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Chapter 13 - Johnson as Biographer

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2022

Greg Clingham
Affiliation:
Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

Johnson’s Lives of the Poets are a classic not only of literary criticism but of biography as well. Originally intended as brief prefaces in an anthology of fifty-eight poets from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they increased in scope as Johnson worked on them, and as one commentator has said, they became “a book of wisdom and experience … a commentary on human destiny.” The lives of Milton, Swift, Dryden, and Pope are really books in their own right, and the earlier Life of Savage is a deeply felt account of someone Johnson knew well in his youth. He made good use of such documentary material as he was able to obtain, and for recent poets was able to draw upon his own memory of telling anecdotes. Above all, the Lives explore the range of human achievement, its failures and also its triumphs.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Johnson as Biographer
  • Edited by Greg Clingham, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
  • Book: The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson
  • Online publication: 22 September 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108966108.014
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  • Johnson as Biographer
  • Edited by Greg Clingham, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
  • Book: The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson
  • Online publication: 22 September 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108966108.014
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Johnson as Biographer
  • Edited by Greg Clingham, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
  • Book: The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson
  • Online publication: 22 September 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108966108.014
Available formats
×