Samuel Johnson is often represented as primarily antagonistic or antipathetic to Milton. Yet his imaginative and intellectual engagement with Milton's life and writing extended across the entire span of his own varied writing career. As essayist, poet, lexicographer, critic and biographer - above all as reader - Johnson developed a controversial, fascinating and productive literary relationship with his powerful predecessor. To understand how Johnson creatively appropriates Milton's texts, how he critically challenges yet also confirms Milton's status, and how he constructs him as a biographical subject, is to deepen the modern reader's understanding of both writers in the context of historical continuity and change. Christine Rees's insightful study will be of interest not only to Milton and Johnson specialists, but to all scholars of early modern literary history and biography.
Christine Rees is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London.
Introduction: Johnson and Milton; Part I. Johnson the Reader/Writer: Appropriating Milton's Texts: 1. Summoning Milton's ghost: Miltonic allusion in the periodical essays; 2. 'No Miltonian fire'? Miltonic allusion in Johnson's poetry; 3. Rasselas: a rewriting of Paradise Lost?; 4. 'Licence they mean when they cry liberty': the 1770s tracts; Part II. Johnson the Critic: Assessing Milton's Achievement: 5. 'Phantoms which cannot be wounded': the Lauder affair; 6. Cutting a colossus: Johnson's criticism of Paradise Lost; 7. Cherry-stones: Johnson on Milton's shorter poems; Part III. Johnson the Biographer: Constructing Milton's Character: 8. 'An acrimonious and surly republican': Milton as political subject; 9. 'Domestick privacies': Milton as private subject; 10. Conclusion: 'what other author ever soared so high?'; Bibliography; Index.
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