« ZurückWeiter »
to fome other Italian poets, are pointed out. The poet's imitations of himfelf are alfo confiderably augmented. Nor have the romances and fabulous narratives, on which the poetry of Milton is often founded, been neglected. The editor, while he has not been fparing of claffical illuftration, has conftantly kept in mind the neceffity of attention to the literature of Milton's age. Without this attention, as Mr. Warton remarks, "the force of many ftrikingly poetical paffages has been weakened or unperceived, because their origin was unknown, unexplored, or mifunderftood. Coeval books, which might clear fuch references, were therefore to be confulted; and a new line of commentary was to be purfued. Comparatively, the claffical annotator has here but little to do. Dr. Newton, an excellent fcholar, was unacquainted with the treasures of the Gothick library. From his more folid and rational studies, he never deviated into this idle track of reading." But, as Milton, at least in his early poems, may be reckoned an old English poet; and as in his later poetry allufions to the fources of fiction, with which he had been pleafed in his youth, often appear; he generally requires that illuftration, however trifling it may seem to faftidious readers, without which no old English poet can well be illuftrated.
The arrangement of the materials in thefe volumes has been formed with a view to uniformity, and to the accommodation of the reader. The Table of General Contents will point out the order observed; the differtations prefixed; the appendixes fubjoined.
To the whole is added a Gloffarial Index. The editor thinks it proper to obferve, that, in compliance with the wishes of feveral literary friends, the Paradife Loft has been placed firft, in the following methodical difpofition of the poetical works.
He has endeavoured to render the text as perfpicuous as poffible; not only by feveral illuftrations of antiquated words, which, as Mr. Warton has obferved, in a fucceffion of editions had been gradually and filently, yet perhaps not always properly, refined; but also by comparing the copies published under the immediate infpection of Milton, as well as moft fubfequent editions; more particularly thofe of Tickell, Fenton, Bentley, and the later editors; as the notes will fhow. Nor fhould it here be omitted, that Milton has not fo uniformly contracted the words of his language, as to countenance the spelling of ifle, of honour, of inferiour, of mufick, and feveral other words, with the omiffion of a letter in each. Milton's manuscript at Cambridge, and his own editions of his Poems, as well as of his Paradife Loft, will afford teftimonies to this obfervation. The text of Milton muft, indeed, exhibit fome peculiarities. By fuch as are here retained, the meaning cannot be embarraffed. His love of Italian, of Chaucer, and of Spenfer, requires this notice. The emendations of fwelling, in Paradife Loft, B. vii. 319, of are, B. x. 816, and of the 496th verfe in Samson Agonistes, are additions to the few alterations of the text admitted by preceding editors. To the punctuation alfo, of which Milton has been pronounced by Mr. Warton
to have been habitually careless, great attention has been paid. The editor conceived it his duty likewife to examine the manufcript, containing many of Milton's early poems, preferved in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge; and he found, on examination, several particularities which had been omitted by those who had before collated the manufcript, and which were too curious not to be noticed in the prefent edition. To the end of the feveral poems, of which there are copies in the manufcript, thefe Various Readings are annexed. The reafon is affigned.
The editor offers, with the utmost deference, fome account of the Life of Milton; of which the materials have been drawn from authentick fources. In this biographical attempt fome new anecdotes, relating to the hiftory of Milton's friends, of his works, and of his times, will also be found. Thefe may perhaps plead as an apology for the rafhnefs of the editor, in affecting to sketch the poet, whom the masterly hands of a Johnfon and an Hayley have depicted; a rafhnefs, to which he has been impelled by the perfuafion of others, that, to a new edition of his Works, it is a cuftom to prefix the Life of the Author.
Such are the materials here accumulated, in order to explain the labours of Milton: of Milton, the proud boaft of his own country, and the admiration of the world of Milton, whofe imitations of others are fo generally adorned with new
* See the Appendix to Par. Loft, vol. iii. p. 490.
modes of fentiment or phrafeology, that they lofe the nature of borrowings, and difplay the skill and originality of a perfect mafter; and from whom fucceeding poets, at various periods, have "ftolen authentick fire."
From the liberal and candid reader, the editor hopes to meet with more than pardon; having fpared neither pains nor coft in the profecution of his defign, and having ftrenuoufly exerted his humble abilities to please and to inform. His distance from the metropolis. has fometimes indeed deprived him of the benefit of confulting, on particular exigencies, not only the publick libraries, but many kind and judicious friends with whofe notice he has been honoured. The great attention and correctness of the prefs of Metfrs. Bye and Law, have, however, rendered the volumes free from unpardonable inaccuracies; from fuch errours, it is believed, as might deftroy the fenfe of the author, and excite indignation against the editor.
CANTERBURY, July 20. 1801.
THE LAST SIX BOOKS OF PARADISE LOST