Dr Johnson s foray into fiction is an oddity The themes are similar to Candide and they were written at pretty much the same time For different reasons.Johnson famously said No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money His only novel was no exception In January 1759 his mother became ill and Johnson needed money to support her and pay her medical bills He wrote Rasselas in a week, in the evenings He received one hundred pounds for it and it ended up paying for his mother s funeral Dr Johnson s foray into fiction is an oddity The themes are similar to Candide and they were written at pretty much the same time For different reasons.Johnson famously said No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money His only novel was no exception In January 1759 his mother became ill and Johnson needed money to support her and pay her medical bills He wrote Rasselas in a week, in the evenings He received one hundred pounds for it and it ended up paying for his mother s funeral as well Like Candide it was meant to be a critique of the philosophy in vogue at the time the general optimism that everything works out well It is set in North Africa Abyssinia and Egypt Rasselas is a prince of Abyssinia his father the emperor has an infallible means of stopping rivalry for the throne by making sure all who challenge him live together in an enclosed valley They live in absolute luxury and want for nothing The catch is they cannot leave Rasselas becomes inquisitive about the outside world and speaks to those who have lived out there He spends time with a man of science all needs are catered for who speculates that they might be able to build something that will enable they to fly out This enables Johnson to be prophetic about humanity conquering flight saying that it would be a disaster because of the implications of being able to move armies and arms around too quickly got that one right Dr J The flight idea is a flop and eventually it is a philosopher called Imlac who works out a way of escape geeks win again Rasselas and Imlac are accompanied by his sister Nekayah and her attendant Pekuah They wander around Egypt and explore the monastic life, life devoted to learning, wisdom and science, the pastoral life, poverty, power and rulers There is a good deal of rather irritating philosophising and debate and some repetition even for a short novel Inevitably they find all ways of life have their drawbacks and everyone wishes they had picked a different track and everyone wishes they could be young again They go round in circles for a bit and get absolutely nowhere and head back to their valley However there is a little off the wall conclusion as part of the last chapter Each of them decide on an ideal course if they were able to do what they wanted Imlac, the philosopher wanted to drift around the world examining all these different ways of life Rasselas wanted a small kingdom where he could have enough control to ensure everything was justly run and his subjects happy Pekuah wanted to join a convent and be a nun Rasselas s sister Nekayah wanted to found a college of learned women where women could learn sciences and the wisdom of the world didn t see that one coming I must admit All in all a mixed bag Johnson isn t exactly fluent and you can tell it was written in a rush However it was redeemed by some interesting ideas and speculations and Dr Johnson suggesting a university for women would be a good idea in 1759 An intriguing, contemporary take on Samuel Johnson s classic tale of an African prince in search of happiness.A star cast is led by Ashley Zhangazha as Rasselas, Jeff Rawle as Samuel Johnson and Lucian Msamati the RSC s first black Iago as the poet Imlac Singer and actor Cynthia Erivo makes her BBC radio drama debut as Princess Nekayah.Recorded on location at Dr Johnson s House, 17 Gough Square, in the City of London the very place wher An intriguing, contemporary take on Samuel Johnson s classic tale of an African prince in search of happiness.A star cast is led by Ashley Zhangazha as Rasselas, Jeff Rawle as Samuel Johnson and Lucian Msamati the RSC s first black Iago as the poet Imlac Singer and actor Cynthia Erivo makes her BBC radio drama debut as Princess Nekayah.Recorded on location at Dr Johnson s House, 17 Gough Square, in the City of London the very place where over 260 years ago, Johnson compiled his famous dictionary and then in January 1759, wrote his instant bestseller Rasselas in a week, to pay for his mother s funeral.Acclaimed 18th century philosophy fuels a contemporary desert road trip in this inventive and playful adaptation by Jonathan Holloway Period and modern collide in a satirical fantasy as Rasselas and his companions follow their quest for happiness and purpose to Cairo, where they encounter Arab Spring revolutionaries.Jonathan Holloway s drama also incorporates a compelling glimpse of Johnson himself the lonely, 50 year old celebrity and writer, in debt, in poor health, and missing his young Jamaican manservant, Francis Barber, who had run away to sea Born a slave, Barber was freed at Johnson s insistence and treated kindly by him.Johnson had struggled through many years of poverty before moving to Gough Square and becoming a highly respected writer Rasselas , his singular, progressive rumination on human happiness, is his only novel and his most popular work.Samuel Johnson Jeff RawleArthur Murphy Kevin TrainorPrincess Nekayah Cynthia ErivoPrince Rasselas Ashley Zhangazha A passing acquaintance with Samuel Johnson will reveal that the man could write splendidly He possessed, by all accounts, an unapproachable intellect His literary works are reminiscent of Voltaire s witty, erudite, vast, and infinitely readable His travel accounts and the biography by Boswell are considered paragons of their genre.Sadly, Rasselas is his only true novel, and it is a short one The rest of his corpulent corpus was composed of a book length literary evaluation of Shakespeare s A passing acquaintance with Samuel Johnson will reveal that the man could write splendidly He possessed, by all accounts, an unapproachable intellect His literary works are reminiscent of Voltaire s witty, erudite, vast, and infinitely readable His travel accounts and the biography by Boswell are considered paragons of their genre.Sadly, Rasselas is his only true novel, and it is a short one The rest of his corpulent corpus was composed of a book length literary evaluation of Shakespeare s plays, biographies of major poets, an important in its time and well crafted dictionary of the English language, and serial publications, which when compiled, are enjoyable agony uncle style epistolary philosophical tracts Take almost any sampling of his work, and you are almost guaranteed to be delighted if you delight in profound insight into the nature of the human soul and its relation to the world His sentences are complex, daunting, but continually stimulating Rasselas,so than The Rambler, is probably the best introduction to his work It is not exactly a masterpiece, but is is farinteresting, in my opinion, than his plays and poems the only other things he wrote which can be digested without much effort.Written for quick money in the space of a week, this charming novella, in the style of Candide or A Voyage to the Moon by Cyrano de Bergerac if that means anything to you , is nonetheless a brilliant morale tale, both timeless and grounded in the atmosphere of Johnson s mind an intellectual Christian moralist, who sympathized with common folk , even if it takes place in Abyssinia, and various points along the map traversed by its sentimental characters I found it to be a picaresque read, and enjoyed the analysis of the relative merits of different approaches to life themes later explored at exhaustive length in The Rambler.You have the prince, who wishes to experience the world, and who must do so at the expense of the luxury he is entitled to Of course, he travels in style, sampling temples and lively districts, and encountering unexpected wonders, similarly to Gulliver during his sojourn It is not a scathing critique and contains very little of a risque nature, as in Voltaire, but that makes it all theapproachable in my mind, and enjoyable to casual readers.Samuel Johnson is a writer to enjoy over a lifetime, one to study One of the giants of literary history, comparing him to Voltaire and Goethe is only a slight exaggeration of his powers His strengths lie in the didactic discussion, which will become readily apparent if you embark on his great later works, which I have been doggy paddling through slowly for some years, since the Rambler, not to mention the Idler, and his seemingly endless, encyclopedic miscellanies is a daunting task indeed If you think this is too ,too old hat for you then perhaps the fact that Jane Austen was a BIG fan may break down your prejudices And pride She loved and inherited Johnson s neoclassical balance of style exemplified in such of his sentences as Remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience and Marriage has many pains but celibacy has no pleasures See where Jane tapped into that conciseness, wit and wisdom now And both of these sentences are to be found in the enchanting philosophic If you think this is too ,too old hat for you then perhaps the fact that Jane Austen was a BIG fan may break down your prejudices And pride She loved and inherited Johnson s neoclassical balance of style exemplified in such of his sentences as Remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience and Marriage has many pains but celibacy has no pleasures See where Jane tapped into that conciseness, wit and wisdom now And both of these sentences are to be found in the enchanting philosophical fable of Rasselas, the Prince, who with his friends escapes from the perfection of his life in the Happy Valley to discover the miseries of the outside world so that he may truly understand and appreciate happiness and in what it really consists If you think your endurance low, never fear Like a fable it is all bite sized, consisting of littlethan one hundred pages divided into forty nine chapters And when it is all charming, clever, wise and witty and written in a style and vocabulary both direct, simple yet original and a little antiquated you can get some of the flavour of another time and another place Like me, you may find yourself keen to return to this world of honest, gentle wisdom which pulls no punches,but soothes one s soul Crumbs, I m beginning to sound like Johnson And you may become curious about its author and venture into the many available biographies especially the famous one by his friend James Boswell.And read your Jane Austen with a new appreciation.Aren t books wonderful Simply written, funny, and compulsively readable, this fine little book has been heralded as one of the finest examples of English prose and offers a compelling glimpse of Samuel Johnson s moral views Dashed out over the course of a single week to pay for his mother s funeral, Johnson s only novel was the outcome of a lifetime s thoughts and experiencesA philosophical romance tracing the pilgrimage of an African prince and his companions to Egypt, Rasselas ponders a number of subjects romantic love, flights of imagination, the great discoveries of science, and speculations about the meaning of happiness all of which, Johnson implies, encourage man with false hopes and unrealistic estimates of what life has to offerDirected specifically against eighteenth century optimism and, generally, against all simple formulas for achieving happiness, Rasselas has often been compared with Voltaire s Candide which was published only a few weeks before Johnson s work Both novels have deservedly attained the status of classics A bored rich prince gets tired of his boring rich life, and decides to escape the so called Happy Valley where he lives is imprisoned to learn about real life and what it means to be happy Along for the ride are a poet who s lived outside the Happy Valley before, the prince s sister, and her maid The group travels around for a while and meets a lot of different people, none of whom are really happy This is all an excuse for Johnson to ramble philosophically and repeat the same points over and A bored rich prince gets tired of his boring rich life, and decides to escape the so called Happy Valley where he lives is imprisoned to learn about real life and what it means to be happy Along for the ride are a poet who s lived outside the Happy Valley before, the prince s sister, and her maid The group travels around for a while and meets a lot of different people, none of whom are really happy This is all an excuse for Johnson to ramble philosophically and repeat the same points over and over again All in all, kind of forgettable and not very exciting But the reading experience improves a lot if you imagine that Prince Rasselas looks like this.Read for Colonial Imagination I m giving this five stars, because it s right up my alley style wise the Eastern pilgrimage tale , and I can t stop thinking about some clever points made even early on It s sort of Gibran s The Prophet meets Candide, but with aplausible outcome than either I cannot find anything to complain about it in this novel.A few of my favorites At the tail of Chapter 13, Imlac warns Rasselas about belief in omens, Do not disturb your mind with other hopes and fears than reason may suggest If I m giving this five stars, because it s right up my alley style wise the Eastern pilgrimage tale , and I can t stop thinking about some clever points made even early on It s sort of Gibran s The Prophet meets Candide, but with aplausible outcome than either I cannot find anything to complain about it in this novel.A few of my favorites At the tail of Chapter 13, Imlac warns Rasselas about belief in omens, Do not disturb your mind with other hopes and fears than reason may suggest If you are pleased with prognostics of good, you will be terrified likewise with tokens of evil, and your whole life will be a prey to superstition In Chapter 18, Imlac says Be not too hasty to trust or to admire the teachers of morality They discourse like angels, but they live like men In chapter 44, Imlac tells of an astronomer of great renown and genius, who confesses to him that he believes himself to be in control of the weather, and worries that he might destroy the world if he doesn t pay close attention The characters discuss at length the prevalence of bouts of madness among superior intellects, and the problem is resolved through their intervention the astronomer becomes part of their retinue, and eventually confesses the delusion I was amazed that such a complex and psychological character could emerge from an 18th century satire All power of fancy over reason is a degree of insanity It is not pronounced madness but when it becomes ungovernable I wonder how much eccentricity could be forgiven under this formula Probably the best quote is from the tail of chapter 11, and sums up most of the concept I believe Johnson wished to convey Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed This may seem dark to some, but I think it s a pretty balanced and wise statement about expectation This was recommended by a reading friend on one of theforums that I frequent Agree with other reviewers of the novella that it is a little gem of a book This review is for the kindle version.Rasselas is a Prince who has all his needs and wants catered for but he is dissatisfied with his life He sets out on a journey with his sister and his mentor Imlac to discover the choice of life , the meaning of happiness Was pleasantly surprised with this, how readable and found myself stoppi This was recommended by a reading friend on one of theforums that I frequent Agree with other reviewers of the novella that it is a little gem of a book This review is for the kindle version.Rasselas is a Prince who has all his needs and wants catered for but he is dissatisfied with his life He sets out on a journey with his sister and his mentor Imlac to discover the choice of life , the meaning of happiness Was pleasantly surprised with this, how readable and found myself stopping frequently to savour ideas and truths Nobody reads Johnson any except english majors Which is a shame since while Johnson is disdained for his lack of political correctness in his conservative particulars, his wisdom in generalization is unassailable Much can be gleaned from his philosophy and general opinions about life and our condition on this mortal coil Hence, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia a moral tale if there ever was one One of the things one has to keep in mind when reading Rasselas is that Johnson is Nobody reads Johnson any except english majors Which is a shame since while Johnson is disdained for his lack of political correctness in his conservative particulars, his wisdom in generalization is unassailable Much can be gleaned from his philosophy and general opinions about life and our condition on this mortal coil Hence, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia a moral tale if there ever was one One of the things one has to keep in mind when reading Rasselas is that Johnson is an adherent to the 18th century pre Romantic notion that writing should be elevating, morality wise Therefore, this is a tale of moral opposites in order to not only entertain but teach us something, make us better persons, along the way Forget this and you are in for a dull and confusing journey Prince Rasselas lives in the Happy Valley, a veritable Garden of Eden, but he is bored by the prospect of unmitigated happiness and yearns to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, so to speak The prince wants to see life He feels that happiness is not valued unless the opposite can be obtained and studied The entire narrative revolves around Rasselas escaping from the Valley along with his sister, the princess, her entourage, and a wise man named Imlac Along the way various adventures and lessons are learned It is a no brainer to see that after years of a taste of life on the outside of their gilded cage they all return to the valley Many conceive Rasselas as a children s moral tale but children today would neither understand the language nor have the emotional maturity to understand the philosophy and lessons involved at one point Johnson takes on the philosopher David Hume The story does have a 1,001 Nights feel to it At other times it is like Poor Richard s First Almanac If you are into 18th english literature or history, or Johnson in general, you owe it to yourself to read Wrastle Ass Free download available at Project Gutenberg From BBC Radio 4 Drama An intriguing, contemporary take on Samuel Johnson s classic tale of an African prince in search of happiness.A star cast is led by Ashley Zhangazha as Rasselas, Jeff Rawle as Samuel Johnson and Lucian Msamati the RSC s first black Iago as the poet Imlac Singer and actor Cynthia Erivo makes her BBC radio drama debut as Princess Nekayah.Recorded on location at Dr Johnson s House, 17 Gough Square, in the City of London th Free download available at Project Gutenberg From BBC Radio 4 Drama An intriguing, contemporary take on Samuel Johnson s classic tale of an African prince in search of happiness.A star cast is led by Ashley Zhangazha as Rasselas, Jeff Rawle as Samuel Johnson and Lucian Msamati the RSC s first black Iago as the poet Imlac Singer and actor Cynthia Erivo makes her BBC radio drama debut as Princess Nekayah.Recorded on location at Dr Johnson s House, 17 Gough Square, in the City of London the very place where over 260 years ago, Johnson compiled his famous dictionary and then in January 1759, wrote his instant bestseller Rasselas in a week, to pay for his mother s funeral.Acclaimed 18th century philosophy fuels a contemporary desert road trip in this inventive and playful adaptation by Jonathan Holloway Period and modern collide in a satirical fantasy as Rasselas and his companions follow their quest for happiness and purpose to Cairo, where they encounter Arab Spring revolutionaries.Jonathan Holloway s drama also incorporates a compelling glimpse of Johnson himself the lonely, 50 year old celebrity and writer, in debt, in poor health, and missing his young Jamaican manservant, Francis Barber, who had run away to sea Born a slave, Barber was freed at Johnson s insistence and treated kindly by him.Johnson had struggled through many years of poverty before moving to Gough Square and becoming a highly respected writer Rasselas , his singular, progressive rumination on human happiness, is his only novel and his most popular work.Sound design David ChiltonProduced and directed by Amber Barnfather.