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Tuough a part of my former preface has now lost its reference, I am induced to retain the entire composition, as it was written under the impression of principles, not liable to decay, and of wounded affections which can cease to pain, alas! only in the grave. What I have now to say will relate altogether to the present edition of my work—to those inaccuracies in it which I have corrected, those deficiencies which I have supplied, or those opinions which have been pronounced on it since its property was transferred from me to the public.
In quoting by memory from Dr. Johnson, I had been guilty of a verbal error; and the slip was not suffered to be made with impunity. On the passage in question, which referred to that writer's censure of the “ Damon," one of the public critics remarked, “ Here, however, we must impeach the biographer of mistake or lapse of memory in quoting affectation where the original gives us imitation of pastoral life, as part of the argument is ingrafted upon the harshness of the word used."* Though no essential part of my argument was dependent on the miscited word, (for imitation, with, childish, for its adjunct, implies what is sufficiently imjurious and false to justify my censure and refutation,) I was thankful to the critic for his remark; and the error has, in consequence, been blotled from my page.
On that place, where I appeal to the academical registers for the proof of Millon's not having lost a term before he took his bachelor's degree, and content myself with specifying the year only for the date of this event, the same critic, not without some confusion in his language, observes, that “ Dr. S. who quotes the register of Christ's College in his” (Milton's I suppose) 66 vindicalion, should have substantiated his” (Dr,
· Crit. Review, series 3d. ix. 269, in a note,
S-'s I conclude) “ point by the adduction of more minute testimony, as his" (Milton's again) having taken his degree in 1628, unless it were in the early part of that year, after having entered in 1624-5, is obviously inconclusive.” In the early part of 1628 Milton could not have taken his degree, for then his requisite number of terms would not have been completed: but, (as we may chuse to follow the present calendar, or that which computed the beginning of the year from March) he took his degree either early in 1629 orin one of the latter months of 1628. He took it, in short, at the accustomed and regular time of taking the B. A. degree in Cambridge, viz. in January; and though he might have taken it in the preceding term, the measure would not have been consistent with the usual and most reputable practice. With respect to time therefore, he took his degree with the strictest regularity, and as soon as he properly could. This fact however is not, after all, so decisive of the controverted point as I once thought it, or as my censor, (if I am right in
" Ib. 264.
my inference of his meaning,) is willing to admit it to be. As I am an historian with truth, and not an advocate with victory for my
object, I will here fairly state the case for the reader's uninfluenced determination. Milton entered in Feb. 1624-5, and took his first degree in Jan. 1628-9. Exclusively, however, of the term in which he entered and of that in which he took his degree, it was necessary for him to keep only ten terms; and, if he kept the term immediately subsequent to that in which he entered, he would still havé one term to spare: whether or not, therefore, he kept every term during the year in question must now be regarded as a point which it is impossible to ascertain. Having made this statement to weigh what it can in the estimation of Milton's enemies, and acknowledged my own hasty and inaccurate conclusion from premises which were correct, let me profess that my conviction on the subject remains unalterably as it was. It is possible, and even probable that Milton passed one of his terins under his father's roof: but his positive assertion, that he had not incurred any academical disgrace, makes it evident,
as I think, that his absence from the University in this instance was not the conse* quence
of any punishment; but was an act either of obedience to his father's will, or of submission to necessity, from the want of pecuniary supplies. On this supposition the expressions of “ vetiti laris,” and “ exsilium," would be strictly or poetically proper; and if he had suffered rustication, he would not surely so confidently affirm, when it was in the power of numbers to disprove him, that he had taken his degree “ procul omni flagitio ;" for every scholar knows that flagitium means not only facinus and vitium, but pro. brum and dedecus,--not merely crime, but shame and disgrace.
As this work was originally written under circumstances not favourable to its perfection, I was fearful that it might be found, on a revision, not only faulty in the substance and the mode, but deficient also in the just measure of its information. Its demand however for correction has proved to be less than I had reason to apprehend; and on