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study,—a source of delight in prosperity, of strength and consolation in adversity.
It is now somewhat more than a quarter of a century since I first conceived the idea of endeavouring to render this noble poetry more intelligible, and consequently more attractive and useful to readers in general. The result has been the present volume, and an annotated edition of the Poems, now ready for the press. In this last, though the notes will probably not occupy a third of the space occupied by those in Todd's edition, they will, I believe, be found to elucidate the text more fully; for nothing is left unexplained that seemed to require elucidation. I have neither the wish nor the hope to supplant that work; it will probably always remain as the Variorum edition, a garner into which wheat and chaff are gathered with equal care.
The expositor of Milton should endeavour to vie with Milton in knowledge. Coming into the world nearly two centuries later, it is neither a merit nor a boast that my scientific knowledge should be more extensive and more correct than his; my task was to go back, and try to place myself in Milton's position with respect to science. Fortunately, in my early days I had acquired a knowledge of Hebrew, so that I have been able to read the Old Testament through in the original. I have not however thought it necessary to follow him into Targums and Mishnas; for I do not think he gathered any poetic fruit in these thickets. With our own old literature and with that of modern Italy I have long been familiar; while on that of Greece and Rome I have bestowed only too much of my
time and labour. I cannot, it is true, say that I regret having written the Mythology of Greece and Italy, for it has procured me consideration abroad and, alien as the subject is from the usual turn of the English mind, it seems to have taken a place in our literature. But, though I may have best elucidated the rural poetry of Virgil, and though I look back with pleasure to an excursion to Mantua to ascertain the scenery of the Bucolics, and to other circumstances connected with the Classics, yet I do most sincerely regret the time I devoted to them; for it was an act of the merest folly in one unconnected with Schools and Universities, more especially in me, whose views of what is of real importance in the languages and works of the ancients differ so much from those which generally prevail in our seats of learning. From these works I have derived no advantage whatever, and I have not even had the satisfaction of knowing in what estimation they are held, as those who read such books rarely give public expression to their opinions. Had I devoted that time and labour to modern literature, the result might have been widely different. The present volume may perhaps decide the question.
Though this volume is chiefly intended to serve as a companion and introduction to my own edition of the Poems, it will answer that
edition. In the First Part, which is purely biographic, I have collected everything that seemed of importance respecting Milton, his family, and his friends. The Second is devoted to his Opinions, among which, since the discovery of his work on Christian Doctrine, those on religion must hold a prominent place. Had I felt any scruples about developing them—which was not the case—they would have been removed by the example of the Bishop of Winchester, who, with that regard for truth and free inquiry which is so becoming and so laudable in a Christian prelate, has permitted his valuable translation of that work to be published in a form which has given it a far wider circulation than this volume can ever hope to obtain. I will take the opportunity here of mentioning that the eminent prelate to whom this work is inscribed is totally unacquainted with the contents. But he, too, is a sincere friend to truth and free inquiry, and he knows that falsehood and deceit form no part of my character.
The Third Part contains, first, an account of Milton's poetry anterior to Paradise Lost, and then what
be termed an Anthology from his prose works.
works. It seemed to me to be a mere act of justice to his memory to draw these gems forth from the obscurity in which they lay, as forming portions of treatises which possess so little interest for readers of the present times. I have analysed two of these treatises, as specimens of Milton's reasoning powers.
An Introduction to Paradise Lost concludes the volume. In this I have given everything that appeared to me calculated to illustrate that poem. Some parts of it may appear to be, and perhaps are, rather illustrative of Scripture. I might say, they are therefore only the more valuable ; but my real excuse for these, and for one or two digressions in the preceding portion of the Work, is, that I am fond of digressions, and discursive writers are my favourites, and that I thought these matters worth preserving, while I have a secret feeling that my literary career may
be destined to terminate with Milton. Few readers, I should hope, will refuse to accept of this excuse.
The reader of Milton should be acquainted with the state of public affairs in his time. I will here follow a rather unusual course, and boldly recommend my own History of England. I do so both on account of its conciseness, and because I believe it to be the only one that can lay any just claim to impartiality. Hume is never trustworthy; Lingard, on account of his religious prejudices, rarely so,-most so however in this portion of his history. For myself I can truly assert that in relating the conflict between King and Parliament, I did my utmost to hold the balance even, and if it inclined at all, it was to the side of the former. For though I did not cry with Almanzor
I cannot stay to ask which cause is best,
mind may have been secretly swayed by the royal misfortunes, and Charles perhaps appears to more advantage in my pages than he would in those of strict and rigorous truth. But where are such pages to be found ? It has not, I fear, been given to man to be strictly impartial in history.
In all my works I have adopted as a rule, from which I have never deviated, the principle of acknowledging the obligation when I was indebted for opinions or ideas to any preceding writer. What is unacknowledged therefore I claim as my own, though I may have, and probably often have been anticipated; for my reading has been select, rather than extensive, my literary appetite, though fond of variety, not being omnivorous. The opinions which I have given on various subjects have been long and carefully weighed, and viewed under every light; and thence, demonstration being out of the question, though they may be rejected by those of a different turn of mind, I do not think they can be confuted.
Splendid passages, and what is usually called fine writing, will not be found in this volume. I have little talent and still less taste for them, for I have usually found the brilliants to be false, composed of metaphor, paradox, and antithesis. But Truth is simplex munditiis ; the habit in which she loves to appear is simple, chaste in hue, formed to display her fair lineaments and proportions, and put on at times with an air of graceful negligence. All that I ever then aim at is perspicuity, purity, and correctness of language, carefully shunning stiffness and affectation, and happy if now and then I can approach to vigour or amenity. I would fain have the idea of the writer absorbed and lost in the subject.
As in writing this volume I have been actuated solely by a regard for truth and reverence for the fame of Milton-years and their attendant evils having nearly