Johnson and His Books


John Milton. Paradise Regain'd. London: J. Tonson, 1725. *2003J-SJ965

Although Johnson regarded Milton as among the greatest of English writers, he was also the subject of one of Johnson's most famous critical barbs.

Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retire harassed and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and seek for companions.

Even so, Johnson's final verdict on the poem was praise of the highest sort: "[It] is not the greatest of heroick poems, only because it is not the first."