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be first approved of and licensed under the hands of such person or persons as’ shall be thereto appointed. The Order is dated June 14, 1643, and the Areopagitica, a Speech of Mr John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, to the Parliament of England, appeared on Nov. 24, 1644. The author's purpose is related elsewhere: 'I wrote my Areopagitica, after the true Attic style, in order to deliver the press from the restraints with which it was encumbered; that the power of determining what was true and what was false, what ought to be published and what to be suppressed, might no longer be intrusted to a few illiterate and illiberal individuals, who refused their sanction to any work which contained views or sentiments at all above the level of the vulgar superstition' (Second Defence of the People of England). The title of the pamphlet is by no means attractive. Milton seems to have recognised the likeness between his own position and the position of Isokrates, ' that old man eloquent,'
the great composer of Reading Speeches,' 'who from his private house wrote that Discourse to the Parliament of Athens,' called Logos Areopagitikos; and from this Milton names his pamphlet. The immediate result was disappointing : , the restrictions of licensing were not removed till 1695, fifty years after the Areopagitica was issued, twenty years after Milton was in his grave. (The Arēõpăgus, 'the Hill of Arēs,' 'Mars' Hill,' at Athens, gave its name to the highest judicial court, whose sittings were held there. Cf. Acts xvii. 19 and 22.)
After treating of the origin and object of book-licensing, Milton gives reasons whereby to make it plain that this Order will miss the end it seeks,' and then proceeds to shew how it will be a discouragement and an affront to “knowing' authors, an insult to the nation at large, and a reflection on Christian ministers.]
I proceed from the no good it can do, to the manifest hurt it causes, in being first the greatest discouragement and affront that can be offered to learning and to learned men. It was the complaint and lamentation of prelates, upon every least breath of a motion to remove pluralities, and distribute more equally church revenues, that then all learning would be for ever dashed and discouraged. But as for that opinion, I never found cause to think that the tenth part of learning stood or fell with the clergy; nor could I ever but hold it for a sordid and unworthy speech of any churchman who had a competency left him. If therefore ye be loath to dishearten utterly and
discontent, not the mercenary crew of false pretenders to learning, but the free and ingenuous sort of such as evidently were born to study and love learning for itself, not for lucre, or any other end but the service of God and of truth, and perhaps that lasting fame and perpetuity of praise which God and good men have consented shall be the reward of those whose published labours advance the good of mankind, then know, that so far to distrust the judgment and the honesty of one who hath but a common repute in learning and never yet offended, as not to count him fit to print his mind without a tutor and examiner, lest he should drop a schism or something of corruption, is the greatest displeasure and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put upon him. What advantage is it to be a man over it is to be a boy at school, if we have only scaped the ferular, to come under the fescue of an Imprimatur ? if serious and elaborate writings, as if they were no more than the theme of a grammar-lad under his pedagogue, must not be uttered without the cursory eyes of a temporising and extemporising licenser? He who is not trusted with his own actions, his drift not being known to be evil, and standing to the hazard of law and penalty, has no great argument to think himself reputed in the commonwealth wherein he was born for other than a fool or a foreigner. When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends; after all which done, he takes himself to be informed in what he writes, as well as any that wrote before him; if in this, the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no years, no industry, no former proof of his abilities, can bring him to that state of maturity as not to be still mistrusted and suspected, unless he carry all his considerate diligence, all his
midnight watchings, and expense of Palladian oil, to the hasty view of an unleisured licenser, perhaps much his younger, perhaps far his inferior in judgment, perhaps one who never knew the labour of bookwriting, and, if he be not repulsed or slighted, must appear in print like a puny with his guardian and his censor's hand on the back of his title to be his bail and surety that he is no idiot or seducer; it cannot be but a dishonour and derogation to the author, to the book, to the privilege and dignity of learning. And what if the author shall be one so copious of fancy as to have many things well worth the adding come into his mind after licensing, while the book is yet under the press, which not seldom happens to the best and diligentest writers; and that perhaps a dozen times in one book? The printer dares not go beyond his licensed copy; so often then must the author trudge to his leave-giver, that those his new insertions may be viewed ; and many a jaunt will be made, ere that licenser, for it must be the same man, can either be found, or found at leisure ; meanwhile either the press must stand still, which is no small damage, or the author lose his accuratest thoughts, and send the book forth worse than he had made it, which to a diligent writer is the greatest melancholy and vexation that can befall. And how can a man teach with authority, which is the life of teaching, how can he be a doctor in his book, as he ought to be, or else had better be silent, whenas all he teaches, all he delivers, is but under the tuition, under the correction of his patriarchal licenser to blot or alter what precisely accords not with the hide-bound humour which he calls his judgment; when every acute reader, upon the first sight of a pedantic license, will be ready with these like words to ding the book a quoit's distance from him : 'I hate a pupil teacher ; I endure not an instructor that comes to me under the wardship of an
overseeing fist; I know nothing of the licenser, but that I have his own hand here for his arrogance; who shall warrant me his judgment ?' * “The state, sir,' replies the stationer : but has a quick return: “The state shall be my governors, but not my critics; they may be mistaken in the choice of a licenser, as easily as this licenser may be mistaken in an author. This is some common stuff :' and he might add from Sir Francis Bacon, that such authorised books are but the language of the times.'1 For though a licenser should happen to be judicious more than ordinary, which will be a great jeopardy of the next succession, yet his very office and his commission enjoins him to let pass nothing but what is vulgarly received already. Nay, which is more lamentable, if the work of any deceased author, though never so famous in his lifetime and even to this day, come to their hands for license to be printed or reprinted, if there be found in his book one sentence of a venturous edge, uttered in the height of zeal (and who knows whether it might not be the dictate of a divine spirit ?), yet, not suiting with every low decrepit humour of their own, though it were Knox himself, the reformer of a kingdom, that spake it, they will not pardon him their dash; the sense of that great man shall to all posterity be lost, for the fearfulness or the presumptuous rashness of a perfunctory licenser. And to what an author this violence hath been lately done, and in what book of greatest consequence to be faithfully published, I could now instance, but shall forbear till a more convenient season. Yet if these things be not resented seriously and timely by them who have the remedy in their power, but that such iron-moulds as these shall have authority to gnaw out the choicest periods of exquisitest books, and to commit such a treacherous fraud against the orphan remainders of 24worthiest men after death, the more sorrow will belong
1 An Advertisement touching the Controversies of the Church of England (1589).
to that hapless race of men, whose misfortune it is to
have understanding. Henceforth let no man care to Erle learn, or care to be more than worldly wise ; for certainly is in higher matters to be ignorant and slothful, to be a
common steadfast dunce, will be the only pleasant life, 2 = and only in request.
And as it is a particular disesteem of every knowing person alive, and most injurious to the written labours and monuments of the dead, so to me it seems an undervaluing and vilifying of the whole nation. I cannot set 80 light by all the invention, the art, the wit, the grave
and solid judgment which is in England, as that it can 13 14 be comprehended in any twenty capacities how good
soever; much less that it should not pass except their superintendence be over it, except it be sifted and strained with their strainers, that it should be uncurrent without their manual stamp. Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be monopolised and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land, to mark and license it like our broad cloth and our wool packs. What is it but a servitude like that imposed by the Philistines, not to be allowed the sharpening of our own axes and coulters, but we must repair from all quarters to twenty licensing forges? Had any one written and divulged erroneous things and scandalous to honest life, misusing and forfeiting the esteem had of his reason among men, if after conviction this only censure were adjudged him, that he should never henceforth write, but what were first examined by an appointed officer, whose hand should be annexed to pass his credit for him that now he might be safely read, it could not be apprehended less than a disgraceful