than verisimilitude, and at manipulating verbal surfaces of diction and imagery to reinforce thematic patterns. Sustained attention to such patterns by so skilful a reader as Blewett does risk leaving the impression that nothing remains to challenge enquiry. But students of criticism are in little danger these days of seeing early narratives, espeCially Defoe's, as anything but problematic. Blewett's study should help free us from the nagging question of whether Defoe's artistry preponderates over his carelessness. The answer persuasively argued here is yes. (PAUL K. ALKON) Samuel Johnson. Sermons. Edited by Jean Hagstrum and James Gray The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, volume XIV Yale University Press 1978. lix, 354, illus. $22.50 Although johnson felt, according to Boswell, that 'his temper and habits rendered him unfit for that assiduous and familiar instruction of the vulgar and ignorant, which he held to be an essential duty in a clergyman : he none the less took a keen interest in various forms of religious expression and instruction. Together with prayers and meditations, he wrote sermons. just how many sermons johnson wrote no one knows. Twenty-eight have been attributed to him, two ofwhich were published in his lifetime, twenty-five shortly after his death, and one is published for the first time in this edition. johnson himself estimated, in making the general point that sermon writing wasn't difficult, that he had composed about forty sermons: 'I have begun a sermon after dinner and sent it off by post that night.' Consistent with his view that 'No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money: johnson appears to have sold most of his sermons to beneficed clergymen who would then preach them as their own. This seems not to have troubled the real author. Having been paid for his homilies (his usual price was two guineas), johnson 'considered them so absolutely the property of the purchaser, as to renounce all claims to them.' The chief purchaser and preacher of johnson's sermons 422 LEITERS IN CANADA '979 was his improbable friend, the worldly and boorish Dr john Taylor, who only rarely felt it necessary to tinker with the original script. johnson's sermons are relatively short, as eighteenth-century sermons go, and for the most part observe a simple format: a synoptic introduction of his theme is followed by a division of the argument into (usually) two or three parts, and the whole is rounded off by a mildly warm peroration. There is little textual exegesis, few scriptural quotations or allusions, and almost no anecdotes or other illustrative material. Both the style and the subjects of the sermons are very similar to those of the Idler and the Rambler: 'human vanity and the brevity of life, charity and revelation, domestic happiness, friendship and its laws, the peculiar temptations that beset the intelligent, the dangers of unrepentant forgetfulness, and the overwhelming need of an alert and wakeful conscience : There is the same balanced prose and reasoning we find in all his writings - the same resonance of phrasing, the same precision of language, the same comprehensiveness of mind: To subdue passion, and regulate desire. is the great task of man, as a moral agent; a task, for which natural reason, however assisted and enforced by human laws, has been found insufficient, and which cannot be performed but by the help of religion. The passions are divided by moralists into irascible and concupiscible; the passions of resentment, and the passions of desire. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 421-423
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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