Rasselas: A Word Of Caution
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A special word of caution seems appropriate regarding quotes from Samuel Johnson's novel Rasselas. Rasselas is a piece of fiction about efforts to decide what to do with life, "making a choice." Rasselas is a prince in Africa, who has lived a sheltered existence in The Happy Valley; he escapes in order to find more to do with his life.

The quotes come from fictional characters, written by Johnson, and technically speaking the quotes are not Johnson's. However, those that come from the character "Imlac" are often considered to be Johnson's feelings.

Out of their context, there are some quotes which sound like something wonderful for the bulletin board. For instance, one character ("the artist") says "Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome." In the novel this character proceeds to don a set of false wings and then belly flop into a lake; without the context you don't know that very important "on the other hand." (And whether Johnson wants us to be chastened by the belly flop or say "at least he tried" is up for grabs. Take out your blue books, please...)

In another example where the lack of context can hurt the meaning, there is the frequently cited Imlac quote "Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed." A fairly pessimistic sounding commentary on life. However, Imlac says this to dampen Rasselas' envy of life in Europe, telling him that there is a basic consistency to the human condition all around the world. There is an important introductory sentence from Imlac, which is usually omitted. Imlac's complete statement is as follows:

"The Europeans," answered Imlac, "are less unhappy than we, but they are not happy. Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed."

Enjoy, but be aware...

By the way, in the Rasselas quotes, where you see a three dot ellipsis ( ... ), that generally means I've sliced out something like "said Imlac."

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