Samuel Johnson? William Makepeace Thackeray? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The craft of storytelling is ancient; hence, creating original plots and characters is difficult. On the other hand, experimental tales without connections to the past are discordant. Here is a germane adage about successful creators:
The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.
This notion has been attributed to the famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson and the prominent novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: Samuel Johnson published a collection of biographical sketches and critical analyses under the title “The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets”. The volume discussing the English writer Alexander Pope appeared in 1781, and Johnson included an assessment of the parodic fantasy poem “The Rape of the Lock”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
In this work are exhibited, in a very high degree, the two most engaging powers of an author. New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new. A race of aerial people, never heard of before, is presented to us in a manner so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further information, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits, loves a sylph, and detests a gnome.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.