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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter surveys the development of the history of poetry over the late seventeenth and the eighteenth century. Close attention is given to the work of Thomas Warton and to the distinguished variant of poetical history that is Johnson’s Lives of the Poets. The chapter compares Johnson’s and Warton’s approaches to the history of poetry, raises questions of historical theory, and examines their temperamental, compositional, and methodological differences. Earlier expressions of a concern for the historical genealogy of the English poets are explored with reference to Dryden, and a selection of the period’s biographical compendiums are discussed. The chapter argues that the concept of poetical history as it has come to be known was shaped by Warton, and that a talent for historical research on the one hand, and a more philosophical sense of history on the other, help to define differences between Warton and Johnson.

Keywords: poetry, criticism, history, scholarship, literary theory

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