The Age of Johnson:
A Scholarly Annual

Preface to Volume 17 (2006)

This is the first volume of The Age of Johnson to be substantially compiled since the death of the journal's founding editor, Paul J. Korshin, who died as Volume 16 was nearing completion. Paul's unexpected and much-lamented death has prompted a number of changes in the journal, which he and I had edited together for the previous seven years.

The first, and most visible, change is a new name on the masthead: J. T. Scanlan of Providence College has agreed to serve as Book Review Editor. Only once I began trying to take on all of Paul's editorial responsibilities did I realize just how extensive they were, and just how ill prepared I was to do the job unassisted. Scanlan — long a friend of and contributor to The Age of Johnson — has agreed to carry some of that burden, and to keep the review section as lively and incisive as it has been since the journal's founding. Second, after many years of service on the Editorial Board, Morris R. Brownell has decided to step down. I am grateful for his assistance over the years, and wish him all the best.

Despite these changes, I hope that Volume 17 is also marked by a great deal of continuity with the previous volumes. As usual, this yearís volume begins with a series of essays devoted to Johnsonís intellectual life. The first is by Steven D. Scherwatzky, who revisits a familiar theme — Johnson's "Augustinianism" — but, unlike most of those who use the word, he strives for precision in considering the ways in which Augustine can be said to have influenced Johnson's thought on empire. Johnson's religious thought is the subject of Matthew M. Davis's exploration of the "usages controversy," which for the first time illuminates Johnsonís involvement in an important eighteenth-century liturgical debate. Mel Kersey turns his attention to a theme that has attracted growing attention in recent years, the nature of "Britishness." His essay uses the prefatory comments in the Dictionary to examine "Johnson's depiction of England as a provisional entity overshadowed, and perhaps even overwhelmed, by the British nation-state." Tim Aurthur and Steven Calt examine the evidence about Johnson's use of opium over the course of his long and often disease-ridden life. And Linde Katrizky is the first to explore the connections between Johnson and the circle around William Petty, the second Earl of Shelburne, later Lord Lansdowne. There is also a pair of contrasting essays — Thomas M. Curley's comprehensive indictment of James Macpherson, whose involvement in the Ossianic affair prompted one of Johnson's most famous letters, and Nick Groom's response, which suggests that "forgery" is a more complicated notion than most readers have recognized.

As in previous volumes, the word "age" in the journal's title is at least as important as "Johnson": five of this year's full-length essays are on topics not directly related to Johnson or his circle. The first is Charles Haskell Hinnant's article, which relates some of Daniel Defoe's most important fictions to the French "pseudo-memoir" tradition. Two more pieces draw on a great deal of unpublished manuscript evidence: Eve Tavor Bannet examines some of Sarah Scott's personal and literary relationships; and John L. Abbott, now at work on The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney, 1784–86, offers an account of an episode in Burney's life. Lance Wilcox gives a reading of Catholicism in Elizabeth Inchbald's Simple Story. And Christopher Reid offers looks at the cultural significance of quotation in the House of Commons, a rich subject not yet explored in any depth.

Recent volumes of The Age of Johnson have included a number of omnibus review essays on various eighteenth-century subjects; the tradition continues in this volume. Chris P. Pearce offers a long and thoughtful consideration of a collection of essays on Johnson's Dictionary; Philip Smallwood gives the same kind of attention to the new Cambridge History of English Literature, 1660–1780. David Hopkins reviews three collections on John Dryden, prompted by the tercentenary of the poet's death, and reflects on the direction of Dryden studies in the new millennium. Richard Wendorf, who contributed an important essay on Romney studies in Volume 16, offers a thoughtful review of the recent Reynolds exhibition at Tate Britain. And Kevin Berland reports on the kinds of research made possible by three important electronic databases, EEBO, ECCO, and the Archive of Americana. The volume also sports the usual diverse array of book reviews, with considerations of sixteen recent titles on eighteenth-century studies.

I've depended quite a bit on members of the journal's editorial board this year, and would like thank them for their contributions. I hope Volume 17 is a worthy successor to the volumes edited by Paul Korshin. Next year's volume will be a special number, devoted to Paulís memory.

The Editor gratefully acknowledges the support of the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University – Newark Campus.

Jack Lynch

21 May 2006