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The Most Disreputable TradePublishing the Classics of English Poetry 1765-1810$
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Thomas F. Bonnell

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199532209

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532209.001.0001

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Johnson's Prefaces and Bell's Connected System of Biography

Johnson's Prefaces and Bell's Connected System of Biography

Chapter:
(p.134) Chapter 5. Johnson's Prefaces and Bell's Connected System of Biography
Source:
The Most Disreputable Trade
Author(s):

Thomas F. Bonnell

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532209.003.0006

This chapter examines Johnson's prefaces and Bell's connected system of biography. Under the connected system of biography, Bell claims that the lives together would form a type of literary history enabling readers to evaluate the characteristics of a class of writers in tandem with the products of their creativity. Bell borrowed heavily from sources as shown in Johnson's prefaces. The biographical half of the plagiarized preface was a jigsaw combination of elements from Johnson and Biographia Britannica. Rather than face this formidable legal challenge, Bell cut his losses, and withdrew the offending preface from sale. While Bell acquainted his reader ‘at once with the poet and the man’, his creation lacked a uniform biographical approach and a consistent critical voice. But if the system is taken to mean ‘any combination of many things acting together’, as Johnson defined the term, then Bell's lives fit the bill.

Keywords:   Magnum nomen, Johnson's prefaces, system of biography, Biographia Britannica, Bell's lives

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