Lee, Anthony W. Books
Dr. Anthony W. Lee is Assistant Professor of English at Kentucky Wesleyan College. He received his undergraduate degree in English and History from the University of Texas, and holds graduate degrees in English from the University of Chicago and the University of Arkansas. Dr. Lee has published articles on several authors of the eighteenth-century, including Aphra Behn, John Dryden, James Boswell, Edward Gibbon, and Samuel Johnson. He specializes in eighteenth-century British literature, Samuel Johnson and his circle, and literary mentoring.2005 0-7734-6085-3
This book explores the phenomenon of literary mentoring and the role that it played in Samuel Johnson’s literary and personal life. Because little work has been published in the area of literary mentoring, this study draws upon recent research on business and developmental psychology in order to generate a comprehensive model of mentoring. Synthesizing this model with Levinsonian psychosocial theories of adult development, it explores Johnson’s relationships with Cornelius Ford, Richard Savage, Oliver Goldsmith, Hester Thrale, Frances Burney, and James Boswell, tracing how each relationship interweaves with stages in Johnson’s psychological development. It also examines mentoring themes in Johnson’s early poetry, Life of Savage, Rasselas, and biographical works about Johnson, including Thrale’s Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson and Boswell’s Life of Johnson, and traces integral connections between these texts and the mentoring relationships that helped create them. The parallel formation of Johnson’s adult personality with his early conception of authorship is closely analyzed, as in the evolution of this early conception into its mature realization.
Concomitant with this evolution was Johnson’s development of his mature literary and philosophic vision of life, the vanity of human wishes outlook, which is also discussed in relation to Johnson’s mentoring activities. Johnson’s mentoring authority is closely explored, especially his idealization of the mentor as cultural savant. This idealization is demonstrated in the persona of public monitor of morals and literary values that Johnson cultivated in works such as Rasselas and The Rambler; the less healthy elements of this strategy are explored in Johnson’s mentorship of Goldsmith and Thrale.
Throughout, the intersection of mentoring relationships with archetypal parent-child relationships receives close attention. Because the mentoring relationship is based upon a younger person’s submission to the authority of an older one, such relationships powerfully evoke primal childhood memories and fantasies, rendering mentoring relationships sites of tremendous psychic power, with the potential for either destructiveness or self-regeneration.
This study endeavors to illuminate not simply Johnson’s literary relationships, but the structural dynamics that underlie all literary mentoring experiences. It verifies the usefulness of deploying Levinsonian concepts of psychosocial development to literary study, and it demonstrates the relevance and helpfulness of analyzing literary relationships and texts in terms of mentoring theory.