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before it obtained its full and final dominion over the public taste from the patronage of Sommers, and, still more, from the criticism. of Addison.
When the great epic was completely - lives prato prepared for the press, its birth was on the "vu than the point of being intercepted by the malignity, tie persiana or rather perhaps by the perverse sagacity of
the licenser;' whose quick nostrildistinguished the scent of treason in that well known simile of the sun in the first book:
" As when the sun new risen
"Tiniena ed to the di lic List maiing to die skveller, qui of 1500
The press was certainly in safe hands when it was in those of the present licenser, Mr. Tomkyns; for an eye, which could dive so deeply and could discern so finely was
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.
h abunda of popular
sun in eclipse thu
and, of course, da therefore, are we f good licenser's he us, that we are ral for negligence of passage, so pregna issue
, under his it The time, dui engaged the atten very accurately
not likely to be baffled by the most profound, or to be eluded by the most subtle and aërial mischief. In the present instance there were many points on which the licenser's suspicion would rest.
cs 'The sun new risen, was an apt representative of Charles, lately seated on his throne; “ The horizontal misty air,” by which he was “shorn of his beams," was the political atmosphere thickened with the breaths of republicans and levellers, who did what they could to diminish the king's glory: " the moon," by whose intervention the sun was eclipsed, might be the memory of Cromwell which darkened the fame of Charles, and, by bringing before the popular mind the man who acquired Dunkirk, would naturally place him in eclipsing opposition to the man who sold it. In the 66 disastrous twilight” which was “ shed over half the na: tions," was clearly to be seen, the tyranny of Charles, by which the Scots, the northern half of the nation, were reduced to a most calamitous condition; and, finally, Charles was a monarch, and might perhaps be “perplexed with fear of change:” or, if the licenser's acuteness should discover in this last application of the simile, a confusion of the cause with the effect and should consequently scruple to admit it, the monarchs whom the
ready remarked, that it formed a occupation imme of his controvers of the year 1655 expressions in a Oldenburgh in commencement was certainly for
ture to assign years as that was composed. poet's situation if we consider t
a br the ans
sun in eclipse thus perplexes, might be the
two archbishops, in gloomy and trembling ap- na prezent prehension on their metropolitan thrones,
in consequence of their master's unpopular, Tiesum and, of course, dangerous conduct. So far,
therefore, are we from being surprised at the Tur torzaak
good licenser's hesitation in the case before us, that we are rather inclined to blame him for negligence of duty, when he permitted a passage, so pregnant with political rancour, to issue, under his imprimatur, into the world.
The time, during which this noble poem engaged the attention of its author, cannot be very accurately ascertained. We have already remarked, on the authority of Philips, that it formed a part of Milton's intellectual occupation immediately after the termination of his controversy with Morus, about the end of the year 1655; and Richardson, from some expressions in a letter"of the author's to Henry Oldenburgh in 1654, is inclined to refer its commencement to an earlier date. As it was certainly finished in 1665, we may venture to assign the term of ten or of eleven years as that within the limits of which it
was composed. If we now reflect on the n of the poet's situation during one half of this time;
if we consider that he was not only blind and
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, rhaps ka if the license this last 27
u P.W. v. vi, 127.
that he was un]
in his literary la
advanced far towards old age, but was also the object of factious hostility and of popular neglect; that, deprived of part of his small fortune, he was saved from actual poverty only by the contraction of his wants; that he was “ encompassed with dangers as well as with darkness;" and, though snatched, as it were by miracle, from the vengeance of the law, was still fearful of the assassin's dagger;
"The fact is recorded by Richardson,
“ He was in perpe. tual terror of being assassinated; though he had escaped the talons of the law he knew he had made himself enemies in abundance. He was so dejected, he would lie awake whole nights, &c. This Dr. Tancred Robinson had from a relation of Milton's, Mrs. Walker of the Temple. Richard. Remarks, &c.
poet's mind, bas rious, and, perha
his visit to Engla that the hint of
supplied by the
by one Andrei
In his note on that line, " In darkness and with danger coinpass'd round;" the same writer observes, “This is explained by a piece of secret history for which we have good authority. Paradise Lost was written after the restoration when Milton apprehended himself to be in danger of his life, first, from public vengeance, (having been very deeply engaged against the royal party,) and, when safe by pardon, from private malice and resentment, He was always in fear; much alone; and slept ill. When restless, he would ring for the person, who wrote for him, (which was his daughter commonly) to write what he composed, which sometimes flowed with great ease." Richard.
This suggestio obtained little offered; and it rejected by Dr.
however, by some new img mined, it app tute of probat
These apprehensions were not those of a weak mind, or felt without sufficient cause. The murder of Doryslaus and of As. cham at the Hague and at Madrid, had shown to the world that Royalist vengeance could assassinate; and the fate of Ludlow, pursued with daggers into the heart of Switzerland, fully demonstrated that, at the time of which we are speaking, party rancour had resigned no portion of its revengeful and sanguinary atrocity.
di agen betra. that he was unprovided with
in his literary labours, but that of a girl, or vi jastuikia
of an occasional friend to read to him, and 1.m actualo
to hold the pen as he dictated,-we cannot
be otherwise than astonished at the boldness of his
which could undertake, and at the inex
haustible energy of mind which could carry le telecamy
to its accomplishment a poem so extended in its plan, and so magnificent in its execution as the Paradise Lost.
The origin of this great production, or the first spark which kindled the idea in the poet's mind, has been made the subject of curious, and, perhaps, over-anxious enquiry. On his visit to England in 1727,Voltaire suggested that the hint of the Paradise Lost had been supplied by the Adamo, a poor drama, stuffed with bombast, conceit, and allegory, written by one Andreini a strolling player of Italy. This suggestion, by the lively Frenchman, obtained little regard at the time when it was offered; and it has since been contemptuously rejected by Dr. Johnson. From its adoption, however, by Mr. Hayley, it has acquired some new importance; and, when fully examined, it appears by no means to be destitute of probability.
Paradise Lost, as we know, not only
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