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I must have the highest honor for Your Lordship, and cannot help professing myself without reserve, and with all possible veneration,
Your LORDSHIP's ever obliged,
and devoted Servant,
May 20, 1749.
THOMAS NEWTON. O publish new and correct editions of the T.
works of approved authors has ever been
esteemed a service to learning, and an employment worthy of men of learning. It is not material whether the author is ancient or modern. Good criticism is the same in all languages. Nay I know not whether there is not greater merit in cultivating our own language than any other. And certainly next to a good writer, a good critic holds the second rank in the republic of letters. And if the pious and learned Bishop of Thessalonica has gained immortal honor by his notes upon Homer, it can be no discredit to a graver Divine than myself to comment upon such a divine poem as the Paradise Loft, especially after some great men, who have gone
before me in this exercise, and whose example is sanction sufficient,
My design in the present edition is to publish the Paradise Lost, as the work of a claffic author cum notis variorum. And in order to this end the first care has been to print the text correctly according to Milton's own editions. And herein the editors of Milton have a considerable advantage over the editors of Shakespear. For the first editions of Shakespear's works being printed from the incorrect copies of the players, there is more room left for conjectures and emendations; and as according to the old proverb, ,
Bene qui conjiciet vatem hunc perhibebo optimum, the best guesser was the best diviner, so he may be faid in some measure too to be the best editor of Shakespear, as Mr. Warburton hath proved himself
by by variety of conjectures, and many of them very happy ones, upon the most difficult passages. But we who undertake to publish Milton's Paradise Lost are not reduced to that uncertainty; we are not left floting in the wide ocean of conjecture, but have a chart and compass to steer by; we have an authentic copy to follow in the two editions printed in his own life-time, and have only to correct what may be supposed to be the errors of the press, or mistakes occasioned by the author's blindness. These two editions then, the first in ten books printed in a small quarto, and the second in twelve books printed in a small octavo, are proposed as our standard : the variations in each are noted; and we never deviate from them both without affigning, as we think, a subftantial reason for it. Some alterations indeed are necessary to be made in consequence of the late improvements in printing, with regard to the use of capital letters, Italic characters, and the spelling of some words: but to Milton's own spelling (for we must distinguish between his and that of his times) we pay all proper regard, and commonly note where it is right, and where it is wrong; and follow it or not accordingly. His pointing too we generally observe, because it is generally right; such was the care, that Milton himself took in having the proofsheets read to him, or his friends took for him: and changes of consequence we make none without signifying the reasons; in lesser instances there is no occafion to be particular. In a word we approve of the two first editions in the main, tho' we cannot think that they ought to be followed (as some have advised) letter for letter, and point for point. We
defire to transcribe all their excellences, but have no notion of perpetuating their faults and errors.
When the text was settled, the notes came next under confideration. P. H. or Patrick Hume, as he was the first, so is the most copious annotator. He laid the foundation, but he laid it among infinite heaps of rubbish. The greater part of his work is a dull dictionary of the most common words, a tedious fardel of the most trivial observations, explaining what requires no explanation : but take away what is superfluous, and there will still remain a great deal that is useful; there is gold among his dross, and I have been careful to separate the one from the other. It was recommended to me indeed to print intire Mr. Addison's Spectators upon the Paradise Lost, as ingenious effays which had contributed greatly to the reputation of the poem, and having been added to several editions they could not well be omitted in this edition: and accordingly those papers, which treat of the poem in general, are prefixed in the nature of a preliminary discourse; and those, which are written upon each book separately, are inserted under each book, and interwoven in their proper places. Dr. Bentley's is a great name in criticism. But he has not acquired any additional honor by his new edition of the Paradise Lost. Nay fome have been so far prejudiced as to think, that he could not be a good critic in any language, who had shown himself to injudicious an one in his own mother-tongue. But prejudice apart, he was a very great man, of parts inferior to few, of learning superior to most men; and he has made fome very judicious and useful remarks upon the Paradise Lost,
though though in the general they may rather be called the dotages of Dr. Bentley. He was more fagacious in finding faults, than happy in mending them; and if he had confined himself only to the former, he might have had better success; but when he attempted the latter, and substituted verses of his own in the room of Milton's, he commonly made most miserable bungling work, being no poet himself, and having litile or no taste of poetry. Dr. Pearce, the present Lord Bishop of Bangor, has distinguished his taste and judgment in choosing always the best authors for the subjects of his criticism, as Cicero and Longinus among the Ancients, and Milton among the Moderns. His Review of the Text of the Paradise Lost is not only a most complete answer to Dr. Bentley, but may serve as a pattern to all future critics, of sound learning and just reasoning joined with the greatest candor and gentleness of manners. The whole is very well worthy of the perusal of every lover and admirer of Milton, but such parts only are ingraffed into this work as are more immediately proper for our design, and explain some difficulty, or illustrate some beauty of our author. His Lordship together with my
Lord Bath first engaged me in this undertaking, and he has kindly assisted me in it from the beginning to the end; and I cannot but entertain the better hopes of the public approbation, as these sheets, long before they went to the press, were perused and corrected by his Lardship. Of Mr. Richardson's notes it must be said that there are strange inequalities in them, some extravagances, and many excellences; there is often better sense than grammar ar English ; and