The first Latin Paradise Lost
William Hogg, b. ca. 1652, transl.,
Paraphrasis poetica in tria Johannis Miltoni . . . poemata, viz. Paradisum amissum, Paradisum recuperatum, et Samsonem Agonisten.
Londini: typis Johannis Darby, 1690. Later blind-tooled calf.
This first translation of Milton's English poems for the fast-diminishing international community of neo-Latinists is actually rarer than any of the early English editions of Paradise Lost. Hogg, a Scot from Gowrie in Perthshire, based his translation on the original ten-book version, not the twelve-book revision. The volume remains fascinating evidence of the learned context within which Milton's reputation was achieved.
Milton's earliest biographers
"The Life of Milton ,"
in William Godwin, 1756-1836, Lives of Edward and John Philips, nephews and pupils of Milton. Including various particulars of the literary and political history of their times.
London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1815. From the library of William Beckford (1760-1844), with his manuscript notes, and later in the library of Lord Roseberry (1847-1929).
Along with the contemporary inquiries of the dyspeptic Oxford antiquary John Aubrey, the accounts of Milton's life by his two nephews provide the fullest early biographical evidence. John Phillips's life long remained anonymous, but Edward's was first published as early as 1694, in his edition of his uncle's State Letters. This life of the Phillips brothers themselves, by Mary Shelley's anarchist father, exemplifies the post-French Revolution surge of interest in Milton as a harbinger of literary radicalism.
An early eighteenth-century literary reference book
Giles Jacob, 1686-1744,
"Mr. John Milton,"
in Poetical register: or the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets. Volume II.
London: W. Mears, 1724. Contemporary calf.
Jacob, an unsuccessful playwright and poet but an indefatigable compiler of legal reference texts, was blasted by Pope in the Dunciad as the "Blunderbuss of Law." This work (the first volume had been differently titled as An historical account of the lives and writings of our most considerable English poets) is fairly representative of general 18th century knowledge about Milton and his works. Milton in fact occurs in both volumes; here Jacob concludes that "He was the fullest and loftiest Poet we ever had."
Dr. Johnson on Milton, I
Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784,
"Prologue, Spoken by Mr. Garrick, April 5, 1750, before the Masque of Comus,"
in his Poetical Works.
London: W. Osborne . . . Gainsborough: J. Mozley, 1785.
Johnson's prologue was composed for a special benefit performance at Drury Lane, on behalf of Milton's granddaughter.
Dr. Johnson on Milton, II
in his Lives of the English Poets; and a criticism on their works.
3 vols. Dublin: Whitestone, Williams, Colles, Wilson, 1779-1781. Signatures of Charles Pinckney, dated April 18, 1791, Charleston, vols. 1 and 3.
In spite of Dr. Johnson's dislike of Milton's politics, and his stringent criticism of such early poems asLycidas, his life, originally intended simply as the preface to a bookseller's reprint series, remained among the most widely-disseminated introductions to Milton well into the next century.
Milton in France, I
Nicolas François Dupré de Saint-Maur, 1695-1774, transl.
Le Paradis perdu de Milton. Poeme heroique, traduit de l'anglois, avec les remarques de Mr. Addisson.
2 ed., revûe & corrigée. 3 vols. Pari: Cailleau [etc.], 1729. Original rust-coloured, paste paper boards.
Dupré's was the first French translation, originally published in 1727. Until Dupré, Addison's essay on Milton had been excluded from French editions of the Spectator, because there was no French translation of the poetry he was discussing.
Milton in France, II
An essay upon the civil wars of France, extracted from curious manuscripts : And also upon the epick poetry of the European nations from Homer down to Milton by Mr. de Voltaire, author of the Henriade.
2d ed., corrected by Himself. London : Printed for N. Prevost and Comp., 1728.
This startling French tribute to the stature of Milton as epicist expresses surprise that an achievement such as Milton's should be possible in English and praises him particularly, not for his treatment of religious themes but for realism in human description.
Milton in France, III
Le Paradise perdu: poëme par Milton; édition en anglais et en français; ornée de douze estampes imprimées en couleur d'après les tableaux de M. Schall.
2 vols. Pari: Chez Defer de Maisonneuve . . . 1792. Modern brown quarter calf binding, marbled boards.
Hail, wedded love, mysterious law. . . .
Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets
Paradise Lost, Book IV
Each generation rereads Milton for itself, as this engraving of Eden exemplifies. This handsome edition is notable not only for its chronological link to the French revolution, but for having the illustrations colored uniformly from engraved plates rather than by hand after printing was
Milton and Romantic literary biography
William Hayley, 1745-1820.
The life of Milton, in three parts. To which are added, Conjectures on the origin of Paradise lost: with an appendix.. The second ed., considerably enlarged.
London: T. Cadell, junior [etc.] 1796.
Hayley, a minor poet and the friend and patron of several artists, including Blake, also wrote an influential biography of William Cowper. His life of Milton was originally published in 1794 for a new Milton edition, and then expanded for separate publication two years later. Hayley was concerned especially to move beyond mere biographical narrative into critical comment and quotation from the poems themselves.
This signed pencil illustration does not appear to correspond to any of the engravings for "L'Allegro" in William Hayley's earlier large-format 3-volume Milton edition (1794-1797), to which Westall had contributed the illustrations.
The quest for biographical documents
Henry John Todd, 1763-1845.
Some account of the life and writings of John Milton, derived principally from documents in His Majesty's State-paper office, now first published.
London: C. and J. Rivington [etc.] 1826. Calf: South Carolina College Library Collection.
The attempt to ground Milton biography firmly in original evidence had begun with the redoubtable Dr. Thomas Birch (1705-1766), who included a new life in his edition of Milton's prose, 1738, and Francis Peck, who published his New Memoirs in 1740. Todd, who had published an expanded variorum Milton in 1801, was the first biographer to make full use of the Trinity Manuscript, as well as of government documents.
Milton and early Victorian reform
Joseph Ivimey, 1773-1834.
John Milton: his life and times, religious and political opinions: with an appendix, containing animadversions upon Dr. Johnson's life of Milton, etc., etc.
London: Effingham Wilson, 1833. Original cloth, paper spine label.
The subtitle of Ivimey's book indicates the political focus of his interest, as does his publisher: Effingham Wilson was Shelley's publisher and a strong proponent of Parliamentary reform.
A pocket Paradise Lost from the 1820s
Paradise lost : a poem in twelve books.
London : Jones & Company, 1829.
Jones's Diamond poets. Original raised ripple grain purple silk, gold printed black paper lettering-label on spine. Gilt edges.
The greater exactness of printing with the iron press, cheaper thinner papers, and the development of publisher's cloth bindings combined to make technically feasible these tiny gift or pocket editions in diamond' type.
Brydges on Milton
Sir Egerton Brydges, 1762-1837.
The life of John Milton.
London: J. Macrone, 1835. Original brown cloth, blind-stamped.
Brydges's numerous literary publications included his revision of Phillips's Theatrum Poetarum (1800) and his British Bibliographer (1810-1814). This brief life, originally issued as volume 1 of Brydges's Milton edition, is part of Thomas Cooper Library's extensive collection of Brydges's writings.
Milton and the Victorian literary pilgrimage
William Howitt, 1792-1879.
Homes and haunts of the most eminent British poets.
The illustrations by W. and G. Measom.
2 vols. London: R. Bentley, 1847. Rebound.
Although a great deal of documentary evidence survives about Milton, because he was primarily a Londoner, very few of the buildings in which he lived reached even the Victorian period. The cottage at Chalfont St. Giles, outside London in Buckinghamshire, to which Milton had moved briefly in 1665 to avoid the Great Plague, fitted the rather sentimental image mid-Victorians like Howitt preferred for the poet, but was hardly representative of most of his life.
Among artists who illustrated Milton, or drew on him for inspiration, most attention has been paid to William Blake, though other illustrators (Westall, Birket Foster) were arguably more influential in their time. The French illustrator Gustave Dore (who also illustrated Dante, Coleridge and Tennyson, as well as producing haunting images of Victorian city slums) developed a distinctively phantasmagoric take on Milton's poetry, though his work is often undervalued because of the relatively cheap materials from which his widely-selling books were manufactured.
Tennyson, like Milton, had been a student at Cambridge, and his greatest poem, In Memoriam
(1850) consciously echoes Milton's Cambridge elegy Lycidas. In this brief tribute, Tennyson acknowledges Milton's epic power, the "God-gifted organ voice of England," but prefers his gentler, more idyllic poetry, in "the bowery loveliness of Eden."
Robert Bridges on Milton
Robert Seymour Bridges, 1844-1930.
On the prosody of Paradise regained and Samson Agonistes. Being a supplement to the paper On the elements of Milton's blank verse in Paradise lost, which is printed in the Rev. H. C. Beeching's edition of Paradise lost, bk. I, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
London: B. H. Blackwell, 1889. Original gray wrappers. Ewelme Collection of Robert Bridges.
As Gerard Manley Hopkins's correspondent and editor, the future poet laureate Robert Bridges had a special interest in prosodic analysis. Thomas Cooper Library's Ewelme Collection contains several forms of this item, of which this is the earliest.