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Scientific attempts to define life, familiarly linked to romanticism and to poetic form, had an earlier and broader impact on literary interpretation. John Milton’s Areopagitica, which metaphorically treats books as living things, rose to preeminence during the eighteenth century as readers paid increasing attention to its literary qualities. A free adaptation by Honoré de Mirabeau on the eve of the French Revolution minimized Milton’s republicanism and drew out the tendencies toward vitalism inherent in his figurative language. Together with British responses to Samuel Johnson’s critical 1779 Life of Milton, Mirabeau’s adaptation demonstrates a way of reading informed by Enlightenment vitalism.