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Briefly stated, my purpose in this volume has been to assemble Milton's references to poetry and the other fine arts, and as far as possible to formulate his 'poetics.' The study was first undertaken for a doctoral dissertation at Cornell University, and, as originally carried out under the supervision of Professor Lane Cooper, was submitted to that end, and accepted in June, 1912. During the last few years, as opportunity permitted, I have revised and enlarged it, while constantly indebted to Professor Cooper for generous and valuable assistance. Whatever merit the book may possess is in great part the result of his interest.
An attempt to arrange and combine the chance-elements of a theory of poetry which Milton let fall, but never set forth consecutively or at length, immediately suggests the question, How would he have been most likely to present this theory for himself? Would he have embodied it in an analytical treatise like the Poetics of Aristotle, in didactic verse like the Ars Poetica of Horace, in a literary essay like Sir Philip Sidney's Apology for Poetry, or in some other type of composition? But no effort to make a sharp distinction among these different kinds of criticism is, for my purpose, quite successful, because, as we at once observe, the chief aim of Sidney's essay, for example, no less than of the Aristotelian treatise, is to define poetry as an art, governed by laws of its own, and involving a special tech
nique and an exacting method. Superficially distinct, and primarily designed for different readers, all these writings deal with what is essentially the same subject-matter. Accordingly, in the present study, I have not thought it advisable to draw a line separating the provinces of the more familiar types of poetical criticism, or to reject materials that appear suitable to any one of them. In order to exhibit Milton's conception of poetry and poetical technique, I have collected and discussed both such passages from his writings as he conceivably might have combined in a rigorously scientific poetics or didactic discourse, and such as he might have expanded into an essay on poetry in general, or a 'defence' of it, or a eulogy. With a liberal criterion in mind, I have also availed myself of scattered remarks which, though perhaps not all of them reducible to the unity of a systematic work, might easily have been gathered together into some such collection of the 'raw material of facts and thoughts' as Ben Jonson's Timber.
The net result, then, of my efforts is a collection, as thorough as I knew how to make it, of the references in all of Milton's works to all the fine arts, and a synthesis of the more important of them that is designed to give due emphasis to his views on poetry. Obviously such a study has limitations. There are unavoidable gaps and broken sequences, and often where it might seem most important to be comprehensive and explicit, the lack of data has necessitated either an element of hypothesis or complete silence. My investigation of Milton's attitude toward his art led me to consider the influence which, it is apparent, he received from the ancients, and from the theorists, especially the Italians, of the Renaissance. Whenever I could I have
related his theory to its classical and neo-classical sources; and this procedure, I believe, has added to the value of the work, giving it some measure of completeness and coherence.. In its present form, consequently, the study would gain significance from being read in connection with almost any one of the historical treatises on poetry, whether of the classical period or of the Italian or English Renaissance, and its contents would then fall into a truer perspective.
The passages from Milton upon which my discussion rests have been appended to it in a classified list (pp. 185314). In some cases, notably under the headings 'Form,' 'Art,' 'Nature,' and 'Rhetoric,' the references are not exhaustive. The texts I have used in preparing the study, and referred to in its pages, are, for the poetry, that of Beeching (Oxford University Press, 1908), and, for the prose, that of Mitford (Pickering, London, 1851). The sonnets have been numbered as in the Oxford text; the letters and the Prolusions, as in that of Pickering. In a parenthesis after the title of such works in his prose as Milton divided into parts, references are given to these parts. I have made use of the following translations: for the Latin and the Italian verse, those of Cowper, with an occasional citation from Moody; for the Prolusions, (when possible) those given by Masson in his Life of John Milton; for the letters (with a few exceptions where I have substituted, because of their greater accuracy, the translations of Hall), those of Fellowes, given in Symmons' edition of the Prose Works of John Milton, Vol. 1; for The Second Defence of the People of England, that of Fellowes in Symmons, Vol. 6; for A Treatise on Christian Doctrine, that of Sumner. More precise references to these works will be found in the Bibliography. In a few instances
it has been necessary to supply translations of my own. In quoting the writings of Milton, I have normalized spelling and punctuation, usually taking as a guide for the poetry the Oxford Miniature Milton (1904). In citing other authors, I have not always been consistent in these particulars. With Spenser's orthography, except in his prose, I have not tampered, but that of the sixteenth-century essayists I usually have modernized. Finally, the method of reference, and the abbreviations of titles employed, both in the footnotes of my discussion and in the headings of the Illustrative Passages, have been made clear either in the List of Abbreviations of Milton's Works or in the Bibliography.