Spring 1954 • Vol. XVI No. 2 Book ReviewsApril 1, 1954 |

The Truth about Dr. Johnson

Samuel Johnson's Literary Criticism by Jean H. Hagstrum. University of Minnesota Press. $3.50. "Most of the nineteenth-century ghosts about Johnson the critic have fortunately been laid," Professor Hagstrum remarks, "and it would now be work of the sheerest supererogation to demonstrate that he was no arid neoclassicist." This finding has turned out to be somewhat premature. In The True Voice of Feeling, published some months after Hagstrum's study of Johnson, Sir Herbert Read still speaks of the "formidable false tradition … erected to pontifical magnitude by Dr. Johnson," and describes this criticism as mechanical, or at best arbitrary, resulting "in such perversities, or rather inadequacies, as Johnson's remarks on Shakespeare"—a view in which there lurks the recognizable ghost of Keats's indictment of the "dismal souled" critics who         were closely wed To musty laws lined out with wretched rule And compass vile. So unqualified a disparageme

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Professional Aesthetics

By M. H. Abrams

Samuel Johnson's Literary Criticism by Jean H. Hagstrum. University of Minnesota Press. $3.50. "Most of the nineteenth-century ghosts about Johnson the critic have fortunately been laid," Professor Hagstrum remarks, "and […]

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