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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 herok. 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
h The reader should consult a rumour had been circulated of the Preface to the second book Milton's having fallen under the of the Reason of Church Governdesolating disease. And he cites ment, from “ Concerning therea very interesting letter to Peter “ fore this wayward subject” to Heimbach, occasioned by this re the end, vol. i. p. 61–65. ed. port. See Pr. W. ii. 586. ed. 1753. This passage gives the 1753. E.
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 at Venice in 1644, and which Adamo of Giovanni Battista An- Mr. Hayley has given together dreini, son of the celebrated with an analysis of the drama in actress Isabella Andreini. (See his Appendix, seems extremely Bayle's Dictionary, Art. Andre- visionary. But it is not improini.) G. B. Andreini was born bable that Milton was acquainted at Florence in 1578; he was also with Marino's Strage de gli Innoan actor of some repute, and centi (see note on the Mansus, author of about thirty poems and v. 11.) and with the Angeleida of comedies. (See Count Mazzu- Erasmo Valvasone, Venice, 1590. chelli's work on the writers of And it is curious that the latter Italy.) The Adamo was printed work, which is formed expressly at Milan in 1613, and again in on the rebellion of the Apostate 1617. It is like the mysteries Spirits, attributes to them the of our early stage, and belongs invention of artillery. But it to that class of dramas founded may be said of these, and a long on the Scripture which the Ita- list of Italian, Spanish, and Porlians call Rappresentazioni. (See tuguese works, which are noticed Rolli's Life of Milton.) Whether by Mr. Hayley and Mr. Todd, Milton ever saw it or not, is and treat of the same or similar mere matter of conjecture. Vol. subjects with the Paradise Lost, taire first started the notion that that it is very doubtful whether Milton was indebted to it for the Milton ever saw most of them, idea of Paradise Lost, in his or made use of any of them. No Essay on Epic Poetry, 1727. one has yet discovered the traMr. Hayley has pursued the idea gedy called I Paradiso Perso, in his Conjectures on the origin of which Dr. Pearce mentions as the Paradise Lost, annexed to having afforded the first hint of his Life of Milton. In the pas- the Paradise Lost. sages which Mr. Hayley has ex The origin therefore of this tracted from the Adamo I can great poem we are little likely trace no resemblance to the Pa to ascertain with any thing like radise Lost; but in the analysis certainty. Whoever wishes to which he has given of the drama pursue the subject may read Mr. there appears more resemblance Hayley's Conjectures above noto Milton's plans for dramas or ticed; Mr.J.C.Walker's Thoughts moralities on the same subject on the origin of Paradise Lost, than would have been to be ex- printed with his Historical Mepected, perhaps, if Milton had moir on Italian Tragedy, 4to. never seen Andreini's work. That 1799; Mr. Dunster's Considerathe idea of writing an epic poem tions on Milton's early reading, on the fall of Adam was first and the prima stamina of his Pusuggested to Milton by the pre- radise Lost, 8vo. 1800; and Mr. face to the Scena Tragica d'Adamo Todd's Inquiry into the origin of ed Eva of Troilo Lancetta, printed Paradise Lost, prefixed to his VOL, I.
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
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. ers;" and he made the right Todd gives a summary of all the use of learning in greatly iminquiries of this kind.
proving upon the hints of others, But with the fanciful question This will continually appear in of the origin, or first hint, of the notes on his Poems. But Paradise Lost, is much mixed up there was nothing like plagiarism the consideration of Milton's use in this; and indeed, his comand imitation of earlier works. mentators, and the ingenious men It is most probable that he was who have been named above, are well acquainted, as Mr. Dunster always anxious that an imputacontends, with Sylvester's trans- tion of this kind should never, lation of Du Bartas; and that for a moment, be thrown upon he had seen Stafford's Niobe, as Milton, whose originality, they Mr. Todd suggests, and the work all contend, was as great as his of the Anglo-Saxon poet Cedmon, erudition. which Mr. Todd quotes from Of the shameless attempt of Turner's History of the Anglo- Lauder to convict him of plagiaSaxons. Milton's great learning rism a full account is given by in fact made him acquainted Bishop Newton in the Postscript “ with the poverty as well as the to Paradise Lost. E. “ riches of numerous other writ
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 yeat, upon the approach of the spring, seemeth to say just the contrary, as if he could not make any vérses 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, 1637k. 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.
much more slowly in summer than in other parts of the year; for notwithstanding all that poets may say of the pleasures of that season, I imagine most persons find by experience, that they can compose better at any other time, with more facility and with more spirit, than during the heat and languor of summer.
Whenever the poem was wrote, it was finished in 1665, and as Elwood says was shown to him that same year at St. Giles Chalfont, whither Milton had retired to avoid the plague, and it was lent to him to peruse it and give his judgment of it: and considering the difficulties which the author lay under, his uneasiness on account of the public affairs and his own, his age and infirmities, his gout and blindness, his not being in circumstances to maintain an amanuensis, but obliged to make use of any hand that came next to write his verses as he made them, it is really wonderful, that he should have the spirit to undertake such a work, and much more, that he should ever bring it to perfection!.
Besides what affliction he self, P. L. vii. 26. must have from his disappoint
On evil days though fallen, and evil ment on the change of the times, tongues, and from his own private losses, In darkness and with dangers com. and probably cares for subsist past round,
And solitude, ence, and for his family, he was in perpetual terror of being as
Richardson, Remarks, p. xciv. sassinated, and though he had Dr. Symmons observes that escaped the talons of the law, he these apprehensions were not knew he had made himself ene those of a weak mind, or felt mies in abundance. He was so without sufficient cause; but dejected he would lie awake were fully justified by the fate of whole nights. He then kept Ludlow, pursued with daggers himself as private as he could. into the heart of Switzerland, and This Dr. Tancred Robinson had by the murders of Dorislaus and from a relation of Milton's, Mr. of Ascham at the Hague and at Walker of the Temple. And Madrid. E. this is what is intimated by him