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'What then is to be done? said Rasselas; the more we inquire, the less we can resolve.'Rasselas and his companions escape the pleasures of the 'happy valley' in order to make their 'choice of life'. By witnessing the misfortunes and miseries of others they may come to understand the nature of happiness, and value it more highly. Their travels and enquiries raise important practicaland philosophical questions concerning many aspects of the human condition, including the business of a poet, the stability of reason, the immortality of the soul, and how to find contentment. Johnson's adaptation of the popular oriental tale displays his usual wit and perceptiveness; sceptical andprobing, his tale nevertheless suggests that wisdom and self-knowledge need not be entirely beyond reach. This new edition relates the novel to Johnson's life and thought and to politics, society, and the global context of the Seven Years War.
Thomas Keymer is the editor of three outstanding editions for OWC: Fielding Joseph Andrews and Shamela, Richardson, Pamela, and Defoe, Robinson Crusoe. He has co-edited The Cambridge Companion to English Literature from 1740 to 1830 with Jon Mee (2004), and is the editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Laurence Sterne.