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SONNET, To the Lady Margaret Ley,” beginning, “Daughter to that good Earl" (1644): in Milton's own hand.
These three pages are blank.
13-29 COMUS (1634), much corrected throughout: all in Milton's own
MATTER AND HANDWRITING.
Draft of the ARCADES in Milton's own hand.
"SONG, AT A SOLEMN MUSIC." Three Drafts (two of them erased) in Milton's own hand.
PROSE LETTER TO A FRIEND, written in or about Dec. 1631, while Milton was still at Cambridge, giving his reasons for hesitating to enter the Church or any other profession. There are two drafts of the letter-the first draft containing the SONNET ON HIS HAVING ARRIVED AT THE AGE OF TWENTYTHREE, inserted into the prose; the second draft containing a blank space for the Sonnet. Both the Sonnet and the two prose drafts are in Milton's own hand.
"ON TIME: to be set on a Clock-case:" in Milton's own hand
(apparently a transcript from a former copy).
"UPON THE CIRCUMCISION:" in Milton's own hand (apparently a transcript from a former copy).
SONNET beginning, Captain or Colonel” (1642): in another hand (boyish-looking), save that the title "When the assault was intended to ye citty" is written in Milton's own hand, in lieu of this title, first written, but afterwards erased, "On his Dore when ye citty expected an assault."
SONNET, “To a Lady," beginning, “Lady that in the prime” (1644) in Milton's own hand.
hand. 30-34 LYCIDAS (1637), with corrections throughout: all in Milton's own hand.
35-41 These seven pages are occupied with those JOTTINGs of Subjects, AND SKETCHES OF SUBJECTS, FOR SCRIPTURAL TRAGEDIES AND TRAGEDIES OF BRITISH HISTORY, to which such frequent reference has been made (see Vol. I., Introduction to Paradise Lost, pp. 40-48; and Vol. II., Introduction to Paradise Regained, pp. 1-14, and Introduction to Samson Agonistes, pp. 85-94). The Jottings are wholly in Milton's own hand, and were made, it can be proved, in 1640-42. This page is blank. SONNET TO HENRY LAWES: two drafts-one headed, "To my
freind, Mr. Hen. Laws, Feb. 9, 1645," and signed "7. M." (which draft is erased); the other headed, "To Mr. Hen. Laws, on the publishing of his Aires" (1645-6). Heading of the second draft in another hand; but both drafts and first heading in Milton's own hand.
45, 46 These two pages consist of an interpolated leaf of small quarto, containing transcripts, in another hand, of the three Sonnets last named, together with a transcript, in the same hand, of the Sonnet immediately following on p. 47-i.e. the Sonnet beginning, "A Book was writ of late," which now appears as one of the two under the common title, "On the detraction," &c., but hich has in this transcript a separate heading, "On the reception his Book of Divorce met with." The four Sonnets, though here transcribed in this order, have numbers prefixed to them, showing in what order Milton, when the transcript was made, meant them to be printed. The Sonnet, "I did but prompt the age," is marked to come first, as No. II of the entire series of the Sonnets up to that date; then the Sonnet, "A Book was writ of late," as No. 12; then the Sonnet to Lawes, as No. 13; and lastly, the Sonnet to the Memory of Mrs. Catharine Thomson, as No. 14.
SONNET, "On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certaine Treatises"—that one of the two under this title which begins "I did but prompt the age" (1645): in Milton's own hand. SONNET, "On the Religious Memorie of Mrs. Catharine Thomson, my Christian friend, deceased 16 December, 1646”—i.e. Sonnet, beginning, "When Faith and Love:" two drafts, both in Milton's own hand; the first erased.
SONNET, "A Book was writ of late" (1645 or 1646); being the
draft in Milton's own hand (with corrections in another) of which there is a transcript as above.
SONNET TO FAIRFAX (1648): in Milton's own hand, with this
SONNET TO CROMWELL (1652): in another hand; dictated by
Sonnet to Sir HENRY VANE The Younger : in another hand;
Lines ON THE FORCERS OF CONSCIENCE in another hand. A note in Milton's hand in the preceding page directs that these lines come in immediately before the Sonnet to Fairfax.
Last ten lines of the first SONNET TO CYRIACK SKINNER: in another hand.
Second SONNET TO CYRIACK SKINNER, beginning, "Cyriack, this three years' day" (1655 ?): in another hand; dictated by Milton.
SONNET TO THE MEMORY OF HIS SECOND WIFE, beginning, "Methought I saw (1658) in another hand; dictated by Milton.
51-54 These last four pages are blank.
It thus appears that in this precious volume at Cambridge there are preserved (mostly in Milton's own hand, but occasionally in the
hands of amanuenses, who either transcribed from his original drafts before he was blind, or, after he was blind, wrote to his dictation) actual MS. copies of all Milton's MINOR ENGLISH POEMS, with these exceptions :-Paraphrases of Psalms CXIV. and CXXXVI.; On the Death of a Fair Infant; At a Vacation Exercise; On the Nativity; The Passion; On a May Morning; On Shakespeare; On the University Carrier (two pieces); Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester; L'Allegro and Il Penseroso; Four of the Sonnets (“O Nightingale,” ""On the Late Massacre in Piedmont," "When I consider how my light is spent," "To Mr. Lawrence"); Translation of the Fifth Ode of Horace; Translations of Psalms I-VIII. (done in 1653), and of Psalms LXXX.LXXXVIII. (done in 1648); and Scraps of Verse in the Prose Pamphlets.
RULES FOR DECIDING THE TEXT.
An editor's duty, in respect to the text of the Minor Poems of Milton, resolves itself into the following rules (1) The great majority of the poems, appearing both in the edition of 1645 and in that of 1673, are to be printed according to the text of these editions, wherever it is common to the two; and, if in any case there is a discrepancy, then the text of 1673 is to have the preference, except where it may appear that the difference between that and the text of 1645 is a mere error in reprinting. For, on the one hand, there is evidence that Milton dictated amendments for the later edition, and intended it to be adopted; and, on the other hand, there is the fact that he could revise the proofs of the earlier edition with his own eyes, but could not give the later the same benefit. Between the two editions, however, there is next to no difficulty; and these between them must fix the text of the poems common to both. Whatever other copies of these poems exist—whether among the Cambridge MSS., or (as in the cases of Comus and Lycidas) also in a printed form prior to the volumes of 1645 and 1673-are to be looked upon only as earlier drafts which were superseded, in Milton's own intention, by these printed volumes. (2) Where a poem appears in the volume of 1673, but not in that of 1645, then, on the same principle, it is the text of 1673, and
not that of any earlier draft found among the Cambridge MSS., that is to be followed. (3) As respects the few pieces not found in either of Milton's own editions of 1645 and 1673, but added by subsequent editors, the rule might at first sight seem to divide itself. The scraps of verse culled from Milton's prose-pamphlets are, of course, to be printed from the text of the pamphlets in which they occur; but what is the proper text of the four Sonnets first published by Phillips in his memoir of Milton-to wit, the Sonnets to Fairfax, Vane and Cromwell, and the second Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner? There are drafts of these Sonnets, though only one of them in Milton's own hand, among the Cambridge MSS.; and these drafts differ a good deal from the copies printed by Phillips. Which text is to be followed? At first, though aware that Phillips was not the most accurate of men, I was disposed to assign some value to his text of the four Sonnets, on the supposition that he may have had copies later than those in the Cambridge MSS., and also because, in at least one instance, he has furnished a better reading, which has been generally adopted. But a close comparison of Phillips's text throughout with that of the MSS. has convinced me that Newton and subsequent editors have been right in abiding by the MS. copies. In most cases of difference, even where Phillips's readings would do, the MS. readings are better. But there are one or two cases where Phillips has reverted to a reading forbidden in the MSS. by actual rejection and erasure; and in the Sonnet to Cromwell he has ruined the metrical structure by the omission of a whole line, patching up the break as well as he could so as to preserve the continuity of the sense. For the four Sonnets in question, therefore, the Cambridge MSS. must be authoritative, while Phillips's variations may interest in the Notes. (4) From all that has been said it does not follow that no editorial use is to be made of the Cambridge MSS. except for the four Sonnets last spoken of, or that no use is to be made of the very early printed copies of Comus and Lycidas in 1637 and 1638 respectively. On the contrary, it is peculiarly interesting to compare these earlier drafts of some of the poems with the copies as finally perfected, and to obtain the insight so afforded into Milton's habits of composition, and the critical fastidiousness with which,
in each revision of any of his poems, he sought improvements in words or in sound. Hence, in connexion with any of the poems of which there is a draft among the Cambridge MSS., an editor, though precluded from letting that draft affect the printed text of the editions of 1645 and 1673, may, with advantage, give a conspectus in his notes of the various readings supplied by the draft not only of such various readings as are supplied by the draft in its final state, but even of such as are supplied by the erasures and changes in the MS. itself before that state was reached. Milton erased and changed so much in the act of writing that it is impossible to give an adequate idea of his habits in this respect except by actually reproducing the Cambridge MSS. in fac-simile. That labour, performed only in part by the late Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby, may yet be performed completely. Meanwhile, an editor must do his best to supply the want by indicating what is of importance in the form of various readings found in the Cambridge drafts. In the cases of Comus and Lycidas, and especially, as we shall find, in that of Comus, something more may be required.