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THE Life of Milton, by his nephew and pupil, Edward Philips, has been reprinted and prefixed to this edition of the poetical works. It is the most full and faithful memoir of the external circumstances of the poet, and it cannot be read without perceiving that the author had no political or partial object in the biography. It has been justly remarked that Philips knew much more of Milton than he has told and that if he could have foreseen the future national en*husiasm and interest in his uncle's biography and works, he would not have confined himself within such narrow limits. But insufficient as the narrative may be for the worshippers of Milton, it is certainly the most copious and exact detail of the private and public life of any early English poet.
The genuineness and authenticity of the memoir cannot be doubted. It originally appeared in a small duodecimo volume, entitled, "Letters of State, written by Mr. John Milton, to most of the sovereign princes and republics of Europe, from the year 1649 till the year 1659. To which is added an account of his Life. Together with several of his Poems; and a catalogue of his works, never before printed. London. Printed in the year 1694." The name of Edward Philips does not appear to the book. It is, however, ascribed to him by Toland, in his Life of Milton, 1698, published while the younger Philips was still living; and Dr. Birch mentions that he had seen a copy, which, from a note in the handwriting of Philips, had been presented by Edward Philips to a friend as the production of his own pen.
The zealous and industrious research of the numerous biographers and editors of Milton, as far as relates to the poetical works, has left nothing to be added to the valuable stores of their large collections; and the limits of this edition will not admit any detailed account of their several labors and criticisms. Annual re
prints of the poems, with volumes of biography and commentary, have, from year to year, displayed the increasing public interest in the character and works of Milton. The reader, however, must here content himself with a brief and general reference to the
original and subsequent editions of the poems, and a chronologieal notice of the most popular annotations and biographies:-we can point out to him the right road, though we cannot accompany him in his travels.
The first publication of Milton appeared in small octavo, pp. 214, entitled, "Poems of Mr. John Milton, both English and Latin, compos'd at several times. Printed by his true copies." The songs were set in musick by Mr. Henry Lawes Gentleman of the Kings Chappel, and one of his Majestie's private musick. Printed and published according to order. London. Printed by Ruth Raworth for Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at the signe of the Princes Arms in Pauls Church Yard, 1645."-From the preface of "The Stationer to the Reader," prefixed to this volume, it is evident that the poetical character of Milton was thus early known and admired. It has been a vulgar error, of general belief even in the present day, that the works of Milton were unknown and neglected till the last century.
"The Stationer to the Reader.
"It is not any private respect of gain, gentle reader, for the slightest pamphlet is nowadayes more vendible than the words of learnedest men; but it is the love I have to our own language that hath made me diligent to collect, and set forth such peeces both in prose and verse, as may renew the wonted honour and esteem of our English tongue: and it's the worth of these both English and Latin poems, not the flourish of any prefixed encomiums that can invite thee to buy them, though these are not without the highest commendations and applause of the learnedst academics, both domestic and forrein: and amongst those of our own country, the unparalleled attestation of that renowned provost of Eaton, Sir Henry Wootton: I know not thy palate how it relishes such dainties, nor how harmonious thy soul is; perhaps more trivial airs may please thee better. But howsoever thy opinion is spent upon these, that encouragement I have already received from the most ingenious men in their clear and courteous entertainment of Mr. Waller's late choice peeces, hath once more made me adventure into the world, presenting it with these ever-green, and not to be blasted laurels. The authors more peculiar excellency in these studies, was too well known to conceal his papers, or to keep me from attempting to solicit them from him. Let the event guide itself which way it will, I shall deserve of the age, by bringing into the light as true a birth, as the muses have brought forth since our famous Spencer wrote whose poems in these English ones are as rarely imitated,
as sweetly excell'd. Reader, if thou art eagle-eied to censure their worth, I am not fearful to expose them to thy exactest perusal. "Thine to command,
Prefixed to the Comus, in this original edition, are the following letters:
"To the Right Honourable, John Lord Viscount Bracly, son and heir apparent to the Earl of Bridgewater, &c.
"This poem, which receiv'd its first occasion of birth from yourself and others of your noble family, and much honour from your own person in the performance, now returns again to make a final dedication of itself to you. Although not openly acknowledg'd by the author, yet it is a legitimate offspring, so lovely and so much desired, that the often copying of it hath tired my pen to give my several friends satisfaction, and brought me to a necessity of producing it to the publike view; and now to offer it up in all rightful devotion to those fair hopes and rare endowments of your muchpromising youth, which give a full assurance to all that know you of a future excellence. Live sweet lord to be the honour of your name, and receive this as your own, from the hands of him, who hath by many favours been long oblig'd to your most honour'd parents, and as in this representation your attendant Thyrsis, so now in all real expression, "Your faithful and most humble servant,
"The copy of a Letter written by Sir Henry Wootton, to the Author, upon the following Poem.
"From the College, this 13th of April, 1638.
"It was a special favour, when you lately bestowed upon me here, the first taste of your acquaintance, though no longer than to make me know that I wanted more time to value it and to enjoy it rightly; and in truth, if I could then have imagined your farther stay in these parts, which I understood afterwards by Mr. H. I would have been bold in our vulgar phrase to mend my draught (for you left me with an extreme thirst) and to have begged your conversation again, joyntly with your said learned friend, at a poor meal or two, that we might have banded together some good authors of the ancient time: among which I observed you to have been familiar.
"Since your going you have charg'd me with new obligations,
both for a very kinde letter from you dated the sixth of this month and for a dainty peece of entertainment which came therwith. Wherin I should much commend the tragical part, if the lyrical did not ravish me with a certain Doric delicacy in your songs and odes, wherunto I must plainly confess to have seen yet nothing parallel in our language: "ipsa mollities." But I must not omit to tell you, that I now onely owe you thanks for intimating unto me (how modestly soever) the true artificer. For the work itself, I had view'd som good while before, with singular delight, having receiv'd it from our common friend Mr. R. in the very close of the late R's Poems, printed at Oxford, wherunto it was added (as I now suppose) that the accessory might help out the principal, according to the art of stationers, and to leave the reader", bocca dolce."
"Now sir, concerning your travels, wherin I may chalenge a little more priviledge of discours with you; I suppose you will not blanch Paris in your way; therfore I have been bold to trouble you with a few lines to Mr. M. B. whom you shall easily find attending the young lord S. as his governour, and you may surely receive from him good directions for the shaping of your farther journey into Italy, where he did reside by my choice som time for the king, after mine own recess from Venice.
"I should think that your best line will be thorow the whole length of France to Marseilles, and thence by sea to Genoa, whence the passage into Tuscany is as diurnal as a Gravesend barge: 1 hasten as you do to Florence, or Siena, the rather to tell your short story from the interest you have given me in your sefety.
"At Siena I was tabled in the house of one Alberto Scipioni, an old Roman courtier in dangerous times, having bin steward to the Duca di Pagliano, who with all his family were strangled, save this only man that escap'd by foresight of the tempest: with him I had often much chat of those affairs; into which he took pleasure to look back from his native harbour; and at my departure toward Rome (which had been the center of his experience) I had wonn confidence enough to beg his advice, how I might carry myself securely there, without offence of others, or of mine own conscience. "Signor Arrigo mio" (says he) "I pensieri stretti, et il viso sciolto" will go safely over the whole world: of which Delphian oracle (for so I have found it) your judgment doth need no commentary; and therfore, sir, I will commit you with it to the best of all securities, God's dear love, remaining your friend as much at command as any of longer date.