264 SAMUEL JOHNSON
The chief characteristic of Johnson's ethical poetry is the depth of feeling with which he illustrates universal truths by individual examples. . . . Nowhere is the char- acter of Johnson reflected more strongly than in his Prologues. Only a great man would dare to preach morality to a crowded theatre. History of English Poetry.
I am very much the biographer's humble admirer. His uncommon share of good sense, and his forcible ex- pression, secure to him that tribute from all his readers. He has a penetrating insight into character, and a happy talent of correcting the popular opinion upon all occa- sions when it is erroneous ; and this he does with the boldness of a man who will think for himself, but, at the same time, with a justness of sentiment that convinces us he does not differ from others through affectation, but because he has a sounder judgement. This remark, how- ever, has his narrative for its object, rather than his critical performance. In the latter, I do not always think him just when he departs from the general opinion. Letter to Rev. W. Unwin, March zist, 1784.
His treatment of Milton is unmerciful to the last de- gree. A pensioner is not likely to spare the republican ; and the Doctor, in order, I suppose, to convince his royal patron of the sincerity of his monarchical prin- ciples has belaboured that great poet's character with the most industrious cruelty.
As a poet, he has treated him with severity enough, and has plucked one or two of the most beautiful feathers out of his Muse's wing, and trampled them under his great foot. He has passed condemnation upon Lycidas. . . . Oh, I could thresh his old jacket, till I made his