« AnteriorContinuar »
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE
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 Latynı 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 license 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 house in Barbican ; where,
T, VOL. I.
besides his pupils, there were now domiciled with him his reconciled wife, his aged father, and several of his wise'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, and the Poem is farther introduced by a copy furnished by Milton of Sir Henry Wotton's remarkable letter to him in 1638. 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, etc., 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 William 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