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Reconstructing the Canon

Samuel Johnson and the Universal Visiter

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Bonnie Ferrero

That Samuel Johnson contributed several essays to the Universal Visiter, an eighteenth-century periodical edited by Christopher Smart and Richard Rolt, has long been known. What is not known is just what pieces he did write. Because the double asterisk was thought to have been Johnson's signature, all six Visiter essays so marked have, at various times, been attributed to him. Although only three of the Visiter essays are generally accepted as Johnson's, there has been no conclusive evidence that Johnson was not the author of the three conjectural pieces. This study presents evidence that Richard Rolt, not Samuel Johnson, wrote two of the three disputed pieces.