The Lives of the Poets was the crowning achievement of Samuel Johnson's rich and varied literary life. Initially planned as a series of rapid-fire prefaces introducing separate volumes on English poets, Johnson's project evolved into a comprehensive biographical and critical survey of English poetry from the time of Cowley to the time of Gray. Giving free rein to his tastes, interests, likes, and dislikes, Johnson produced both a review of his life of reading in English poetry and an extended discursive statement of his immensely influential literary values. This carefully researched three-volume edition of Lives presents a definitive text reflecting Johnson's final wishes for its wording, accompanied by notes of value both to general readers and specialists.
The late John H. Middendorf, a renowned Johnson scholar, served as general editor and chair of the Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson. He was also professor of English at Columbia University.