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When fir Henry Wootton, in 1637, had received from Milton the compliment of a prefent of coмus, at first separately printed by the care of Henry Lawes, he returned a panegyric on the performance, in which real approbation undoubtedly concurred with the partiality of private friendship, and a grateful fenfe of this kind teftimony of Milton's regard. But Wootton, a fcholar and a poet, did not perceive the genuine graces of this exquifite mafque, which yet he profeffes to have viewed with fingular delight. His conceptions did not reach to the higher poetry of COMUS. He was rather struck with the paftoral mellifluence of its lyric meafures, which he ftyles a certain Doric delicacy in the fongs and odes, than with its graver and more majestic tones, with the folemnity and variety of its peculiar vein of original invention. This drama was not to be generally characterised by its fongs and odes: nor do I know that foftnefs and fweetnefs, although they want neither, are particularly characteristical of those paffages, which are moft commonly rough with strong and crouded images, and rich in perfonification. However, the Song to Echo, and the initial ftrains of Comus's invocation, are much in the ftyle which Wootton defcribes.

The first edition of these poems, comprehending COMUS already printed, and LYCIDAS, of which there was alfo a previous impreffion, is dated in 1645, But I do not recollect, that for


feventy years afterwards, they are once mentioned in the whole fucceffion of English literature. Perhaps the only instance on record, in that period of time, of their having received any, even a flight, mark of attention or notice, is to be found in archbishop Sancroft's papers at Oxford. In thefe papers is contained a very confiderable collection of poetry, but chiefly religious, exactly and elegantly tranfcribed with his own hand, while he was a fellow of Emanuel college, and about the year 1648, from Crafhaw, Cowley, Herbert, Alabaster, Wootton, and other poets then in fashion. And among these extracts is Milton's ODE ON THE NATIVITY, faid by Sancroft to be felected from "the first page of John Milton's poems." Also our author's verfion of the fifty-third Pfalm, noted by the tranfcriber, I fuppofe as an example of uncommon exertion of genius, to have been done in the fifteenth year of the tranflator's age. Sancroft, even to his maturer years, retained his strong early predilection to polite literature, which he ftill continued to cultivate; and from these and other remains of his ftudies in that purfuit, now preferved in the Bodleian library, it appears, that he was a diligent reader of the poetry of his times, both in English and Latin. In an old Mifcellany, quaintly called NAPS ON PARNASSUS, and printed in 1658, there is a recital of the most excellent English poets; who, according to this author's enumeration, are Chaucer, Lydgate, Hardyng,

* MSS. Coll. TANN. Num. 465. See f. 34.60.


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Spenfer, Drayton, Shakespeare, Jonfon, Donne, Beaumont and Fletcher, Sandys, Cowley, and Clieveland, with fome others then living and perhaps in fashion, but now forgotten. But there is not a fyllable of the writer of L'ALLEGRO, IL PENSEROSO, and coмUs. Nor is there the quantity of an hemiftich quoted from any of these poems, in the Collections of those who have digefted the Beauties or Phrases of the English Poets from 1655 to 1738, inclufively. The first of these, is the English Treafury of Wit and Language, by John Cotgrave, 1655. The fecond, the English Parnaffus, or an Help to English Poefy, by Joshua Poole of Clare-Hall, 1657. And not to omit the intermediate labours of Bysshe and Gildon, the latter of whom promises "to give the reader the "great images that are to be found in our poets "who are truly great, as well as their topics and "moral reflections," the laft, and by far the most copious and judicious compilation of the kind extant, is the BRITISH MUSE in three volumes, by Thomas Hayward, with a good Preface by Oldys, published in 1738. Yet this author profeffes chiefly to confider, " neglected and expiring merit, and to "revive and preferve the excellencies which time. "and oblivion were upon the point of cancelling, " rather than to repeat what others had extracted "before"."

a Lond. 12mo. See Signat. B. 4. b Reprinted, 1677. 8vo. PREF. p. xx. We are furprised to find Dennis, in his LETTERS, published 1721, quoting a few verfes from Milton's Latin Poems, relating to his Travels. See p. 78. 79. But Dennis had them from Toland's Life of Milton.


Patrick Hume, a Scotchman, in 1695, published a large and very learned commentary on the PARADISE LOST, to which fome of his fucceffors in the fame province, apprehending no danger of detection from a work rarely infpected, and too pedantic and cumbersome to attract many readers, have been often amply indebted, without even the most diftant hint of acknowledgment. But Hume, in comparing Milton with himself, perhaps confcious of his importance as a commentator on the fublimities of the epic mufe, not once condefcends to draw a fingle illuftration from this. volume of his author. In 1732, Bentley, miftaking his object, and to the difgrace of his critical abilities, gave a new and fplendid edition of the PARADISE LOST. The principal design of the Notes is to prove, that the poet's native text was vitiated by an infinite variety of licentious interpolations and factitious readings, which, as he pretends, proceeded from the artifice, the ignorance, or the misapprehenfion, of an amanuenfis, to whom Milton, being blind, had been compelled to dictate his verses. To afcertain his criticisms in detecting or reforming these imaginary forgeries, he often appeals to words and phrafes in the fame poem. But he never attempts to confirm his conjectures from the smaller poems, written before the poet was blind: and from which, in the profecution of the fame arbitrary mode of emendation, his analogies in many inftances might have confequently derived a much stronger degree of


authority and credibility. The truth is, Bentley was here a ftranger. I must however except, that he once quotes a line from the beginning of COMUS.

The first printed encomium which this volume of Milton feems to have received, was from the pen of Addifon. In a SPECTATOR, written 1711, he mentions Milton's Laughter in the opening of L'ALLEGRO as a very poetical figure: and adds, citing the lines at large, that Euphrofyne's groupe of Mirth is finely defcribed. But this fpecimen and recommendation, although from so favourite a writer, and fo elegant a critic, was probably premature, and I fufpect contributed but little to make the poem much better known. In the mean time I will venture to pronounce, that although the citation immediately refulted from the fubject of Addison's paper, he thought it the finest groupe or defcription either in this piece or its companion the PENSEROSO. Had Addison ever entered into the true spirit and genius of both poems, he certainly did not want opportunities of bringing them forward, by exhibiting paffages of a more poetical character. But fuch paffages would not have coincided with Addifon's fubordinate ideas of poetry.

My brother remembers to have heard my father say, that when he once, at Magdalene college Oxford, mentioned this volume to Mr. Digby, the intimate friend of Pope, Mr. Digby expreffed

PARAD. L. B. i. 16.

b NUM. 249.


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