« PreviousContinue »
to the vernal, and that what he attempted at other the sale of as many of the third, and the number times was not to his satisfaction, though he court- was not to exceed fifteen hundred. And what a ed his fancy never so much. Mr. Toland ima- poor compensation was this for such an inestimable gines that Philips might be mistaken as to the performance! and how much more do others get time, because our author, in his Latin elegy, writ- by the works of great authors, than the authors ten in his twentieth year, upon the approach of themselves! This original contract with Samuel the spring, seems to say just the contrary, as if he Simmons, the printer, is dated April 27, 1667, and could not make any verses to his satisfaction till is in the hands of Mr. Tonson, the bookseller, as the spring begun: and he says farther, that a ju- is likewise the manuscript of the first book copied dicious friend of Milton's informed him, that he fair for the press, with the Imprimatur, by Thomas could never compose well but in spring and au- Tomkyns, chaplain to the Archbishop of Cantertumn. But Mr. Richardson can not comprehend, bury: so that, though Milton was forced to make that either of these accounts is exactly true, or that use of different hands to write his verses from time a man with such a work in his head can suspend to time as he had occasion, yet we may suppose it for six months together, or only for one; it may that the copy for the press was written all, or at go on more slowly, but it must go on: and this least each book by the same hand. The first edilaying it aside is contrary to that eagerness to tion, in ten books, was printed in a small quarto; finish what was begun, which he says was his tem- and before it could be disposed of, had three or per, in his epistle to Deodati, dated Sept. 2, 1637. more different title pages of the years 1667, 1668, After all Mr. Philips, who had the perusal of the and 1669. The first sort was without the name poem from the beginning, by twenty or thirty of Symmons, the printer, and began with the poem verses at a time, as it was composed, and having immediately following the title page, without any not been shown any for a considerable while as the argument, or preface, or table of errata : to others summer came on, inquired of the author the reason was prefixed a short advertisement of the printer of it, could hardly be mistaken with regard to the to the reader concerning the argument, and the time:
: and it is easy to conceive, that the poem might reason why the poem rhymes not; and then folgo on much more slowly in summer than in other lowed the argument of the several books, and the parts of the year; for, notwithstanding all that poets preface concerning the kind of verse, and the table may say of the pleasures of that season, I imagine of errata : others again had the argument, and the most persons find by experience, that they can corn- preface, and the table of errata, without that short pose better at any other time, with more facility and advertisement of the printer to the reader : and this more spirit, than during the heat and languor of was all the difference between them, except now summer. Whenever the poem was written, it was and then of a point or a letter, which were altered finished in 1665, and, as Elwood says, was shown as the sheets were printing off. So that, notwithto him that same year at St. Giles Chalfont, whi- standing these variations, there was still only one ther Milton had retired to avoid the plague, and it impression in quarto; and two years almost elapswas lent to him to peruse it, and give bis judg.ed, before thirteen hundred copies could be sold, ment of it; and, considering the difficulties which or before the author was entitled to his second five the author lay under, his uneasiness on account of pounds, for which his receipt is still in being, and the public affairs and his own, his age and infirm- is dated April 26, 1669. And this was probably ities, his gout and blindness, his not being in cir- all that he received; for he lived not to enjoy the cumstances to maintain an amanuensis, but obliged benefits of the second edition, which was not pubto make use of any hand that came next to write lished till the year 1674, and that same year he his verses as he made them, it is really wonderful, died. The second edition was printed in a small that he should have the spirit to undertake such a octavo, and was corrected by the author himself, work, and much more, that he should ever bring it and the number of books was augmented from ten to perfection. And after the poem was finished, to twelve, with the addition of some few verses: still new difficulties retarded the publication of it. and this alteration was made with great judgment, It was in danger of being suppressed through the not for the sake of such a fanciful beauty as remalice or ignorance of the licencer, who took ex- sembling the number of books in the Æneid, but ception at some passages, and particularly at that for the more regular disposition of the poem, benoble simile, in the first book, of the sun in an cause the seventh and tenth books were before too eclipse, in which he fancied that he had discovered long, and are more fitly divided each into two. treason. It was with difficulty too that the author The third edition was published in 1678; and it could sell the copy; and he sold it at last only for appears that Milton had left his remaining right five pounds, but was to receive five pounds more in the copy to his widow, and she agreed with after the sale of thirteen hundred of the first im- Simmons, the printer, to accept eight pounds in pression, and five pounds more after the sale of as full of all demands, and her receipt for the money many of the second impression, and five more after is dated December 21, 1680. But a little before this Simmons had covenanted to assign the whole is too weil known to be repeated; and those Latin right of copy to Brabazon Aylmer, the bookseller, verses by Dr. Barrow the physician, and the Engfor twenty-five pounds; and Alymer afterwards lish ones by Andrew Marvel, Esq. usually presold it to old Jacob Tonson at two different times, fixed to the Paradise Lost, were written before the one half on the 17th of August, 1683, and the second edition, and were published with it. But other half on the 24th of March, 1690, with a con- still the poem was not generally known and esteemsiderable advance of the price: and except one ed, nor met with the deserved applause, till after fourth of it which has been assigned to several the edition in folio, which was published in 1688 persons, his family have enjoyed the right of copy by subscription. The Duke of Buckingham in ever since. By the last assignment it appears that his Essay on poetry prefers Tasso and Spencer to the book was growing into repute and rising in Milton: and it is related in the life of the witty valuation; and to what perverseness could it be Earl of Rochester, that he had no notion of a betowing that it was not better received at first ? We ter poet than Cowley. In 1686 or thereabout Sir conceive there were principally two reasons; the William Temple published the second part of his prejudices against the author on account of his Miscellanies, and it may surprise any reader, that principles and party; and many, no doubt, were in his Essay on Poetry he takes no notice at all ofiended with the novelty of a poem that was not of Milton; nay he says expressly that after Ariosin rhyme. Rymer, who was a redoubted critic in to, Tasso, and Spenser, he knows none of the those days, would not so much as allow it to be a Moderns who have made any achievements in poem on this account; and declared war against heroic poetry worth recording. And what can we Milton as well as against Shakspeare; and threat think, that he had not read or heard of the Paraened that he would write reflections upon the Pa-dise Lost, or that the author's politics had prejuradise Lost, which some (says he*) are pleased to diced him against his poetry? It was happy that call a poem, and would assert against the slender | all great men were not of his mind. The booksuphistry where with the author attacks it. And seller was advised and encouraged to undertake such a man as Bishop Burnet makes it a sort of the folio edition by Mr. Sommers, afterwards Lord objection to Milton, that he affected to write in Sommers, who not only subscribed himself, but blank verse without rhyme. And the same rea- was zealous in promoting the subscription : and in son induced Dryden to turn the principal parts of the list of subscribers we find some of the most Paradise Lost into rhyme in his Opera called the eminent names of that time, as the Earl of Dorset, State of Innocence and Fall of Man; to tag his Waller, Dryden, Dr. Aldrich, Mr. Atterbury, and lines, as Milton himself expressed it, alluding to among the rest Sir Roger Lestrange, though he the fashion then of wearing tags of metal at the had formerly written a piece entitled No blind end of their ribbons.
guides, &c. against Milton's Notes upon Dr. GrifWe are told indeed by Mr. Richardson, that Sir fith's sermon. There were two editions more in George Hungerford, an ancient member of Parlia-folio, one I think in 1692, the other in 1695, which ment, told him, that Sir John Denham came into was the sixth edition; for the poem was now so the House one morning with a sheet of Paradise well received, that notwithstanding the price of it Lost wet from the press in his hand; and being was four times greater than before, the sale inasked what he had there, said that he had part of creased double the number every year; as the the noblest poem that ever was written in any bookseller, who should best know, has informed language or in any age. However it is certain us in his dedication of the smaller editions to Lord that the book was unknown till about two years Sommers. Since that time not only various ediafter, when the Earl of Dorset produced it, as Mr. tions have been printed, but also various notes and Richardson was informed by Dr. Tancred Robin- translations. The first person who wrote annotason, the physician, who had heard the story often tions upon Paradise Lost was P. H. or Patrick from Fleetwood Shepherd himself, that the Earl, Hume, of whom we know nothing, unless his in company with Mr. Shepherd, looking about for name may lead us to some knowledge of his counbooks in Little Britain, accidentally met with Pa- try, but he has the merit of being the first (as I say) radise Lost; and being surprised at some passages who wrote notes upon Paradise Lost, and his notes in dipping here and there, he bought it. The were printed at the end of the folio edition in 1695. bookseller begged his Lordship to speak in its fa- Mr. Addison's Spectators upon the subject convour if he liked it, for the impression lay on his tributed not a little to establishing the character, hands as waste paper. The Earl having read it and illustrating the beauties of the poem. In 1732 sent it to Dryden, who in a short time returned it appeared Dr. Bentley's new edition with notes: with this answer, “ This man cuts us all out and and the year following Dr. Pearce published his the ancients too." Dryden's epigram upon Milton Review of the text, in which the chief of Dr. Bent
ley's emendations are considered, and several other See Rymer's “Tragedies of the last age considered.” p. 143. Semendations and observations are offered to the
public. And the year after that Messieurs Rich-ginning of the third book, was published, conardson, father and son, published their Explana- taining a character of the Long Parliament and tory notes and remarks. The poem has also been Assembly of Divines in 1611, which was inserted translated into several languages, Latin, Italian, in its proper place in the last edition of 1738. French, and Dutch; and proposals have been made Bishop Kennet begins his Complete History of for translating it into Greek. The Dutch trans- England with this work of Milton, as being the lation is in blank verse, and printed at Harlem. best draught, the clearest and most authentic acThe French have a translation by Mons. Dupré count of those early times: and his style is freer de St. Maur; but nothing shows the weakness and easier than in most of his other works, more and imperfection of their language more, than that plain and simple, less figurative and metaphorical, they have few or no good poctical versions of the and better suited to the nature of history, has greatest poets; they are forced to translate Homer, enough of the Latin turn and idiom to give it an Virgil, and Milton into prose: and blank verse air of antiquity, and sometimes rises to a surprising their language has not harmony and dignity enough dignity and majesty. to support; their tragedies, and many of their In 1670 likewise his Paradise Regained and coinedies are in rhyme. Rolli, the famous Italian Samson Agonistes were licensed together, but were master here in England, made an Italian transla- not published till the year following. It is sometion; and Mr. Richardson the son, saw another at what remarkable, that these two poems were not Florence in manuscript by the learned Abbé Sal- printed by Simmons, the same who printed the vini, the same who translated Addison's Cato into Paradise Lost, but by J. M. for one Starkey, in Italian. One William Hog or Hogæus translated Fleet street: and what could induce Milton to Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson have recourse to another printer? was it because Agonistes into Latin verse in 1690; but this ver- the former was not enough encouraged by the sale sion is very unworthy of the originals. There is of Paradise Lost to become a purchaser of the a better translation of the Paradise Lost by Mr. other copies? The first thought of Paradise ReThomas Power, Fellow of Trinity College, in gained was owing to Elwood the Quaker, as he Cambridge, the first book of which was printed himself relates the occasion in the history of his in 1691, and the rest in manuscript is in the libra- life. When Milton had lent him the manuscript ry of that College. The learned Dr. Trap has of Paradise Lost at St. Giles Chalfont, as we said also published a translation into Latin verse; and before, and he returned it, Milton asked him how the world is in expectation of another, that will he liked it, and what he thought of it: “Which I surpass all the rest, by Mr. William Dobson, of modestly, but freely told him, says Elwood; and New Cullege, in Oxford. So that by one means after some further discourse about it, I pleasantly or other Milton is now considered as an English said to him, Thou hast said much of Paradise classic; and the Paradise Lost is generally esteem- Lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise ed the noblest and most sublime of modern poems, Found ? IIe made me no answer, but sat some and equal at least to the best of the ancient; the time in a muse; then broke off that discourse, and honour of this country, and the envy and admira- fell upon another subject.” When Elwood aftertion of all others!
wards waited upon him in London, Milton showed In 1670 he published his History of Britain, that him his Paradise Regained, and in a pleasant tone part especially now called England. He began it said to him, “This is owing to you, for you put it above twenty years before, but was frequently in- in my head by the question you put me at Chalterrupted by other avocations; and he designed to font, which before I had not thought of.” have brought it down to his own times, but stopped It is commonly reported, that Milton himself at the Norman conquest; for indeed he was not preferred this poem to the Paradise Lost; but all well able to pursue it any farther by reason of his that we can assert upon good authority is, that he blindness, and he was engaged in other more de- could not endure to hear this poem cried down so lightful studies; having a genius turned for poetry much as it was, in comparison with the other. rather than history. When his History was print- For certainly it is very worthy of the author, and ed, it was not printed perfect and entire; for the contrary to what Mr. Toland relates, Milton may licenser expunged several passages, which refleet- be seen in Paradise Regained as well as in Paraing upon the pride and superstition of the Monks dise Lost; if it is inferior in poetry, I know not in the Saxon times, were understood as a con- whether it is not superior in sentiment; if it is less cealed savire upon the Bishops in Charles the se- descriptive, it is more argumentative; if it does cond's reign. But the author himself gave a copy not sometimes rise so high, neither does it ever of his unlicensed papers to the Earl of Anglesea, sink so low; and it has not met with the approwho, as well as several of the nobility and gentry, lation it deserves, only because it has not been constantly visited him: and in 1681 a considera- more read and considered. His subject indeed is ble passage, which had been suppressed at the be-'confined, and he has a narrow foundation to build
upon; but he has raised as noble a superstructure Epistolarum Familiarium, Lib. I., et Prolusiones as such little room and such scanty materials quædam Oratorie in Collegio Christi habitæ, were would allow. The great beauty of it is the con- printed in 1674; as was also his translation out trast between the two characters of the Tempter of Latin into English of the Poles Declaration and our Saviour, the artful sophistry and specious concerning the election of their King John III., insinuations of the one refuted by the strong sense setting forth the virtues and merits of that prince. and manly eloquence of the other. This poem He wrote also a brief History of Muscovy, colhas also been translated into French, together lected from the relations of several travellers; but with some other pieces of Milton, Lycidas, L'Al- it was not printed till after his death in 1682. He legro, Il Penseroso, and the Ode on Christ's Na- had likewise his state-letters transcribed at the tivity: and in 1732, was printed a Critical Dis- request of the Danish resident, but neither were sertation, with Notes upon Paradise Regained, they printed till after his death in 1676, and were pointing out the beauties of it, and written by translated into English in 1694; and to that transMr. Meadawcourt, Canon of Worcester: and the lation a life of Milton was prefixed by his nephew very learned and ingenious Mr. Jortin has added Mr. Edward Philips, and at the end of that life his some observations upon this work at the end of excellent sonnets to Fairfax, Cromwell, Sir Henry his excellent Remarks upon Spenser, published in Vane, and Cyriac Skinner, on his blindness, were 1734; and indeed this poem of Milton, to be more first printed. Besides these works which were admired, needs only to be better known. His published, he wrote his System of Divinity, which Samson Agonistes is the only tragedy that he has Mr. Toland says was in the hands of his friend finished, though he has sketched out the plans of Cyriac Skinner, but where at present is uncertain. several, and proposed the subjects of more, in his And Mr. Philips says, that he had prepared for manuscript preserved in Trinity College library: the press an answer to some little scribbling quack and we may suppose that he was determined to in London, who had written a scurrilous libel the choice of this particular subject by the simili- against him; but whether by the dissuasion of tude of his own circumstances to those of Samson friends, as thinking him a fellow not worth his blind and among the Philistines. This I conceive notice, or for what other cause, Mr. Philips knew to be the last of his poetical pieces; and it is written not, this answer was never published. And inin the very spirit of the ancients, and equals, if not deed the best vindicator of him and his writings exceeds, any of the most perfect tragedies, which has been time; posterity has universally paid that were ever exhibited on the Athenian stage, when honour to his merits, which was denied him by Greece was in its glory. As this work was never in- great part of his contemporaries. tended for the stage, the division into acts and scenes After a life thus spent in study and labours for is omitted. Bishop Atterbury had an intention the public, he died of the gout at his house in of getting Mr. Pope to divide it into acts and Bunhill Row, on or about the 10th of November, scenes, and of having it acted by the king's scho- 1674, when he had within a month completed the lars at Westminster: but his commitment to the sixty-sixth year of his age. It is not known when tower put an end to that design. It has since he was first attacked by the gout, but he was been brought upon the stage in the form of an grievously afflicted with it several of the last years oratorio; and Mr. Handel's music is never em- of his life, and was weakened to such a degree, ployed to greater advantage, than when it is that he died without a groan, and those in the adapted to Milton's words. The great artist has room perceived not when he expired. His body done equal justice to our author's L'Allegro and was decently interred near that of his father, (who Il Penseroso, as if the same spirit possessed both had died very aged about the year 1617,) in the masters, and as if the god of music and of verse chancel of the church of St. Giles's, Cripplegate; was still one and the same.
and all his great and learned friends in London, There are also some other pieces of Milton, for not without a friendly concourse of the common he continued publishing to the last. In 1672, he people, paid their last respects in attending it to published Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio ad Petri the grave. Mr. Fenton, in his short but elegant Rami methodum concinnata, an Institution of account of the Life of Milton, speaking of our Logic after the method of Petrus Ramus; and author's having no monument, says that “ he dethe year following, a Treatise of True Religion and sired a friend to inquire at St. Giles's church; the best means to Prevent the Growth of Popery, where the sexton showed him a small monument, which had greatly increased through the conni- which he said was supposed to be Milton's; but vance of the King, and the more open encourage the inscription had never been legible since he ment of the Duke of York; and the same year his was employed in that office, which he has pospoems, which had been printed in 1645, were re- sessed about forty years. This sure could never printed with the addition of several others. His have happened in so short a space of time, unless Familiar Epistles and some Academical Exercises, the epitaph had been industriously erased: and
that supposition, says Mr. Fenton, carries with it representations which have been made of him. so much inhumanity, that I think we ought to There are two pictures of greater value than the believe it was not erected to his memory." It is rest, as they are undoubted originals, and were in evident that it was not erected to his memory, the possession of Milton's widow: the first was and that the sexton was mistaken. For Mr. To drawn when he was about twenty-one, and is at land, in his account of the Life of Milton, says, present in the collection of the Right Honourable that he was buried in the chancel of St. Giles's Arthur Onslow, Esq, Speaker of the House of church, " where the piety of his admirers will Commons; the other in crayons was drawn when shortly erect a monument becoming his worth and he was about sixty-two, and was in the collection the encouragement of letters in King William's of Mr. Richardson, but has since been purchased reign." This plainly implies that no monument by Mr. Tonson. Several prints have been made was erected to him at that time, and this was writ- from both these pictures; and there is a print, done ten in 1698: and Mr. Fenton's account was first when he was about sixty-two or sixty-three, after published, I think, in 1725; so that not above the life by Faithorn, which though not so handtwenty-sever. years intervened from the one ac- some, may yet perhaps be as true a resemblance count to the other; and consequently the sexton, as any of them. It is prefixed to some of our auwho it is said had been possessed of his office thor's pieces, and to the folio edition of his prose about forty years, must have been mistaken, and works in three volumes, printed in 1698. the monument must have been designed for some In his way of living he was an example of soother person, and not for Milton. A monument briety and temperance. He was very sparing in indeed has been erected to his memory in West- the use of wine or strong liquors of any kind. Let minster Abbey by Auditor Benson, in the year meaner poets make use of such expedients to raise 1737; but the best monument of him is his their fancy and kindle their imagination; he wantwritings.
ed not any artificial spirits; he had a natural fire, In his youth he was esteemed extremely hand- and poetic warmth enough of his own. some, so that while he was a student at Cambridge, likewise very abstemious in his diet, not fastidioushe was called the Lady of Christ's College. He ly nice or delicate in the choice of his dishes, but had a very fine skin and fresh complexion; his content with any thing that was most in season, hair was of a light brown, and parted on the fore- or easiest to be procured, eating and drinking (actop hung down in curls waving upon his shoulders; cording to the distinction of the philosopher) that his features were exact and regular; his voice he might live, and not living that he might eat and agreeable and musical; his habit clean and neat; drink. So that probably his gout descended by his deportment erect and manly. He was middle- inheritance from one or other of his parents; or if sized and well proportioned, neither tall nor short, it was of his own acquiring, it must have been neither too lean nor too corpulent, strong and ac- owing to his studious and sedentary life. And yet tive in his younger years, and though afflicted with he delighted sometimes in walking and using exfrequent headachs, blindness, and gout, was yet a ercise, but we hear nothing of his riding or huntcomely and well-looking man to the last. His eyes ing; and having early learned to fence, he was were of a light blue colour, and from the first are such a master of his sword, that he was not afraid said to have been none of the brightest; but after of resenting an affront from any man; and before he lost the sight of them (whiclı happened about he lost his sight, his principal recreation was the the 430 year of his age) they still appeared with exercise of his arms; but after he was confined by out spot or blemish, and at first view and a little age and blindness, he had a machine to swing in distance it was not easy to know that he was blind. for the preservation of his health. In his youth Mr. Richardson had an account of him from an he was accustomed to sit up late at his studies, and ancient clergyman in Dorsetshire, Dr. Wright, seldom went to bed before midnight; but afterwards, who found him in a small house, which had (he finding it to be the ruin of his eyes, and looking thinks) but one room on a floor; in that, up one on this custom as very pernicious to health at any pair of stairs, which was hung with a rusty green, time, he used to go to rest early, seldom later than he saw John Milton sitting in an elbow chair, with nine, and would be stirring in the summer at four, black clothes, and neat enough, pale but not cada- and in the winter at five in the morning; but if verous, his hands and fingers gouty, and with he was not disposed to rise at his usual hours, he chalk stones; among other discourse he expressed still did not lie sleeping, but had some body or himself to this purpose, that was he free from the other by his bed side to read to him. At his first pain of the gout, his blindness would be tolerable. rising he had usually a chapter read to him out of But there is the less need to be particular in the the Hebrew Bible, and he commonly studied all description of his person, as the idea of his face the morning till twelve, then used some exercise and countenance is pretty well known from the for an hour, afterwards dined, and after dinner numerous prints, pictures, busts, medals, and other played on the organ, and either sung himself or