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The Rambler No.117 (on the advantages of living in a garret)

1751

by Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)

Referring to the bravery of bringing forward new ideas, Johnson makes the mock-heroic announcement that he is introducing new theories on ‘the garret’, mighty subject though it is.

He produces the Ancients’ arguments in support of living in an ‘aerial abode’, then enumerates the reasons that poets and philosophers currently do, including cheap rent. Fantastical, pseudo-medical images of how altitude expands the mind are followed by Johnson’s own experiments (parodying Bacon) with ‘trying’ men’s conversation upstairs and down. This segues into an analogy with ‘low’ versus ‘high’ writing, so that, as critic, Johnson guesses where men live from their style.

Related recommendation: Georges Perec’s ‘The Apartment’ (in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, originally published 1974, in French)

Origin: Britain

Themes: Artistic Method, Vocation and Celebrity, Nature or Architecture/ Material Environment

Genres: Humorous, Periodical, Semi-Fictional

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