Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets

Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets : Volume III

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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).

This is volume three of four.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 484 pages
  • 165 x 242 x 45mm | 900g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199284814
  • 9780199284818

Table of contents

Hughes ; Sheffield ; Prior ; Congreve ; Blackmore ; Fenton ; Gay ; Granville ; Yalden ; Tickell ; Hammond ; Somervile ; Savage ; Swift ; Broome ; COMMENTARY
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Review quote

Roger Lonsdale, an authority on the period, has published a tremendous four-volume scholarly text, with very full notes and an introduction which is a book in itself. * James Fenton, The Guardian * The majestic new Oxford edition of Johnson's "Lives of the Poets", edited by the eminent eighteenth-century scholar Roger Lonsdale, testifies to the rarity of what Johnson achieved. . . . This new, four-volume edition of the Lives helps to situate Johnson's work in a broader and deeper eighteenth-century context than ever before, shedding light on every facet of their composition and reception. But those lucky enough to own this expensive edition, or at least to
study it in a library, will find that reading Johnson in a twenty-first century context is just as important and fruitful. * New Criterion * A huge enterprise very ably executed... gives the Lives new life by providing a text that reliably meets current scholarly standards, and notes that incorporate twentieth-century scholarship, * H, J. Jackson, TLS * The complex financial, editorial, and textual problems of the venture are laid out in splendid detail in the new edition of The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets; With Critical Observations on Their Works edited by Roger Lonsdale. This is the first full scholarly treatment of the work since the 1905 edition of George Birkbeck Hill, long out-of-print and long superseded by more recent scholarship. The price of the set will make prospective buyers feel
like victims of 'confiscation's vultures', in Johnson's phrase; and yet, the sumptuous text with its silken ribbon-markers, the superb (and beautifully written) introduction, and the voluminous, and facinating, commentary make it seem almost justified. * Eric Ormsby, New York Sun * 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 have
probably 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. * Frank Kermode, the New York Review of Books * Roger Lonsdales magnificently managed, beautifully produced four-volume edition of Samuel Johnsons The Lives of the Poets is the first scholarly edition of this major work in over one hundred years. Lonsdale brings fresh editorial work with manuscripts, a book-length introduction at once scholarly and literate, and a wealth of annotation that draws on the last century of scholarship to illuminate both the poets and Johnsons essays on them (fifty two chapters of
combative, entertaining, literate writing) in the broad context of the century in which The Lives was written, published, and first read. Lonsdales vital labors reestablish the durable importance of Johnsons great work. * MLA Prize Committee * my book of the decade... It is a treaure to have this greatest work of English literary criticism lovingly edited, with illuminating commentaries. * Brian Vickers, Times Literary Supplement * Although it is hard to find words of sufficient praise for it, this is a great and classic edition, which will last at least as long as Hills. That is praise indeed. * H.R. Woudhuysen, The New Rambler *
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About Roger Lonsdale

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).
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