Samuel Johnson, The Vanity of Human Wishes

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Samuel Johnson’s celebrated poem “The Vanity of Human Wishes” appeared anonymously in 1749, and was instrumental in helping him escape the garrets of Grub Street and become famous himself. Though anonymous, most of his friends and admirers could recognize the same hand that wrote his earlier poem ”London”


(1738) and

The Life of Mr. Richard Savage

(1744), so a signature was scarcely required. Perhaps the most telling signpost was the subtitle of the poem, “The Tenth Satire of Juvenal Imitated”, which linked it to “London”, another imitation of Juvenal, in that case his Third Satire. The form of “imitation”, widely practiced in eighteenth-century letters, delighted in the battle of semantics: when did a translation become an adaptation—or an adaptation an…

1752 words

Citation: Grasso, Joshua. "The Vanity of Human Wishes". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 April 2019 [, accessed 25 May 2024.]

8040 The Vanity of Human Wishes 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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