Dublin: Printed for Messrs. Whitestone, Williams, Colles, Wilson, Lynch, Jenkin, Walker, Burnet, Hallhead, Flin, Exshaw, Beatty, and White, M,DCC,LXXIX. . Full Calf. First Dublin Edition, collated and complete in three volumes. First Issue, with "partaking his posterity" in line 3 of p. 4, repeated page numbers 143-144 in vol. I, title pages of vols. II and III without oval vignettes. First volume dated 1779 and the preface 'Advertisement' dated March 15 1779, the other vols. dated 1781. 8vo; , ii [adverts], 3-144, 143-536; , 496; , 399pp. Contemporary calf, the spines in six compartments divided by raised bands with burgundy and black morocco lettering pieces gilt. Minor wear to bindings else firm and tight, the contents very good indeed with only light scattered foxing and edge toning. The Lives of the English Poets originally appeared as "Prefaces, Biographical and Critical" to the ten-volume Works of the English Poets, 1779-81 (which itself eventually extended to 68 volumes). This is the first separate edition, pirated, preceding the London separate edition (which was titled 'The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets; with Critical Observations on Their Works'). It includes two works by Gray, 'A Long Story' and 'Ode for Music,' absent from the later London edition. Courtney & Smith, p. 141; Fleeman 79.4LP/2a(i) and 79.4LP/6a. ESTC Citation No. T116665. Very Good +. Item #BB0727
In 1779, as Johnson turned 70, infirm and distressed by the deaths and illnesses of those close to him, he somehow managed a final literary project, which proved to be the "ultimate success in his career," according to the ODNB. "This took the form of a series of prefaces to a new collection of the English poets, best-known today as The Lives of the Poets. In a contract signed on 29 March 1777, Johnson had agreed . . . to supply ‘a concise account’ of some fifty poets . . . The first installment came out in March 1779, the second in 1780, and the third in May 1781. . . setting a new standard for English literary biography. . . . [H]is reading of mainstream poetry from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries remains canonical, by reason of its attention to verbal detail, its decisive judgments, and its robust expression."