The History of Rasselas: Prince of Abissinia



Rasselas is mentioned numerous times in later notable literature.

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Helen Burns reads it.
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – Captain Brown (who is reading 'The Pickwick Papers') denigrates Rasselas, thus offending Miss Jenkyns (who is a great admirer of Johnson).
  • Rasselas is read by Hepzibah Pyncheon in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables.
  • Rasselas was read by Henry Stanley, the explorer, when he was a young man recently released from a Victorian workhouse, working as a school teacher in Wales. This is recorded in Tim Jeal's biography Stanley – The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – the book is dropped on the floor by Jo March as she talks to Mr Laurence about his Grandson Laurie's prank.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot – the book is enjoyed by Lydgate as a child, along with Gulliver's Travels, the dictionary, and the Bible.
  • The Mountains of Rasselas by Thomas Pakenham – The title of Pakhenham's account of exploring Ethiopia to find the original royal mountaintop royal prisons alludes to Johnson's work. Pakenham explicitly mentions Johnson's work in this book.
  • Sirak Heruy, son of Ethiopian intellectual Heruy Welde Sellase, translated Rasselas into Amharic, one of the major languages of Ethiopia. (Published in 1946/47.)[9]
  • "Mansfield Park" by Jane Austen – Fanny Price refers to Dr. Johnson's celebrated judgment when she is comparing Mansfield Park and Portsmouth.
  • "The Mill on the Floss" by George Eliot – Maggie reads it.
  • C.S. Lewis mentions Rasselas in a footnote to the second of his Riddell Memorial lectures on values and natural law, later published as The Abolition of Man: "Let us hope that Rasselas, chap. 22, gives the right picture of what [Dr. C. H. Waddington's] philosophy amounts to in action. ('The philosopher, supposing the rest vanquished, rose up and departed with the air of a man that had co-operated with the present system.')"[10]
  • Rasselas is mentioned significantly in two of Ursula Dubosarsky's novels – Zizzy Zing and Abyssinia.[11]
  • In The Book of Sequels by Henry Beard, Christopher Cerf, Sarah Durkee, and Sean Kelly, "Wrassle-Ass" appears in a section called "Adult Sequels".

The description of the Happy Valley is very similar to the poem "Kubla Kahn" written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge around a century later.


The community of Rasselas, Pennsylvania, located in Elk County, was named after Rasselas Wilcox Brown, whose father, Isaac Brown, Jr., was fond of Johnson's story.[12]

A Vale (or Valley) named after Rasselas is located in Tasmania within the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park Latitude (DMS): 42° 34' 60 S Longitude (DMS): 146° 19' 60 E.[13]

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