« السابقةمتابعة »
entitled Letters concerning poetical translations, and Virgil's and Milton's arts of verse, commonly ascribed to Mr. Auditor Benson: and of both these I have made some use, as I have likewise of the learned Mr. Upton's Critical Observations on Shakespeare, wherein he has occasionally interspersed some remarks upon Milton; and in short, like the bee, I have been studious of gathering sweets wherever I could find them growing:
But besides the flower of those which have been already published, here are several new observations offered to the world, both of others and my own. Dr. Heylin lent me the use of his manuscript remarks, but much the greater part of them had been rifled before by Dr. Bentley. It seems Dr. Heylin had once an intention of publishing a new edition of the Paradise Lost, and mentioned his design to Dr. Bentley: but Dr. Bentley declaring at the same time his resolution of doing it, Dr. Heylin modestly desisted, and freely communicated what observations he had made to Dr. Bentley. And what does Dr. Bentley do? Why, he borrows the best and most plausible of his notes from Dr. Heylin, publishes them as his own, and never has the gratitude to make any acknowledgment, or so much as any mention of his benefactor. I am obliged too to Mr. Jortin for some remarks, which he conveyed to me by the hands of Dr. Pearce. They are chiefly upon Milton's imitations of the Ancients; but every thing that proceeds from him is of value, whether in poetry, criticism, or divinity, as appears from his Lusus Poetici, bis Miscellaneous Observations upon authors, and his Discourses concerning the truth of the Chris
tian Religion. Besides those already mentioned, Mr. Warburton has favoured me with a few other notes in manuscript; I wish there had been more of them for the sake of the reader, for the loose hints of such writers, like the slight sketches of great masters in painting, are worth more than the laboured pieces of others. And he very kindly lent me Mr. Pope's Milton of Bentley's edition, wherein Mr. Pope had all along with his own hand set some mark of approbation, rectè, benè, pulchrè, &c. in the margin over-against such emendations of the Doctor's, as seemed to him just and reasonable. It was a satisfaction to see what so great a genius thought particularly of that edition, and he appears throughout the whole to have been a very candid reader, and to have approved of more than really merits approbation. Mr. Richardson the father has said in his preface, that his son had a very copious collection of fine passages out of ancient and modern authors, by which Milton had profited; and this collection, which is written in the margin and between the lines of Mr. Hume's annotations, Mr. Richardson the son has put into my hands. Some little use I have made of it; and it might have been of greater service, and have saved me some trouble, if I had not then almost completed this work. Mr. Thyer, the Librarian at Manchester, I have not the pleasure of knowing personally, but by his writings I am convinced that be must be a man of great learning, and as great bumanity. It was late before I was informed that he had written any remarks upon the Paradise Lost, but he was very ready to communicate them, and for the greater despatch sent me his interleaved Milton wherein
his reinarks were written: but unluckily for him, for me, and for the public, the book through the negligence of the carrier was dropped upon the road, and cannot since be found. Mr. Thyer however hath had the goodness to endeavour to repair the loss to me and to the public, by writing what he could recollect, and sending me a sheet or two full of remarks almost every post for several weeks together: and though several of them came too late to be inserted into the body of the work, yet they will be found in the Appendix*, which is made for the sake of them principally. It is unnecessary to say any thing in their commendation: they will sufficiently recommend themselves. Some other assistance too I have received from persons, whose names are unknown, and others, whose names I am not at liberty to mention: but I hope the Speaker of the House of Commons will pardon my ambition to have it known, that he has been pleased to suggest some useful hints and observations, when I have been admitted to the honour of his conversation.
As the notes are of various authors, so they are of various kinds, critical and explanatory; some to correct the errors of former editions, to discuss the various readings, and to establish the true genuine text of Milton ; some to illustrate the sense and meaning, to point out the beauties and defects of sentiment and character, and to commend or censure the conduct of the poem ; some to remark the peculiarities of style and language, to clear the syntax, and to explain the uncommon words, or common words used in an uncommon signi
• In this edition they are inserted in their proper places.
fication; some to consider and examine the numbers, and to display our author's great arts of versification, the variety of the pauses, and the adaptness of the sound to the sense ; some to shew his imitations and allusions to other authors, whether sacred or profane, ancient or modern. We might have been much larger and more copious under each of these heads, and especially under the last: but I would not produce every thing that hath any similitude and resemblance, but only such passages as we may suppose the author really alluded to, and had in mind at the time of writing. It was once my intention to prefix some essays to this work, one upon Milton's style, another upon his versification, a third upon his imitations, &c; but
upon more mature deliberation I concluded that the same things would have a better effect in the form of short notes, when the particular passages referred to came immediately under consideration, and the context lay before the reader. There would have been more of the pomp and ostentation of criticism in the former, but I conceive there is more real use and advantage in the latter. It is the great fault of commentators, that they are apt to be silent or at most very concise where there is any difficulty, and to be very prolix and tedious where there is none : but it is hoped that the contrary method has been taken here; and though more may
be said than is requisite for critics and scholars, yet it may be no more than is necessary or proper for other readers of Milton. For these notes are intended for general use, and if they are received with general approbation, that will be sufficient. I can hardly expect
body should approve them all, and I may be certain that nobody can condemn them all. ·
The life of the author it is almost become a custom to prefix to a new edition of his works ; for when we admire the writer, we are curious also to know something of the man: and the life of Milton is not barely a history of his works, but is so much the more interesting, as he was more engaged in public affajrs than poets usually are. And it has happened that more accounts have been written of his life, than of almost any author's; particularly by Antony Wood in his Fasti Oxonienses; by our author's nephew, Mr. Edward Philips, before the English translation of Milton's State-letters, printed in 1694 ; by Mr. Toland, before the edition of our author's prose works in three volumes folio, printed in 1698; by Monsieur Bayle in his Historical and Critical Dictionary; by Mr. Fenton, before the edition of our author's poetical works, printed in 1725; by Mr. Richardson, in the preface to his Explanatory Notes and Remarks upon Milton's Paradise Lost; and by the Reverend and ingenious Mr. Thomas Birch in the General Dictionary, and more largely before the edition of our author's prose works in two volumes folio, printed in 1738. And I have not only read and compared these accounts together, and made the best extracts out of them which I possibly could ; but have also collected some other particulars from Milton's own works as well as from other authors, and from credible tradition as well as from written testimonies; and all these, like so many different threads, I have woven into one piece, and formed into a con