Fault Finding in Johnson's <i>Lives of the Poets</i>

John Mullan

in Samuel Johnson

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654345
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745003 | DOI:
Fault Finding in Johnson's Lives of the Poets

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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For Johnson, the discovery of ‘faults’ was essential to the business of criticism. His treatment of even — perhaps especially — the writers he most admires is notable for the space he gives to their faults, alongside the beauties which might elsewhere be observed. This chapter probes the oscillation and critical principles which lie behind Johnson's appreciation and deprecation. As the chapter argues, the two can exist in illuminating symbiosis. Ultimately, we must look beyond Johnson's concern with ‘correctness’, to his belief that good criticism involves undeceiving the reader.

Keywords: Samuel Johnson; faults; beauties; criticism; biography; lives of the poets; Milton; Dryden; Cowley; Donne; Pope

Chapter.  5085 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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