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PREFACE TO THE NOTES.
The chief commentators and annotators on Paradise Lost have been mentioned in our Introduction to the Poem ; but it may be well here to present a conspectus of them :
1695. P. H. PilotoLÝTNS : i.e. PATRICK HUME (see Introd. p. 21).
1734. The two JONATHAN RICHARDSONS (father and son), in their Explanatory Notes and Remarks on Paradise Lost, with a Life of the Author, &c. (see Introd. p. 76, with note there).
1744. JAMES PATERSON, M.A., in A Complete Commentary, with Etymological, Explanatory, Critical, and Classical Notes on Paradise Lost. London. The commentary, which is largely philological, occupies 512 pages small 8vo, and is not accompanied by the text of the poem.
1749. DR., afterwards BISHOP, NEWTON (see Introd. pp. 31, 32). Newton's edition contained, in addition to his own notes, and selections from notes previously published, notes furnished by DR. GREENWOOD, DR. PEARCE, WARBURTON, JORTIN, DR. HEYLIN, MR. THYER, and others.
1750. JOHN CALLANDER, in an edition of the First Book of Paradise Lost, published this year by Robert and Andrew Foulis of Glasgow. Callander, who was a Scottish laird, scholar, and antiquary, born about 1721, not only annotated the First Book for that Glasgow edition, but prepared, or compiled, voluminous Notes to the whole Poem. “The labour of many of the best years of my life,” he styles them in one of his letters; so that, as he had published a portion of them in 1750, he may have continued the work till 1760 or later. He lived till 1789 but, though he had published several antiquarian books and papers in the interval, he appears to have regarded his Commentary on Paradise
Lost with peculiar satisfaction, and to have been anxious for its preservation. Accordingly, in 1781, he had presented it to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, of which he was a fellow; and it is still in the possession of that Society in nine thin folio MS. volumes. A report on it, and especially on the amount of Callander's indebtedness to his predecessor and compatriot, Patrick Hume, was drawn up in 1826 by Mr. David Laing, and is printed in the Society's Transactions : vol. iii. part 1. Mr. Laing's conclusion was that Callander had undoubtedly used Hume's Commentary, helping himself to what he liked in it, just as Bishop Newton had done, though not with such direct acknowledgment, and that he had also helped himself in the same way to matter from other commentators, especially Bishop Newton, but that, after all, he could not be called "a servile copier," but on the contrary impressed one with respect for his “erudition and judgment,” and his laborious devotedness to his task.
1751. JOHN MARCHANT (see Introd. pp. 32, 33). Text of the Poem; with Footnotes, chiefly selected from previous commentators.
1763. John WESLEY, the famous divine, in an edition of the Poem put forth on a very peculiar principle. “This inimitable work, amidst all its beauties,” he said, “is unintelligible to abundance of readers, the immense learning which he [Milton] has everywhere crowded together making it quite obscure to persons of a common education. This difficulty, almost insuperable as it appears, I have endeavoured to remove in the following Extract---first by omitting those lines which I despaired of explaining to the world without using abundance of words; and, secondly, by adding short and easy notes."
1773. JAMES BUCHANAN, in The First Six Books of Paradise Lost, rendered into Grammatical Construction, C., with Notes. This publication was posthumous; and I have not seen a copy.
1788. DR. JOHN GILLIES (see Introd. p. 34). 1792-3. CAPEL LOFFt (see Introd. p. 34).
1796. WILLIAM HAYLEY (slightly), in the Life, &c. prefixed to Boydell and Nicol's edition of Milton's Poetical Works (see Introd. p. 34).
1801, 1809, 1826, and 1842. Todd, in the four successive editions, published in his life-time, of Milton's Poetical Works (see Introd. pp. 34, 35). In these various editions, Todd, besides giving a most copious collection of notes from his predecessors in this list, so far as printed, and adding many of his own, incorporated suggestions received
from many quarters. With reference to Paradise Lost, he mentions particularly his obligations to a stock of MS. notes by DUNSTER (see Introd. p. 39), and to similar MS. notes by JOHN Bowle, the editor of Cervantes (1725-1788), and BENJAMIN STILLINGFLEET, grandson of Bishop Stillingfleet (1702-1771). These last had been prepared with a view to publication about 1745, but the author had been stopped in his intention by Newton's edition of Milton in 1749. Todd also acknowledges some use, in his second and later editions, of "
a small interleaved copy of Paradise Lost” that had been lent him, containing memoranda for notes, and some complete notes, by MR. CALLANDER (see previous article in this conspectus). He was not aware till after 1826 of the larger commentary that had been left by Callander; but the occasional specimens he gives from the memoranda in the interleaved copy were found by Mr. David Laing to agree pretty closely with the corresponding notes in the larger Callander commentary.
1831 and 1851. JOHN MITFORD (see Introd. p. 35). 1836. Sir EGERTON BRYDGES (see Introd. p. 35).
1840. J. PRENDEVILLE, B.A., in an edition of the Poem, with notes, partly original.
1843. The Rev. Dr. J. R. MAJOR, in an edition for schools, with notes.
1853. CHARLES DEXTER CLEVELAND, in an edition of the Poetical Works at Philadelphia, U.S. ; re-issued in London 1865 (see Introd. p. 36).
1859. KEIGHTLEY (see Introd. pp. 35, 36).
To these may be added Mr. R. C. BROWNE, M.A., in his edition of the English Poems of John Milton, for the Clarendon Press Series (1870), and MR. JOHN M. Ross, in an edition for schools of a selection of Milton's Poems, including Books I.-IV. of Paradise Lost, with Life and Notes (1871). To comments on Paradise Lost, or on passages in it, to be found dispersed among the writings of English and Scottish critics of the last and the present century, from Monboddo and Blair to Coleridge, Landor, De Quincey, and others yet more recent, it is needless here to make more than a general reference.
On the vast accumulation of notes represented by the foregoing conspectus, and the extent to which they have been consulted and used by the present editor, the following remarks may be necessary :1.) A very large proportion of the notes, repeated, with or without variation of
expression, by editor after editor, are such as any editor would inevitably make for himself who should address himself to his task with any proper degree of attention. Unusual words or constructions have to be pointed out; passages of difficult meaning have to be unravelled; texts of Scripture that were in the poet's mind have to be discovered and cited ; his numerous mythological, geographical, and historical allusions have to be explained, wherever they pass the bounds of the knowledge that may be taken for granted in every reader; all that learning of which the poem is so full has to be detected, and elucidated for the majority of readers by the information they cannot be supposed to have directly at hand. Now, in such a process, every painstaking editor, even if he should go through it absolutely for himself, will necessarily stop, in most instances, at the very lines and passages at which previous commentators have stopped ; and, in his notes on these lines and passages, suggested by his own study of the text, or prepared by due consultation of dictionaries, concordances, and other works of reference, he will necessarily say very much the same things as have been said at the same places by previous commentators. A glance or two into any of the more copious commentaries in succession will verify this remark. No commentator on Paradise Lost has surpassed the first one-Patrick Hume, pilotolumnsin the industry with which he traversed the whole ground, and offered explanations, according to his lights, of all that seemed to require explanation; and, though there have been acuter and finer critics of the Poem since, a great part of the body of the notes that fill all the chief editions may be regarded as a kind of common property, appertaining, so far as the intrinsic matter is concerned, to no editor in particular, but rather to that very business and tradition of Milton editorship which Hume began. The notes of previous commentators are, in short, in many cases, mere indications to a new editor of the points at which annotation is desirable ; and he may either give, within quotation marks, a selection of such notes as he likes best, retaining the words of the particular commentators who furnished them, or try to re-express the essence of all the previous comments, so as to omit nothing of value, adding touches of his own, and perhaps by the very mode of expression adapting old information to modern needs and tastes. This last has been, on the whole, the plan adopted in the notes for the present edition. Seldom, by merely quoting the notes of a previous commentator, or even several such notes by different commentators, could I feel that I
did justice to the passage, or to the total commentation that had been bestowed upon it; and I have generally preferred, therefore, to digest all that seemed to me of value, sometimes condensing, sometimes expanding, and always adding where I thought there might be increased precision or emphasis. It has been my principle, however, consistently with this plan, to recognise as constantly and minutely as I could the duty of ascribing to preceding commentators all that belongs to them. Wherever a comment has seemed to me peculiarly good or happy, I have cited it or quoted it verbatim, in connexion with the commentator's name; and in no case have I consciously suppressed the name of a previous commentator, while appropriating any observation of his to which, on any ground whatsoever, I thought credit could be attached. I hope, indeed, it will be found that I have erred by excess and scrupulousness of acknowledgment, rather than by the opposite. (2.) A class of Notes in respect of which acknowledgment of the work of previous commentators is particularly due consists of those in which Milton's reminiscences of Greek and Latin authors, or of Italian authors, or of English authors preceding himself, or contemporary with himself, are traced and verified by actual quotations of the passages he had in his memory, or in which passages of his text where no such conscious borrowing on his part can be alleged are yet illustrated by the quotation of parallel passages from Greek, Latin, Italian, or English poets. Of the commentators known to me those who have done most in this style of annotation are Patrick Hume, Bentley, Bishop Newton and his coadjutors, Todd and his coadjutors, Mr. Keightley, and Mr. Browne ; and, in citing, after them, parallel passages which Milton must have had in recollection, or which are interesting as coincidences with his text, I have tried, even in cases where the passages might be considered stockquotations familiar to all scholars, to ascribe each reference to the critic who first made it. On the whole, however, thinking that this style of annotation has been considerably overdone, and that many of the so-called parallel passages cited by Hume, Newton, and Todd, are very far-fetched, and illustrate nothing specifically relating to Milton, but only a certain community of ideas and phraseology among all poets (see Introd. p. 56), I have put limits to my reproduction of matter of this kind. In cases of clear reminiscence or appropriation, or of very close and interesting parallelism, I have generally quoted the parallel passage textually; but, where the resemblance is more vague and general, or