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This volume brings together three of Johnsons longest fictional pieces, showing the unusual similarities in some of their main themes and emphases. Rasselas, a philosophical tale that embodies the full range of Johnsons thinking on moral, psychological, and literary matters, has been described as central to an understanding of Johnson and his age. The Vision of Theodore, a moral allegory, and The Fountains, a fairy tale, demonstrate the variety of Johnsons narrative skills.
The three works are introduced and annotated by Gwin J. Kolb, a recognized authority on Rasselas. The texts reflect Kolbs extensive examination of pertinent materials. The introductions, setting forth the known or probable circumstances that attended the creation and initial printings of the narratives, cover a wider range of topics than has been addressed in previous editions. And the historical notes, which concentrate on clarifying the meaning of numerous words, relating specific notions to Johnsons expression of similar opinions elsewhere, and indicating antecedents of various parts of the texts, comprise the largest body of glosses that has ever accompanied the three pieces. The textual notes provide a record of Johnsons revisions of Rasselas and of Mrs. Piozzis manuscript transcription of The Fountains. In all, this book will be the standard edition of these notable works.