'What then is to be done? said Rasselas; the more we inquire, the
less we can resolve.' Rasselas and his companions escape the
pleasures of the 'happy valley' in order to make their 'choice of
life'. By witnessing the misfortunes and miseries of others they
may come to understand the nature of happiness, and value it more
highly. Their travels and enquiries raise important practical and
philosophical questions concerning many aspects of the human
condition, including the business of a poet, the stability of
reason, the immortality of the soul, and how to find contentment.
Johnson's adaptation of the popular oriental tale displays his
usual wit and perceptiveness; sceptical and probing, his tale
nevertheless suggests that wisdom and self-knowledge need not be
entirely beyond reach. This new edition relates the novel to
Johnson's life and thought and to politics, society, and the global
context of the Seven Years War.