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which might render his name illustrious in these ilands, though he should be obscure and inglorious to the rest of the world. And in other parts of his works, after he had engaged in the controversies of the times, he still promised to produce some noble poem or other at a fitter season; but it doth not appear that he had then determined upon the subject, and King Arthur had another fate, being reserved for the pen of Sir Richard Blackmore. The first hint of Paradise Lost is said to have been taken from an Italian tragedy; and it is certain, that he first designed it a tragedy himself, and there are several plans of it in the form of a tragedy still to be seen in the author's own manuscript preserved in the library of Trinity College Cambridge. And it is probable, that he did not barely sketch out the plans, but also wrote fome parts of the drama itself. His nephew Philips informs us, that some of the verses at the beginning of Satan's speech, addressed to the sun in the fourth book, were shown to him and some others as designed for the beginning of the tragedy, several years before the poem was begun : and many other passages might be produced, which plainly appear to have been originally intended for the scene, and are not so properly of the epic, as of the tragic ftrain. It was not till after he was disengaged from the Salmafian controversy, which ended in 1655, that he began to mold the Paradise Lost in its present form; but after the Restoration, when he was dismissed from public business, and freed from controversy of every kind, he prosecuted the work with closer application. Mr. Philips relates a very remarkable circumstance in the composure of this


poem, which he says he had reason to remember, as it was told him by Milton himself, that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal, and that what he attempted at other times was not to his fatisfaction, tho he courted his fancy never fo much. Mr. Toland imagins that Philips might be mistaken as to the time, because our author, in his Latin elegy, written in his twentieth year, upon the approach of the spring, seemeth to say just the contrary, as if he could not make any verses to his fatisfaction till the spring begun: and he says farther that a judicious friend of Milton's informed him, that he could never compose well but in spring and autumn. But Mr. Richardson cannot comprehend, that either of , these accounts is exactly true, or that a man with such a work in his head can suspend it for fix months together, or only for one; it may go on more slowly, but it must go on: and this laying it afide is contrary to that eagerness to finish what was begun, which he says was his temper in his epistle to Deodati dated Sept. 2. 1637. After all Mr. Philips, who had the perusal of the poem from the beginning, by twenty or thirty verses at a time, as it was composed, and having not been shown any for a confiderable while as the summer came on, inquired of the author the reason of it, could hardly be mistaken with regard to the time: and it is easy to conceive, that the poem might go on much more flowly in summer than in other parts of the year; for notwithstanding all that poets may fay of the pleasures of that season, I imagin most persons find by experience, that they can compofe 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 fame 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 confidering 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 blindneis, his not being in circumitances 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. And after the poem was finished, still new difficulties retarded the publication of it. It was in danger of being suppressed thro' the malice or ignorance of the licencer, who took exception at some passages, 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 manufcript of the first book copied fair for the press, with the Imprimatur by Thomas Tomkyns chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury: so that tho’ 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 firit 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 fort was without 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 rimes 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 elapsed, before 1300 copies could be fold, or before the author was intitled to his second five pounds, for which his receipt is still in being, and is dated April 26. 1660. 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 fake 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 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 Tonfon at two different times, one half on the 17th of August 1683, and the other half on the 24th of March 1690, with a conliderable advance of the price; and except one fourth of it which has been assign’d to feveral 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 con

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