Page images

21st, 1680, who acknowledges having received eight pounds sterling, on giving up all claim on the edition of "Paradise Lost," in 12 books. Finally, there is a third receipt, or what may be called letters patent, by Elizabeth Milton, April 29th, 1681, in which she renounces for ever all claim against Samuel Simmons, all demands that could be made from the beginning of the world unto the day of these presents. "Done in the thirty-third year of the reign of our sovereign lord Charles, by the grace of God, king of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France, defender of the faith."

Thus, Milton received ten pounds sterling for yielding his rights to "Paradise Lost," and his widow eight *.

*This statement is erroneous. Milton's agreement with Simmons entitled the author to a conditional payment of fifteen pounds beyond the first five pounds. Of this sum five pounds were to be paid after the sale of 1,300 copies of the first edition, and five pounds in the same manner both on the second and third. Milton himself received the second payment of five pounds. The second edition appeared in the year of his death, and the third four years afterwards. The sums payable on these must have been paid to his widow, who in 1680-that is to say, two years after the publication of the third edition-sold all her claim on the work to Simmons for eight pounds; "so that," says Hayley, "twenty-eight pounds, at different times in the course of thirteen years, is the whole pecuniary reward which this great performance produced to the poet and his widow."-TRAnslator.

The last receipts of his widow are dated in the thirty-third year of Charles the Second's reign; that is to say, the Revolution of 1649 never occurred; Cromwell never reigned; and Milton, Secretary to the Commonwealth and the Protector, did not write, during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, the immortal poem sold for ten pounds, paid in the space of two years; and it was Milton's widow who could sign to all this! What matters it? It was no more in the power of Charles the Second to efface the times whose date Cromwell and Milton had established, than of Louis XVIII. to erase from his reign that of Napoleon.



THROUGHOUT the life of the poet, "Paradise Lost" remained buried in the shop of the adventurous bookseller. In 1667, at the height of Louis XIV.'s glory, Andromache made its appearance on our stage. Was John Milton then known in France? Yes, perhaps, by some few lawyers as a rascally scribbler, whose diatribes had been duly burned by the executioners of Paris and Toulouse.

Milton survived the publication of his poem seven years, but did not witness its success. Johnson, who has denied him all he can deny, will not even leave him the bitter pleasure of believing himself mistaken, or thinking that he had wasted his life, that an indifferent or jealous age disdained his genius. The doctor pretends that "Paradise Lost" met with actual success during the life of its

author, "Fancy," he says, "can hardly forbear to conjecture with what temper Milton surveyed the silent progress of his work, and marked his reputation stealing its way in a kind of subterraneous current through fear and silence. I cannot but conceive him calm and confident, little disappointed, not at all dejected, relying on his own merit with steady consciousness, and waiting without impatience the vicissitudes of opinion and the impartiality of a future generation."

This supposition is contrary to important facts. We shall see by his "Samson," if Milton thought himself appreciated by his contemporaries.

Milton had that strength of mind which surmounts misfortune, and tears itself from all daydreams. Having thrown all his genius on the world in his poem, he continued his labours, as if he had given nothing to mankind, as if "Paradise Lost" was a forgotten pamphlet, about which he need care no more. He published successively "Samson," "Paradise Regained," his "New Logic," and a "Treatise on True Religion."

"Paradise Regained" is tedious, though calm and beautiful; but the tragedy of "Samson" breathes all the energy and simplicity of the antique. The poet himself is depicted in the person of the Israelite, blind, a prisoner, and unfortunate. · A noble way of revenging himself on his age.


the feast of Dagon, Samson obtains leave to breathe awhile, at the door of his prison, in Gaza; there he laments his miseries.

I seek

This unfrequented place, to find some ease,
Ease to the body some, none to the mind,
From restless thoughts, that, like a deadly swarm
Of hornets armed, no sooner found alone
But rush upon me, thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.


O loss of sight, of thee I most complain,
Blind among enemies. O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age.

[blocks in formation]

Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me.
They creep, yet see, I dark in light exposed.
Oh dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse,

Without all hope of day!

[blocks in formation]

To such a tender ball as th' eye confined?

So obvious, and so easy to be quenched?
When had I not been thus exiled from light,

As in a land of darkness

But made hereby obnoxious more

To all the miseries of life,

Life in captivity,

Among inhuman foes.



« EelmineJätka »