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are unimportant and may be forgotten ; if but that the attention may be riveted upon the picture. The thought of these English Writers is not dead. It slumbers. Understand and then subtract from it, the local colouring of time and circumstance, and it is instinct with life: either the noxious life of foul delusive error, or the ethereal life of Truth. We have not, as yet, in all things attained to the height of our Predecessors' far-feeing conception : and even the just measuring of their many mistakes and errors may not be time and effort thrown away.
While there is very much for us to learn from our Ancients, both in what they said and their manner of saying it; there bids fair to be an increasing number of learners among the Moderns. England is on the eve of a great Education, in the which the unlettered will become readers, the readers ftud ts, the students scholars. With this wider variety and increased power of the English mind, the diligent study of the national Literature and Language can hardly fail both to spread and to deepen. The number of such learners tends therefore to multiply, until it shall be reputed a disgrace to be ignorant of our mother tongue and of that which it enshrines.
There is also no better or more essential preparative for the outcome of a glorious literature in the Future than the careful ftudy and accurate appreciation of the treasures of the Past. The present Merchant Adventurer will esteem the English Reprints' to be crowned with a happy success; if-bringing those treasures, as from afar, to every one's home, and there displaying them to a more public gaze—they shall, in however insignificant a degree, tend to that happy End
The Printing Press, among many advantages, brough to its early possessors one constant perplexity, which however, assumed different forms to different minds The power of every man, of
educated by it immensely increased for good or for evil. The true-hearted grieved over the facility the press gave to the spread of error. The high-bred despot chafed at the new power ceaselessly exercised by the low-bred intellect in questioning and adjusting his prerogative, in destroying his would-be almightiness in the mind of the people, in bringing him under Law. The ministers of the religions then extant were alarmed at the ready promulgation of those restless inquiries into the ultimate nature of all things, left they should undermine
the foundations of civil society and ecclesiastical polity, and so reduce the world to chaotic confusion. Thus some from conscientious duty, others with a wicked satisfaction, all unitedly or in turn, joined in clogging the Press, in curtailing the new power that God in His Providence had bestowed upon mankind.
Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Milton—which, either for wilful misrepresentation or crass incapacity to appreciate his subject, is to his perpetual discredit-fairly represents the views of one side on the Liberty of the
Press, and through that the boundless liberty of human thought.
" The danger of such unbounded liberty, and the danger of bounding it, have produced a problem in the science of Government which human understanding seems hitherto unable to solve. If nothing may be published but what civil authority shall have previously approvel, power must always be the standard of
if every drcamer of innovations may propagate his projects, there can be no settlement; if every murmurer at government may diffuse discontent, there can be no peace ; and if every
sceptick in theology may teach his follies, there can be no reli: gion. The remedy against these evils is to punish the authors; for it is yet allowed that every society may punish, though not prevent, the publication of opinions, which that society shall think pernicious; but this punishment, though it may crush the author, promotes the book ; and it seems not more reasonable to leave the right of printing unrestrained, because writers may be afterwards censured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted, because by our laws we can hang a thief.”*
Milton's answer to this had been already written:
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience above all liberties. t ... Though all • Lives of English Poets, I., 153, 154. London, 1781. t p. 73
the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth,
As we learn from his Second Defence—written ten years after the present work—the singularly conceptive mind of Milton had grouped intn one cycle subjects of no apparent immediate connection. Episcopacy, Divorce, Education, Freedom of the Individual, Free dom of the Press, had, to his mind, one point of identity and contact, one connecting link,-Liberty. This, a cardinal thought of his entire life, seems to have almost overpowered him, as he saw the break-up
the tyranny of a few, and laying—for all coming ages
the foundations of that religious, civil, and domestic Liberty, which it is our happiness to enjoy.
Of that great cycle, the 'Areopagitica' occupies but a subordinate part, Milton classifying it under domestic liberty with divorce and education. He there also tells us, his purpose in writing it :
“I wrote my Areopagitica, in order to deliver the press from the restraints with which it was encumbered ; that the power
of determining what was true and what was false, what ought to be published and what to be suppressed, might no longer be entrusted to a few illiterate and illiberal individuals, who refused their sanction to any work which contained views or sentiments at all above the level of the vulgar superstition.”+
The following Orders, &c., have been reprinted; partly to give the groundwork of fact to Milton's argument; partly to show the strong hand and the blunt mind of our Ancestors in respect to the Press; and partly to assist to a more perfect realization of the an. Im tagonistic ideas and circumstances, in the midst of which, Milton conceived the 'Areopagitica,' and so to render more apparent its beauty and originality.
+ Profe Works, I., 259: St. Joha's Ed., 1848
D D E CRE E
Made the eleuenth day of July
last past. 1637.
Imprinted at London by Robert Barker
of John Bill. 1637.
In Camera Stellata coram Con
cilio ibidem, vndecimo die
great Seale of England, the most Reuerend Fa. ther in God the Lord Arch-Bishop of Canterbury his Grace, the Right Honorable and Right Reverend Father in God the Lord Bishop of London Lord high Treasurer of England, the Lord chiefe Iuftices, and the Lord chiefe Baron, touching the regulating of Printers and Founders of letters, whereof the Court hauing confideration, the said Decree was direčted and ordered to be here Recorded, and to the end the fame may be publique, and that euery one whom it may concerne may take notice thereof, The Court hath now also ordered, That the said Decree fall fpeedily be Printed, and that the same be sent to His Maiesties Printer for that
purpose. Whereas the three and twentieth day of Tune in the eight and i'wenireth yere of the reigne of the late Queene Elizabeth, ana before, diuers Decrees and Ordinances haue beene made for the better gouernment and regulating of Printers ana Friniing, which Orders and Decrees haue beene
founn by experience to be defective in fome particulars; Ana diuers abufes have fithence arifen, and beene practised by the craft and malice of wicked and euill difpofed persons, to the preiudice of the publike; And diuers libellous, seditious, and mutinous bookes haue beene vnduly printed, and other bookes and papers without licence, to the disturbance of the peace of the Church and State: For preuention whereof in time to come, It is now Ordered and Decreed, That the said former Decrees and Ordinances shall stand in force with these Additions, Explanations, and Alterations following, viz.