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already been seen on the continent. If he pro
been in manuscript; if it was in manuscript, the sort of praise which he received, renders it likely, that it was part of an epic poem; and, if it was an epic poem, there can be little doubt, that it was Paradise Lost.
We are told by Aubrey, indeed, that he began the work about two years before the king was restored; and finished it about three years after.* But we do not rely implicitly upon this statement. Aubrey might easily mistake a resumption for the beginning; and it seems to be agreed, by all the other biographers, that Milton commenced the poem much earlier than the date here assigned, and continued to write it, in detached parcels, as the intervals of public business would permit. Phillips says, he saw some of the verses, in the fourth book, sixteen years before the author went seriously to work at the poem.f He adds, it is true, that they were then designed as the opening of a tragedy; but perhaps this fact may be very naturally accounted for. Nothing is more certain, than that his original intention was to write an epic;t and, when he afterwards concluded to run his materials into a tragedy, it was probably because his engagement in public business and political disputes left him no time to undertake a longer work. Then he became a violent enemy to theatres; and would, it is likely, write nothing, which might seem calculated for the stage. His design, therefore, was again changed; and, some biographers have supposed,' says Mr. Todd, that he began to mould (re-mould) Paradise Lost into an epic form, soon after he was disengaged from his controversy with Salmasius.'* Dr. Newton seems to think, that the whole poem was composed after the restoration; and he says, 'considering the difficulties under which the author lay,-his uneasi. ness on account of public affairs and his own, his age and infirmities, his not being in circumstances to maintain an amanuensis, but obliged to make use of any hand that came next to write his verses as he made them, it is really wonderful that he should have the spirit to undertake such a work, and much more that he should ever bring it to perfection.' Shall we believe a wonder, or try to account for the fact, upon principles, which belong to this world ? For our own parts, we are inclined to think, that some progress was made in Paradise Lost dur. ing the five years, which the author spent at his father's, immediately after quitting the university; and perhaps it is worth mentioning, that the anonymous French translator of his treatise on Education asks, 'Son Paradis Perdu n'est il pas l'ouvrage de sa jeunesse. ?'"
* Ap. Gouw. p.314.
+ Id. ibid, and Phi. p. 376. A Reas. Ch. Gov. Introd. B. II. Whether the epic form, whereof the two poems of Homer, or those other two of Virgil and Tasso, are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief, model; or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to be fol lowed, &c,
We do not, however, place unbounded confidence in this deduction; and still less are we disposed to rely upon that, by which so many persons have endeavoured to show us how and where Milton acquired his first idea. We know not, that criticism can be employed in a more ungrateful office than that of attempting, at the distance of almost two centuries, to ascertain the circumstance, by which a par ticular thought was suggested to an author's mind. It is by no means probable, that Milton could even have told himself. The seeds of thought are scattered upon us by accident; and we often find ourselves teeming with conceptions, without knowing whence they took root. The fall of Adam is the
first and the greatest event in the history of mankind. It is peculiarly calculated to strike the imagination; and, if, indeed, there be any one subject more likely, than others, to invite the attention, and provoke the efforts, of the poet, it is 'Man's first disobedience and the fruit of the forbidden tree."* The sagacity of the book hunters has accordingly ferreted out poems and plays concerning Adam and Paradise, in almost all the languages of Europe. Every antiquary produces his own book; and, as the price of discovery, will have it, that Milton's idea could have been derived from no other possible source. Their researche's take every different direction; yet all find the author out:-all exclaim, in turn, Euproc! supnice!
The first is Voltaire; who, in his Essay on epic poetry, published in 1727, has not the least doubt, that we owe Paradise Lost to an Italian tragedy, called Adamo, which begins with a chorus of angels,
Let the rainbow be the fiddlestick of the heavens! Let the planets be the notes of our music! Let Time beat carefully the measure, and the winds make the sharps. There is actually such a book; and it was published, too, more than forty years be.
* Accordingly, the Monke, in Chaucer's Tales, first defines Tragedie, and then tells his hearers, that he shall entertain tbem with a few pieces of that description. His first tragedie is Lucifer; the second, Ailnm ; and the third, Sampson. But a still stronger con. firmation of our remark, is, that the first theatrical performanre, ever written in Europe, was the Mystery of the Passion, composed by a pilgrim from the Holy Land, between the twelfth and thir. teenth centuries. The rehearsal occupied several days; and, in: stead of acts, it was divided into journées. The example was soon followed ; and, the whole of the Old and New Testament was, at length, turned into Mysteries and Moralities. Some of these could not be acted in forty days; and the Mystery of the Passion alone, says M. De Sismondi, is equal to all the rest of our tragedies put to. gether. Vol. i. p. 331. During ihe sisteenth century, more than 1000 comedies were written in Italy; and, from 1500 to 1736, more than 5000 were printed. Jbidl. vol. ii. p. 238. Among these, the antiquaries have found some upon the subject of Adam's Fall; and Milton, therefore, say they, could only have drawn his hint tiram this source!
fore the appearance of Paradise Lost. Yet, when Dr. Birch wrote the Life of Milton, so universal a reader as Warburton says, Voltaire's tale is all a vision.' Dr. Johnson calls it a 'wild, unauthorized story;' and Mr. Mickle, in the preface to his Lusiad, asserts, that the Adamo is a comedy, which nobody ever saw ;' and that even some Italian literati declared their ignorance of any such person as the pretended author. We do not say, that Milton never read so obscure a book: we only say, that these facts do not prove, that he ever did. There is some resemblance, we confess, between the play of Adreini and the intended tragedy of Milton: but the similarity is by no means sufficient to suppose an imitation; and we question, indeed, whether any two different writers, upon the same subject, could help resembling each other as much. There must be Adam and Eve, and the angels, and the devils, in every such performance; and, though both Milton and Adreini have introduced allegorical persons, the different things, which they have respectively chosen to personify, will be sufficient, perhaps, to disprove the supposition of plagiarism.
The second discoverer is Dr. Pearce; who, in his Review of Milton's text, says, “it is probable that he took the first hint of the poem from an Italian tragedy, called I Paradiso Perso;** which Italian tragedy, however, was never seen by the reviewer, and has subsequently eluded the researches both of Mr. Hayley and of Mr. Todd. Next comes the anonymous editor of the Rev.J. Sterling's works. Milton, we now learn, ‘ingenuously confessed, that he owed his immortal work to Mr. Fletcher's Locustae;'t a Latin poem, which appeared in 1625; and which, because it contains some lines like Milton's, must necessarily have given rise to Paradise Last. At length, Mr. Lauder makes a discovery equal to
* Rev. Lond. 1733. Pref,
+ Pref. Dublin, 1734.
all these three put together. Milton is found to be *the worst and greatest of all plagiars;** and we have a list of the authors, to whom he is indebted, with a quotation of the passages, which he more immediately copied, Bishop Douglas has proved, that many of the parallel passages were the result of the critic's own ingenuity; but Milton's blindest worshippers are obliged to confess, that, in many places, he and Grotius thought very much alike. The
Adamus Exul of the latter was published at the Hague, in 1601.
In 1792, one Baron de Harold was employed, at Dusseldorf, in translating a Latin poem, called the Christiad; written by a Carthusian monk in the convent of Newport, near Ostend, and, in the baron's opinion, not a little the worse for Milton's depredations. It was unlucky, that the Christiad was printed at Burges, in 1678; when Paradise Lost had been published at least ten years. The Scena Tragica d'Adamo ed Eva, a prose drama, by Lancetta, does not labour under the disadvantage of having appeared after the work, of which it is said to have been the occasion. It was published in Venice, in 1644; and, because the address to the reader suggests the fitness of the subject for a heroic poem, Mr. Haley thinks, conjecture will easily infer, that Milton must have proceeded upon that hint. Yet he knows not but “a sceptical critic' might discountenance the supposition, 'that the poet ever saw a little volume, not published until after his return from Italy, and written by an author so obscure, that his name does not occur in Tiraboschi's elaborate history of Italian literature; nor in the patient Italian chronicler of poets, Quadrio, though he bestows a chapter on early dramatic compositions in prose.'t Mr. Hayley is at liberty to call usósceptics,' if it is for disbelieving this. He afterwards proceeds
• Ess. on Milt. Use and Imit. of the Mol. Lond. 1750.
Hayl. p. 266.