1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Nathan Drake, in Literary Hours (1800) 1:210.



Johnson to occasional felicity of diction, great purity of moral, and energy of thought, united a very considerable portion of critical acumen, and his Lives of Dryden and Pope, are noble specimens of his powers of discrimination; yet, notwithstanding this rare combination of striking qualities, he was deficient in that sensibility to, and enthusiasm for the charms of nature, in that relish for the simple and pathetic, so absolutely necessary to just criticism in poetry. To these defalcations were superadded an unreasonable antipathy to blank verse, a constitutional ruggedness of temper, and a bigotted, though well-meant, adhesion to some very extravagant political and religious tenets. His biographical details have suffered much from these peculiarities of temper and taste, and a Milton, an Akenside, a Collins, a Dyer and a Gray, might upbraid the Literary Dictator for his bitter and illiberal invective, his churlish and parsimonious praise, his great and various misrepresentations.