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much more slowly in summer than in other parts of the year; for notwithstanding all that poets may say of the pleasures of that season, I imagine most persons find by experience, that they can compose better at any other time, with more facility and with more spirit, than during the heat and languor of summer.
Whenever the poem was wrote, it was finished in 1665, and as Elwood says was shown to him that same year at St. Giles Chalfont, whither Milton had retired to avoid the plague, and it was lent to him to peruse it and give his judgment of it: and considering the difficulties which the author lay under, his uneasiness on account of the public affairs and his own, his age and infirmities, his gout and blindness, his not being in circumstances to maintain an amanuensis, but obliged to make use of any hand that came next to write his verses as he made them, it is really wonderful, that he should have the spirit to undertake such a work, and much more, that he should ever bring it to perfection!
Besides what affliction he self, P. L. vii. 26. must have from his disappoint
On evil days though fallen, and evil ment on the change of the times, tongues, and from his own private losses, In darkness and with dangers comand probably cares for subsist past round,
And solitude. ence, and for his family, he was in perpetual terror of being as
Richardson, Remarks, p. xciv. sassinated, and though he had Dr. Symmons observes that escaped the talons of the law, he these apprehensions were not knew he had made himself ene- those of a weak mind, or felt mies in abundance. He was so without sufficient cause; but dejected he would lie awake were fully justified by the fate of whole nights. He then kept Ludlow, pursued with daggers himself as private as he could into the heart of Switzerland, and This Dr. Tancred Robinson had by the murders of Dorislaus and from a relation of Milton's, Mr. of Ascham at the Hague and at Walker of the Temple. And Madrid. E. this is what is intimated by him
And after the poem was finished, still new difficulties retarded the publication of it. It was in danger of being suppressed through the malice or ignorance of the licenser, who took exception at some pássages, and particularly at that noble simile, in the first book, of the sun in an eclipse, in which he fancied that he had discovered treason. It was with difficulty too that the author could sell the copy; and he' sold it at last only for five pounds, but was to receive five pounds more after the sale of 1300 of the first impression, and five pounds more after the sale of as many of the second impression, and five more after the sale of as many of the third, and the number of each impression was not to exceed 1500. And what a poor consideration was this for such an inestimable performance! and how much more do others get by the works of great authors, than the authors themselves! This original contract with Samuel Simmons the printer is dated April 27, 1667, and is in the hands of Mr. Tonson the bookseller, as is likewise the manuscript of the first book copied fair for the press, with the Imprimatur by Thomas Tomkyns, chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury: so that though Milton was forced to make use of different hands to write his verses from time to time as he had occasion, yet we may suppose that the copy for the press was written all, or at least each book, by the same hand. The first edition in ten books was printed in a small quarto; and before it could be disposed of, had three or more different title-pages of the years 1667, 1668, and 1669. The first sort was with
* There were five of these dif- this time was advertised plainly ferent title-pages. The book at but neatly bound at the price of
out the name of Simmons the printer, and began with the poem immediately following the title-page, without any argument, or preface, or table of errata : to others was prefixed a short advertisement of the printer to the reader concerning the argument and the reason why the poem rhymes not; and then followed the argument of the several books, and the preface concerning the kind of verse, and the table of errata: others again had the argument, and the preface, and the table of errata, without that short advertisement of the printer to the reader: and this was all the difference between them, except now and then of a point or a letter, which were altered as the sheets were printing off. So that, notwithstanding these variations, there was still only one impression in quarto; and two years almost elasped, before 1500 copies could be sold, or before the author was entitled to his second five pounds, for which his receipt is still in being, and is dated April 26, 1669. And this was probably all that he received; for he lived not to enjoy the benefits of the second edition, which was not published till the year 1674, and that same year he died. The second edition was printed in a small octavo, and was corrected by the author himself, and the number of books was augmented from ten to twelve, with the addition of some few verses: and this alteration was made with great judgment, not for the sake of such a fanciful beauty as resembling the number of books in the Æneid, but for the more regular disposition of the poem, because the seventh and tenth books were before too long, and are more fitly divided
three shillings. See Clavel's Ca- in England from 1666 to 1672. talogue of all the books printed Fol. Lond. 1673. Todd.
each into two. The third edition was published in 1678, and it appears that Milton had left his remaining right in the copy to his widow, and she agreed with Simmons the printer to accept eight pounds in full of all demands, and her receipt for the money is dated December 21, 1680. But a little before this Simmons had covenanted to assign the whole right of copy to Brabazon Aylmer the bookseller for twenty-five pounds; and Aylmer afterwards sold it to old Jacob Tonson at two different times, one half on the 17th of August 1683, and the other half on the 24th of March 1690, with a considerable advance of the price: and except one fourth of it which has been assigned to several persons, his family have enjoyed the right of
copy ever since. By the last assignment it appears that the book was growing into repute and rising in valuation; and to what perverseness could it be owing that it was not better received at first? We conceive there were principally two reasons; the prejudices against the author on account of his principles and party; and many no doubt were offended with the novelty of a poem that was not in rhyme. Kymer, who was a redoubted critic in those days, would not so much as allow it to be a poem on this account; and declared war against Milton as well as against Shakespeare; and threatened that he would write reflections upon the Paradise Lost, which some (says he“) are pleased to
poem, and would assert rhyme against the slender sophistry wherewith the author attacks it. And such a man as Bishop Burnet maketh it a sort of objection
See Rymer's Tragedies of the last age considered, p. 143.
to Milton, that he affected to write in blank verse without rhyme. And the same reason induced Dryden to turn the principal parts of Paradise Lost into rhyme in his Opera called the State of Innocence and Fall of Man; to tag his lines, as Milton himself expressed it, alluding to the fashion then of wearing tags of metal at the end of their ribbons. We are told indeed by Mr. Richardson, that Sir George Hungerford, an ancient member of parliament, told him, that Sir John Denham came into the House one morning with a sheet of Paradise Lost wet from the press in his hand; and being asked what he had there, said that he had part of the noblest poem that ever was written in any language or in any age. However it is certain that the book was unknown till about two years after, when the Earl of Dorset produced it, as Mr. Richardson was informed by Dr. Tancred Robinson the physician, who had heard the story often from Fleetwood Shephard himself, that the Earl in company with Mr. Shephard, looking about for books in Little Britain, accidentally met with Paradise Lost; and being surprised at some passages in dipping here and there, he bought it. The bookseller begged his Lordship to speak in its favour if he liked it, for the impression lay on his hands as waste paper. The Earl having read it sent it to Dryden, who in a short time returned it with this answer, “ This man cuts us all out and the ancients too!
• It appears that Denham was Life of Milton, ed. 2. p. 116, 117. never in Parliament. See Mr. Richardson's accounts, however, Malone's objections to this and may be substantially true, notthe preceding account of Richard- withstanding some partial inacson's, in his Life of Dryden, 1800, curacies. Mr. Malone seems to vol. i. p. 112, &c. cited by Todd, assume that the bookseller in