The Age of Johnson now completes its twentieth volume in something more than twenty years — a scholarly annual, more or less. After something approaching eight thousand pages of original scholarship, the journal founded by Paul J. Korshin in 1987 continues to grow, continues to thrive, and continues to attract contributions by both eminences grises and promising newcomers in eighteenth-century studies.
As is the usual practice in the journal, the volume opens with a series of essays on Johnson himself: a new approach to Rasselas by David Simpson, an account of the Journey to the Western Islands by Andrew McKendry, a contextualization of Johnson’s "meditations" by Katherine Kickel, and a richly illustrated account of some of the satirical prints treating Johnson’s pension by Sheila O'Connell.
Then the essays move on to Boswell: Paul T. Ruxin tells the complicated story of the Douglas Cause, and Stephen Clarke treats the complex relations among Johnson, Boswell, William Mason, and Thomas Gray. James J. Caudle rounds out the Boswellian studies with a personal account of what has come to be known as the "Boswell Factory": a thorough survey of the project's history, a clear account of its present state, and some speculations about its future.
From the thoroughly documented Boswell we turn to Bennet Langton, a figure often mentioned in writings on Johnson and his circle but surprisingly little known. Lyle Larsen assembles the available evidence and gives us a fuller portrait of the man. Volume 20 then closes with three essays about women writers of the eighteenth century. Holly Luhning reads Eliza Haywood’s early novel, The Rash Resolve, in the light of recent body criticism and disability studies. Lorna Clark, one of the editors of Frances Burney's journals and letters, goes to the archive to unearth a great amount of unpublished material on Burney’s letter-writing. And Daniel P. Watkins offers a nearly monograph-length interpretation of The Rural Lyre, Ann Yearsley's collection of poetry from 1796.
As ever, The Age of Johnson contains a collection of lively and learned book reviews, including notices of major biographies of Johnson, Daniel Defoe, John Wilkes, and William Blackstone, a special issue of a journal devoted to Johnson's Dictionary, and monographs on Johnson's iconic stature, Johnson's fascination with "littleness," Jane Austen, joy, ballads, fashion, perceptions of Native Americans, and James Barry.
A cumulative index nominum of the first twenty volumes appears after the volume index, and gives some idea of the breadth and depth of the scholarship in these pages over the last two decades.
The editor gratefully acknowledges the support of the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University – Newark Campus.
25 June 2010