Page images

In editing Comus and Arcades I have tried to illustrate
the fact that each—especially Comuswas written with a
view to actual representation. Remarks therefore have
been made in the notes upon the probable details of the
performance of either piece; and with the same object a
sketch (necessarily brief) of the history of the Masque has
been given in the Introduction. Mr Fleay's great work, the
Chronicle History of the stage, contains the facts that bear
on the development of the Masque, and Mr Symonds in
his Shaksperi's Predecessors furnishes exactly the criticism
that we want, and from him should expect. To each I.
owe a considerable debt.

Mr Leonard Whibley, of Pembroke College, kindly read
through the proof-sheets of the Introduction, offering much
friendly and valuable criticism.




Milton's life falls into three clearly defined divisions. The first period ends with the poet's return from Italy

The three in 1639; the second at the Restoration in 1660, periods in Mil

ton's life. when release from the fetters of politics enabled him to remind the world that he was a great poet, if not a great controversialist; the third is brought to a close with his death in 1674. The poems given in the present volume date from the first of these periods; but it has been judged convenient that we should summarise briefly the main events of all three.

John Milton was born on December 9, 1608, in London. He came, in his own words, ex genere honesto. A Born 1608; the family of Miltons had been settled in Oxfordshire poet's father. since the reign of Elizabeth. The poet's father had been educated at an Oxford school, possibly as a chorister in one of the College choir-schools, and imbibing Anglican sympathies had conformed to the Established Church. For this he was disinherited by his father. He settled in London, following the profession of scrivener. A scrivener combined the occupations of lawyer and law-stationer. It appears to have been a lucrative calling ; certainly John Milton (the poet was named after the father) attained to easy circumstances. He married about 1600, and had six children, of whom several died young. The third child was the poet.

The elder Milton was evidently a man of considerable culture, in particular an accomplished musician, and a com

« PreviousContinue »