Imatges de pÓgina


THE Publick is here prefented with a complete edition of the Poetical Works of Milton, accompanied with notes of various authors. To this undertaking the editor was invited, and encouraged, at the clofe of the year 1798. Without this previous declaration, he might be accufed of intrufion into his prefent office. Senfible that the task would have been better executed by many recent annotators on Milton, he would not indeed have liftened to the unexpected application of engaging in fo important an employment, if fome literary friends had not promifed their affiftance. He therefore undertook to arrange his materials; and continued his inquiries till the close of the year 1799, when the edition began to be printed. From that time, his attention to the progrefs and completion of the work has been conftant and unwearied.

Since the first publication of the Poetical Works entire, with illuftrations, nearly half a century has elapfed. Of thofe criticks and annotators, whose obfervations were then felected by Dr. Newton; as well as of thofe, with whofe fubfequent remarks the following pages are enriched; fome account may be thought neceffary. The firft annotator on the poet was Patrick Hume, a Scotchman. He published, in 1695, a copious commentary on the Paradife Lot; "a to which fome of his fucceffours in

* Preface to his edition of the Smaller Poems.

[ocr errors]

the fame province," fays Mr. Warton, apprehending no danger of detection from a work rarely infpected, and too pedantick and cumbersome to attract many readers, have been often amply indebted, without even the moft diftant hint of acknowledgement." His illuftrations in thefe volumes will be rarely found uninterefting. To him fucceeded the elegant Addifon, by whofe "blandithments of gentleness and facility, Milton has been made an univerfal favourite, with whom readers of every clafs think it neceffary to be acquainted." His effays on the Paradife Loft are printed in this edition, as a Preliminary Differtation; the remarks on each particular book not being detached from the general obfervations on the Poem, becaufe Mr. Addifon himfelf was defirous that the reader fhould not neglect to view the whole extent of his criticifm. By the fame critick Comus and * L'Allegro had been before commended. In 1732, Dr. Bentley published a fplendid edition of the Paradife Loft, by which he acquired no honour. His fpecious pretences of an interpolated text, and his arbitrary method of emendation, were received with derifion and difguft. Yet there are fome notes, in the edition, which befpeak the unvitiated taste of this eminent scholar, and to which the claffical reader


Dr. Johnfon's Life of Addifon.


See the Prolegomena in this vol. p. 42. Dr. Johnson alfo wrote his Effay on Milton's Verfification, in order to ferve as a continuation of this criticifm. See the Proleg. in this vol. PP. 194, 197.

Tatler, No. 98. Nov. 24, 1709.
Spectator, No. 249. Dec. 15, 1711.

will always thankfully fubfcribe. Immediately after the publication of this edition, the admirers of Milton were gratified by Dr. Pearce's mafterly and candid refutation of the editor's chimerical corrections: And the Review of the Text of Paradife Loft furnished abundant annotations, at once inftructive and delightful. In 1734, the two Richardfons published their Explanatory Notes on the Paradife Loft. Soon afterwards, Dr. Warburton communicated to the world fome remarks upon the fame poem. An Effay upon Milton's imitations of the Ancients, faid to be written by a gentleman of North Britain, whose name, it is believed, has not been divulged; the Letters concerning poetical tranflations, afcribed to Auditor Benfon; and the Critical Obfervations on Shakspeare, in which are interfperfed remarks upon Milton, by Mr. Upton; were the next publications, from which Dr. Newton profeffes to have derived affiftance. But, befides the flower of thofe which had been already published, he added many new obfervations both of others and his own. He was indebted, for feveral ingenious illuftrations of Paradife Loft to his relation, Dr. Greenwood. He was alfo obliged by the ufe of Dr. Heylyn's manufcript remarks on the fame poem; which had been before communicated to Bentley, and of which the greater part had been difingenuously adopted, by that critick, without acknowledgement. By the manufcript communications of Richardfon, Jortin, and Warburton; and more particularly by thofe of the modeft and liberal Mr. Thyer; his commentary on Paradife Loft was

confiderably enlarged. To the fame learned coadjutors, with the addition of fuch refpectable names as Sympfon, and Seward, the editors of Beaumont and Fletcher; of the Rev. Mr. Meadowcourt, Prebendary of Worcester; of the Rev. Mr. Calton, of Lincolnshire; and of Mr. Peck, the antiquary; Dr. Newton's fubfequent edition of Paradife Regained, Samfon Agonistes, and the Smaller Poems, was also gratefully indebted.

In the year after the publication of Dr. Newton's edition of Paradife Loft, there was published at Glasgow the first Book of that poem with a large and very learned commentary; from which fome notes are selected in this edition. They, who are acquainted with this commentary, will concur with the prefent editor in wifhing that the annotator had continued his ingenious and elaborate criticisms on the whole poem.

In a letter from the late Mr. Mafon to Dodfley, the bookfeller, dated May 31, 1747, now in the poffeffion of a friend, an editorial intention is announced which, though not accomplished, it may not be improper here to notice; as it coincides with the opinion of him, who has fo ably illustrated the picturefque defcription, and romantick imagery, of the poems which Mr. Mafon mentions; and to whofe illuftrations the editor muft next express his obligations. "I could wish to know," fays Mr. Mafon, "whether Tonfon or any other Bookfeller has a property in the fecond volume of Milton. I have often thought it a great pity that many of the beautiful pieces it contains fhould be fo little read

« AnteriorContinua »