Page images
PDF
EPUB

prove him in his learning. Elwood was recommended to him by Dr. Paget, and went to his house every afternoon except Sunday, and read to him such books in the Latin tongue, as Milton thought proper. And Milton told him, that if he would have the benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and understand Latin authors, but to converse with foreigners either abroad or at home, he must learn the foreign pronunciation: and he instructed him how to read accordingly". And having a curious ear, he understood by my tone, says Elwood, when I understood what I read, and when I did not; and he would stop me, and examine me, and open the most difficult passages to me. But it was not long after his third marriage, that he left Jewen-street, and removed to a house in the Artillery Walk leading to Bunhill Fields: and this was his last stage in this world; he continued longer in this house than he had done in any other, and lived here to his dying day: only when the plague began to rage in London in 1665, he removed to a small house at St. Giles Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, which Elwood had taken for him and his family; and there he remained during that dreadful calamity; but after the sickness was over, and the city was cleansed and made

Elwood mentions that he pronounced the Latin c like the English ch, and sc as sh, upon which Rolli remarks, questa particolarita mostra che Milton pronunciava la lingua Latina come g Italiani e particolarmente i Romani fanno. E.

The circumstance of his lodging for some intermediate time, after he left Jewin Street, with

Millington the celebrated auctioneer, who was accustomed to lead his venerable inmate by the hand when he walked in the streets, is mentioned by Richardson on the testimony of a person, who was acquainted with Milton, and who had frequently met him abroad with his conductor and host. Symmons.

safely habitable again, he returned to his house in London'.

His great work of Paradise Lost had principally engaged his thoughts for some years past, and was now completed. It is probable, that his first design of writing an epic poem was owing to his conversations at Naples with the Marquis of Villa about Tasso and his famous poem of the delivery of Jerusalem; and in a copy of verses presented to that nobleman before he left Naples, he intimated his intention of fixing upon King Arthur for his hero. And in an eclogue, made soon after his return to England upon the death of his friend and school-fellow Deodati, he proposed the same design and the same subject, and declared his ambition of writing something in his native language, which might render his name illustrious in these islands, 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

Dr. Symmons remarks, that a rumour had been circulated of Milton's having fallen under the desolating disease. And he cites a very interesting letter to Peter Heimbach, occasioned by this report. See Pr. W. ii. 586. ed.

1753. E.

h The reader should consult the Preface to the second book of the Reason of Church Govern ment, from "Concerning there"fore this wayward subject" to the end, vol. i. p. 61–65. ed. 1753. This passage gives the fullest insight into Milton's hopes

See Mr. Warton's note on and intentions. E. the Mansus, v. 80.

E.

Paradise Lost is said to have been taken from an Italian tragedy; and it is certain, that he first designed

'The Drama alluded to is the Adamo of Giovanni Battista Andreini, son of the celebrated actress Isabella Andreini. (See Bayle's Dictionary, Art. Andreini.) G. B. Andreini was born at Florence in 1578; he was also an actor of some repute, and author of about thirty poems and comedies. (See Count Mazzuchelli's work on the writers of Italy.) The Adamo was printed at Milan in 1613, and again in 1617. It is like the mysteries of our early stage, and belongs to that class of dramas founded on the Scripture which the Italians call Rappresentazioni. (See Rolli's Life of Milton.) Whether Milton ever saw it or not, is mere matter of conjecture. Voltaire first started the notion that Milton was indebted to it for the idea of Paradise Lost, in his Essay on Epic Poetry, 1727. Mr. Hayley has pursued the idea in his Conjectures on the origin of the Paradise Lost, annexed to his Life of Milton. In the passages which Mr. Hayley has extracted from the Adamo I can trace no resemblance to the Paradise Lost; but in the analysis which he has given of the drama there appears more resemblance to Milton's plans for dramas or moralities on the same subject than would have been to be expected, perhaps, if Milton had never seen Andreini's work. That the idea of writing an epic poem on the fall of Adam was first suggested to Milton by the preface to the Scena Tragica d'Adamo ed Era of Troilo Lancetta, printed

VOL. I.

at Venice in 1644, and which Mr. Hayley has given together with an analysis of the drama in his Appendix, seems extremely visionary. But it is not improbable that Milton was acquainted with Marino's Strage de gli Innocenti (see note on the Mansus, v. 11.) and with the Angeleida of Erasmo Valvasone, Venice, 1590. And it is curious that the latter work, which is formed expressly on the rebellion of the Apostate Spirits, attributes to them the invention of artillery. But it may be said of these, and a long list of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese works, which are noticed by Mr. Hayley and Mr. Todd, and treat of the same or similar subjects with the Paradise Lost, that it is very doubtful whether Milton ever saw most of them, or made use of any of them. No one has yet discovered the tragedy called Il Paradiso Perso, which Dr. Pearce mentions as having afforded the first hint of the Paradise Lost.

The origin therefore of this great poem we are little likely to ascertain with any thing like certainty. Whoever wishes to pursue the subject may read Mr. Hayley's Conjectures above noticed; Mr. J. C.Walker's Thoughts on the origin of Paradise Lost, printed with his Historical Memoir on Italian Tragedy, 4to. 1799; Mr. Dunster's Considerations on Milton's early reading, and the prima stamina of his Puradise Lost, 8vo. 1800; and Mr. Todd's Inquiry into the origin of Paradise Lost, prefixed to his

f

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 some 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 strain. It was not till after he was disengaged from the Salmasian controversy, which ended in 1655, that he began to mould the Paradise Lost in its present form; but after the Restoration, when he was dismissed from public business, and freed

edition of Milton's Poems. Mr. Todd gives a summary of all the inquiries of this kind."

But with the fanciful question of the origin, or first hint, of Paradise Lost, is much mixed up the consideration of Milton's use and imitation of earlier works. It is most probable that he was well acquainted, as Mr. Dunster contends, with Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas; and that he had seen Stafford's Niobe, as Mr. Todd suggests, and the work of the Anglo-Saxon poet Cedmon, which Mr. Todd quotes from Turner's History of the AngloSaxons. Milton's great learning in fact made him acquainted "with the poverty as well as the "riches of numerous other writ

[ocr errors]

ers;" and he made the right use of learning in greatly improving upon the hints of others. This will continually appear in the notes on his Poems. But there was nothing like plagiarism in this; and indeed, his commentators, and the ingenious men who have been named above, are always anxious that an imputation of this kind should never, for a moment, be thrown upon Milton, whose originality, they all contend, was as great as his erudition.

Of the shameless attempt of Lauder to convict him of plagiarism a full account is given by Bishop Newton in the Postscript to Paradise Lost. E.

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 satisfaction, though he courted his fancy never so much. Mr. Toland imagines 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 satisfaction 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 six months together, or only for one; it may go on more slowly, but it must go on: and this laying it aside 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 considerable 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

See the note on v. 6. El. vii. In Adventum veris. E.

« PreviousContinue »