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these, 'is the English Treasury of Wit and Language, by John Cotgrave, 1655. The second, the English Parnaffus, or an Help to English Poésy, by Joshua Poole of Clare-Hall, 1657," And not to omit the intermediate labours of Bysshe and Gildon, the latter of whom promises " to give the reader the great images that are to “ be found in our poets who are truly great, as “ well as their topics and moral reflections," the last, and by far the most copious and judicious compilation of the kind extant, is the BRITISH MUSE in three volumes, by Thomas Hayward, with a good Preface by Oldys, published in 1738. Yet this author professes chiefly to confider, “ neglected and expiring merit, and to re“ vive and preserve the excellencies which time " and oblivion were upon the point of cancel
ling, rather than to repeat what others had " extracted before.""
Patrick Hume, a Scotchman, in 1695, published a large and very learned commentary on the PARADISE LOST, to which some of his fucceffors in the same province, apprehending no danger of detection from a work rarely infpected, and too pedantic and cumbersome to attract many readers, have been often amply in
• Reprinted, 1677. 8vo.
o Pref. p. XX. We are surprised to find Dennis, in his Let. TERS, published 1721, quoting a few verses from Milton's Latin Poems, relating to his Travels. See p. 78. 79. But Dennis had them from Toland's Life of Milton.
debted, without even the most distant hint of acknowledgment. But Hume, in comparing Milton with himself, perhaps conscious of his importance as a commentator on the sublimities of the epic muse, not once condescends to draw a single illustration from this volume of his author. In 1732, Bentley, mistaking his object, and to the disgrace of his critical abilities, gave a new and splendid edition of the PARADISE LOST. The principal design of the Notes is to prove, that the poet's native text was vitiated by an infinite variety of licentious interpolations and factitious readings, which, as he pretends, proceeded from the artifice, the ignorance, or the misapprehension, of an amanuenfis, to whom Milton, being blind, had been compelled to dictate his verses. To ascertain his criticisms in detecting or reforming these imaginary forgeries, he often appeals to words and phrases in the same poem. But he never attempts to confirm his conjectures from the smaller poems, written before the poet was blind: and from which, in the prosecution of the same arbitrary mode of emendation, his analogies in many
instances might have consequently derived a much stronger degree of authority and credibility. The truth is, Bentley was here a stranger. I must however except, that he once quotes a line from the beginning of comus.
a PARAD. L. B. i. 16.
One of the earliest encomiums which this volume of Milton seems to have received, was from the pen of Addison. In a SPECTATOR, written 1711, he mentions Milton's Laughter in the opening of L'ALLEGRO as a very poetical figure: and adds, citing the lines at large, that Euphrosyne's groupe of Mirth is finely defcribed. But this specimen and recommendation, although from fo favourite a writer, and so elegant a critic, was probably premature, and I suspect contributed but little to make the
poem much better known. In the mean time I will venture to pronounce, that although the citation immediately resulted from the subject of Addison's paper, he thought it the finest groupe or description either in this piece or its companion the PEN S BROSO. Had Addison ever entered into the spirit and genius of both poems, he certainly did not want opportunities of bringing them forward, by exhibiting passages of a more poetical character. It has been observed in the Effay on the Genius of Pope, that Milton's nephew, E. Philips, in his “ Tractatus de carmine “ dramatico poetarum veterum cui fubjungitur “ Enumeratio Poetarum, Lond. 1670." mentioning his uncle's PARADISE LOST, adds,
præter alia quæ scripsit elegantiffime tum An
glicè tum Latine." p. 270. And Toland, from the same quarter, says of COMUS, “ like which
• Num. 249.
« piece piece, in the peculiar disposition of the story, “ the sweetness of the numbers, the justness of “ the expression, and the moral it teaches, there " is nothing extant in any language.” LIFE, prefixed to Milton's Profe Works, Amft. 1698. And of LYCIDAS, “ the Monody is one of the “ fineft (poems] he ever wrote. These indeed are early testimonies; but as coming from his relations, are not properly admiffible.
Ibid. p. 44•
My father used to relate, that when he once, at Magdalene college Oxford, mentioned in high terms, this volume to Mr. Digby, the intimate friend of Pope, Mr. Digby expressed much surprise that he had never heard Pope speak of them, went home and immediately gave them an attentive reading, and asked Pope if he knew any thing of this hidden treasure. Pope availed himfelf of the question : and accordingly, we find him soon afterwards sprinkling his ELOISA TO ABELARD with epithets and phrases of a new form and found, pilfered from Comus and the PENSEROso. It is a phenomenon in the history of English poetry, that Pope, a poet not of Milton's pedigree, fhould be their first copier. He was
• It ought to be added, that in the fourth edition of Dryden's Miscellanies, published 1716, and as it has been reported at the fuggestion of Elijah Fenton, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas, were inserted in that collection, and they are much praised by Fena ton in his life of Milton, 1725. Il Penseroso was quoted in the Spectator, No. 425. in the year 171a. in a paper on the Seasons.
however conscious, that he might borrow from a book then scarcely remembered, without the hazard of a discovery, or the imputation of plagiarism. Yet the theft was so Night, as hardly to deserve the name: and it must be allowed, that the experiment was happily and judiciously applied, in delineating the sombrous scenes of the pensive Eloisa’s convent, the solitary Paraclete.
At length, we perceive these poems emerging in the criticism of the times. In 1733, doctor Pearce published his Review of the Text of PARADISE LOST, where they frequently furnish collateral evidences in favour of the established state of that text; and in refutation of Bentley's chimerical corrections. In the following year, the joint labour of the two Richardson's produced Explanatory Notes on the PARADISE LOST, where they repeatedly lend their affiftance, and are treated in such a style of criticism, as shews that their beauties were truly felt. Soon afterwards, such respectable names as Jortin, Warburton, and Hurd, conspired in examining their excellencies, in adjusting their claims to praise, and extending their reputation. They were yet further recommended to the public regard. In 1738, COMUS was presented on the stage at Drury-Lane, with musical accompaniments by Dr. Arne, and the application of ad