THE LIVES OF THE POETS: The Story of One Thousand Years of English & American Poetry by Louis Untermeyer

THE LIVES OF THE POETS: The Story of One Thousand Years of English & American Poetry

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is a lively, and on the whole readable, omnium gatherum of English poets- and their lives- from Beowulf to Dylan Thomas, and of American poets from Emerson to Robert Lowell. The biographical material is richly interspersed with critical comments and evaluations. Frankly taking as his model Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets, Untermeyer has- like his distinguished forerunner- been driven ""by the hope of giving useful pleasure"". But whereas Johnson dealt with 52 poets and covered a century and a half of poetical writing, Untermeyer deals with 133 poets and spans a thousand years. An anthologist of merit, he shows himself here a reasonably perceptive and a disarmingly modest critic-biographer. Naturally, the most interesting chapters are allotted to the greatest names: Shakespeare, Chaucer (he is obviously Untermeyer's favorite), Milton, Dryden, Pope, Blake, Byron and Whitman. If none of his insights are profound, they are balanced, well-informed and documented by the latest findings. The amount of research and reading which has gone into this work is in itself worth mention and admiration. The book should be a useful reference work particularly for home use since it is definitely geared to popular taste and understanding.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1959
Publisher: Simon & Schuster