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manuscript by a man of Milton's political and ecclesiastical ante-
“as when the Sun, new-risen,
The other books of the manuscript having received a similar certificate, or this certificate on the MS. of the first book sufficing for all, the copy was ready for publication by any printer or bookseller to whom Milton might consign it. Having already had many
1 Toland's Life of Milton, prefixed to Edition of Milton's Prose Works, 1698; pp. 40, 41.
2 The manuscript is described, and a facsimile of a portion of it is given, in Mr. Samuel Leigh Sotheby's Ramblings in Elucidation of the Autograph of Milton, 1861 ; pp. 196, 197. It was then in the possession of William Baker, Esq., of Bayfordsbury, Hertfordshire, to whom it had descended, with other relics of interest, in consequence of the marriage of an ancestor with Mary, the eldest daughter of the second Jacob Tonson, of the famous publishing family of the Tonsons. Bishop Newton, in his Life of Milton, 1749, mentions the manuscript as then in possession of the third Jacob Tonson, who was brother of the said Mary. How it came to be in the Tonson family at all will appear in the course of this Introduction,
dealings with London printers and booksellers, Milton may have had several to whom he could go; but the one whom he favoured in this case, or who favoured him, was Samuel Simmons, having his shop “next door to the Golden Lion in Aldersgate Street.”1 The date of the transaction between Simmons and Milton is April 27, 1667. On that day an agreement was signed between them as follows:
These Presents, made the 27th day of Aprill, 1667, between John Milton, gent., of the one parte, and Samuel Symons, printer, of the other parte, Wittness That the said John Milton, in consideration of five pounds to him now paid by the said Sam'. Symons, and other the considerations herein mentioned, Hath given, granted, and assigned, and by these presents doth give, grant, and assigne, unto the said Sam" Symons, his executors and assignes, All that Booke, Copy, or Manuscript, of a Poem intituled Paradise Lost, or by whatsoever other title or name the same is or shalbe called or distinguished, now lately Licensed to be printed, Together with the full benefitt, profitt, and advantage thereof, or which shall or may arise thereby : And the said John Milton, for him, his executors and administrators, doth covenant with the said Sam'. Symons, his executors and assignes, That hee and they shall at all tymes hereafter have, hold, and enjoy the same and all Impressions thereof accordingly, without the lett or hinderance of him the said John Milton, his executors or assignes, or any person or persons by his or their consent or privitie, And that he the said Jo: Milton, his executors or administrators, or any other by his or their meanes or consent, shall not print or cause to be printed, or sell, dispose, or publish the said Booke or Manuscript, or any other Booke or Manuscript of the same tenor or subject, without the consent of the said Saml. Symons, his executors or assignes : In Consideration whereof the said Samll Symons, for him, his executors and administrators, doth covenant with the said John Milton, his executors and assignes, well and truly to pay unto the said John Milton, his executors and administrators, the sum of five pounds of lawfull English money at the end of the first Impression which he the said Samll
. Symons, his executors or assignes, shall make and publish of the said Copy or manuscript; Which Impression shalbe accounted to be ended when thirteene hundred Books of the said whole Copy or Manuscript imprinted shalbe sold and retaild off to particular reading Customers : And shall also pay other five pounds unto the said Mr. Milton, or his assignes, at the end of the second Impression, to be accounted as aforesaid, And five pounds more at the end of the third
He was probably the son, or other near relative, and successor, of Matthew Simmons, printer, who had occupied the same premises, and had printed one of Milton's Divorce Treatises in 1644, and his Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, his Observations on Ormond's Peace with the Irish, and his Eikonoklastes, all in 1649. Milton had resided for a good many years,—viz. from 1640 to 1648, and again from 1661 to 1664,-in Aldersgate Street or its vicinity; and he probably knew the “Golden Lion” and Simmons's shop well. There is still, or was lately, a “Golden Lion Court” in Aldersgate Street, with one or two houses near it that have stood since Milton's time.
Impression, to be in like manner accounted: And that the said three first Impressions shall not exceed fifteene hundred Books or volumes of the said whole Copy or Manuscript a-piece : And further That he the said Samuel Symons and his executors, administrators, and assignes shalbe ready to make Oath before a Master in Chancery concerning his or their knowledge and beleife of or concerning the truth of the disposing and selling the said Books by Retail, as aforesaid, whereby the said Mr. Milton is to be intitled to his said money, from time to time, upon every reasonable request in that behalfe, Or, in default thereof, shall pay the said five pounds agreed to be paid upon each Impression, as aforesaid, as if the same were due, and for and in lieu thereof. In Witness whereof the said parties have to this writing Indented Interchangeably sett their hands and seales the day and yeare first above-written.
Sealed and delivered in the
1 The above is a copy of the celebrated original document now in the British Museum,—which document is the one that went into Simmons's keeping at the time of the transaction, while its counterpart, bearing Simmons's signature, went, of course, into Milton's keeping. The relic was presented to the Museum in 1852 by Samuel Rogers, the poet, in whose possession it had been from 1831, one of the most valued curiosities in his house in St. James's Place.
Rogers had purchased it for a hundred guineas from Mr. Pickering, the publisher; into whose hands it had come for the second time, through intermediate dealers, after it had been in the collection of Sir Thomas Lawrence, who died in 1830, and to whom Mr. Pickering had originally sold it for £60. Mr. Pickering himself had first acquired it, in February 1826, for £45: 35., at a sale of manuscripts, the property of Mr. Septimus Prowett, a London bookseller, and the publisher of an expensive edition of Paradise Lost, with plates after designs by Martin. Mr. Prowett had purchased the document, along with others, in 1824, for the sum of £25 in all, from a tailor in Clifford Street, Bond Street, whose account of them was that they had been left in his house by a lodger, who had decamped in his debt. There the history ends,-save that Bishop Newton, in his Life of Milton in 1749, distinctly speaks of the contract with Simmons for Paradise Lost as being then, together with the manuscript of the First Book of the poem, in the possession of “Mr. Tonson, the bookseller," i.e. the third Jacob Tonson. This Tonson died in 1767; and the question is, How came the contract with Simmons to be lost sight of till 1824, and then to reappear in a tailor's hands in Clifford Street ? Why did it not descend, along with the manu
For practical purposes, it will be observed, the substance of the transaction is that Milton received Five Pounds down on handing over the licensed manuscript to Simmons, and was promised a second Five Pounds when the first edition should have been sold, a third Five Pounds when the second edition should have been sold, and a fourth Five Pounds when the third edition should have been sold,the measure of each edition to be 1300 copies actually sold, and Simmons's oath to be taken, if necessary, to prove the sale. But, in
script of the First Book and other relics, in the family of the Bakers of Bayfordsbury, Herts, representatives of the Tonsons by intermarriage (see note, ante, p. 6)? The answer to this is not very clear ; but it seems that a collection of papers, consisting of the business-correspondence of the Tonsons, etc., was left, at the death of Jacob Tonson tertius in 1767, in the house in the Strand last occupied by him (lately No. 345, near Catherine Street),—which house was also a banking establishment, known as Mr. Hodsoll's, but in which Tonson had been a partner. Continuing to lie here, neglected and with no proper owner, the papers would naturally become the prey of unscrupulous clerks, or others that might take a fancy to them; and hence, while some of the “ Tonson Papers' were kept in the right hands, others were dispersed and got into the market. Meanwhile, the uncertainty of the history of the document from 1767 to 1824 must not be allowed to shake belief in its genuineness. There is not the least doubt that it is the actual document assented to by Milton on the 27th of April 1667.—But another question suggests itself. Is the signature “John Milton,” attached to the document, Milton's autograph ? The poet Rogers never doubted this when he exhibited the document to his guests ; many of those who look at the document now in the British Museum never doubt it; it is the natural belief in the circumstances. As long ago as 1861, however, the late Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby, in his Ramblings in Elucidation of the Autograph of Milton,—to which we are indebted for some of the foregoing facts in the history of the document,gave reasons for questioning this belief, and for inclining to the opinion that the signature was not written by Milton's own hand, but only in his presence and by his authority. Even then, this opinion could not fail to recommend itself at once to all who were sufficiently acquainted with undoubted specimens of Milton's handwriting. The signature to the Simmons document differs decidedly from his well-known signature before his blindness, of which there are specimens as late as 1651 ; nor does it look like any possible modification of that signature induced by blindness. It is entirely unlike the writing of a blind man; and, though it might seem plausible to argue that in a legal document, sealed and witnessed, the signature must have been Milton's own, his blindness notwithstanding, there is ample reply to that argument in the fact that there are other documents of quite as formal a nature, executed in Milton's name after his blindness, and bearing his signatures,—which signatures are certainly not in his own hand, and are certainly also totally unlike this one. All this was urged many years ago ; and, if there was still some hesitation on the subject, it was from a desire not to be too sure in
order, as we suppose, to allow a margin for presentation copies, it is provided that, while in the account between Milton and Simmons each of the three first impressions is to be reckoned at 1300 copies, in the actual printing of each Simmons may go as high as 1500 copies.
It has been inferred from the wording of this document that Milton, before his bargain with Simmons, had begun the printing of the poem at his own expense. There seems no real ground, however, for thinking so, or that what was handed over to Simmons was
such an interesting case so long as there could be a shadow of doubt. No need for such hesitation any longer. One indubitable specimen of Milton's actual signature with his own hand after his blindness was total has been recovered, his signature to his declaration in February 1662-3 of his intended marriage with his third wife; and the reader has only to refer to our facsimile of that signature, given ante at p. 73 of vol. i., to see that it is utterly impossible that the blind man who wrote that could have written this of the Simmons document four years later. In short, the signature to the contract with Simmons for the publication of Paradise Lost is but one of not a few extant specimens of Milton's vicarious signature to documents executed for him and by his authority after his blindness; and all that can be said for it is that he must have touched the annexed seal with his finger-tip in the presence of the attesting witnesses. That annexed seal deserves a word. The device on the shield is the “argent spread eagle, with two heads gules, legged and beaked sable,” which the poet derived from his father as the family-arms, and which, as Anthony Wood tells us (Fasti, i. 480, note), the poet "did use and seal his letters with.” There are other Milton documents extant bearing the same seal. This seal, most frequently used by Milton, seems to have descended to his widow after his death, and to have been one of a few silver articles,—“2 tea-spoons, and one silver spoon, with a seal and stopper and bitts of silver,”—which were jointly valued at 12s. 6d. in an inventory of the old lady's goods after her death at Nantwich, Cheshire, in 1727. Whether it is still in existence we do not know. But there was another silver seal in the poet's possession, differing from the present in having not only the shield with the spread eagle upon it, but also the surmounting family crest : viz. “out of a wreath, a lion's gamb couped and erect azure, grasping an eagle's head erased gules." This more elaborate seal, less frequently used by Milton, descended to his youngest daughter, Deborah, wife of Abraham Clarke of Spitalfields, and from her to her daughter Elizabeth Clarke, who married Thomas Foster of Holloway. On Thomas Foster's death, it was acquired by Mr. John Payne, bookseller ; who sold it, in 1761, for three guineas, to Mr. Thomas Hollis, the well-known virtuoso and enthusiast in Milton. It was recently, with other relics from Mr. Hollis's collection, in the possession of Edgar Disney, Esq., of the Hyde, Ingatestone, Essex, son of the John Disney, Esq., F.S.A., who inherited the Hollis property. There is an engraving of it in the Milton Papers of Mr. John Fitchett Marsh, edited for the Chetham Society, 1851 (p. 21).