Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets

Volume IV


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 sinceGeorge Birkbeck Hill's three-volume Oxford edition (1905).This is volume four of four.
  • OUP Oxford; February 2006
  • ISBN 9780191515873
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets
  • Author: Roger Lonsdale (ed.)
  • Imprint: OUP Oxford

In The Press

It is quite simply a marvelous scholarly performance. Lonsdale had to deal with not easily legible manuscripts, with proofs in various stages, with the errors and inconsistencies of earlier editions.... But his greatest achievement is probably the commentaries on the poems.... When you consider that there were so many poets like Stepney, as well as major poets of whom, though much is known, more is still to be discovered, you might say that Lonsdale's labors haveprobably been more arduous than Johnson's, and must sometimes have been 'tedious and troublesome.' But the standard of modern Johnson scholarship is high, and these volumes will be regarded by Lonsdale's peers as monuments to a heroic achievement.

About The Author

Emeritus Fellow of Balliol and former Professor of English at the University of Oxford, Roger Lonsdale is the editor of The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth-Century Verse (1987).