Page images
PDF
EPUB

ec

quelque chose pour peuvoir marker avec combien respect je suis, Monsieur, “ Votre tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur,

“ DANIEL ELSEVIER. d' Amsterdam, le 20me. Novembre 1676.

“ P.S. J'oubliois de vous dire, Monsieur, que le S'. Skinner n'y moy n'avois aucune part à ce qui a paru depuis peu du dit Milton ; et que je n'en avois jamais ouy parler que lorsque Mons?. Skinner le dit icy. Il m'avoit bien mandé par cydevant qu'un certain libraire de Londres avoit eu quelques lettres de quelqu un, qui les avoit derobé au feu Milton ; mais ny luy ny moy n'avois eu aucune part à cette impression, de quoy je vous prie de vouloir estre persuadé."

It is worth observing, that Elzevir in this letter has expressed his indignation at the supposition of his printing the works of Milton, which had been written, he rightly says, in defence of an abominable cause; and yet, at this very time, his catalogue of books, which he announced for sale, supports that cause in no small degree by P exhibiting both the First and Second Defence of the People of England in his shop at a purchaser's servicé !

p Catalog. Libb. qui in Bibliopolio Danielis Elsevirii venales extant. Amst. 1674. Libb. Miscell. p. 121.

: ; But this letter from Elzevir to Sir Joseph Williamson shews that both Skinner and himself were disgusted at the conduct of the bookseller, who had eaused the imperfect copy of the State-Letters to be printed; who, as Skinner 9 supposes, was Moses Pitt, and against whom the charge is that he had obtained the letters from some person, who had purloined them from Milton. This probably was said in the spirit of hasty resentment, on account of the surreptitious publication ; without considering that, perhaps by purchase from Phillips, the letters might have become the property of this bookseller ; to whom, however, we can trace no connection whatever with the manuscript treatise of theology. Indeed the dates of Elzevir's letter and of Skinner's attestation plainly.shew, that with the genuine letters this treatise also had been sent by Skinner to Elzevir some months before Pitt had applied to him upon the subject of those in his possession ; to whose request, Skinner tells us, he could pay no attention ; évidently, because he had already sent to the foreign press what he could affirm to be correct; and bea cause the letters mentioned to him by Pitt he believed to have been stolen, and he knew to be imperfect. Pitt perhaps was aware of the intimacy of the family of Skinner with Milton, and therefore made this application.

Let us now revert a moment to the intimation

4 See before, p. 347.

ere

given to Skinner from his college, that they expected he would not “' publish any writing mischievous to the Church or State.If in this communication Dr. Barrow had alluded to the manuscript of the State-Letters alone, it would have been sufficient to have expressed the expectation that Skinner would publish nothing mischievous to the State, omitting all mention of the Church. If, on the other hand, it were currently reported and believed that Skinner was in the possession of a theological treatise also by Milton, differing in many respects from the received opinions, the admonition from his college not to injure Church or State" by publication is pertinent and just. And it is to this treatise, not to the State-Letters, that the conversation of Skinner with Mr. Perwich refers. It is reasonable too to suppose, that Skinner might think it necessary then to give some pledge respecting a manuscript, of the precise nature and contents of which little could then be known, except that it had been composed by Milton and was in the possession of Skinner ; and perhaps to Sir Joseph Williamson he gave this satisfaction in his 'conversation with him. This I conclude to have been the theological treatise in question ; a portion of it, as I have already said, being transcribed in the same handwriting as the “ true perfect copy of the State-Let

See before, p. 297. • See the notice of Skinner's introduction to Sir Joseph Williamson in Elzevir's letter.

ters ;" which is proved to have been that of Daniel Skinner by the attestation signed by his own handwriting in the State-Paper Office. And in the subsequent and far greater part of the manuscript, it must not be forgotten, the hand of one of Milton's female amanuenses, always believed to be that of his daughter Deborah, is so obvious, in copying sentences, as to have recently occasioned the willing admission of many, Mr. Lemon has informed me, who have compared the Sonnet of Milton, before mentioned, which is in Trinity College, Cambridge, with this theological treatise, that the writer of these sentences is certainly one and the same person. With the recollection of this hand-writing, when I was first favoured with a sight of the treatise, I could not but consider the appearance of it as an attestation to the authenticity of the theological system,

If still it should be urged that this treatise may be a fabrication, to which the name of Milton is unjustly applied; we may ask, to what purpose could the fabrication be designed ? Could it be for gain? That is an improbable supposition, when we recollect that, not long before, the manuscript of Paradise Lost could obtain at first no more than five pounds from the purchaser. Or was this “ wild young man" bribed to affix, for the purpose of patronizing heresy, the name of Milton to a compilation not his own ? Would he have then suffered the other handwritings in the greater part of the manuscript to remain ? Would his attempt to deceive have escaped the knowledge of Milton's relations, of whont, no doubt, inquiry was made by the agents of government after such papers as Milton had left, and from whom it is reasonable to suppose that the int formation was received, (which has descended to us by means of Aubrey and Wood, that in the hands of Mr. Skinner the Idea Theologia was to be found? Or was the genuine manuscript of Milton lost? If that had been its fate, Phillips would probably have told us so; for he names, we have seen, a tractate of divinity begun from Wollebius and. Ames &c. as a subject of future discussion, which, we know not why, he chose to forget. The real manuscript had been first, we must suppose, with Cyriack Skinner; then with Daniel ; by whom, or by whose order, lastly, it was directed back to Mr. Skinner, merchant, when danger seemed to threaten a publication of it, though perhaps not transmitted by Elzevir according to the direction, but brought home, as I have before supposed, by Daniel himself, and surrendered as the price of his restoration to favour which had been: lost. The examination of Skinner by Sir Joseph Williamson himself, and probably by others, would indeed have

* It should have been before observed, that in the treatise Ames is called, “ Amesius noster,p. 447. Lat. edit. I must also here observe that the thirty-first chapter of the first book of the present treatise opens with a declaration, and defnition, of Particular Churches, exactly in accordance with Ames's English Puritanism, or the opinions of the Puritans, published in 1641; po3, &c. Concerning the Church. ...

« PreviousContinue »