Samuel Johnson's "London"
"London: A Poem" was published anonymously in 1738, and was immediately popular, perhaps because, unlike the later "The Vanity of Human Wishes," it is fairly easy to read: Alexander Pope praised it, and the impoverished Johnson received ten guineas from Edward Cave, the publisher, for the copyright. It is, the author states, a poem written "In imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal." The Third Satire is a poem about the decay of ancient Rome and the decadence which the poet found there: how closely, (for those of you who care to look at the original) do Johnson's Heroic Couplets echo Juvenal's themes, images, and emphasis? In what ways does Johnson's version differ? What sort of London does Johnson present us with? Can you relate his vision of London to Blake's? To Dickens's in
In what ways, that is, is "London" a poem about the loss of illusions, about the bitterness of failure?) In what senses is this (in theme, in tone, in structure, in verse form) a Neo-classical poem? How does Johnson contrast the city with the country, the present with the past, the honest with the corrupt, the wealthy with the poor?
Last modified 3 December 2006