Published in the bicentennial year of Samuel Johnson’s death, Johnson and His Age includes contributions by some of the nation’s most eminent scholars of eighteenth-century literature. A section on Johnson’s life and thought presents fresh analyses of Johnson’s friendships with Mrs. Thrale and George Steevens, new information on Johnson’s relations with Smollett and Thomas Hollis, a speculative essay on “Johnson and the Meaning of Life,” and a provocative examination of “Johnson, Traveling Companion, in Fancy and Fact.”
Other essays reinterpret basic assumptions in Johnson’s criticism and examine “The Antinomy of Style” in Augustan poetics, Hume’s critique of criticism, and the broad Anglo-Scots inquiry on subjectivity in literature. A section on major figures of the age discusses Gray and the problems of literary transmissions, Hogarth’s book illustrations for friends, Gibbon’s oratorical “silences,” Blake’s concept of God, and Burke’s attempt to forestall Britain’s ruinous policy toward the American colonies. A section on the novel examines that genre from Richardson and Sterne to Austen.
Among the contributors are Bertrand H. Bronson, Jean H. Hagstrum, Patricia Meyer Spacks, Robert Haisband, Howard D. Weinbrot, Mary Hyde, Ralph W. Rader, Lawrence Lipking, Gwin J. Kolb, John H. Middendorf, W. B. Carruichan, and Max Byrd.