'If a man is to write A Panegyrick, he may keep vices out of sight; but if he professes to write A Life, he must represent it really as it was.'
In the last of his major writings, Samuel Johnson looked back over the previous two centuries of English Literature in order to describe the personalities as well as the achievements of the leading English poets. The major Lives - of Milton, Dryden, Swift, and Pope - are memorable cameos of the life of writing in which Johnson is as attentive to human frailty as to literary prowess. The shorter Lives preserve some of Johnson's most piercing, critical judgements. Unsentimental, opinionated, and quotable, The Lives of the Poets continues to influence the reputations of the writers concerned. It is one of the greatest works of English criticism, but also one of the most humanly diverting.
This selection of the Lives of ten of the most important poets draws its text from Roger Lonsdale's authoritative complete edition.
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