« ZurückWeiter »
UNDER the date Oct. 6, 1645, this entry occurs in the books of the London Stationers' Company: "Mr. Moseley entered for his copie, under the hand of Sir Nath. Brent and both the Wardens, a booke called Poems in English and Latyn by Mr. John Milton, 6d." The meaning of the entry is that on that day Humphrey Moseley, then the most active publisher in London of poetry, old plays, and works of pure fancy, registered the forthcoming volume as his copyright, showing Brent's licence for its publication, and the signatures of the Wardens of the Company besides, and paying sixpence for the formality. The following is the complete title of the volume when it did appear :—
"Poems of Mr. John Milton, both English and Latin, compos'd at several times. Printed by his true Copies. The Songs were set in Musick by Mr. Henry Lawes, gentleman of the King's Chappel, and one of His Majesties private Musick.
VIRGIL, Eclog. 7.
Printed and publish'd according to Order. London, Printed by Ruth Raworth, for Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at the signe of the Princes Arms in Pauls Churchyard. 1645."
From a copy of this first edition of Milton's Poems among the King's Pamphlets in the British Museum, bearing a note of the precise day of its publication written on the title-page, I learn that the day was Jan. 2, 1645-6. Milton had then been some months in his new dwelling-house in Barbican; where, besides his pupils, there were now domiciled with him his reconciled wife, his aged father, and several of his wife's relations.
The volume.published by Moseley is a small and rather neat octavo of more than 200 pages. The English Poems come first and fill 120 pages; after which, with a separate title-page, and filling 88 pages, separately numbered, come the Latin Poems. The poems contained in the volume, whether in the English or the Latin portion, include, with two exceptions, all those which are now known to have been written by Milton, at different periods, from his boyhood at St. Paul's School to the year 1645, in which the volume was published. The exceptions are the little elegy "On the Death of a fair Infant dying of a Cough" (1626), and the curious little fragment, “At a Vacation Exercise at College" (1628). Prefixed to the volume as a whole, and doubtless with Milton's sanction, was a very eulogistic Preface by Moseley, entitled "The Stationer to the Reader" (see it at the beginning of the Minor Poems). Then, before Comus, which begins on p. 67 of the volume, there is a separate title-page, as if to call attention to its greater length and importance-besides which,
Lawes's eulogistic dedication of this poem to Lord Brackley, in his separate edition of 1637, is reproduced (see it prefixed to Comus in this ed.), and the poem is farther introduced by a copy furnished by Milton of Sir Henry Wotton's remarkable letter to him in 1638 (also prefixed to Comus in this ed.). Finally, prefixed to the Latin Poems in the volume, after the separate title-page which distinguishes them from the English portion, are copies of the commendatory verses, &c., with which Milton had been favoured when abroad by the distinguished foreigners who had seen some of these poems, or otherwise become acquainted with him. Only in one peculiarity of the volume was there a miscarriage. It had been proposed, apparently by Moseley, that there should be a portrait of Milton prefixed to the volume; and the engraver to whom Moseley had entrusted the thing was one W. Marshall, who had executed other portraits of men of the day, and was of some respectability in his profession. But, whether Marshall worked carelessly from an oil-painting then in Milton's possession, or only concocted something out of his own head, the print which he produced bore no earthly resemblance to Milton, or indeed to any possible human being. Though entitled "Joannis Miltoni Angli Effigies anno ætatis viges. primo," ("Portrait of John Milton, Englishman, in the 21st year of his age," it exhibited a stolid, grim-looking, long-haired gentleman, of about fifty, with a background of trees and a meadow, and shepherds dancing and piping, seen through a window. What Milton thought when this engraving of himself was shown him we can only guess. But, instead of having it cancelled, he let it go forth with the volume-only taking his revenge by a practical joke at the engraver's expense. He offered him some lines of Greek verse to be engraved ornamentally under the portrait; and these lines the poor artist did innocently engrave, little thinking what they meant. An English translation of them may run thus
That an unskilful hand had carved this print
Such was the First Edition of Milton's Miscellaneous Poems, published in 1645, when the author was thirty-seven years of age. The volume seems to have had no great circulation; but it sufficed to keep alive, for the next two-and-twenty years, or till the publication of Paradise Lost in 1667, the recollection that the man who, through this long period, was becoming more and more known for his Revolutionary principles and his connexion with the Commonwealth government, had begun life as a poet.
Paradise Lost having been followed, in 1671, by Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, the popularity of these three great poems of Milton's later years seems to have re-awakened so much demand for his earlier Poems as to make a new edition of them desirable. Accordingly, in 1673, or twentyeight years after Moseley had published the first edition, a second edition of the Minor Poems did appear, under Milton's own superintendence. This Second Edition, which, like the first, was a small octavo, bore the following title :
"Poems, &c., upon Several Occasions. By Mr. John Milton: both English and Latin, &c. Composed at several times. With a small Tractate of Education. To Mr. Hartlib. London, Printed for Tho. Dring, at the White Lion, next Chancery Lane End, in Fleet Street. 1673." [So in copies which I have seen; but in a copy now before me, the latter part of the imprint runs thus: "London: Printed for Thos. Dring, at the Blew Anchor next Mitre Court over against Fetter Lane in Fleet Street. 1673."]
In this second edition, as compared with the first, the following particulars are to be noted: (1) There were certain additions. The chief of these were, of course, those English and Latin pieces which had been written by Milton since the first edition was published. For obvious reasons, indeed, Milton did not think it advisable, at that date, to publish his sonnets to Fairfax, Vane, and Cromwell, nor that second one to Cyriack Skinner in which he speaks with exultation of his own services in the Republican cause. With these exceptions, however, all the pieces written since 1645 were now published by Milton himself in this second edition. But there were also included in this edition those two English pieces, which, though written long before the publication of the first edition, had not appeared in it, viz.: the elegy "On the Death of a fair Infant dying of a Cough," written in 1626, and the fragment, "At a Vacation Exercise at College," written in 1628. Copies of these two pieces had apparently been recovered by Milton, and their insertion in the new edition was certainly a gain to that edition. (2) To some copies of this second edition of the Poems there was prefixed a new portrait of Milton, superseding the caricature by Marshall prefixed to the first edition. But the jocular Greek lines on Marshall's portrait which had appeared in the first edition were still preserved. They were printed among the Sylvæ in the new edition, with the title "In Effigiei ejus Sculptorem.' (3) From the new edition were omitted Moseley's Preface to the first edition, and also the two pieces of English prose which had been specially inserted in the first as introductions to the Comus-viz. Lawes's Dedication of the Comus to Lord Brackley in 1637, and Sir Henry Wotton's letter of 1638. Milton probably thought that these laudatory introductions were no longer required. He still kept, however, the complimentary verses, &c., of his foreign friends, prefixed to the Latin poems.
To most of the editions of the Minor Poems that have appeared since Milton's own second edition of 1673 there have, of course, been added such scraps ot verse, not inserted in that edition, as Milton would himself have included in any final edition. Thus the scraps of verse, whether in English or Latin, interspersed through his prose-writings, are now properly collected and inserted among the Poems. Those four English Sonnets, also, which Milton had, from prudential reasons, omitted in the edition of 1673, are now in their places. After the Revolution of 1688 there was no reason for withholding these interesting sonnets from the public; and, accordingly, when Milton's nephew, Edward Phillips, published, in 1694, an English edition of the "Letters of State' which had been written by his uncle as Latin Secretary during the Commonwealth, and prefixed to these Letters his Memoir of his uncle, he very properly printed the four missing sonnets as an appendix to the Memoir. From that time they have always been included in editions of the Poems.
Even had Milton not given his Minor Poems to the world in print during his lifetime, those interesting productions of his genius would not have been wholly lost. From the time when he had first begun to write poems or other things, he had carefully kept the MSS.; and it so chances that a larger quantity of Milton's original MSS. has been preserved than of the original MSS. of most other English poets of that age. Not a few of Milton's papers, either loose, or forming a kind of large draft-book, had come into the possession of Sir Henry Newton Puckering, Bart., a scholar and book-collector of the seventeenth century and as, on his death in 1700, he left his collection of books to the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, these papers lay about in that Library till 1736, when they were carefully put together and bound in morocco. Accordingly,
this thin morocco-bound volume of Milton MSS. is to this day one of the most precious curiosities in the Library of Trinity College. It is shown to visitors in a glass table-case, arranged so as to gratify them with the sight of a page or two of Milton's autograph. By permission of the Master and Fellows, but only in the presence of one of the Fellows, it may be removed from the case for more leisurely examination. The volume consists of fifty-four pages, all of folio size, except an interpolated leaf or two of small quarto. Eight of the pages are blank; all the other forty-six are written on, most of them very closely. The following is a list of the contents in the order in which they stand :-Arcades (draft in Milton's cwn hand); Song, At a solemn Music (Milton's own hand); Sonnet on his having arrived at the age of twenty-three (in Milton's own hand, as part of Prose Letter to a Friend, of which there are two drafts); On Time (Milton's own hand); Upon the Circumcision (Milton's own hand); Sonnet VIII. (in the hand of an amanuensis); Sonnets IX. and X. (Milton's own hand); Comus and Lycidas, entire drafts, much corrected (in Milton's own hand); Seven pages of Fottings of Subjects for Tragedies (Milton's own hand: see Introd. to P. L., to P. R., and to Sams. Ag.); Sonnets XI-XIV. (in Milton's own hand, but with copies in another hand); Sonnet XV.: To Fairfax (in Milton's own hand); Sonnet XVI. : To Cromwell (in the hand of some amanuensis); Sonnet XVII.: To Vane (also in another hand); Lines on the Forcers of Conscience (also in another hand); Sonnets XXI-XXIII. (also in the hands of amanuenses). 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 much the larger part of all Milton's MINOR ENGLISH POETRY.