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T hath been recommended to me by some great persons, as well as by several friends, to complete
the edition of Milton's poetical works : for tho’ the Paradise Lost be the flower of epic poesy, and the noblest effort of genius; yet here are other poems which are no less excellent in their kind, and if they have not that sublimity and majesty, are at least equally beautiful and pleasing to the imagination. And the same method that was taken in the publication of the Paradise Lost, is pursued in this edition of the Paradise Regain’d and other poems, first to exhibit the true and genuin text according to Milton's own editions, and then to illustrate it with notes critical and explanatory of various authors. Of the Paradise Regain’d and Samson Agonistes there was only one edition in Milton's life-time, in the year 1671; and this we have made our standard, correcting only what the author himself would have corrected. Dr. Bentley pronounces it to be without faults, but there is a large table of Errata at the end, which instead of being emended have rather been augmented in the following editions, and were never corrected in any edition that I have seen before the present. Of the other
poems there were two editions in Milton's life. time, the first in 1645 before he was blind, and the other with some additions in 1673. Of the Malk there was likewise an edition publish'd by Mr. Henry Lawes in 1637: and of the Mask and several other poems there are extant copies in Milton's own hand writing, preserved in the library of Trinity College in Cambridge: and all these copies and editions have A 2
been carefully collated and compared together, the differences and variations are noted, and even the poet's corrections and alterations in his Manufcript are specified for the satisfaction of the curious critical reader. The Manuscript indeed hath been of fingular service in rectifying several passages, and especially in the Sonnets, some of which were not printed till many years after Milton's death, and were then printed imperfect and deficient both in sense and meter, but are now by the help of the Manuscript restored to their just harmony and original perfection. From the Manuscript too we have given the plan of Paradise Lost, as Milton first designed it, in the form of a tragedy, and likewise the subjects which he had sketched out for other tragedies, whether with an intention ever to finish them or not we cannot be certain. They were printed before in the Historical and Critical Life of Milton prefixed to his prose works by the learned and ingenious Mr. Birch, who is continually adding something new to the stock of learning: but it was judged proper to reprint them from the Manuscript in this edition, as they bear a nearer relation to the author's poetical works.
The notes, as upon the Paradise Loft, so likewise upon the Paradise Regain’d and other poems, are of various authors and of various kinds: but these, excepting only a few, were never printed before, and have therefore novelty to recommend them, as well as some names of the first rank and greatest eminence in the republic of letters. The truth of my affertion will be fully justify'd by mentioning only the names of Mr. Warburton and Mr. Jortin, who while they
are employ'd in writing the most learned and elaborate defenses of religion, yet find leisure to cultivate the politer arts, and to promote and improve both in themselves and others a classical taste of the finest authors: and whatever may be the success, I can never repent of having engaged in this undertaking, which hath given me so many convincing proofs of their friendship and kindness, and at the same time hath happily conjoined (what perhaps might never else have been joined together) my studies and my name with theirs. I am equally obliged too to Mr. Thyer for the continuation of his friendly affistance; and the reader will find the same good sense, and learning, and ingenuity in these, as in his former remarks upon the Paradise Loft. And now he hath gone thro’ ' Milton's poetical works, I hope he will do the same justice to another of our greatest English poets, and gratify the public with a complete edition of Spenfer's works, or at least with his cqually learned equally elegant observations upon them. I would not be understood by this to disparage in the least Mr. Upton's intended edition, or Mr. Sympson's, who is my friend, and hath kindly assisted me in this edition, as well as in that of the Paradise Lost. Mr. Upton is certainly a man of great learning, and so likewise is Mr. Sympfon, and particularly well read in our old English authors, as appears from his share in the late excellent edition of Beaumont's and Fletcher's works: but I know no man, who hath a juster and more delicate taste of the beauties of an author than Mr. Thyer, or is a greater master of the Italian language and Italian poetry, which in -Spenser's time was the study
and delight of all the men of letters, and Spenser himself hath borrowed more from that source than from almost any other, and sometimes hath translated two or three ftanza's together. Mr. Richardson likewise hath continued his good offices, and communicated his comment upon Lycidas and his marginal notes and observations upon the other poems, together with a very fine head of Milton done by his father after a drawing of Cooper : and both the Richardsons father and son deserve the thanks of all lovers of the fifter arts, for their instructive essays on painting, as well as for several ingenious remarks on Milton. I had the honor of all these for my associates and assistants before, but I have been farther strengthen’d by some new recruits, which were the more unexpected, as they were sent me from gentlemen, with whom I never had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance. The reverend Mr. Meadowcourt, Canon of Worcester, in 1732 published a Critical Dissertation with notes upon the Paradise Regain'd, a second edition of which was printed in 1748 ; and he likewise transmitted to me a sheet of his manuscript remarks, wherein he hath happily explained a most difficult paffage in Lycidas better than any man had done before him. The reverend Mr. Calton of Marton in Lincolnshire hath contributed much more to my assistance: he favorid me with a long correspondence; and I am at a loss which to commend most, his candor as a friend, or his penetration and learning as a critic and divine. Besides all these helps I have pickt out some grain from among the chaff of Mr. Peck's remarks, and have gleaned up every thing which I thought might
any ways be useful towards illustrating our author ; and in the conclusion have added an index of the less common words occasionally explained in the notes. The Latin poems
cannot say are equal to several of his English compositions : but yet they are not without their merit; they are not a Cento like most of the modern Latin poetry; there is spirit, invention, and other marks and tokens of a rising genius; for it should be considered, that the greater part of them were written while the author was under twenty: They are printed correctly according to his own editions in 1645 and 1673 ; and as they can be read only by the learned, there is the less occasion for any notes and observations upon them. Some few are added, which were thought no more than necessary.
But it is time to have done with these things, and to apply to other works, more important and more useful, if the execution prove answerable to the intention.
December 31, 1751.
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