The passionate intellect really is passionate. It is the only point at which ecstasy can enter. I do not know whether we can be saved by the intellect, but I do know that I can be saved by nothing else.
—Dorothy L. Sayers

The Whig dogs should not have the best of it.
—Dr. Johnson

In 1672 (we owe this anecdote to Aubrey’s Brief Lives), two great authors, both called John, had one of the strangest meetings that literature can reveal. The older scribe: Milton, sixty-four years old, blind, a grudgingly tolerated Cromwellian relic, able famously to inspire sweat-inducing fear and, much less famously, to command considerable charm. The younger scribe: Dryden, forty-one, far better known at this stage as playwright than as poet or essayist, of personal morals higher than most of his Restoration cronies, yet marred by cliquishness and the...


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