« ZurückWeiter »
beyond fifteen hundred copies. The first edition was of the poem in ten books, in small quarto, which were advertised plainly and neatly bound, at the price of three shillings. The titles were varied in order to circulate the edition in 1667,17 1668, 1669. Of these there were no less than five. An advertisement and the arguments of the books were omitted in some copies, and inserted in others; and from variations in the text, it would pear that single pages were cancelled and reprinted.
The sale gave him in two years a right to his second payment; for which the receipt was signed April 26, 1669. The second edition was not given till 1674, and was printed in small octavo, and the number of books was increased to twelve, by a division of the seventh and twelfth, with the introduction of a few connecting lines. He did not live 18 to receive the payment stipulated for this im
17 See Introduction to Pickering's edition, p. xii. and Todd's Life (first ed.) p. 190, for an account of the variations in the poem and titles. Mr. Lofft observes that 1667 was a great year in the annals of our history; for not only was Paradise Lost published, but there was a Statute passed for the employment of poor prisoners,' and a great step made in the art of dressing wool, p. xxiv. of the effect of these different circumstances towards establishing the name and character which Britain holds among the nations, it is difficult to form an idea of any degree of proportionate extent; an adequate is impossible. It opens a vast arena in the boundless space of human perfectibility. v. Remarks by Tench Coxe. These clustering radiations of moral light may unite mankind to the intelligence of other systems unnumbered and unimagined;' which circumstance, if it come to pass, will open new markets for the wool trade, and be of great advantage to the publishers of Paradise Lost.- Go thy ways, Capel, the flower and quintessence of all editors.'
18 For an account of the editions, see C. Lofft's Preface, p. xxxv. lxi. and Todd's Life, p. 189-217. The number of lines in Paradise Lost amount to 10,565. Dr. Symmons says that Milton lived to receive the whole fifteen pounds for which he had stipulated; but see Todd's Life (first ed.) p.
pression. The third edition was published in 1678, and his widow agreed with Simmons the printer to receive eight pounds as her right, and gave him a general release, dated April 29, 1681. Simmons covenanted to transfer the right for twentyfive pounds to Brabazen Aylmer, a bookseller, and Aylmer sold to Jacob Tonson half of it, August 17, 1683, and the other half March 24, 1690, at a price considerably advanced.
The sale, Johnson says, will justify the public: the call for books in Milton's age was not great. The nation had been satisfied from 1623 to 1664 with only two editions of the works of Shakespeare, which probably together did not make a thousand copies.19 The sale of thirteen hundred copies in two years was an uncommon example of the prevalence of genius. Yet the demand did not immediately increase, for in eleven years only three thousand were sold: but the reputation and price of the copy still advanced; till the revolution put an end to the secrecy of love, and Paradise Lost broke into open view with sufficient security of kind reception.'
Though the poem of Milton was above 20 the age 109. Concerning the plagiarisms of Callender (who published the first book of Milton, 1750) from the Commentary of Patrick Hume, 1695, see Blackwood's Mag. No. xxiv. p. 659.
19 Johnson, however, should have remembered that large impressions of Shakespeare's Plays were always attainable, in a separate and more commodious form, in 4to.
20 The poets, contemporary with Milton, were Waller, Suckling, Crashaw, Denham, Lovelace, Cowley, Brome, Sherborne, Fanshaw, Davenant, besides those of inferior note. "Never any poet left a greater reputation behind him, than Mr. Cowley, while Milton remained obscure, and known but to few, but your grace knows very well that the great reputation of Cowley did not continue half a century, and that Milton's is now on the pinnacle of the temple of fame." Dennis's Letters Familiar, &c. p. 207.
on which it was bestowed (for such greatness of invention, such harmony of numbers, and such majesty of style had not then been seen united); yet admirers among men of learning and genius it undoubtedly had. Andrew Marvell and Barrow, the physician,21 wrote some manly and spirited verses in its praise. Dryden's lines of commendation are known to all;22 and praise in other books by authors of lower fame, has been discovered by the diligence of the commentators. 1688,23 23 the handsome folio edition was published under the patronage of Lord Somers, and with the assistance of Atterbury 24 and Dryden; in 1682, it was translated into Dutch, and into Latin in 1685, and ten years after, it appeared with a very curious and learned commentary by Patrick Hume. I shall here take the opportunity of men
21 The following couplet in Marvell has wonderfully puzzled the commentators:
I too transported by the mode offend,
And while I meant to praise thee, must commend.'
See Lofft's Milton, p. xlvi. lii. where' most commend,' 'miscommend,' but commend,' are offered; whereas the sense is perfectly clear. 'While I meant to praise thee, must commend; i. e. must, for the sake of the rhyme, use the word 'commend,' instead of 'praise,' which is the word I should otherwise have used. Even Bentley, in a MS. note in my copy, has erased 'must' and written 'most.'
22 Dryden owned to Dennis, that when he adapted his state of innocence from Milton, he knew not half the extent of Milton's excellence.' v. Dennis's Letters, Moral and Critical, 1721, p. 75.
23 See Todd's Life, p. 198-202, there were five hundred and thirty subscribers. See a list of the most eminent of them in Lofft's Milton, p. xlix.
24 Atterbury said, that he prepared the edition of Milton, usually called Lord Somers's-from a MS. note of his in an edition of Milton out of the library of Warburton.' Atterbury's Works, iv. p. 164.
tioning the volumes published by Lauder, Auctorum Miltono facem prælucentium;' and of remarking (after having perused the poems which they contain) that little doubt can be entertained, but that Milton was acquainted with the Adamus Exsul of Grotius, and probably with the poetry of Ramsay and Masenius. Those who are curious on the subject may compare the poems of Ramsay with the description of the creation in the seventh book, and the drama of Grotius with the temptation in the ninth; and, if familiar with the language of Milton, they will find some resemblances; but the charge of plagiarism was unjust, and indeed absurd. Milton's immense reading extended over the whole field of literature, and in every direction; and it required all his learning, collected by painful study during the best years of his life, long deposited in his memory, and remoulded by his genius, to build up his immortal poem. Where is there an extensive work of established reputation to be found, that is not evidently the result of long study, and assiduous labours? Let us consider that his materials were a few verses in Genesis, and that the rest is created by his own imagination, supplied by industrious and select reading.' Thus the tributary stores from poets of every age and country were poured into his mind; and they were always returned with augmented beauty and lustre.25 We may
25 Natalis Donadæi Poema Heroicum de Bello Christi. Messanæ 1614. Ven. 1616. Hoc vidit procul dubio in Italia Miltonus, nihil ex poesi sumturus, at aliquid ex argumento, præsertim libri secundi in poema magnum ubi loquitur Satanas, sequentium in alterum.' v. W. S. Landori Poemata, p. 199. There is a Latin translation of a Tragedy of Beza's, by T. Iacomotus, called Abram from Morea, or
say of him, as a Roman critic said of Virgil; judicio transferendi et modo imitandi consecutus est, ut quod apud illum legerimus alienum, aut illius esse malimus, aut melius hic quam ubi natum est, sonare miremur. '26
An anecdote had long been current, which originally came from Richardson, that Sir John Denham came into the House of Commons with a sheet of Paradise Lost, wet from the press, in his hand, and being asked what it was, replied, Part of the noblest poem that was ever written in any age or language.'27 Such is the facility with which anecdotes that amuse or surprise, pass current from mouth to mouth, that they need but a slender foundation to ensure belief. On examination, it was discovered that Denham was never in Parliament; and consequently the whole story is an ingenious fiction. I shall conclude my remarks on the publication of the poem, by mentioning that in an original edition, belonging to some gentleman who communicated the fact to the public, some rhyming lines were written apparently by a female hand, with these words at
Isaac Redeemed,' A. D. 1597, which Milton is supposed to have seen. v. Hollis's Memoirs, p. 528.
26 v. Macrobii Saturn. lib. vi. c. 1.
27 I possess a curious book, called a New Version of Paradise Lost, or Milton paraphrased, in which the measure and versification are corrected and harmonized, the obscurities elucidated, and the faults removed, by a gentleman of Oxford (Mr. Green), in 1706. It is one of the most ludicrously absurd books that I ever read. He says that he has introduced a novelty in this version, by bracing those lines that read best together, in imitation of the triplets in rhyme. His notes are not less curious than the text. My copy belonged to some person as eccentric as the author, as appears by his MSS. notes in the margin. He has had the book lettered"Milton travestied surely."