Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

what I thought of it? which I modestly and freely told him; and, after some farther discourse about it, I pleafantly said to him, " Thou hast laid much here of Paradise lost, but what haft thou to fay of Paradise found. He made me no answer, but fat fome time in a mufe, then brake off that discourse, and fell upon another subject.

“ After the sickness was over, and the city well cleansed, and become safely habitable again, he returned thither; and when afterwards I went to wait on him there (which I feldom failed of doing, whenever my occasions led me to London) he fhewed me his second poem, called Paradise Regain'd, and in a pleasant tone said to me, " This is owing to you, for you put it into my head by the question you put to me at Chalfont, which before I had not thought of?.”

The personal regard of this ingenuous quaker for Milton, and his giving birth to a compofirion of such magnitude and merit as Paradise Regain'd, entitle him to distinction in a life of his great poetical friend, and I have therefore rather transcribed than abridged his relation. My reader, I doubt not, will join with me in wishing that we had more sketches of the venerable bard, thus minutely delineated from the life, in the colours of fidelity and affection.

The last of Milton's familiar letters in Latin relates to this period; it speaks with devotional gratitude of the fafe asylum from the plague, which he had found in the country; it speaks also with so much feeling of his past political adventures, and of the present inconvenience which he suffered froin the loss of fight, that I apprehend an entire translation of it

[merged small][ocr errors]

can hardly fail of being acceptable to the English reader. It is dated from London, August 15, 1666, and addressed to Heimbach, an accomplished German, who is stiled counfellor to the elector of Brandenburgh. An expression in a former letter to the same correspondent seems to intimate, that this learned foreigner, who visited England in his youth, had resided with Milton, perhaps in the character of a difciple—But here is the interesting letter': *" If among so

many funerals of my countrymen, in a year so full of pestilence and forrow, you were induced, as you say, 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 seems to have done, because they were solicitous for my health, it is not unpleasing, for I must esteem it as a proof of their benevolence towards me. But

demy * Ornatiflimo Viro Petro Heimbachio, pavescerem, nisi conftaret in re arcia, rebusque Electoris Brandenburgici Confiliario. duris, virtutes ali maxime et vigcre : tametfi

carum una non ita belle charitatem hofpitii Si inter tot funera popularium meorum, mihi reddidit : quam enim politicam tu vocas, ánno tam gravi ac peftilenti, abreptum me

ego pietatem in patriam dictam abs te mallem, quoque, ut scribis, ex rumore præfertim ali

ea me pulchro nomine delinitum prope, ut quo credidifti, mirum non eft ; atque ille ru

ita dicam, expatriavit. Reliquarum tamen pior apud vestros, ut videtur, homines, fi ex

chorus clare concinit. Patria eft, ubicunque eo quod de salute mea soliciti esent, increbuit,

est bene, Finem faciam, fi hoc prius abs te non displicet ; indicium enim fuæ erga me

impetravero, ut,'fi quid mendofe defcriptum benevolentiæ fuifie exiftimo. Sed Dei benigni

aut non interpunctum repereris,

id

puero, tate, qui tutum orihi receptum in agris para- , qui hæc excepit

, Latine prorsus nescienti veverat, et vivo adhuc et veleo; utinan ire

lis imputare ; cui fingulas plane literulas aninutilis, quicquid muneris in hac vita restat

numerare non fine miseria dictans cogebar, mihi peragendum. Tibi vero tam longo in Tua interim viri merita, quem ego adolefa tervallo venifle in mentem mei, pergratum eft;

centem (pei eximiae cognovi, ad tam honelquamquam prout rem verbis exornas, præbere

tum in principis gratia provexiile te locum, aliquem suspicionem videris, oblituin mei te

gaudeo, ceteraque fausia omnia et cupio tibi, potius esie, qui tot virtutum diverfaruin con

et (pero vale. jugium in me, ut fcribis, admirere. Eyo certe

Londini, Auz. 15, 1666. ex tot conjugiis numerosam nimis prolem ex

by

by the graciousness of God, who had prepared for me a fafe retreat in the country, I am still alive and well; and I trust not utterly an unprofitable servant, whatever duty in life there yet remains for me to fulfil. That you remember me, after so long an interval in our correspondence, gratifies me exceedingly, though, by the politeness of your expression, you seem to afford me room to suspect, that you

have rather forgotten me, since, as you fay, you admire in me so many different virtues wedded together. From so many weddings I should assuredly dread a family too numerous, were it not certain that, in narrow circumstances 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 with 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 we prosper in rectitude there is our country. In ending my letter, let me obtain from you this favour, that if you find any parts of it incorrectly written, and without ftops, 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 fyllable that I dictate. 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 honourable favour of your prince. For your prosperity in erery other point you have both my wilhes and my hopes. Farewell. “ London, August 15, 1666."

Аа

How

How interesting is this complaint, when we recollect that the great writer, reduced to such irksome difficulties in regard to his secretary, was probably engaged at this period in polishing the sublimeft of poems.

From Ellwood's account it appears, that Paradise Lost was complete in 1665. Philips and Toland, affort, 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 Sinimons, by, a contract dated the 27th of April, in the fame 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 the Paradise Lost received only an immediate payment of five pounds for a work, which is the very master-piece of sublime and refined imagination ; a faculty not only naturally rare, but requiring an extraordinary co-, incidence 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, enti-. tled the author to a conditional payment of fifteen pounds. more; five to be paid after the fale 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

Х

number to twelve, by introducing a pause in the long narration of the seventh and of the tenth, fo that each of thefe books became two.

Simnions was a printer, and his brief advertisement to the work he had purchased is curious enough to merit infertion :

« 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 reafon of that, which stumbled many others; why the poem rhymes not.” Here we may plainly fee 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 fecond 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; fo that twenty-eight pounds, paid at different times in the courfe 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 deplorably inadequate to its merit, he was abundantly gratified with immediate and fervent applause from several accomplished judges of poetical genius. It has been generally supposed, that Paradise Loft was neglected to a mortifying degree on its first appearance ; and that the exalted poet consoled his spirit

A a 2

under

« AnteriorContinuar »