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among you, as it seems to have done, to an anxiety for my welfare, I feel flattered by it as an instance of your friendly regard. Through the goodness of God however, who had provided me with a safe retreat in the country, I still live and am well; and; would that I could add, not incompetent to any duty which it may be my further destiny to discharge.
But that after so long an interval I should have recurred to your remembrance, is highly gratifying to me; though to judge from your eloquent embellishments of the matter, when you profess your admiration of so many different virtues united in my single person, you seem to furnish some ground for suspecting that I have indeed escaped from your recollection. From such a number of unions, in fact, I should have cause to dread a progeny too numerous, were it not admitted that in disgrace and adversity the virtues principally increase and Aourish. One of them however has not made me any very grateful return for her entertainment; for she whom you call the political, (though I would rather that you had termed her love of country,) after seducing me with her fine name, has nearly, if I may so express myself,
deprived me of a country. The rest indeed harmonise more perfectly together.
Our country is wherever we can live as we ought.
Before I conclude, I must prevail on you to impute whatever incorrectness of orthography or of punctuation you may discover in this epistle to my young amanuensis; whose total ignorance of Latin has imposed on me the disagreeable necessity of actually dictating to him every individual letter.
That your deserts as a man, consistently with the high promise with which you raised my expectations in your youth, should have elevated you to so eminent a station in your Sovereign's favour gives me the most sincere pleasure; and I fervently pray and trust that you may proceed and prosper. Farewell!”
London, August 15, 1666.
In the middle of the year 1666, Milton, as we have seen, had completed his two sacred poems: but it was not till after the lapse of another twelvemonth that he committed either of them to the press. His contract for the copy-right of Paradise Lost, with Samuel Simmons the bookseller, is dated April 27, 1667; and in the course of that year, the first edition of this grand re
-sult of intellectual power was given to the world.“
Much surprise and concern have been discovered at the small pecuniary benefits which the author was permitted to dérïve from this proud display of his genius, and on the slow and laborious progress with which the work won its way to public estimation. To us, in the utmost cultivation of taste and accustomed to admire the Paradise Lost without any reference to its author or to the
age in which it appeared, it must certainly seem deplorable that the copy-right of such a composition should be sold for the actual
payment of five pounds, and the contingent payment, on the sale of two thousand six hundred copies, of two other equal sums. But if we would regard ourselves as placed in the middle of the seventeenth century and immersed in all the party violence of that miserable period, we should rather be inclined to wonder at the venturous liberality of the bookseller, who would give even this small consideration for the poem of a man living under the heaviest frown of the times, in whom the poet had long been forgotten in
m It was first published without the name of the purchaser as its printer: but in the subsequent year it received a new title-page in which the name of S. Simmons was inserted in its proper place.
the polemic, and who now tendered an experiment in verse of which it was impossible that the purchaser should be able to appreciate the value, or should not be suspicious of the danger.
Our shame and regret for the slow apprehensions of our forefathers, with respect to the merits of this illustrious production, are still more unwarranted than those which have been expressed for the parsimony of the bookseller. Before the entire revolution of two years, at a time when learning and the love of reading were far from being in their present wide diffusion through the community, thirteen hundred copies of the Paradise Lost were absorbed into circulation. In five years after this period a second edition of the poem was issued; and, after another interval of four years, a third was conceded to the honourable demands of the public. As we may fairly conclude that, according to the original stipulation of the bookseller, each of these impressions consisted of fifteen hundred copies, we shall find that in the space of little more than eleven years four thousand five hundred individuals of the British community were possessed of sufficient discrimination to become the purchasers of the Paradise Lost. Before the expiration of twenty years the
poem passed through six editions, a circumstance which abundantly proves that it was not destitute of popularity before it obtained its full and final dominion over the public taste from the patronage of Somers, and still more from the criticism of Addison.
When the great epic was completely prepared for the
its birth was on the point of being intercepted by the malignity, or rather perhaps by the perverse sagacity of the licenser;" whose quick nostril distinguished the scent of treason in that well known simile of the sun in the first book:
« As when the sun new-risen
The office of licenser, which had been abolished during the usurpation of Cromwell, had now been restored, for a limited time, by an act of parliament passed in 1662. By this act the press, with reference to its different productions, was placed under the dominion of the Judges, some of the Officers of State, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Poetry falling within the province of the latter, the fate of Paradise Lost was committed to the judgment of the reverend Thomas Tomkyns, one of the chaplains of Archbishop Sheldon.