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evidence to any sober-minded scholar of the failure and futility of their labours. Let any judicious and unprejudiced man read the enumeration of these opinions in Todd's edition, and he will, if I mistake not, agree with me. No doubt there were many works of greater or lesser merit, in which the revolt in heaven and the fall of man were treated of, published before Paradise Lost; and it is possible that Milton may have read most, if not all of them, and extracted the essence of their beauties : even if he had not read them, which is most likely, it is natural, as it is in a detail of most occurrences, even in real life, that there should be coincidences of arrangement, description, illustration, and comparison in his account and theirs. Much of this virulent criticism against the poet, may be traced to the hostility against the controversialist. But we are not to consider the, perhaps, objectionable character of the polemic and the politician, in our consideration of his work, which ought to be judged of as he intended it, as an és dei krijua, as Herodotus says, a legacy to his country for all future ages. What is it to the admirers of the Iliad and the Odyssey whether Homer, the mendicant singer, was the original author of these admired poems; or only a collector of the songs and rhapsodies on the subjects of the Theban and Trojan wars, embellishing these stories, and adding many of his own ? We know the Æneid to be in a great measure a chaste and judicious compilation from the Iliad and Odyssey, yet we do not the less admire it on that account. But this charity is not extended to Milton
a greater far than either. The man is often remembered in his great work. Of this there is a singular instance in the case of the immortally infamous Lauder, a Scotchman of considerable classical erudition and research, who, from a strange detestation of Milton's principles, especially in his attack on the character of King Charles I. conceived the abominable design of blasting his literary character, in the work from which he anticipated fame - fame which his country was willing to concede to him. When Bishop Newton advertised his meditated edition of Paradise Lost, Lauder announced to him that he had in his possession many poems from which Milton plagiarised not merely the scheme of the poem, but whole descriptions and illustrations. Newton, who was
aware of Milton's vast genius and universal scholarship, doubted the fact; but advised him to publish the result of his discovery. He did so in a series of papers in the Gentleman's Magazine, and afterwards more methodically in an Essay on Milton's Imitations of the Moderns." This having created a sensation, Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Douglass searched the archives of Oxford, and discovered that Lauder was guilty of the most base and infamous imposture that has disgraced literature in modern ages. Douglass published a pamphlet entitled, “ Milton Vindicated from the Charge of Plagiarism, brought by Lauder; and Lauder himself convicted of Forgeries and gross Imposition on the Public." By this, Lauder, who, in parading his own learning, and quoting books inaccessible to most readers, (for he exhibited a long roll of the works of Scotch, German, Dutch and other writers, neither published nor known,) hoped to escape detection, and cajole the public, fell into his own trap, and was compelled publicly to acknowledge his own forgeries. He quoted, it seems, passages from books that he had not seen. He introduced, here and there of his own concoction, passages as if from books that he had seen ; and quoted, as passages of these authors, whole lines from the Latin translation of Paradise Lost, by Hogg. However, his exposure and discomfiture were complete; but the vile spirit that actuated Lauder is not yet dead. Milton's stand for the religious and political liberty of his country still raises up against him immitigable enemies. Paradise Lost has passed through its ordeal; and the verdict of all honest and the most learned men is now recorded--that it is the greatest of all poems, ancient or modern.
It is far more interesting to know Milton's temper of mind, and his habits of composing, while engaged in this work. It is stated by his nephew that "his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal to the vernal equinox; and what he attempted at other times was not to his satisfaction.” Though Milton says, in one of his early elegies, that spring was his favourable time for composition, it must be borne in mind, that as he changed his habits of reading, from sitting up till midnight to going to bed and rising early, so may his times of easy composition change. However,
his nephew Phillips, who read the poem during its progress, states the fact positively, and he says he often heard it from Milton. This is enough. “ When he was up, and dictated, he sat in an easy chair, with his leg flung over the elbow of it. He frequently composed lying in bed in the morning; sometimes he would lie awake whole nights, and could not produce a single verse. At other times his easy unpremeditated verse' would flow upon him with a certain æstrum or impetus, as he himself imagined. Then he rang for his daughter to secure what came." But it appears that his youngest daughter was not his sole amanuensis ; for the MS., which is preserved, is by different female hands. When the poem was finished, great difficulties were presented to its publication; the licenser fancied there lurked treason in his noble comparison of Satan to the sun in an eclipse (b. i. 596); and this difficulty having been surmounted, the publishers were timid to encourage the production of a man so inimical to royalty, and a work so unusual in its style of poetry. At last, Simmons, on the 27th of April, 1667, signed a contract with him ; the terms of which were, that he was to receive 51. down; 51. more on the sale of 1300 copies of the first edition ; and 51. on the sale of 1300 copies of each subsequent one; it being stipulated that no edition was to exceed 1500 copies. The first edition, price three shillings, was published in a small quarto, and consisted of ten books; and, in order to circulate the book, there were five various titles given, one after another. In April, 1669, Milton received the second 51. In the next edition, revised by Milton, the Seventh and Tenth Books, from their great length, and for a more proper distribution of the subject, were divided, with some additions, into two books each. This edition was not published, however, till the year of his death ; and he did not reap the profit of it. The third edition was published in 1678, and Milton's widow, to whom he bequeathed the copyright, transferred her entire right, Dec. 21, 1680, to Simmons, for 81. Simmons had previously sold his right in the book to Aylmer, and Aylmer sold it to Tonson, 1690,-each at a considerable profit. It is thought that the book circulated slowly, and there is a story, generally believed, that chance first gave it
popularity. The story is, that Lord Buckhurst, afterwards the Earl of Dorset, in company with Mr. Fleetwood Shepherd, looking about for books in Little Britain, (a district of the City near St. Paul's,) accidentally met with Paradise Lost, and having been struck with some passages, bought it ; the bookseller requesting his patronage of it as a book, though talented, yet lying idle in his shop. He sent it to Dryden for his opinion, who returned it with this memorable answer, “ This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too." This is a manifest error. The fact is, that considering the sale of books—even the most meritorious, at that time, it had a great and rapid sale, and was singularly appreciated. Dr. Johnson, in evidence of this, states the curious fact, that for fortyone years, from 1623 to 1664, there were only two editions, amounting to about 1000 copies, of Shakspeare, the poetic idol of the British nation, sold; whereas, in two years, there were 1300 copies of Paradise Lost in circulation at the time this supposed occurrence took place, i. e. two years after the first appearance of the work; for Milton's receipt for the second payment, on the 26th of April, 1669, is in existence ; and there were 3000 copies of the book sold in eleven years, i. e. two editions from 1667 to 1678, when the third edition appeared. There is another argument against the credibility of this alluring and popular story. Dryden was a constant visitor and admirer of Milton while alive, (the story would convey the notion that Dryden was asked for his opinion of a work he knew nothing of,) and of course was well acquainted with Paradise Lost from its first publication; and it must be a fair presumption, that a literary man like the Earl of Dorset, the friend of Dryden, did not first meet with it in this chance way at a bookseller's. That Dryden, if the book were so sent to him, made the foregoing observation is most natural, as he was the author of the famous epigram
“ Three poets, in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn :
To make the third, she joined the former two."
Lord Sumers, was published by subscription ; 500 of the most eminent men in England being subscribers. In 1695, the first edition, with notes, was published by Mr. Patrick Hume, a Scotchman. This was the sixth edition of the text. Of Addison's criticism it is needless now to speak—it is familiar to every scholar, and has contributed more than any other work to place Milton in his proper place, at the very pinnacle of the temple of poetic fame. In 1732, Dr. Bentley published his edition with notes; but by it his critical celebrity was much obscured. He attempted to remodel the text in a great measure -whole lines of the most beautiful passages he would expunge ; or correct by spurious intermixtures of his own. His attempt was a signal, and is a memorable failure : no great scholar ever injured his own previous character by a single work so completely : yet it must be admitted, that in his notes there are some shrewd and useful observations. In 1733, Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Bangor, and the editor of Longinus, published his “ Review of the Text of Paradise Lost,” in which he overthrew most of the objections of Bentley, and gave some valuable annotations. In 1734, the edition by the Richardsons, father and son,
with notes, appeared. But the most valuable of all the editions of Milton's poetic works was given by Dr. Newton, Bishop of Bristol ; urged to the undertaking by the Earl of Bath, and Dr. Pearce, who, with others, contributed largely to his Commentary. The second edition of 3 vols. 4to. in 1754, contained a great accession of critical and explanatory matter ; and nearly completed what Dr. Pearce had left undone. It is needless to enumerate all the learned men who have commented on this work; but the next great editor was the Rev. Dr. Todd, whose edition of 1809 in seven volumes 8vo. (four being bestowed, including prefatory matter, on Paradise Lost) of his poetic works, embraced nearly all that was useful in the labours of previous editors and annotators, and gave a great body of additional illustrations from old English and Italian authors, neither known nor heard of, except by the learned. In 1824, Mr. Hawkins, Fellow of Oriel College, published his edition of the poetic works in 4 vols. 8vo, omitting the really useless and irrelevant part of Todd's voluminous notes, and