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“ of Paradise, presented by an Angel with Labour, Grief, Hatred, Envy, War, “ Famine, Pestilence, Sickness, Discontent, Ignorance, Fear, [as] Mutes,-to “ whom he gives their names,--likewise Winter, Heat, Tempest, etc. ; Death " entered into the world ; Faith, Hope, Charity, comfort and instruct him. “ Chorus briefly concludes." This is left standing; but in another part of the MS., as if written after some interval of time, is a fourth Draft
, as follows: “ ADAM UNPARADIZED :—The Angel Gabriel, either descending or enter“ ing,-showing, since the globe is created, his frequency as much on Earth as “ in Heaven,-describes Paradise. Next the Chorus, showing the reason of his “ coming,—to keep his watch, after Lucifer's rebellion, by the command of God, “ —and withal expressing his desire to see and know more concerning this ex“ cellent and new creature, Man. The Angel Gabriel, as by his name signifying
a Prince of Power, passes by the station of the Chorus, and, desired by them, “ relates what he knew of Man, as the creation of Eve, with their love and marriage. " --After this, Lucifer appears, after his overthrow; bemoans himself; seeks
revenge upon Man. The Chorus prepares resistance at his first approach. At “ last, after discourse of enmity on either side, he departs ; whereat the Chorus “ sing of the battle and victory in Heaven against him and his accomplices, as “ before, after the first Act, was sung a hymn of the Creation. ——Here again
may appear Lucifer, relating and consulting on what he had done to the destruc“ tion of Man. Man next and Eve, having been by this time seduced by the
Serpent, appear confusedly, covered with leaves. Conscience, in a shape,
accuses him ; Justice cites him to the place whither Jehovah called for him. “ In the meantime the Chorus entertains the stage, and is informed by some “ Angel of the manner of the Fall. Here the Chorus bewails Adam's fall. “ Adam and Eve return and accuse one another ; but especially Adam lays the “ blame to his wife ; is stubborn in his offence. Justice appears, reasons with “ him, convinces him. The Chorus admonishes Adam, and bids him “ beware Lucifer's example of impenitence. ——The Angel is sent to banish “them out of Paradise ; but, before, causes to pass before his eyes, in shapes, “ a masque of all the evils of this life and world. He is humbled, relents,
spairs. At last appears Mercy; comforts him, promises him the Messiah ; “then calls in Faith, Hope, Charity ; instructs him. He repents, gives God the “ glory, submits to his penalty. The Chorus briefly concludes. ——Compare this 66 with the former Draft."
These schemes of a possible drama on the subject of Paradise
| Facsimiles of these four Drafts are given in Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby's Ramblings (Plates IV. and VII.) They are very interesting, as showing Milton in the act of jotting down his scheme in its different stages, erasing the first Drafts as he proceeds to the others, and inserting afterthoughts and amplifications in these. I have done my best to print and point the drafts so as to bring out Milton's exact intention in each. The long dashes in the Fourth Draft indicate the division into Acts, as intended by Milton : each Act, it will be observed, ending with a Chorus.
Lost were written out by Milton, we repeat, as early as between 1639 and 1642, or between his thirty-first and his thirty-fourth year. They are part, we repeat, of a list of about a hundred subjects which then occurred to him in the course of his reading as worth considering for the great English Poem which he hoped to give to the world. From the place and the proportion of space which they occupy in the list it is apparent that the subject of Paradise Lost had then fascinated him more strongly than any of the others, and that, if his notion of an epic on King Arthur was given up, a drama on Paradise Lost was looming before him as the most likely substitute.
In the same pamphlet of 1641 in which Milton had taken the public so frankly into his confidence respecting his design of some great English Poem, he went on to pledge himself that, though his interest in the great political questions of the time obliged him meanwhile to postpone the execution of his design, it should not be abandoned. Although a sense of duty had compelled him, he says, to "leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and “ confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and “hoarse disputes,” he looked forward to a future time of quiet and leisure when he should be free to resume his vocation as an English poet. "Neither do I think it shame,” he continues, "to covenant “ with any knowing reader, that for some few years yet I may go on “ trust with him toward the payment of what I am now indebted, as “ being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours “ of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar
amorist, or the trencher-fury of a riming parasite, nor to be obtained
by the invocation of Dame Memory and her Siren daughters, but “ by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit, who can enrich with all “utterance and knowledge, and sends out his Seraphim with the “hallowed fire of his altar to touch and purify the lips of whom he "pleases. To this must be added industrious and select reading, “ steady observation, insight into all seemly and generous arts and “affairs : till which in some measure be compassed, at mine own “ peril and cost, I refuse not to sustain this expectation from as many
as are not loth to hazard so much credulity upon the best pledges “ that I can give them.” 1
Yet another fact of interest. When Milton thus announced to the public his design of some great English poem, to be accomplished
1 The Reason of Church Government, Book II., Introduction.
at leisure, and when he was privately considering with himself whether a tragedy on the subject of Paradise Lost might not best fulfil the conditions of such a design, he had actually gone so far as to write not only the foregoing drafts of the tragedy, but even some lines by way of opening. Our authority is his nephew, Edward Phillips. Speaking of Paradise Lost, and of the author's original intention that it should be a tragedy, Phillips tells us, “In the Fourth Book of the “ Poem there are six [ten?] verses, which, several years before the “ Poem was begun, were shown to me, and some others, as designed “ for the very beginning of the said tragedy."1 The verses referred to by Phillips are those (P. L. IV. 32—41) that now form part of Satan's speech on first standing on the Earth, and beholding, among the other glories of the newly-created World, the Sun in his full splendour in the heavens :
“ O thou, that, with surpassing glory crowned,
Look’st from thy sole dominion like the god
Phillips's words “several years before the Poem was begun” would not, by themselves, fix the date at which he had seen those lines. But in Aubrey's earlier Memoir of Milton (1680), containing information which Aubrey had derived from Phillips, this passage occurs : “In the 4th booke of Paradise Lost there are about 6
verses of Satan's exclamation to the Sun wch Mr. E. Phi. remembers “ about 15 or 16 yeares before ever his Poem was thought of; wch
verses were intended for the beginning of a tragedie, wch he had
design'd, but was diverted from it by other besinesse.” Here we have indirectly Phillips's own authority that he had read the verses in question at a date which we shall see reason to fix at 1642. He
1 Memoir of Milton by Phillips, prefixed to English Edition of Milton's Letters of State, 1694.
2 Phillips, in quoting the lines, substitutes “glorious” for “matchless,” in the last line.
was then a pupil of his uncle, and living with him in his house in Aldersgate Street
Alas! it was not "for some few years ” only, as Milton had thought in 1641, that the execution of the great work then so solemnly promised had to be postponed. For a longer time than he had expected, England remained in a condition in which he did not think it right, even had it been possible, that men like him should be writing poems. Only towards the end of Cromwell's Protectorate, when Milton had reached his fiftieth year, and had been for five or six years totally blind, does he seem to have been in circumstances to resume effectually the design to which he had pledged himself. By that time, however, there was no longer any doubt as to the theme he would choose. All the other themes once entertained had faded more or less into the background of memory, and PARADISE LOST stood out, bold, clear, and without competitor. Nay more, the dramatic form, for which, when the subject first occurred to him, Milton had felt a preference, had been now abandoned, and it had been resolved that the poem should be an Epic. He began this epic in earnest almost certainly before Cromwell was dead: “about 2 yeares before the K[ing] came in,” says Aubrey on Phillips's authority: i.e. in 1658, when, notwithstanding his blindness, he was still in official attendance on Cromwell at Whitehall as Latin Secretary.
Phillips's own statement, in his Memoir of his uncle, agrees with Aubrey's. He distinctly says that it was while Milton was living in the house in Petty France, Westminster, which he occupied from 1652 to within a few weeks of the Restoration, "a pretty garden“house next door to the Lord Scudamore's, and opening into St. " James's Park”—that “the heighth of his noble fancy, and invention” began to be seriously and mainly employed on Paradise Lost. So distinct a recollection of the poem in association with the house almost implies that it had been begun a year or two before that house was left, or while Cromwell was still alive. 1
1 The house thus rendered illustrious existed and was known till very recently as No. 19 York Street, Westminster, the old name of Petty France having been changed to York Street, in consequence of the fact that John Sharp, Archbishop of York, had had his town house here about the year 1708. Some time in the latter part of the eighteenth century Jeremy Bentham had come to be owner of the house, and he lived and died in an adjacent one ; and William Hazlitt rented the house from Bentham, and lived in it from 1811 onwards. On the parapet, near
The uncertain state of affairs after Cromwell's death, or, at all events, after the resignation of his son Richard, whom Milton also served as Latin Secretary, may have interfered with the progress of the back attic-window, was a stone tablet, which had been set up by Bentham, with the inscription, “SACRED TO MILTON, PRINCE OF POETS.” The garden at the back, once belonging to the house, had been encroached upon by Bentham, and added to his own, so that only a narrow piece of it remained. Some farther proposed alterations by Bentham, with a view to the use of the ground for the purposes of a “ Chrestomathic School,” had roused Hazlitt's indignation. What was then the back of the house, reckoned from York Street, was really the old part, or original front, the windows of which, when Milton lived in the house, seem to have looked right into St. James's Park, there being also a direct entry from the garden of the house into the Park. -So much I had learnt from Mr. Peter Cunningham's “ Handbook of London” (Art. York Street, Westminster), and Hazlitt's Spirit of the Age (edit. 1825, pp. 5, 6); but I may add the impressions made by my own first visit to the house, on the afternoon of December 27, 1866. It was a dull, darkish afternoon, and, on my making my way from Birdcage Walk, through Queen's Square, into York Street, the street seemed so mean and dingy that it required an effort of fancy, or at least a recollection of the rapidity with which London streets degenerate, to persuade me that, fifty years before, a man like Hazlitt could have had his residence here. Much more was it difficult to convert in imagination that slum of the present Westminster, at the back of Wellington Barracks, into the Petty France of two centuries before, where Milton, when Latin Secretary to Cromwell, had his “pretty garden-house," and had Lord Scudamore for his next-door neighbour. With some difficulty, owing to temporary imperfections of numbering, I made out No. 19. The house looked narrow and uninviting, and the frontage to the street looked like a construction of the end of the last century or thereabouts. There was a ticket up, intimating that the lower part, consisting of a shop and back-room, was to be let ; and these premises were, accordingly, vacant. But, besides the shop door, there was a small private door from the street-pavement, with two minute black bellhandles. The next house on the left had been partly taken down, leaving a kind of gap, serving for the stowage of timber ; on the right was a small cook-shop. Inquiring at this cook-shop, I was told that I was quite right : the house to the left was No. 19, and Milton's; and, if I pulled one of the bells, I might see the landlady, who could tell me more. I pulled the upper bell; but, no one answering, I pushed the door open, and, advancing along a narrow passage, groped my way in darkness up a winding stair, which brought with it at once a conviction of an antiquity greater than that of the street-frontage. Though I saw faint gleams of one or two openings like doors on my way, I did not stop till I reached the back-attic, where I heard voices. A girl, in some consternation, but with a perception of the nature of my errand when I explained it, referred me to one of the doors lower down for the landlady's room. Groping back to this door, I found the landlady in what was evidently the principal room of the house, room of respectable size, and doubtless once Milton's chief sitting-room. The landlady explained to me that the different rooms of the house were now let out