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their reception. It was late in the prefent century, before they attained their just measure of esteem and popularity. Wit and rhyme, fentiment and fatire, polished numbers, fparkling couplets, and pointed periods, having fo long kept undisturbed poffeffion in our poetry, would not easily give way to fiction and fancy, to picturesque description, and romantic imagery.

When fir Henry Wootton, 1637, had received from Milton the compliment of a prefent of COMUS, at first separately printed by the care of Henry Lawes, he returned a panegyric on the performance, in which real approbation undoubtedly concurred with the partiality of private friendship, and a grateful fenfe of this kind teftimony of Milton's regard. But Wootton, a scholar and a poet, did not perceive the genuine graces of this exquifite mafque, which yet he profeffes to have viewed with fingular delight. His conceptions did not reach to the higher poetry of COMUS. He was rather ftruck with the paftoral mellifluence of its lyric meafures, which he ftyles a certain Doric delicacy in the fongs and odes, than with its graver and more majestic tones, with the folemnity and variety of its peculiar vein of original invention. This drama was not to be generally characterifed by its fongs and odes: nor do I know that softness and sweetness, although they want nei


ther, are particularly characteristical of thofe paffages, which are most commonly rough with ftrong and crouded images, and rich in personification. However, the Song to Echo, and the initial ftrains of Comus's invocation, are much in the style which Wootton describes.


The first edition of these poems, comprehending COMUS already printed, and LYCIDAS, of which there was also a previous impreffion, is dated in 1645. But I do not recollect, that for seventy years afterwards, they are once mentioned in the whole fucceffion of English literature. Perhaps almost the only inftance on record, in that period of time, of their having received any, even a flight, mark of attention or notice, is to be found in archbishop Sancroft's papers at Oxford. In these papers is contained a very confiderable collection of poetry, but chiefly religious, exactly and elegantly transcribed with his own hand, while he was a fellow of Emanuel college, and about the year 1648, from Crafhaw, Cowley, Herbert, Alabafter, Wootton, and other poets then in fashion. And among these extracts is Milton's ODE ON THE NATIVITY, faid by Sancroft to be selected from " the "firft page of John Milton's poems." Alfo our author's verfion of the fifty-third Pfalm, noted by the transcriber, I fuppofe as an example of uncommon exertion of genius, to have been


done in the fifteenth year of the tranflator's age."
Sancroft, even to his maturer years, retained his
ftrong early predilection to polite literature,
which he ftill continued to cultivate; and from
thefe and other remains of his ftudies in that
purfuit, now preferved in the Bodleian library,
it appears, that he was a diligent reader of the
poetry of his times, both in English and Latin.
In an old Miscellany, quaintly called NAPS ON
PARNASSUS, and printed in 1658, there is a
recital of the moft excellent English poets; who,
according to this author's enumeration, are Chau-
cer, Lydgate, Hardyng, Spenfer, Drayton, Shake-
fpeare, Jonfon, Donne, Beaumont and Fletcher,
Sandys, Cowley, and Clieveland, with fome
others then living and perhaps in fashion, but
now forgotten. But there is not a fyllable of the
writer of L'ALLEGRO, IL PENSEROSO, and co-
MUS. Langbaine, who wrote his dramatic bio-
graphy in 1691, a scholar and a student in En-
glish poetry, having enumerated Milton's greater
English poems, coldly adds, "he published some
"other poems in Latin and English, printed at
"London, 1645." Nor is there the quantity of
an hemiftich quoted from any of these
of thefe poems,
in the Collections of those who have digested
the Beauties or Phrafes of the English Poets
from 1655 to 1738, inclufively, The first of

MSS. Coll. TANN. Num. 465. See f. 34. 60.
Lond. 12mo. See Signat. B. 4.


thefe, is the English Treasury of Wit and Language, by John Cotgrave, 1655. The second, the English Parnaffus, or an Help to English Poefy, by Joshua Poole of Clare-Hall, 1657.* And not to omit the intermediate labours of Bysshe and Gildon, the latter of whom promises "to give the reader the great images that are to "be found in our poets who are truly great, as "well as their topics and moral reflections," the laft, and by far the most copious and judicious compilation of the kind extant, is the BRITISH MUSE in three volumes, by Thomas Hayward, with a good Preface by Oldys, published in 1738. Yet this author profeffes chiefly to confider, “neglected and expiring merit, and to re"vive and preserve the excellencies which time " and oblivion were upon the point of cancel་ ling, rather than to repeat what others had "extracted before.""

Patrick Hume, a Scotchman, in 1695, published a large and very learned commentary on the PARADISE LOST, to which fome of his fucceffors in the fame province, apprehending no danger of detection from a work rarely infpected, and too pedantic and cumbersome to attract many readers, have been often amply in

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PREF. p, xx. We are furprised to find Dennis, in his LetTERS, published 1721, quoting a few verses from Milton's Latin Poems, relating to his Travels. See p. 78. 79. But Dennis had them from Toland's Life of Milton.


debted, without even the most diftant hint of acknowledgment. But Hume, in comparing Milton with himself, perhaps conscious of his importance as a commentator on the fublimities of the epic mufe, not once condefcends to draw a single illustration from this volume of his author. In 1732, Bentley, mistaking his object, and to the difgrace of his critical abilities, gave a new and fplendid edition of the PARADISE LOST. The principal defign of the Notes is to prove, that the poet's native text was vitiated by an infinite variety of licentious interpolations and factitious readings, which, as he pretends, proceeded from the artifice, the ignorance, or the misapprehenfion, of an amanuenfis, to whom Milton, being blind, had been compelled to dictate his verses. To afcertain his criticisms in detecting or reforming these imaginary forgeries, he often appeals to words and phrases in the fame poem. But he never attempts to confirm his conjectures from the smaller poems, written before the poet was blind: and from which, in the profecution of the fame arbitrary mode of emendation, his analogies in many instances might have confequently derived a much stronger degree of authority and credibility. The truth is, Bentley was here a ftranger. I must however except, that he once quotes a line from the beginning of COMUS.*

a PARAD. L. B. i. 16.


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