Publisher description for The lives of the most eminent English poets : with critical observations on their works / Samuel Johnson ; with an introduction and notes by Roger Lonsdale.
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Johnson himself wrote in 1782: "I know not that I have written any thing more generally commended than the Lives of the Poets." Always recognized as a major biographical and critical achievement, Samuel Johnson's last literary project is also one of his most readable and entertaining, written
with characteristic eloquence and conviction, and at times with combative trenchancy.
Johnson's fifty-two biographies constitute a detailed survey of English poetry from the early seventeenth century down to his own time, with extended discussions of Cowley, Milton, Waller, Dryden, Addison, Prior, Swift, Pope, and Gray. The Lives also include Johnson's memorable biography of the
enigmatic Richard Savage (1744), the friend of his own early years in London.
Roger Lonsdale's Introduction describes the origins, composition, and textual history of the Lives, and assesses Johnson's assumptions and aims as biographer and critic. The commentary provides a detailed literary and historical context, investigating Johnson's sources, relating the Lives to his own
earlier writings and conversation, and to the critical opinions of his contemporaries, as well as illustrating their early reception. This is the first scholarly edition since George Birkbeck Hill's three-volume Oxford edition (1905).
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Poets, English -- Biography -- Early works to 1800.
Poets, English -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- Biography.
Poets, English -- 18th century -- Biography.