MODEL FOR JOHNSON'S LIVES

The Historical and Poetical Medley: or Muses Library; being a choice and faithful Collection of the best antient English Poetry, from the Times of Edward the Confessor, to the Reign of James the First. With the Lives and Characters of the known Writers taken from the most authentick Memoirs. Being the most valuable Collection of the Kind now extant, affording Entertainment upon all Subjects whatsoever …

London: Printed for T. Davies … 1738.

8vo., pp. xvi, 400; closed tear to A2 repaired; contemporary calf-backed marbled boards, rebacked preserving original spine; armorial bookplate of John Bosworth.

£450

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First edition under this title, a reissue of The Muses Library (1737), with a cancel title-page and final leaf. After Elizabeth Cooper’s career as an actor and playwright had been brought to an end by Walpole’s Licensing Act, she set about compiling an anthology of English poetry, from Langland to Daniel, as a means of supporting herself. ‘For this she borrowed books from William Oldys and sought unpublished manuscripts from poets’ families. Cooper added biographical information about the poets and gave brief critical assessments of the works. The volume ... is competent in every respect and remains well worth reading. It has been credited by reputable modern scholars as the model for Samuel Johnson’s format in his Lives of the Poets and as the chief inspiration for Thomas Chatterton’s antique style. Elizabeth Cooper planned a further volume, of poetic theory, but unhappily the first failed to sell well, and the project collapsed’ (Oxford DNB).

From Shakespeare are included extracts from The Rape of Lucrece, a rare appearance for the poem in the eighteenth century. It is not listed in Jaggard.

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