"Whatever be his subject he never fails to fill the imagination."

— Johnson, Samuel (1709-1784)

Place of Publication
Bathurst, J. Buckland, W. Strahan, J. Rivington and Sons, T. Davies
1779, 1781
"Whatever be his subject he never fails to fill the imagination."
Metaphor in Context
Whatever be his subject he never fails to fill the imagination. But his images and descriptions of the scenes or operations of Nature do not seem to be always copied from original form, nor to have the freshness, raciness, and energy of immediate observation. He saw Nature, as Dryden expresses it, "through the spectacles of books"; and on most occasions calls learning to his assistance. The garden of Eden brings to his mind the vale of Enna, where Proserpine was gathering flowers. Satan makes his way through fighting elements, like Argo between the Cyanean rocks, or Ulysses between the two Sicilian whirlpools, when he shunned Charybdis "on the larboard." The mythological allusions have been justly censured, as not being always used with notice of their vanity; but they contribute variety to the narration, and produce an alternate exercise of the memory and the fancy.
At least 3 entries in ESTC (1779, 1781, 1790). [vols. 1 to 5 dates 1779, vols. 5 to 10, 1781)

Samuel Johnson, Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the Works of the English Poets, vol. 2 (London: Bathurst et al., 1779). <Link to ESTC><Link to ECCO>

Text from Jack Lynch's online edition, based on G. B. Hill's Lives of the English Poets, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905). <Link>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.