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were induced, as you fay, by rumour to believe that I also was snatched away, it is not surprising; and if such a rumour prevailed among those of your nation, as it feems to have done, becaufe they were folicitous for my health, it is not unpleafing, for I muft esteem it as a proof of their benevolence towards me.
But by the graciousness of God, who had prepared for me a safe retreat in the country, I am still alive and well; and I trust not utterly an unprofitable fervant, whatever duty in life there yet remains for me to fulfil. That you remember me, after fo long an interval in our correspondence, gratifies me exceedingly, though, by the politeness of your expression, you seem to afford me room to fufpect, that you have rather forgotten me, fince, as you say, you admire in me so many different virtues wedded together. From so many weddings I fhould assuredly dread a family too numerous, were it not certain that, in narrow circumstances
conftaret in re areta, rebufque duris, virtutes ali maxime et vigere : tametfi earum una non ita belle charitatem hofpitii mihi reddidit: quam enim politicam tu vocas, ego pietatem in patriam dictam abs te mallem, ea me pulchro nomine delinitum
prope, ut ita dicam, expatriavit. Reliquarum tamen chorus clare concinit. Patria eft, ubicunque est bene. Finem faciam, fi hoc. prius abs te impetravero, ut, fi quid mendofe defcriptum aut non interpunctum repereris, id puero, qui hæc excepit, Latine prorfus nescienti velis imputare; cui fingulas plane literulas annumerare non fine miferia dictans cogebar. Tua interim viri merita, quem ego adolescentem fpei eximiæ cognovi, ad tam honeftum in principis gratia provexifse te locum, gaudeo, ce teraque faufta omnia et cupio tibi, et spero vale.
Londini, Aug. 15, 1666.
and under severity of fortune, virtues are most excellently reared, and are most flourishing. Yet one of these faid virtues has not very handsomely rewarded me for entertaining her; for that which you call my political virtue, and which I should rather wish you to call my devotion to my country (enchanting me with her captivating name) almost, if I may say so, expatriated me. Other virtues, however, join their voices to assure me, that wherever ve prosper in re&titude there is our country. In ending my letter, let me obtain from you this fayour, that if you find any parts of it incorrectly written, and without stops, you will impute it to the boy who writes for me, who is utterly ignorant of Latin, and to whom I am forced (wretchedly enough) to repeat every single syllable that I dicţate. I still rejoice that your merit as an accomplished man, whom I knew as a youth of the highest expectation, has advanced you so far in the honour . able favour of your prince. For your prosperity in every
other point you have both my wishes and my hopes. Farewell.
“ London, August 15, 1666.”
How interesting is this complaint, when we recollect that the great writer, reduced to such irkfome difficulties in regard to his secretary, was probably engaged at this period in polishing the sub
limeft of poems.
From Ellwood's account it appears, that Paradise Lost was complete in 1665. Philips and Toland affert, that it was actually published the following year; but I believe no copy has been found of a
date fo early. The first edition on the list of the very accurate Mr. Loft was printed by Peter Parker in 1667, and, probably, at the expence of the author, who fold the work to Samuel Simmons, by a contract dated the 27th of April, in the same year.
The terms of this contract are such as a lover of genius can hardly hear without a sigh of pity and indignation. The author of Paradise Lost received only an immediate payment of five pounds for a work, which is the very master-piece of sublime and refin. ed imagination ; a faculty not only naturally rare, but requiring an extraordinary coincidence of circumstances to cherish and strengthen it for the long and regular exercise essential to the production of such a poem. The bookseller's agreement, however, entitled the author to a conditional payment of fifteen pounds more ; five to be paid after the sale of thirteen hundred copies of the first edition, and five, in the same manner, both on a second and a third. The number of each edition was limited to fifteen hundred copies.
The original size of the publication was a small quarto, and the poem was at first divided into ten books; but in the second edition the author very judiciously increased the number to twelve, by introducing a pause in the long narration of the feventh and of the tenth, so that each of these books became two.
Simmons was a printer, and his brief advertise. ment to the work he had purchased is curious enough to merit insertion :
Here we may
" Courteous Reader, there was no argument at first intended to the book; but for the fatisfaction of many that have desired it, I have procured it, and withal a reason of that, which stumbled many others why the poem rhymes not.” plainly see that the novelty of blank verse was considered as an unpalatable innovation. The book, however, advanced so far in its fale, that thirteen hundred were dispersed in two years. In April, 1669, the author received his second payment of five pounds. The second edition came forth in the year of his death, and the third in four years after that event : his widow, who inherited a right to the copy, fold all her claims to Simmons, for eight pounds, in December 1680; so that twenty-eight pounds, paid at different times in the course of thirteen years, is the whole pecuniary reward which this great performance produced to the poet and his widow.
But although the emolument, which the author derived from his noblest production, was most de. plorably inadequate to its merit, he was abundantly gratified with immediate and fervent applause from feveral accomplished judges of poetical genius. It has been generally supposed, that Paradise Lost was neglected to a mortifying degree on its first appearance; and that the exalted poet consoled his fpirit under such mortification by a magnanimous confidence in the justice of future ages, and a fanguine anticipation of his poetical immortality. The strength and dignity of his mind would indeed have armed him againit any possible disappointment of N 2
his literary ambition ; but such was the reception of his work, that he could not be disappointed. Johnson has vindicated the public on this point with judgment and success : " The sale of books “ (he obseryes) was not in Milton's age what it is “ in the present; the nation had been satisfied, “ from 1623 10 1664, that is forty-one years, with
only two editions of the works of Shakespeare, “ which probably did not together make one thou“ fand copies. The sale of thirteen hundred copies “ in two years, in opposition to so much recent " enmity, and to a style of versification new to all, “ and disgusting to many, was an uncommon ex“ ample of the prevalence of genius.” These remarks are perfectly just; but when their author proceeds to say, “ the admirers of Paradise Lost “ did not dare to publish their opinion," he seems to forget the very spirited eulogies that were, during the life of the poet, bestowed on that performance. Panegyric can hardly assume a bolder tone than in the English and Latin verses addressed to Milton by Marvel and Barrow. He received other compliments not inferior to these. The muse of Dryden aflured him, that he possessed the united excellencies of Homer and of Virgil; and, if we may rely on an anecdote related by Richardson, the Paradise Loft was announced to the world in a very singular manner that may be thought not ill-suited to the pre-eminence of the work. · Sir John Denham, a man distinguished as a soldier, a senator, and a poet, came into the House of Commons with a proof-iheet of Milton's new composition wet from