The life of Cowley, notwithstanding the penury of English biography, has been written by Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination and elegance of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of literature; but his zeal of friendship, or ambition of eloquence, has produced a funeral oration rather than a history:
Works of the English Poets: The Works of the English Poets. It is every way worthy of its subject: William Cowper to William Unwin: He has passed sentence of condemnation upon Lycidas, and has taken occasion, from that charming poem, to expose to ridicule what is indeed ridiculous Essay on milton by samuel johnson the childish prattlement of pastoral compositions, as if Lycidas was the prototype and pattern of them all" 31 October ; in Hayley, Life of Cowper1: The public received these lives with ill-tempered avidity.
They who had never known what it was to be warmed by the flights of fancy; in whose torpid heads the description of Eden, the wailings over Lycidas, and all the imagery of Comus never raised one corresponding idea, but who concealed their lamentable deficiences of mind before the awful name of Milton; now that they were sanctioned by Johnson, boldly gloried in their want of taste.
All the gall which they had so long been nourishing in their hearts was now vomited forth without restraint, and the cry, which dulness had always secretly disseminated against the aberrations of genius, was avowed as the acknowledged dictate of sense and truth" Censura Literaria 1 He treats the whole with a supercilious contempt; which is so destitute of foundation, that I will not waste your time, and mine, by giving it my particular animadversion.
For this glaring injustice to Lycidas, I have two reasons in my eye, which I think almost incontrovertible. Johnson, plainly, from party motives, is, on many occasions, industrious to depress both the moral, and poetical reputation of Milton.
And our poet, in this elegy, takes an opportunity severely to censure, and expose the indolence, and epicureism; and the necessarily concomitant dullness, of the superiour clergy.
Now, it is well known that Johnson as a high-churchman, was an archbishop Laud; without the excuse of having lived in his bigoted, and superstitious age. Indeed, his latter reason for tearing this unfortunate pastoral to pieces, is evident from a passage in his life of Milton, where he mentions the year in which Lycidas was published.
Not to mention Lycidas, the Allegro and Penseroso, it proceeds on a false estimate of the merits of his great work, which is not more distinguished by strength and sublimity than by tenderness and beauty. The battle of the angels, which has been generally considered as the best part of the Paradise Lost, is the worst" The Examiner 6 August The constant hostility of a biographer to the subject of his narrative, whether it be just or not, is teazing and vexatious.
Johnson hated his democratic principles, and despised his impracticable philosophy: But when a deeper philosophy was required, — when he undertook to pronounce judgment on the works of those great minds which "yield homage only to eternal laws," — his failure was ignominious.
Lycidas, "unmatched in the whole range of English poetry, and never again equalled by Milton himself, leaves all criticism behind. Indeed so high is the poetic note here reached, that the common ear fails to catch it. Lycidas is the touchstone of taste; the 18th century criticism could not make anything of it.
The very form of the poem is a stumbling-block to the common-sense critic" The English Poets, ed. Thomas Humphry Ward 2: With his usual courage, he stated a deliberate opinion. He gave his reasons — the artificiality of the pastoral convention, the confusion of the allegory with actual fact and sacred truth, and the absence of the feeling of real sorrow.
But there is the further explanation that he was opposed to some recent tendencies in English poetry. That he had more than Lycidas in mind is shown by the emphasis of his statement.
The same ideas reappear in his criticism of Collins and Gray. These were the Lives that were most sharply attacked; and the Philistine passages are too well known to quote. Of the English poets he set most value upon Spenser, Shakespeare, and Cowley.
Spenser was apparently his favourite; Shakespeare he may easily be supposed to like, with every other skilful reader, but I should not have expected Cowley, whose ideas of excellence were different from his own, would have had much of his approbation.
His character of Dryden, who sometimes visited him, was that he was a good rhymist, by no poet Rivington and Sons, T.
Prefaces also printed separately, From Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets series, published in 3 volumes between and The life of Cowley, notwithstanding the penury of English biography, has been written by Dr.
Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination and elegance of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of literature; but his zeal of friendship, or . In his "Life of Milton," () Dr. Samuel Johnson begins his criticism of Milton's poetry with his criticism of his "juvenile productions." Milton's early poems were in Italian, Latin, and English.
Samuel Johnson (18 September [OS 7 September] Although Johnson respected John Milton's poetry, and, in , Arthur Murphy's An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson, which replaced Hawkins's biography as the introduction to a collection of Johnson's Works.
Samuel Johnson’s preface to The Plays of William Shakespeare has long been considered a classic document of English literary criticism.
In it Johnson sets forth his editorial principles and gives an appreciative analysis of the “excellences” and “defects” of the work of the great Elizabethan dramatist. Which of these writers influenced Jane Austen’s work? Samuel Johnson John Milton Charlotte Bronte John Keats NextReset/5(16). The Restoration and 18th Century.
Quizzes Period Introduction Quizzes. Samuel Johnson, From Milton; Samuel Johnson, The Preface to Shakespeare; John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding* (* Full Edition Only) Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism; Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal;.