Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Theme of the country and city in London.
Samuel Johnson’s London is a satire which addresses the condition of Eighteenth century England, marked by various changes in the personal and public front. The satire heavily accommodates political, socio-economic and cultural data which further explains the current situation confronting the poet at that time. Johnson’s usage of satire echoes the popular literary tradition of the period, which serves as a tool of social critique. Though it is an imitation of the classics like Virgil, Juvenal and Horace, the eighteenth century satirists like Pope, Dryden and especially Johnson tend to use it more as a political satire rather than a social one. In London, Johnson emulates Juvenal’s Third Satire which satirizes the corrupt condition of the city of Rome as opposed to the innocence of the country. Johnson similarly satirizes the urban space of London, characterized by political turmoil, economic disorder and environmental degradation as against the peace and purity of the country. This theme of the city and the country was inspired by earlier literary modes like the eclogues and the georgic tradition which praise the natural space and are endemic to the pastoral. However, it had already been a popular theme even before the eighteenth century poets like Johnson, Gray and Goldsmith and was used by writers like Shakespeare and even Virgil.
In London, Johnson utilizes the figure of Thales to develop his socio-political critique of the metropolitan space, represented by London. Right from the beginning of the poem, Johnson brings forth the necessity of Thales to leave the city because of the injustices that he faces there. Thales is projected as the epitome of ‘virtue’, who, as an honest poet, fails to get recognized in London. This reveals the corruption that exists, where only the sycophants of politicians and ministers gain favour
Bibliography: 1) Wharton, T.F:”London: ‘surly virtue’ and ‘pleasing dream’ 2) Niel, Anna: “British Discovery and the Rise of Global commerce.” 3) Avery, Emmett. L and Scouten, A. H: “Opposition to Robert Walpole” from ‘The British Historical Review.’ 4) Williams, Raymond: “The Country and the City.” 5) Novak, Mascimillian:“Eighteenth Century English literature.” 6) Lambert, Tim:” Eighteenth Century England”.