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THE prominent position which you
hold in the literature and talent of the Country, would point you out as the scholar to whom I could, with the greatest propriety, dedicate this Edition of the great work of our great Poet. But, independently of your Lordship’s personal eminence, the literary association of the name of Egerton with that of Milton, the poet-for it is one of the many signal honours of your old and noble line, that your ancestors, the Earls of Bridgewater, whose fortune, and whose zeal for literature
you inherit, were the most distinguished of his early friends and patrons—renders this Dedication almost my duty : and if the Work meet with your Lordship's approbation, I shall consider it equivalent to the praise of the multitude.
I have the honour,
To subscribe myself,
Respectful and obedient Servant,
It is not necessary for me, in briefly and simply explaining the plan and object of this edition, to premise, with Bishop Newton, and other excellent critics on other authors, many remarks on the generally acknowledged advantage of good explanatory comments on celebrated works. Though all admire Paradise Lost as the greatest poem in our language, or of modern ages; while most of the eminent literati contend for its supremacy over any poem in any language, or age; though it is a work now more generally read and esteemed, than any other poetic work ever published ; yet it is a fact to be regretted, that comparatively but a few fully understand it. This general ignorance results from the character of the poem, and of the commentaries upon it: such an abundance of profound erudition, and of all the embellishments of poetry, has been condensed in it, that even a sound scholar, if unaided, should expend in acquiring a correct knowledge of it the labour of years; and those good editions are so voluminous and expensive, that many who could afford to purchase them, would not undergo the labour of their perusal; and many who would undergo it, could not well afford to purchase them. The editions by Bishop Newton and the Rev. Dr. Todd are the best-indeed the only editions that can be considered as at all treating the subject with any approach to fulness.
Of Newton's edition of Milton's poetic works, 2 vols. large 4to. are occupied with Paradise Lost; and of Todd's, 4 vols. large 8vo.; prefatory matter included. But though Newton, independently of his own extensive learning, drew largely from the commentaries of his predecessors, and obtained liberal contributions from many of his learned contemporaries; and though Todd freely used Newton's edition-received many subsidiary comments from