Author: Samuel Johnson
Publication Date: 1759
Review Score: 6/10
As one of the Prince’s of Abissinia, Rasselas has grown up in the Happy Valley, where all of his wants and desires are met and there is no misfortune, evil or wrong doing. All of the royal children are secluded from the harshness of the outside world in the Happy Valley and will never suffer any of the pains of the real world.
Most of lucky few who live out their days in the palace of the Happy Valley are forever content with their never ending joy, but Rasselas cannot help but muse on ideas of the outside world. Eventually the lure of the outside world becomes too great and Rasselas, along with his wise and trusted friend Imlac and his favourite sister Nekayah, forges an escape from the Happy Valley to peruse understanding of world and discover real happiness.
On their travels, the group of eager pupils of life meet an array of intriguing and well lived people, including hermits, astronomers, politicians, monks and even thief’s and are always looking to find answers on what makes a good, fulfilled and ultimately happy life.
On the surface, Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia sounds like a rather quaint and innocent story about pleasant and joyful people. However, the book does delve into grand theories of philosophy, sociology and psychology, looking deeply into the behaviour of man and the ways in which people choose to live their lives.
Given his sheltered life of seclusion, Rasselas is the perfect outlet for these intellectual theories of life as he approaches them with an open mind and little prejudice. He always expects to find very happy and satisfied men and is more often than not disappointed with people’s disenchanted view on their lot in life.
This is by no means an overly exciting or addictive read but it is a highly interesting insight into the thoughts, wants and needs of man. It portraits a fresh and innocent perspective on life, and although this is often swiftly dashed, it does bring out a sense of pondering wonderment in the reader.