The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 61. John Forster

John Forster, by his Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith (1854), his Life of Walter Savage Landor (1869) and his Life of Charles Dickens (1872–4), together with some admirable biographical essays and the first volume of a Life of Swift, took a place in the first rank of English biographers, and was, for a long time, the friend and oracle of many eminent English men of letters of his day. In his earlier years, he had cherished a more concentrated kind of ambition. So far back as 1830, he had thought of writing the life of Cromwell; and, although this was not to become the chief work of his maturity, it was included in his vauable series entitled Lives of the Statesmen of the Commonwealth (1836–9). The life of Sir John Eliot was afterwards (1864) expanded by him into a larger biography, and he had previously (1860) published a brace of monographs (one of them enlarged from an earlier essay) based on a careful examination of parliamentary material and dealing with two critical episodes of the struggle between Charles I and the Long parliament. Forster had entered deeply into the spirit of the great struggle of the Stewart age, as is shown by the essay On English Freedom under Plantagenets and Tudors prefixed to the second of these works. Altogether, whatever may have been his, in the circumstances very excusable, foibles, his literary life was one of generous purpose, and of rare energy.