« 上一頁繼續 »
been extremely unsettled in his choice of a residence. Soon after his marriage he lodged with Millington, the famous book auctioneer, a man of remarkable elocution, wit, sense, and modesty. Richardson says, that Millington was accustomed to lead his venerable inmate by the hand, when he walked the streets; the person who acquainted Richardson with this fact, had often met Milton abroad with his conductor and host. He again removed to a small house in Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill-fields, which, Philips says, was his last stage in this world, but it was of many years' continuance, more perhaps than he had had in any other place besides. The plague had now
begun to rage in London, and his young friend, Elwood the Quaker, found a shelter for him at Chalfont 12 in Buckinghamshire. “It was on a visit at this place, that after some common discourses, says Elwood, had passed between us, he called for a MS. of his, which, being brought, he delivered to me, bidding me take it home with me, and read it at my leisure: and when I had so done, return it to him with my judgment thereupon. When I came home, and set myself to read it, I found that it was that excellent Poem, which he entitled Paradise Lost.' From this account it appears that Paradise Lost was complete in 1665, and Aubrey represents it
12 See an engraving of this house in Dunster's edition of Paradise Regained, and an account in Todd's Life of Milton, p. 272. I possess a drawing of it made about five years since, by which it appears, that a small part of it has been taken down and altered. Elwood calls it a pretty box. Milton is supposed to have resided there from the summer of 1665, to the March or April of the
following year. It appears that the plague reached even Chalfont, as may be seen by the Register in 1665.
as finished about three years after the king's restoration. Milton describes himself as long choosing and beginning late the subject of his Poem, and when that was selected, it was at first wrought into a dramatic form, like some of the ancient mysteries. There were two plans of the tragedy, both of which are preserved among the manuscripts in Trinity College, Cambridge; and which were printed, I believe, for the first time in Dr. Birch's Narrative of the Poet's Life.18 Such were the early and imperfect rudiments of Paradise Lost;, the slender materials which he possessed in the story, and the splendid superstruction which he raised upon it, may remind us of the passage, in which he has thrown over the simple language of the ancient prophets, a magnificent description of his own creation. Isaiah had said, that Lucifer sate upon the mount of the congregation, on the sides of the north.' The key-note was struck on the chords of the Hebrew lyre, and Milton instantly built up a palace for the fallen angel, equal in brilliancy and splendour to the castles of Romance. He piled up its pinnacles from diamond quarries; and hewed its towers out of rocks of gold.
'At length into the limits of the north
13 See p. xlviii. of his Life.
Messiah was declared in sight of heaven,
The mountain of the congregation call’d,' &c. How small the spark that could kindle into a poetical flame in Milton's mind ! how quick the apprehension that seized the slightest hint! and how rich and fertile the genius to improve what it possessed ! Callimachus had (Hymn. Del. 292) mentioned three Hyperborean nymphs, who sent fruits to Apollo in Delos. The word • Hyperborean’ was sufficient. Instantly Milton converts them into British goddesses, and clothes them in a Pictish dress. Selden had mentioned that Apollo was worshipped in Britain; Milton on those hints joins them to the Druids :
Hinc quoties festo cingunt altaria cantu
v. Mansus, ver. 45. What extent of time was passed in the composition of this great work is not with exactness known. Mr. Capel Lofft thinks that Milton began this poem in his forty-eighth year,* and finished it in his fifty-seventh. Philips says that he had the perusal of it from the very beginning, for some years, in parcels of ten, twenty, or thirty verses at a time; and that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal, so that in all the years he was about the poem, he may be said to have spent about half his time
* v. Preface to Lofft's Milton, p. xxviii. The Aubrey Letters (vol. iii. p. 447). His verse began at the autumnal equinoctial, and ceased at the vernal, or thereabouts (I believe about May); and this was four or five years of his doing it. He began about two years before the king came in, and finished about three years after the king's restoration.' VOL. I.
therein. Toland imagines 15 that Philips was mistaken with regard to the time, since Milton declared in his Latin elegy that his poetic talent returned with the spring.
Fallor? an et nobis redeunt in carmina vires
Ingeniumque mihi munere veris adest.' A friend of Milton's also informed Toland that Milton could never compose well but in the spring and autumn. He then poured out with great ease and fluency his unpremeditated verses. Dr. Johnson says, that there are no other internal notes of the time when the poem was written but the mention of the loss of his sight in the beginning of the third book, and of the return of the King in the introduction to the seventh.
Some difficulty was experienced in obtaining a license; 16 and objections were made to particular passages, especially to the simile of the sun eclipsed in the first book. But it was at length granted, and he sold his copy to Samuel Simmons, April 27,1667, for an immediate payment of five pounds, with a stipulation to receive five pounds more when thirteen hundred of the first edition should be sold. Again five pounds after the sale of the same number of the second edition, and another five pounds after the same sale of the third. None of the three editions were to be extended beyond fifteen hundred copies. The first edition was of the poem in ten books, in small quarto, which were advertised plainly and neatly bound, at the price of three shillings. The titles were varied in order to circulate the edition in 1667,17 1668, 1669. Of these there were no less than
15 Birch's Life, p. lvi.
16 Mr. Tomkins, chaplain to Archbishop Sheldon, was licenser. The office of licenser, abolished by Cromwell, was restored by act of parliament in 1662. The press was placed, with reference to its different productions, under the judges, the officers of state, and the archbishop of Canterbury. Poetry fell within the province of the latter. v. Symmons's Life, p. 521. Mr. C. Lofft says, “That no manuscript of the Paradise Lost has been discovered, except that of the first book copied for the press, with the imprimatur of the archbishop's chaplain, but where this is to be seen is not mentioned.' See Lofft's Pref. to Milton, p. i. and Newton's Pref. p. liv.
ve. An advertisement and the arguments of the books were omitted in some copies, and inserted in others;
and from variations in the text, it would appear that single pages were cancelled and reprinted.
The sale gave him in two years a right to his second payment; for which the receipt was signed April 26, 1669. The second edition was not given till 1674, and was printed in small octavo, and the number of books was increased to twelve, by a division of the seventh and twelfth, with the introduction of a few connecting lines. He did not live 18 to receive the payment stipulated for this im
17 See Introduction to Pickering's edition. p. xii. and Todd's Life (first ed.) p. 190, for an account of the variations in the poem and titles. Mr. Lofft observes that 1667 was a great year in the annals of our history; for not only was Paradise Lost published, but there was a Statute passed for the employment of poor prisoners,' and a great step made in the art of dressing wool,' p. xxiv. Of the effect of these different circumstances towards establishing the name and character which Britain holds among the nations, it is difficult to form an idea of any degree of proportionate extent; an adequate is impossible. It opens a vast arena in the boundless space of human perfectibility. v. Remarks by Tench Coxe. • These clustering radiations of moral light may unite mankind to the intelligence of other systems unnumbered and unimagined;' which circumstance, if it come to pass, will open new markets for the wool trade, and be of great advantage to the publishers of Paradise Lost.—' Go thy ways, Capel, the flower and quintessence of all editors.'
18 For an account of the editions, see C. Lofft's Preface, p. xxxv. lxi. and Todd's Life, p. 189—217. The number of lines in Paradise Lost amount to 10,565. Dr. Symmons says that Milton lived to receive the whole fifteen pounds for which he had stipulated; but see Todd's Life (first ed.)