The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, Paperback Book

The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia Paperback

Edited by Thomas Keymer

Part of the Oxford World's Classics series

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


'What then is to be done? said Rasselas; the more we inquire, the less we can resolve.' Rasselas and his companions escape the pleasures of the 'happy valley' in order to make their 'choice of life'. By witnessing the misfortunes and miseries of others they may come to understand the nature of happiness, and value it more highly. Their travels and enquiries raise important practical and philosophical questions concerning many aspects of the human condition, including the business of a poet, the stability of reason, the immortality of the soul, and how to find contentment.

Johnson's adaptation of the popular oriental tale displays his usual wit and perceptiveness; sceptical and probing, his tale nevertheless suggests that wisdom and self-knowledge need not be entirely beyond reach.

This new edition relates the novel to Johnson's life and thought and to politics, society, and the global context of the Seven Years War.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780199229970

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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by
Rasselas is a brief but comprehensive introduction to some of the recurring questions of political and practical philosophy. What is the best way to live out a human life? Where is real fulfillment to be found? Of what does happiness consist?Samuel Johnson embodies these questions in the tale of Rasselas, an Ethiopian prince who has been cloistered from the cares of the world in a remote mountain fastness. But Rasselas is not satisfied with his days of leisure and amusement, so he seeks to venture forth . . . .The great Dr Johnson's style here is elegant; his questions searching; his wisdom never simplistic, but always simple. This is a perfect introduction to much broader reading in philosophy.
Review by

It was nice enough I suppose. - the writing and the idea But it's kind of pointless. Which is kind of the point.

Review by

Samuel Johnson's fine book rather reminded me of Voltaire's 'Candide', except there isn't quite as much travelling, and the variety of philosophical ideas expounded upon is much greater. The book was remarkably readable for one quite so old, and as an English Teacher I found it fascinating to see how usage has changed in the intervening period; we use commas differently, and we no longer write musick or rustick.Johnson is also eminently quotable. This piece really stuck in my mind: "All skill ought to be exerted for universal good; every man has owed much to others, and ought to repay the kindness he has received." For me, this is the perfect way of looking at the Internet as a whole, and explains the logic behind all those wonderful writers scribbling away and posting their thoughts online for the world to see.

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