Samuel Johnson: London

(1414 words)

London (May 1738) was Samuel Johnson’s first major publication and is one of the eighteenth century’s foremost verse satires. Johnson had moved to the capital from his native Lichfield a year earlier and was working for Edward Cave’s Gentleman’s Magazine. Progress on his tragedy, Irene, was slow, so Johnson turned to an “imitation” of the Roman poet Juvenal’s Third Satire, a virulent attack on second-century Rome. The “imitation” – a genre popularised by Oldham, Dryden, and Pope – required the poet to translate a classical source, but also to update its topical references. As Johnson later wrote: “This mode of imitation, in which the ancients are familiarised, by adapting their sentiments to m…

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Seager, Nicholas. "London". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 September 2015
[, accessed 30 September 2016.]