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CHARLES DEXTER CLEVELAND,
AUTHOR OF THE COMPENDIUMS OF ENGLISH,
AMERICAN AND CLASSICAL
a New Edition.
" It will not be too much to say, that of all uninspired writings, (if these be uninspired,)
" That fervid Genius, which has cast a sort of shade upon all the other works of man."
Any attempt, however humble, to make the Poems of Milton more widely circulated, intelligently read, and wisely appreciated, needs no apology. I may state, however, the simple incident to which the present edition owes its origin. Some years ago, when preparing my Compendium of English Literature," I had occasion to look at Todd's “ Verbal Index" to Milton, in connection with “ Lycidas," and found the first two references to which I turned, to be wrong. Surprised at this, I soon after, at my leisure, compared every word in “ Lycidas” with this Index, and found, in its references to that short poem of one hundred and ninety-three lines, SIXTY-THREE mistakes! This discovery made me resolve to prepare, as early as my numerous engagements would permit, an edition of Milton's Poems, with an Index subjoined on which some reliance for accuracy might be placed. But though I began the examination of Todd's Index more than three years ago, so laborious has been the work that I have been able but recently to bring it to a close. The result is, that, after two careful examinations, (in the first of which I was assisted, in some portions, by two or three literary friends,) there have been found THREE THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-TWO mistakes! This I could scarcely believe, had I not marked the number on each page at its foot, and had not the careful addition of the figures brought about the astounding result; so that, on the whole, the work of examining and comparing Todd's Index has been about equivalent to that of making out, independently, an entirely new one. I need hardly say how richly I have been repaid for my labour, in my constant communings, day by day, with the mind of the immortal bard, whose astonishing learning and genius have continually excited in me fresh admiration and delight. No work could more amply bring with it its own rich rewarid.
While I sit with thee, I seem in Heaven ;
Par. Lost, vini, 210.
Great pains have also been taken to present a correct text. Sir Egerton Brydges' London edition, in six volumes, was put into the hands of the printer to “set up” from ; but the proofs have, from the outset, been read and compared with three other editions, namely, Todd's, 7 vols., London, 1809; Mitford's " Aldine,” 3 vols., London, 1845; and “ Milton's own," as reprinted by Pickering, 6 vols., London, 1851. It was well that this care was taken, for numerous errors were found throughout in the text of Brydges. I claim not, of course, that my edition is immaculate : but I can truly say that great and unwearied pains have been taken to avoid errors both in the text and in the Index.
The notes, with the preliminary and subsequent "Remarks" to each poem, have mainly been selected from the numerous preceding annotators, with such discrimination, and I hope it may be thought with such taste, as a work like this demands. It would have been easy to swell these to any extent; but a book is not always valuable in proportion to its size, and my great aim in preparing this edition of Milton was, to have one that, while it would be critical enough for the scholar, full enough for the general reader, and beautiful enough for the table of the opulent, should, above all, be cheap enough for the school-room and for the dwellings of those whose limited means prevent them from buying expensive books.
It is now twelve years since my first edition of the Poetical Works of Milton was published. Though subjected, extensively, to the scrutiny of private scholarship and of public criticism, but a few trifling errors in the text and index—about a dozen in all—have been, from time to time, discovered. All these have, of course, been corrected; and the author hopes that his work, as now presented to the English public will meet still more fully the exacting demands of the student, as it has always seemed to gratify the tastes and fulfil the purposes of the general reader.
CHARLES DEXTER CLEVELAND.
Philadelphia, July 1, 1865.