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should most advance its honour, or best distinguish its beauties. Some have revised editions, others have published commentaries, and all have endea
voured to make their particular studies, in some ' degree, subservient to this general emulation. .
Among the inquiries to which this ardour of criticism has naturally given occasion, none is more obscure in itself, or more worthy of rational curiosity, than a retrospection of the progress of this mighty genius, in the construction of his work; a view of the fabrick gradually rising, perhaps from small beginnings, tillits foundation 'rests in the centre, and its turrets sparkle in the skies; to trace back the structure, through all its varieties, to the simplicity of its first plan; to find what was first projected, whence the scheme was taken, how it was improved, by what assistance it was executed, and from what stores the materials were collected, whether its founder dug them from the quarries of nature, or demolished other buildings to embellish his own.
This inquiry has been indeed, not wholly neglected, nor, perhaps, prosecuted with the care and diligence that it deserves. Several criticks have offered their conjectures; but none have much endeavoured to enforce or ascertain them. * Mr. VOLTAIRE tells us, without proof, that the first hint of PARADISE Lost was taken from a farce called ADAMO, written by a player ; t Dr. Pearce, that it was derived
Essay upon the Civil Wars of France, and also upon the Epick Poetry of the European Nations, from Homer down to Milton, 8vo. 1727, p. 103. E.
+ Preface to a Review of the Text of the Twelve Books of Milton's Paradise Lost, in which the chief of Dr. Bentley's Emendations are considered. Evo, 1733. E.
from an Italian tragedy, called IL PARADISO PERSO; and * MR. Peck, that it was borrowed from a wild romance. Any of these conjectures may possibly be true, but, as they stand without suílicient proof it must be granted, likewise, that they may all possibly be false ; at least they cannot preclude any other opinion, which without argument has the same claim to credit, and may perhaps be shown, by resistless evidence, to be better founded.
It is related, by steady and uncontroverted tradition, that the PARADISE Lost was at first a TRAGEDY, and therefore, amongst tragedies, the first hint is properly to be sought. In a manuscript, pub. lished from Milton's own hand, among a great number of subjects for tragedy, is ADAM UNPARADISED, or ADAM IN Exile; and this, therefore, may be justly supposed the embryo of this great poem. As it is observable, that all these subjects had been treated by others, the manuscript can be supposed nothing more, than a memorial or catalogue of plays, which, for some reason, the writer thought worthy of his attention. When, therefore, I had observed, that ADAM IN EXILE was named amongst them, I doubted not but, in finding the original of that tragedy, I should disclose the genuine source of PARAdise Lost. Nor was my expectation disappointed; for, having procured the ADAMUS EXUL of GroTIUS, I found, or imagined myself to find, the first draught, the PRIMA STAMINA of this wonderful poem.
Having thus traced the ORIGINAL of this work, I Was naturally induced to continue my search to the
* New Memoirs of Mr. John Milion. By Francis Peck. 4to. 1740; p. 52. E. B 2
COLLATERAL RELATIONS, which it might be sup. posed to have contracted, in its progress to MATURITY : and having, at least, persuaded my own judgment that the search has not been intirely inef. fectual, I now lay the result of my labours before the publick; with full conviction, that in questions of this kind, the world cannot be MISTAKEN, at least cannot long continue in errour.
I cannot avoid acknowledging the CANDOUR of the author of that excellent monthly book, the GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE, in giving admission to the specimens in favour of this argument; and his IMPARTIALITY in as freely inserting the several answers. I shall here subjoin some EXTRACTS from the xviith volume of this work, which I think suitable to my purpose. To which I have added, in order to obviate every pretence for cavil, a list of the authors quoted in the following Essay, with their respective DATES, in comparison with the DATE of PARADISE Lost.
POST SCR I P T. WHEY this Essay was almost finished, the splendid Edition of PARADISE LOST, so long promised by the reverend Dr. Newton, fell into my hands; of which I had, however, so little use, that as it would be injustice'to censure, it would be flattery to commend it ; and I should have totally forborn the mention of a book that I have not read, had not one passage at the conclusion of the life of MilTon, excited in me too much pity and indignation to be suppressed in silence.
« Deborah, Milton's youngest daughter," says the Editor, “ was married to Mr. Abraham Clarke,
" a weaver,
" a weaver, in Spitalfields, and died in August 1727, “ in the 76th year of her age. She had ten chil“ dren. Elizabeth, the youngest, was married to “ Mr. Thomas Foster, a weaver, in Spitalfields, and “ had seven children, who are all dead; and she her“self is aged about sixty, and weak and infirm. She “ seemeth to be a good plain sensible woman, and has “ confirmed several particulars related above, and « informed me of some others, which she had often “ heard from her mother." These the doctor enu. merates, and then adds, “ In all probability Mil“tox's whole family will be extinct with her, and he " can live only in his writings. And such is the “ caprice of fortune, this grand-daughter of a man, “ who will be an everlasting glory to the nation, has “ now for some years, with her husband, kept a little “ chandler's or grocer's shop, for their subsistence, “ lately at the lower Holloway, in the road between “ Highgate and London, and at present in Cock“ lane, not far from Shoreditch church.”
That this relation is true cannot be questioned: but, surely, the honour of letters, the dignity of sacred poetry, the spirit of the English nation, and the glory of human nature, require-that it should be true no longer.--In an age, in which statues are erected to the honour of this great writer, in which his effigy has been diffused on medals, and his work propagated by translations, and illustrated by commentaries; in an age, which amidst all its vices, and all its follies, has not become infamous for want of charity: it may be, surely, allowed to hope, that the living remains of MILTON will be no longer suffered 'to languish in distress. It is yet in the power of a
great people, to reward the poet whose name they boast, and from their alliance to whose genius, they claim some kind of superiority to every other nation of the earth ; that poet, whose works may possibly be read when every other monument of British greatness shall be obliterated; to reward him-not with pictures, or with medals, which, if he sees, he sees with contempt, but—with tokens of gratitude, which he, perhaps, may even now consider as not unworthy the regard of an immortal spirit. And surely, to those, who refuse their names to no other scheme of expense, it will not be unwelcome, that a SUBSCRIPTION is proposed, for relieving, in the languor of age, the pains of disease, and the contempt of poverty, the grand-daughter of the author of PARADISE Lost. Nor can it be questioned, that if I, who have been marked out as the Zoilus, of MILTON, think this regard due to his posterity, the design will be warmly seconded by those, whose lives have been employed, in discovering his excellencies, and extending his reputation.
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