Samuel Johnson – “Rasselas” chapter 19 and 20

Rasselas hears about a holy hermit living somewhere up the Nile and wants to go and meet him. Imlac and Rasselas’s sister decide to accompany him. On their way they pass through a country with many shepherds. Imlac tells his charges that pastoral life was often praised by poet as the ideal one, so they have a chance to check whether it is true. The shepherds in conversation turn out to be rude and malevolent people, oppressed by hard labour and envying those above them. The princess says she does not want to spend a moment longer with them, but she is still loath to think that all the poets were lying, so she imagines a Marie-Antoinette kind of pastoral project, where she would retire to a nice place with some of her BFFs (not that any have ever been mentioned). On their way, they seek shade in a wood and find that it is very well maintained, a kind of English park. They soon reach a palace, where they are greeted by the owner. He invites them and treats them very generously for a few days. Rasselas says that he must be the truly happy man, because not only he but also his servants are happy. Alas! the owner of the palace says that the Bassa (Pasha) of Egypt hates him and envies him his wealth. So far, he’s been protected by his powerful friends, but this can change any minute. He sent his riches to a distant country and he’s ready to abscond any minute, leaving his palace to the rapacious viceroy. All his guests are very sorry to hear that, the princess so much so that she has to retire to her room. The next day they are on their way.


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