The History of Rasselas (unabridged)

Audio Sample

Samuel Johnson

The History of Rasselas

Read by Peter Wickham


Above all, Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas (1759) is concerned with the nature of happiness. Rasselas and his companions remove themselves from the pleasure of the ‘happy valley’ so that they can make their ‘choice of life’. In the course of their travels they come across scholars, astronomers, shepherds, hermits and poets, explore their way of life. Rasselas finds that complete happiness is elusive and, in the words of his mentor Imlac, ‘while you are making the choice of life, you neglect to live’.

In his treatment of this popular tale from the Orient, Johnson deploys his customary wit and perspicacity. Popular in its own day, Rasselas is a journey of the mind and soul, raising important questions concerning the human condition, which remain pertinent today.

  • Running Time: 4 h 50 m

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    Digital ISBN:978-1-78198-443-7
    Cat. no.:NA0578
    Edited by:Andrew Young, Viva Voce Audio
    Released:June 23
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Samuel Johnson’s brief 1759 tale is about a Prince of Abyssinia who escapes the restrictions of a cloistered kingdom to find his own way in life. It’s more a philosophical examination of the good life than a novel. Peter Wickham’s mature, lightly raspy but still pleasing voice; British accent; and clear, precise narration suit the period prose. He doesn’t vary character voices greatly but does enough to distinguish them. His performance is expressive as it brings out the sense of a narrative more measured and rhetorically precise than exciting or emotionally demonstrative. He is true to both the sense and period nature of the text and able to deliver it enjoyably for any listener interested in Johnson’s stately fable.

W.M., AudioFile

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