« 上一頁繼續 »
accepted or not. In P. L. ii. 1021, he strikes out the whole passage of Sin and Death following Satan, amounting to ten entire lines, and then says, "Perhaps I shall have some votes to accompany mine, that this too is an interpolation.' As he approached the last pages of his work, and looked back on the deformities he had left behind him in his ruthless path, and when he saw the ragged and meagre branches of the Critic's ivy eating into the noble and finished column, round which it had been trained; he seemed to entertain some misgivings of the soundness and success of his plan. He
If one small alteration appeared to be so presumptuous, what censure must I expect to receive who have presumed to make so many, but jacta est alea, non injussa cecini.
-παρ εμοίγε κ’ άλλοι, Οι κε με τιμήσουσι, μάλιστα δε μητιέτα Ζεύς. Bentley’s ungrounded hypothesis, and the alterations which he built upon it, called forth a
xi. 387, are flippant and trifling. The conjecture, at xi. 187, is confirmed by Milton's own editions, which Bentley did not know. In one note he appears designedly unjust, (i. 717,) where he accuses Milton of a false quantity in the use of the word 'Serapis.' Bentley of course knew that the word was used with the middle syllable long: and Milton had a right to select the quantity most agreeable to his ear. Akenside uses the word 'Hyperion,' with the penultimate syllable long, and Gray with it short; the former adhering to the true quantity, the latter adopting the more agreeable or convenient pronunciation; but Milton had authority, though inferior, on his side.
volume of remarks from Dr. Zachary Pearce : which may be recommended as a model of sound and temperate reasoning in criticism. Bentley's innovations are for the most part refuted, but in a manner never wanting in respect to the fame or he age
of that illustrious scholar. Since writing the above, I have had an opportunity of perusing Newton's Life of Milton; it is not written with any spirit or elegance of style, but it contains an impartial and accurate account of what is known of the Poet's history ; and there is a temperance and propriety in its language, that might put some later biographers to the blush. Occasionally a smile may be excited, when he speaks of Milton's never having hunted (Milton hunting!!), or when he laments that the sale of Paradise Lost produced only ten pounds to the author, while Mr. Hoyle gained two hundred by the copyright of his Game at Whist. Some useful notes and illustrations have been added by Mr. Hawkins to the latest edition; but in one, he has unaccountably attributed the famous attack on Milton by Bishop Horsley, to a Prelate of very different opinions, talents, and character. 11
Every successive volume of the biography of Milton is rapidly increasing in size. The elegant Memoir by Fenton is included in fifteen small pages; the narrative of Dr. "Symmons has extended to nearly seven hundred; while the increase of bulk is not compensated by a propor
11 See Newton's Milton, ed. Hawkins, p. xlii.
tionate accession of information.12 Much vague and ingenious speculation, and much curious erudition not always bearing on the subject, have been called in by later writers to supply the place of authentic materials; and that which has reasonably been doubted, or directly refuted, still maintains its ground, as an arena, in which the writer may unfold the charms of his eloquence; or the critics may display their controversial skill. It is however to be hoped, that in all future biographies, what is neither pertinent nor true will be omitted. That we shall not again read long disputations on the nature of Milton's punishment at College; that the foolish and romantic story of the sleeping boy and the Italian lady will be forgotten, or be found only among the reveries of Miss Seward ;
that the supposed residence at Forest Hill (a day-dream of Sir William Jones) will be given up;—that we shall not hear of Milton's keeping school at Greenwich : 18 That the insertion of the prayer into the Eikon Basilike from the Arcadia will be considered as set at rest: That the story of Sir John Denham (the account of a person, not a member, being permitted to instruct and entertain the House of Commons with the history of a new poem wet from the press,) may be heard
12 T. Warton first brought Milton's Nuncupative Will' to light, and printed it in his edition of the Minor Poems; this was a valuable and authentic addition to our previous information.
18 See Newton's Life, p. Lxii.
no more ; and that Salmasius may be permitted to die in his old age without disgrace, or without the death-blow having been given by Milton's hand. The notes also of the commentators have swelled to a useless and disproportionate size; a great part of them is unnecessary and inconvenient; and a future edition of Milton, if one on a more elaborate plan than the present is required, might be contracted into a smaller compass than Newton's, without any omission of useful or elegant information.
After a patient, and, in the leisure which I possess, a not unwilling perusal of the writings of Milton and Salmasius, I could wish to have exhibited to my readers a fuller account of the controversy, and to have afforded adequate examples of the comparative skill and talents of the writers ; but the contracted limits of my humble plan, precluded any lengthened or copious detail ; nor could this subject be permited to occupy more than its proportionate share without injury to others of equal or greater importance. I found it also difficult to select what was valuable and interesting from much reasoning that was sophistical and distorted; much that was trifling and minute; some that rested on the support of obsolete and forgotten authorities ; some that was wasted in the discussion of the remotest theories and the most abstract principles; and all intermingled with personal altercation, angry invective, and the intemperate ebullitions of a carnal
wrath. I found, too, that it would be difficult, except perhaps to the curiosity of a few inquisitive scholars, to direct or detain the attention on the discussion of a subject which once held all Europe in suspense; the progress of which, under the skill of the combatants, was watched with the most intense anxiety; which employed the most powerful minds, and included the most important interests ; but which long since has passed away from the disputed possession of party writers, to remain under the graver and more impartial protection of history.
A few original notes attached to this edition, are the gradual result of the Editor's reading, and were written in
margin of the copy which he used. Some have been selected from the different commentators, whose observations have been dilim gently collected by Mr. Todd ; and, for a few, the editor has been indebted to his amiable and most accomplished friend, the Rev. Alexander Dyce, to whose industry and talents, all who are interested in our early poetry must feel great obligations; and from whose classical knowledge, sound judgment, and refined taste, that curious information which he is able to bestow, will be given with a precision, a temperance, and an elegance, except perhaps in the case of the learned and lamented Tyrwhitt, hitherto unknown among the editors of our elder poets.
JOHN MITFORD. Benhall, 20th Nov. 1831.