« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
ceive there were principally two reasons; the prejudices against the author on account of his principles and party; and many no doubt were offended with the novelty of a poem that was not in rime. Rymer, who was a redoubted critic in those days. would not so much as allow it to be a poem on this account; and declared war against Milton as well as againft Shakespear; and threatened that he would write reflections upon the Paradise Lost, which some (says he *) are pleased to call a poem, and would affert rime against the flender fophiftry wherewith the author attacks it. And such a man as Bishop Burnet maketh it a sort of objection to Milton, that he affected to write in blank verse without rime. And the same reason induced Dryden to turn the principal parts of Paradise Lost into rime in his Opera called the State of innocence and Fall of man; to tag his lines, as Milton himself expressed it, alluding to the fashion then of wearing tags of metal at the end of their ribbons. We are told indeed by Mr. Richardson, that Sir George Hungerford, an ancient member of parlament, told him, that Sir John Denham came into the House one morning with a sheet of Paradise Loft wet from the press in his hand; and being asked what he had there, faid that he had part of the noblest poem that ever was written in any language or in any age. However it is certain that the book was unknown till about two years after, when the Earl of Dorset produced it, as Mr. Richardson was informed by Dr. Tancred Robinson the physician, who had heard the story often from Fleetwood Shephard himself,
that • Sec Rymer's Tragedies of the last age confider'd. p. 143.
that the Earl, in company with Mr. Shephard, look ing about for ; books in Little Britain, accidentally met with Paradise Lost; and being surprised at some passages in dipping here and there, he bought it. The bookseller begged his Lordship to speak in its favor if he liked it, for the impression lay on his hands as waste paper. The Earl having read it fent it to Dryden, who in a short time returned it with this answer, « This man cuts us all out and the “ Ancients too.” Dryden's epigram upon Milton is too well known to be repeated; and those Latin verses by Dr. Barrow the physician, and the English ones by Andrew Marvel Ésq;, usually prefixed to the Paradise Lost, were written before the second edition, and were published with it. But still the poem was not generally known and esteemed, nor met with the deserved applause, till after the edition in folio, which was published in 1688 by subfcription. The Duke of Buckingham in his Essay on poetry prefers Tasso and Spenser to Milton : and it is related in the life of the witty Earl of Rochester, that he had no notion of a better poet than Cowley. In 1686 or thereabout Sir William Temple published the second part of his Miscellanies, and it may surprise any reader, that in his Effay on poetry he taketh no notice at all of Milton; nay he faith expressly that after Ariosto, Tafso, and Spenser, he knoweth none of the Moderns who have made any achievements in heroic poetry worth recording. And what can we think, that he had not read or heard of the Paradise Lost, or that the author's politics had prejudiced him against his poetry? It was happy that all great men were not of his mind. The
bookseller was advised and encouraged to undertake the folio edition by Mr. Sommers, afterwards Lord Sommers, who not only subscribed himself, but was zealous in promoting the subscription: and in the lift of subscribers we find some of the most eminent names of that time, as the Earl of Dorset, Waller, Dryden, Dr. Aldrich, Mr. Atterbury, and among
the rest Sir Roger Lestrange, tho' he had formerly · written a piece intitled No blind guides &c against · Milton's Notes upon Dr. Griffith's sermon. There
were two editions more in folio, one I think in
1692, the other in 1695 which was the sixth edi. tion; for the poem was now so well received, that · notwithstanding the price of it was four times greater
than before, the sale increased double the number every year; as the bookseller, who should best know, has informed us in his dedication of the smaller editions to Lord Sommers. Since that time not only various editions have been printed, but also various notes and translations. The first person who wrote annotations upon Paradise Loft was P. H. or Patrick Hume, of whom we know nothing, unless his name may lead us to some knowledge of his country, but he has the merit of being the first (as I fay) who wrote notes upon Paradise Lost, and his notes were printed at the end of the folio edition in 1695. Mr. Addison's Spectators upon the subject contributed not a little to establishing the character, and illustrating the beauties of the poem. In 1732 appeared Dr. Bentley's new edition with notes : and the year following Dr. Pearce published his Review of the text, in which the chief of Dr. Bentley's emendations are considered, and several other emendaVol. I.
tions and observations are offered to the public. And the year after that Messieurs Richardson, father and fon, published their Explanatory notes and remarks. The poem has also been translated into several languages, Latin, Italian, French, and Dutch; and proposals have been made for translating it into Greek. The Dutch translation is in blank verse, and printed at Harlem. The French have a translation by Monf. Dupré de S. Maur; but nothing showeth the weakness and imperfection of their language more, than that they have few or no good poetical versions of the greatest poets; they are forced to translate Homer, Virgil, and Milton into profe: and blank verse their language has not harmony and dignity enough to support; their tragedies, and many of their comedies are in rime. Rolli, the famous Italian master here in England, made an Italian translation ; and Mr. Richardson the son faw another at Florence in manufcript by the learned Abbè Salvini, the same who translated Addison's Cato into Italian. One William Hog or Hogæus tranflated Paradise Lost, Paradise Regain'd, and Samson Agonistes into Latin verse in 1690; but this version is very unworthy of the originals. There is a better translation of the Paradise Lost by Mr. Thomas Power Fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge, the first book of which was printed in 1691, and the rest in manuscript is in the library of that College. The learned Dr, Trap has also published a translation into Latin verse; and the world is in expectation of another, that will surpass all the rest, by Mr. William Dobson of New College in Oxford. So that by one means or other Milton is now con
i sidered as an English classic; and the Paradise Loft = is generally esteemed the noblest and most sublime of
modern poems, and equal at least to the best of the ancient; the honor of this country, and the envy and admiration of all others !
In 1670 he published his History of Britain, that part especially now called England. He began it above twenty years before, but was frequently interrupted by other avocations; and he designed to have brought it down to his own times, but stopped at the Norman conqueft; for indeed he was not well able to pursue it any farther by reason of his blindness, and he was engaged in other more delightful ftudies, having a genius turned for poetry rather than history. When his History was printed, it was not printed perfect and entire; for the licencer expunged several paffages, which reflecting upon the pride and superstition of the Monks in the Saxon times, were understood as a concealed satir upon the Bishops in Charles the second's reign. But the author himself gave a copy of his unlicenced papers to the Earl of Anglesea, who, as well as several of the nobility and gentry, constantly visited him: and in 1681 a considerable paffage, which had been suppressed at the beginning of the third book, was published, containing 'a character of the Long Parlament and Afsembly of Divines in 1641, which was inserted in its proper place in the last edition of 1738. Bishop Kennet begins his Complete History of England with this work of Milton, as being the best draught, the clearest and moft' authentic account of those early times: and his stile is freer and easier than in most of his other works, more plain F 2