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N the ordinary course of writing for Tlze Speflator, Addison determined upon a sumQF mary expofition of Paradifl- Losl; intending in some four or half a dozen papers, 'to give a general Idea of its Graces and Imperfections.' Though his subject was a recent masterwork, it was then comparatively unknown and certainly inadequately appreciated. Addison's purpose was to make Milton's great Epic popular. His sense of the indifference and prejudices to be overcome, may be gathered,,not only from his, at first, guarded and argued praise of Milton ; his large comparative criticism of Homer and Virgil, as if to make Milton the more acceptable ; but also from his announcement, fee page 25 : where, under the cover of a Commentary on the great and acceptedly-great name of Aristotle, he endeavours to get a hearing for the unknown Milton.
In accordance with this intention, at the close of his fixth paper,1- Addison announces the termination of the criticism on the following Saturday. The essays, however, had met with an unexpected success. So that their author -the subject growing eafily under his hand-was induced, instead of offering samples of the Beauties of the poem, in one essay, to give a separate paper to those in each of the twelve books of Paradzs e Losl. His caution however prevented him even then, from announcing his fresh purpose, until he was well on in his work ; entering upon the confideration of the Fourth Book.5
These conditions of production not only show the tentativenefs of the criticism, but account in part for the treatment of the subject. In particular, for the repetition in expanded form in its later essays, .of arguments, opinions, 8zc., epitomized in the earlier 'l' p.'49. 5 P- 75
ones. As, for infiance ; the impropriety of Allegory in Epic poetry.
These papers do not embody the writer's entire mind on the subject. Limited as he was in time, to a week ; in space, to the three or four columns of the Saturday folio: he was still more limited by the capacity, taite, and patience of his readers. Addison shows not a little art in the way in which, meting out his thought with the measure of his readers' minds, he endeavours rather to awaken them from indifference than to express his complete Observations. The whole four months' leffon
t PP- 54, 55
Possibly it is owing to the then absence of an equal acknowledgment in England of Dante, Addison's'consequent limitation of purpose, and the conditions of the production of this criticism, that there is no recognition therein of the great Italian Epic poet.
ADDISON'S CRITICISM ON MILTON'S 'PARADISE LOST..
' Editions not seen.
The various editions oi'.Tlze Spectator are omitted, for want of space! because the scarcity of its eerly issues, prevents anexzct list being given. See note on the three earliest issues, at p. lo.
1719. London. Notes on the Twelve Bouks of Paradise Lost,-Col
1 vol. lzino. lected from the SPECTATOR. Written by Mr.Addison.
London. The Poetical works of John Milton. Ed. by Rizv. 6 vols. 8vo. H. J. TODD, M.A. The criticism occupies i. 24-194. London. Selections from the Spectator, Tatler, Guardian, and
3 vols- 8vo. Freeholder. With a preliminary Essay 'py ANNA LAzTiTiA BARBAULD. The criticism occupies ii. 38-170.
London. Addison's works. Coilected by Mr. TICKELL. The 6 vols. Svo. criticism occupies ii. 83-221.
London. Addison's works. With notes by Bp. HURD. The 6 vols. Svo. criticism occupies iv. 78-208. . .
London. Second edition of No. 6. The cnticism occupies L 7 vols. 8vo. 1'-i 53.
London. Third edition of No. 6. The criticism, without quota6 vols. 8vo. tions, occupies ii. vii.-xcviii. . . . .
London. A new edition of No. 7. The ci-iticism occupies