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A Poem, in Twelve Books.
PREFATORY CHARACTERS of the feveral
Printed by A. DONALDSON, and fold at his
M DCC LXVII.
THE EDITOR's PREFACE.
ILTON is reprefented to have been a great genius, endued with an uncommon ftrength of fancy and extent of imagination; an incomparable poet, master of moft languages, and thoroughly verfed in the feveral branches of learning. He is ftyled the Prince of English poets. His poetical writings are admired by the ingenious of all perfuafions; and men of the greatest eminence in the republic of letters have been employed in illuftrating his beauties. His PARADISE LOST is faid to be the flower of epic pocfy, one of the greateft efforts of genius, and to be equal at leaft, if not fuperior to the nobleft productions of antiquity. Thefe are the declared fentiments of men of the first rank in criticifm: So that for us to fay any thing of his poetical character, is unneceffary, nay would be improper. Our province is to give a correct edition of his poems; and fuch, we flatter ourfelves, the reader will find in these two volumes.
Of the feveral 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 conduating it..
As to the PARADISE LOST, Dr. Newton obferves, that the editors of MILTON have a confiderable advantage over the editors of Shakespeare. "For" (fays he) the firft 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 optimum, the "beft gueffer was the beft diviner; fo he may be faid "in fome measure too to be the best editor of ShakeSpeare; as Mr. Warburton hath proved himself by variety of conjectures, and many of them very happy ones, upon the most difficult pallages. But we "who undertake to publifh MILTON'S PARADISE
"LOST, are not reduced to that uncertainty: We are not left floating 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 lifetime, and have only to cor"rect what may be fuppofed to be the errors of the "prefs, or mistakes occafioned by the author's blind. "nefs. Thefe two editions then, the firft in ten "books printed in a small 4to [in 1667], and the fe"cond in twelve books printed in a small octavo [in. 1674], are propofed as our ftandard. Some: alterations indeed are neceffary to be made in con. "fequence of the late improvements in printing, with regard to the ufe of capital letters, Italic characters, and the fpelling of fome 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 defire to tranfcribe all their excellencies, but: have no notion of perpetuating their faults and era
As to the poems in the fecond volume; Newton fays, "Of the Paradife Regain'd and Samfon Agonistes, "there was only one edition in Milton's lifetime, in "the year 1671; and this we have made our stan"dard, correcting. only what the author himself "would have corrected. Dr. Bentley pronounces "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 editions, and were never corrected in any edition that "I have feen before the prefent. Of the other poems "there were two editions in Milton's lifetime; the "first in 1645, before he was blind; and the other, "with fome additions, in 1673. Of the Mafque there "was likewife an edition published by Mr. Henry "Lawes, in 1637: And of the Mafque and feveral "other poems there are extant copies in Milton's own "hand writing, preferved in the library of Trinity"college