« PreviousContinue »
tish classic an
the whole fifte conditionally
for eight pour
Marvell, and of Barrow the physician were
tunes of the I prefixed to the second edition of the Paradise Lost, and were probably composed soon
rious editions after its first publication. To the Earl of filly establishe Dorset is ascribed the honour of introducing it to general notice; for accidentally meet
rope,' would p ing with it in Little Britain, where he was
amusing to my in the pursuit of rare books, and being struck fore
, observe with some of its passages, he immediately purchased, and sent it to Dryden, with a request for his opinion. Dryden's answer discovered the strong feeling of one great poetic which he had mind excited by the exhibition of another, “ This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too:” and soon afterwards, as Aubrey informs us, the Laureat called upon Milton, and solicited his permission to construct a drama upon his epic;-a permission which the old bard readily gave, declaring that he had no objection to the scheme “ of tagging his lines.” In the preface to this drama, or, to speak with more precision, to this opera, called “ The State of Innocence and the Fall of Man," which was not published till about two years after Milton's death, Dryden is sufficiently liberal in his acknowledgments to the majestic and venerable poet, with whose materials he had constructed his own beautiful edifice.
Samuel Simm was the purch wholly transf pounds, to Be from whom i rance of pric
Notwithstand which we have late Abe Paradise Lost of it, with a life, of its author, has member of the Le quence, a translat he world by L'At land ; but I have
ject of much con tanslation, thoug
poem, But, how
mon intercourse the language of t
On the 21st
Minutely to trace all the subsequent fortunes of the Paradise Lost, through its va« rious editions and translations, till it became fully established in its proper rank as a British classic and the pride of modern Europe, would probably rather fatigue than be amusing to my readers. I will only, therefore, observe that Milton lived to obtain the whole fifteen pounds, for which he had conditionally stipulated; that his widow sold for eight pounds the copy-right of the work, which he had bequeathed to her;' and that Samuel Simmons, who in this instance also was the purchaser, disposed of what was thus wholly transferred to him, for twenty-five pounds, to Brabazon Aylmer the bookseller; from whom it passed, at a considerable advance of price, to old Jacob Tonson. The
+ Notwithstanding the strange specimen of French criticism, which we have lately noticed, (p.473 in the note), the fame of the Paradise Lost seems to be extending in France. A version of it, with a life, abridged principally from that by Mr. Hayley, of its author, has been published at Paris by a M. Monneron, a member of the Legislative Body; and, what is of more consequence, a translation of our great epic has just been given to the world by L'Abbè Delille. This last work has reached England; but I have not yet seen it. In Paris, where it is the subject of much conversation, it is said to be the translation of a translation, though it is allowed, at the same time, to be a fine poem. But, however admirably adapted it may be to the common intercourse of society, the French, beyond dispute, is not the language of the higher Muse.
On the 21st of december 1680, as appears by her receipt.
thirteenth edition of this poem, in 1727, ought to be mentioned with distinction, as it was prefaced with a life of the author by the respectable Elijah Fenton, who was at once a scholar, a poet, and a man of worth."
In 1670 Milton published his history of England, a work of which our notices have already been sufficiently ample. In the following year, he sent into the world the Paradise Regained, and the Samson Agonistes, poems, of unequal merit, which require us to pause in the narrative for the
of making them the subjects of our transient observation.
That considerable disappointment was felt on the first appearance of the Paradise Regained, and that the author's sensibility' was hurt by the very inferior rank as
ledge which it
the public regat
assert for it the h Jortin, whose 1
pe speaks of it in praise; and W scienceand the
mony to the
• In 1786 a gentleman, possessing the first edition of Paradise Lost, communicated to the public, through the channel of the Gentleman's Magazine, some lines on Day-break, written, as he said, in a female hand on the two first leaves attached to the title page of the volume, and subscribed." Dictated by J. M."- This testimony, united with that which is supplied by the verses themselves, will not suffer us to doubt of their being the production of our author's. They may be found in Mr. Todd's Life of Milton, p. cxx.
They had been licensed in the preceding year on the 2d of july.
Milton certainly did not prefer the “ Paradise Regained," but “ he could not hear with patience” (these are Philips's words) the former " censured to be much inferior" to the latter.
sensitive perce tic, extravagar charming poen and the sentin
The opinio seems to have of the public;
attempt, in th
This surely is suffid to decide on the re no aggravation from
i sli porn signed to this with reference to his former
poem, are facts which are very generally known. The Paradise Regained possessed
no charms for the multitude; and it seems to 1. gada
have fallen immediately into that state of disregard from which it has not had the power or the good fortune to emerge. Struck, indeed, with the beauties which occur in it;
with the weight of sentiment, and the know. Sanger le ledge which it every where displays, some
superior men have endeavoured to conciliate it
the public regard in its favour, and even to assert for it the higher honours of heroic song. Jortin, whose remarks uniformly bear testimony to the peculiar rectitude of his mind, speaks of it in terms of just and appropriate praise; and Warburton, who, with all the scienceand the acuteness, wanted the fine and sensitive perception of an accomplished critic, extravagantly pronounces it to be “a charming poem, nothing inferior in the poetry and the sentiments to the Paradise Lost.”
The opinion, however, of these great men seems to have been without influence on that of the public; and a very able and laboured attempt, in the present day, to lift into po
may be first
Paradise Pas utexe as
This surely is sufficient proof of the incompetency of an author to decide on the relative merits of his own works; and requires no aggravation from any mistatement of the fact.
pularity this second birth of Milton's epic muse, has terminated equally in failure.
In 1796 an edition of this poem was published by Mr. Dunster; in whom unquestionably are united the leading requisites of a critic, extensive reading with an acute and discriminating intellect. Combining the zeal of an editor with the ingenuity of an advocate, he has not only ascertained with precision the genuine beauties of the Paradise Regained, but, having first persuaded himself, he is solicitous to persuade us to discover charms in its blemishes, and fecundity in its dearth. In the judgment of this critic, the absence of poetic imagery and of poetic numbers, in the Paradise Regained, results from the profundity of taste and the most refined artifice; is a chaste reserve of ornament, a learned style of writing to be relished indeed only by the few, but by the favoured and initiated few to be acknowledged as the pride of composition and the last effect of consummate and felicitous art.
If my plan would admit of any particular discussion of this editor's opinions and remarks, it would be easy, as I conceive, to convict them of essential and radical error: but to account for their ill success with the public, no minute or subtle disquisition will he necessary
coy and retreat ously sought an the services wl cism can rende in vain to tell are not pleased
can be brough our fancies, re
assert their fre
On the fa the voice of t of poetic exce be erroneous to object to which would