1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Thomas Frognall Dibdin, in Library Companion (1824; 1825) 2:521n.



Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets are necessarily a prominent ornament of every library; as they have been the common theme of admiration of all countries. The style and the reflections are the chief charm of this popular work. Many of the facts must be cautiously admitted. Not that Johnson designedly falsified; but he always wanted time, diligence, and patience, in the collection of his materials; and, he rejoiced to find the fact as he wished to find it: without sufficiently weighing it in the balance of impartiality. He hugged every thing which he thought might throw a shade on a republican, a whig, or a dissenter; and spared no pains in executing such a picture in his most powerful and overwhelming colours. But toryism and orthodoxy neither require nor recommend such intemperate conduct. Even the very loose reports which had reached him of Dryden's funeral, were inserted without a suspicion of their veracity: and it remained for Mr. Malone (in his admirable edition of Dryden's prose works, to which a biography of the poet is prefixed) to dispel and dissipate this idle story as a barefaced fiction. But Johnson, had he been living, would not have surrendered it without a growl.