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A letter to the Rev. Mr. Douglas, occasioned by his vin-
dication of Milton; by William Lauder, A. M. -
· ESSAY ON MILTON'S
[First published in the year 1750.]
IT is now more than half a century since the PARA.. DISE Lost, having broke through the clouds with which the unpopularity of the author, for a time, obscured it, has attracted the general admiration of mankind; who have endeavoured to compensate the error of their first neglect, by lavish praises and boundless
*" It is to be hoped, nay, it is expected, that the elegant and nervous writer, whose judicious sentiments, and inimitable style, points out the author of Lauder's Preface and Postscript, will no longer allow one to plume himself with his feathers, who appears so little to have deserved his assistance; an assistance which, I am persuaded, would never have been communicated, had there been the least suspicion of those facts which I have been the instrument of conveying to the world in these sheets.” -Milton vindicated from the charge of plagiarism brought against him by Mr. Lauder, and Lauder himself convicted of several forgeries and gross impositions on the public. By John Douglas, M. A. Rector of Eton Constantine, Salop, 8vo. 1751, p. 77. '
veneration. There seems to have arisen a contest, among men of genius and literature, who should most advance its honour, or best distinguish its beauties. Some have revised additions, others have published commentaries, and all have endeavoured 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 fabric gradually rising, perhaps from small beginnings, till its 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 critics 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; +Dr. Pearce, . * Essay upon the civil wars of France, and also upon the Epic Poetry of the European nations, from Homer down to Milton, 8vo. 1727, p. 103.
+ 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, 8vo. 1733.