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PREFATORY CHARACTERS of the several
Printed by A. DONALDSON, and fold`at his
M DCC LXVII.
THE EDITOR'S PREFACE.
TILTON is reprefented to have been a great go
nius, endued with an uncommon strength of
fancy and extent of imagination ; an incomparable poet, master of most languages, and thoroughly versed in the several branches of learning. He is ilyled the Prince of English poets. His poetical writings are admired by the ingenious of all persuasions; and men of the greatest eminence in the republic of letters have been employed in illustrating his beauties. His PARADISE Lost is said to be the flower of epic poefy, one of the greatest efforts of genius, and to be equal at least, if not superior to the noblest productions of antiquity. These are the declared sentiments of men of the first rank in criticism: So that for us to say any thing of his poetical character, is unnecessary, nay would be improper. Our province is to give a correct edition of his poems; and such, we Hatter ourselves, the reader will find in these two volumes.
Of the several editions of Milton's poetical works, that published by Dr. Thomas Newton is generally allowed to be the best and most correct, As we have made that edition our standard, it may not be improper to give an account of the method he used in conducing it.
As to the PARADISE Lost, Dr. Newton obferves, that the editors of Milton have a considerable advantage over the editors of Shakespeare.'“ For" (says he) the first editions of Shakespeare's works being “ printed from the incorrect copies of the players, " there is more room left for conjectures and emen“dations; and as, according to the old proverb, Be“ ne qui conjiciet, vatem hunc perhibebo optimun, the " best gueffer was the best diviner; so he may be said “ in some measure too to be the best editor of Shake* Speare; as Mr. Warburton hath proved himself by variety of conjectures, and many of them very hap
py 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 floating in the wide ocean of conjecture, “ hat have a chart and compass to steer by; we have “ an authentic copy to follow in the two editions
printed in his own lifetime, and have only to cor“ re&t what may be supposed to be the errors of the
press, or mistakes occasioned by the author's blind. ** ness.
These two editions then, the first in ten; “ books printed in a small 4to [in 1667], and the se. • cond in twelve books printed in a small octavo [in.
1674.], are proposed as our standard. Some: " alterations indeed are necessary to be made in con, · feqnence of the late improvements in printing, with:
regard to the use of capital letters, Italic characters, and the spelling of some words. -Milton's. own pointing we generally observe, because it is.
generally right. - In a word, we approve of " the two first editions in the main, though we can-" not think that they ought to be followed (as fome: “ have advised) letter for letter, and point for point. ** We desire to transcribe all their excellencies, but
have no notion of perpetuating their faults and. era* rors.”
As: to the poems in the second volume; Newtoni jays, “Of the Paradise Regain'd and Samfon. Agonistes, " there was only one edition in Milton's lifetime, ini “ the year 1671; and this we have made our stans« dard, correcting only what the author himself or would have corrected. Dr. Bentley pronounces it 66 to be without faults : But there is a large table of.
errata at the end, which; instead of being emended, “ have rather been augmented in the following edi
tions, and were never corrected in any edition that - I have seen before the present. Of the other poems: “ there were two editions in Milton's lifetime; the “ first in 1645, before he was blind ; and the other, “ with some additions, in 1673. Of the Masque there
was likewise an edition published by Mr. Henry “ Lawes, in 1637: And of the Masque and several or other poems there are extant copies in Milton's own so hind writing, preserved in the library of Trinity