1717 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Francis Atterbury to Alexander Pope, 8 November 1717; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 9:9-10.



I return your Milton, which, upon collation, I find to be revised and augmented in several places, as the title-page of my third edition pretends to be. When I see you next, I will show you the several passages altered, and added by the author, beside what you have mentioned to me.

I protest to you, this last perusal of him has given me such new degrees, I will not say of pleasure, but of admiration and astonishment, that I look upon the sublimity of Homer, and the majesty of Virgil, with somewhat less reverence than I used to do. I challenge you, with all your partiality, to show me in the first of these any thing equal to the Allegory of Sin and Death, either as to the greatness and justness of the invention, or the height and beauty of the colouring. What I looked upon as a rant of Barrow's, I now begin to think a serious truth, and could almost venture to set my hands to it:

Haec quicunque legit, tantum cecinisse putabit
Maeonidem Ranas, Virgilium Culices.*

But more of this when we meet. When I left the town the Duke of Buckingham continued so ill that he received no messages; oblige me so far as to let me know how he does: at the same time I shall know how you do, and that will be a double satisfaction to your, &c.

* The last couplet of the verses prefixed to the second edition of Paradise Lost, published in 1674. The writer was Samuel Barrow, M.D.