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Lives of the Poets (Addison, Savage, Swift) Paperback – February 15, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Arc Manor (February 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604500913
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604500912
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,823,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Mr. D. James on February 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
Lives of the English Poets is probably the only work of Johnson's likely to be read today beyond academic circles. Despite the fact that he was in his sixty-eighth year when he began the task of writing the lives of fifty-two poets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, his `little Lives and little Prefaces' display a wealth of sparkle and critical insight. We can almost feel Johnson enjoying his fusion of precise fact and carefully weighed opinion, not to say personal prejudice. Even if some of the poets are dull, Johnson here is never dull. It was the kind of undertaking for which Johnson by nature and temperament was ideally suited; that is it required meticulous research, a slavish dedication to ploughing through many minor and often inferior works and a lively interest in the vagaries of human conduct. As with the seven-year compilation of his Dictionary, here again in the Lives one feels Johnson's underlying need to provide a touchstone, an element of stability, as well as a service to the nation and posterity. Lives of the Poets is not merely a memorial to fifty-two English poets, but a memorial to Johnson himself.

Perhaps more than any other writer Johnson is conscious of the passing of time, of the futility of human effort in the face of the eternal, of the vanity of human wishes. `Nothing is more evident than that the decays of age must terminate in death,' he writes in The Idler in 1759: 'The life which made my own life pleasant is at an end, and the gates of death are shut upon my prospects.' All that a mere human can do in the face of such vast emptiness is to hope and pray, and commemorate the passing of those who have gone before.
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This book is vintage Johnson. He knew the human heart like few have ever done and to read him is to place oneself in the position of actually understanding oneself a little better. The Lives of the Poets does not disappoint.
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