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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
Of Newton's edition of Milton's poetic works, 2 vols. large
other sources, and introduced with great industry much new matter, either as explanatory of the text, or by way of parallel illustration, from other authors, ancient and modern; still it appeared to me, that in very many important passages there was a void of useful elucidation, while in others there was a tedious superabundance; and on others, again, opinions were asserted which were palpably wrong. I conceived, then, long since, the idea of giving an edition of this poem, embodying, often the words, and sometimes the essence of whatever I could find practically instructive in all the previous editions, and commentaries, together with the subsidiary remarks that I have been compiling, during a careful examination of the book for many years; thus, by omitting what is really useless in these editions, and supplying what was necessary, furnishing to the learned and unlearned reader, in a single and a cheap volume, a complete and easily understood commentary. Even a judicious condensation of the copious, critical, and explanatory remarks of antecedent annotators would be an acceptable offering: but if I add to this explanations of many difficult passages overlooked, or misunderstood by my predecessors, and among these some of the most difficult, as to syntaxical structure; if I add explanations of many of his most idiomatic and classical phrases and expressions; and besides, give new illustrations from the best ancient authors, the offering of this edition must be more acceptable still. I shall beg leave to mention only one example of the new matter I have introduced. Milton's Catalogue of the Fallen Angels, Book I. is considered the most elaborately learned passage of the whole poem. Newton's explanations on it, which have been adopted by all succeeding commentators, are considered the best; but, however, they are few; chiefly derived from scriptural history, and utterly inadequate to the importance of the subject in its various applications. I consulted many other antiquarian authorities which could best elucidate the subject, especially the learned Selden's "Syntagmata De Diis Syriis," and Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible, a work which is indispensable to every biblical scholar.
As I wished to consult not alone utility, but brevity, all through this commentary, I have often given the substance merely (faithfully however) of a note of a commentator, especially if a long one; and often when two or more commentators have given in
different words the same explanation of a passage, or have severally expounded several parts of a passage, I have fused all these together, so as to give, for the sake of perspicuity, a consecutive and even exposition of the whole, affixing to the note the initials of their names. Whenever I found the commentator's words brief and explicit enough, I have given them. Whenever there have been many conflicting opinions, I have given the main points, and compared them, so as to enable the reader to form his own judgment, while I express my own. I often, too, intersperse in the notes ascribed to others, remarks of my own, in order to render the explanation more complete. Without swelling out the work by giving many objections, I have so shaped the answers, as to let the reader know what these objections are, while they are fully refuted. The following are the initials of the principal authorities referred to in the Notes.
The notes to which no initial letter is affixed, I hold myself responsible for; of these many have been derived from various sources, and many are exclusively my own. Of my own notes it is enough for me to say, that they have been only given to rectify the misinterpretations, or supply the omissions of former commentators; or to explain difficult passages which these commentators did not explain. My own notes can be easily distinguished, for I speak in the first person, so that I alone am entitled to blame or praise for them. In unravelling the structure of many of Milton's sentences, I have often found it necessary to analyse them on classical principles, differently from those who judge of them according to the rules of English composition. The fact is, his style is peculiar to himself, embodying all the graces and peculiarities of the ancient tongues.
This Edition I have not designed as a full exposition of Paradise Lost, merely for the general reader; but I have had a higher object in view-to treat the book as a classical work (and it is in this view it ought chiefly to be examined)-on such a principle to expound it, and make it as familiar in the high schools and the colleges, as the works of Homer and Virgil. Some years ago I remarked in a note on the third Book of the first volume of my edition of Livy, when explaining some peculiarities of phrase and sentiment by quoting an illustrative passage from Milton, that the introduction of Paradise Lost, as a class book, would much promote the advancement of classical literature. This opinion, deliberately formed then, has been strengthened by my subsequent experience, and the judgment of the most judicious scholars I have known; and indeed this opinion seems now to be general.
One great cause of the distaste (not to enumerate many others) of boys at school, and even of students in the universities, towards classical literature is, that the classics exhibit to them structures of phrase, combinations of words, and their application; uses of metaphor, illustration, and comparison; turns of thought, and their manifold modes of allusion, so inconsistent with the common principles and rules of English composition, that they too often acquire a little knowledge of them mechanically, to pass examination, and for this purpose only. But if an English book, as a necessary subject of study, were introduced to them-a book that from their infancy they were taught to admire, even though they may not have read it, or having read it, may not have well understood it— a book that embraced all the peculiarities of the style and sentiment of the classics, and by softening down their old and rugged character, made them familiar and alluring, through the graces and the majesty of the most refined and the loftiest poetry;-if such a book were used as a class book, accompanied with an ample (though briefly expressed) commentary, I am persuaded that the cause of classical and polite literature would be much advanced.
It is not alone as a subsidium to classical instruction that this book is useful; it is preeminently useful for an easy, a pleasing, and complete acquisition of a knowledge of all the great elementary truths and facts of the Bible. When Milton