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Johnson's Lives of the Poets - Volume 1

Samuel Johnson

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .mons, and found himself received with great kindness. The purpose for which the interview had been solicited was then discovered. Addison told him that he had injured him; but that, if he recovered, he would recompense him. What the injury was he did not explain, nor did Gay ever know; but supposed that some preferment designed for him had, by Addison's intervention, been withheld.

Lord Warwick was a young man, of very irregular life, and perhaps of loose opinions. Addison, for whom he did not want respect, had very diligently endeavoured to reclaim him, but his arguments and expostulations had no effect. One experiment, however, remained to be tried; when he found his life near its end, he directed the young lord to be called, and when he desired with great tenderness to hear his last injunctions, told him, "I have sent for you that you may see how a Christian can die." What effect this awful scene had on the earl, I know not; he likewise died himself in a sho. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Though the book is interesting mainly on Donne (under the section on Cowley), Milton, Dryden and Addison, Johnson is a great critic and a pleasure to read in his own right. He is, to use an inexact word, weighty. For instance: "It appears, in all his [Milton's] writings, that he had the usual con...more

My edition features an introduction by Arthur Waugh (I assume Evelyn Waugh's publisher-father?) who makes the historically interesting observation that Johnson's Lives will continue to be read for pleasure so long as the author's name is known, whereas works such as Rasselas are now 'read by few...more

Though I'm no fan of Johnson, his account of Pope, and his "amus[ing] himself at the table with biscuits", may actually be the source of my love of the snide sniping of the eighteenth century (the potted lampreys just kill me):

His legs were so slender that he enlarged their bulk with three pair...more

I have the 2 volume 1826 Dove's English Classics edition, easily the oldest books I own and I did want to make a point of that. The text is tiny and many of the pages are set charmingly askew but compared to many used books in my library the binding is still flawless and the pages are in excellen...more

I think the main interest in this work is in the polished and pompous writing of Dr Johnson. How did he keep it up? And since so much of this is precis (or probably the reverse), why did he bother? I'm still struggling to find out what is so great about The Great Doctor.

Just began reading it after Frank McCourt name dropped it in his memoir 'Tis. More than a collection of biographies, it is a collection of his ideas on what makes good and bad poetry. Surprisingly relevant even if published in 1779.

9/15/14: Well, I seem to have begun a Project, for better or worse. I recently reread 84, Charing Cross Road, and was struck by Helen Hanff's love for not only the contents of the books she received from Marks & Co., but for the volumes themselves as beautiful objects. So I went to my shelves...more