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perfection. And after the poem was finished, still new difficulties retarded the publication of it. It was in danger of being fuppreffed thro' the malice or ignorance of the licencer, who took exception at some passages, and particularly at that noble fimile, in the first book, of the fun in an eclipse, in which he fancied that he had discovered treafon. It was with difficulty too that the author could fell the copy; and he fold it at last only for five pounds, but was to receive five pounds more after the fale of 1300 of the first impression, and five pounds more after the fale of as many of the fecond impression, and five more after the fale of as many of the third, and the number of each impreffion was not to exceed 1500. And what a poor confideration was this for fuch an ineftimable 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. Tonfon the bookfeller, as is likewife the manuscript of the first book copied fair for the prefs, with the Imprimatur by Thomas Tomkyns chaplain to the Arch-bishop of Canterbury: fo that tho' Milton was forced to make ufe of different hands to write his verfes from time to time as he had oc
cafion, yet we may suppose that the copy for the press was written all, or at least each book by the fame hand. The first edition in ten books was printed in a small quarto; and before it could be difpofed 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 fhort 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 feveral books, and the preface concerning the kind of verfe, and the table of errata: others a
gain had the argument, and the preface, and the table of errata, without that fhort 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 fheets were printing off. So that, notwithstanding these variations, there was ftill only one impreffion in quarto; and two years almost elapfed, before 1300 copies could be fold, or before the author was intitled to his fecond five pounds, for which his receipt is still in being, and is dated April 26. 1669. And this was probably all that he received; for he lived not to enjoy the benefits of the fecond edition, which was not published till the year 1674, and that fame year he died. The fecond 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 fome few verses: and this alteration was made with great judgment, not for the fake of such a fanciful beauty as refembling the number of books in the AEneid, but for the more regular difpofition 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 fhe 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 affign the whole right of copy to Brabazon Aylmer the bookfeller for twenty five pounds; and Aylmer afterwards fold it to old Jacob Tonfon at two different times, one half on the 17th of Auguft 1683, and the other half on the 24th of March 1690, with a confiderable advance of the price: and except one forth of it which has been affign'd to feveral perfons, his family have enjoyed the right of copy ever fince. By the laft affignment it appears that the book was growing into repute and rifing
in valuation; and to what perverfenefs could it be owing that it was not better receiv'd at first? We conceive there were principally two reafons; the prejudices against the author on account of his principles and party; and many no doubt were offended with the novelty of a poem that was not in rime. Rymer, who was a redoubted critic in those days, would not so much as allow it to be a poem on this account; and declared war against Milton as well as against Shakespear; and threatned that he would write reflections upon the Paradise Loft, which fome (fays he *) are pleased to call a poem, and would affert rime against the slender sophistry wherewith the author attacks it. And such a man as Bishop Burnet maketh it a fort of objection to Milton, that he affected to write in blank verse without rime. And the fame reason induced Dryden to turn the principal parts of Paradife Loft into rime in his Opera called the State of innocence and Fall of man; to tag his lines, as Milton himself expressed it, alluding to the fashion then of wearing tags of metal at the end of their ribbons. We are told indeed by Mr. Richardson, that Sir George Hungerford, an ancient member of Parlament, told him, that Sir John Denham came into the Houfe one morning with a sheet of Paradife Loft wet from the press in his hand; and being afked what he had there, said that he had part of the noblest poem that ever was written in any language or in any age. However it is certain that the book was unknown till about two years after, when the Earl of Dorset produced it, as Mr. Richardson was informed by Dr. Tancred Robinson the physician, who had heard the ftory often from Fleetwood Shephard himself, that the Earl, in company with Mr. Shephard, looking about for books in Little Britain, accidentally met with Paradise Loft; and and being surprised at fome paffages in dipping here and there, he bought it. The bookfeller begged his Lord*See Rymer's Tragedies of the laft age confider'd. p. 143.
fhip to speak in its favor if he liked it, for the impreffion lay on his hands as wafte paper. The Earl having read it fent it to Dryden, who in a fhort time returned it with this anfwer," This man cuts us all out and the Ancients too." Dryden's epigram upon Milton is too well known to be repeated; and those Latin verses by Dr. Barrow the phyfician, and the English ones by Andrew Marvel Efq;, ufually prefixed to the Paradife Loft, were written before the fecond edition, and were publifhed with it. But still the poem was not generally known and efleemed, nor met with the deferved applaufe, till after the edition in folio, which was published in 1688 by fubfcription. The Duke of Buckingham in his Effay on poetry prefers Taffo and Spenfer to Milton: and it is related in the life of the witty Earl of Rochefter, that he had no notion of a better poet than Cowley. In 1686 or thereabout Sir William Temple published the second part of his Mifcellanies, and it may surprise any reader, that in his Effay on poetry he taketh no notice at all of Milton; nay he faith expreffly that after Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser, he knoweth none of the Moderns who have made any achievements in heroic poetry worth recording. And what can we think, that he had not read or heard of the Paradife Loft, or that the author's politics had prejudiced him against his poetry? It was happy that all great men were not of his mind. The bookfeller was advised and encouraged to undertake the folio edition by Mr. Sommers, afterwards Lord Sommers, who not only fubfcribed himself, but was zealous in promoting the fubfcription: and in the lift of fubfcribers we find fome of the most eminent names of that time, as the Earl of Dorset, Waller, Dryden, Dr. Aldrich, Mr. Atterbury, and among the reft Sir Roger Leftrange, tho' he had formerly written a piece intitled No blind guides &c against Milton's Notes upon Dr. Griffith's fermon. There were two editions more in folio, one I think in 1692, the other in 1695 which was the fixth
edition; for the poem was now fo well received, that not-