Portrait of Samuel Johnson
Portrait of Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson and Vladimir Nabokov seem diametrically opposed. The quintessential Englishman, the epitome of the eighteenth-century “Age of Johnson,” favored lofty abstractions, moralistic content and elaborate Latinate style. Modern readers often assume that his works are impenetrable: his criticism misguided, his poetry prosaic, his essays didactic. Nabokov, by contrast, is the embodiment of the witty, urbane, and cosmopolitan modern writer. An uprooted victim of violent revolution, a scientist and scholar, he wandered across two continents and wrote, in two languages, subtly sophisticated, exquisitely stylish, and teasingly elusive books. Yet Nabokov...

 

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