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Fields, Lord Anglesey “ came often to visit him, as very much coveting his society and converse, as likewise others of the nobility, and many persons of eminent quality; nor were the visits of foreigners ever more frequent than in this place almost to his dying day,” (Philips.). "That the laureat and vicious wits of the court should notice such a.mạn as Milton, would not have added to, but detracted from, his fame. The friendship of Lord Anglesey, Andrew Marvel, Dr. Barrow, Cyriac Skinner, Marchmont Needham, and the homage of Dryden, fully compensated for the indifference of the depraved courtiers and pensioned authors of Charles II.
“ The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
No better a musician than the wren."*
We abstain from noticing the numerous eulogies and literary notices of the Epic poems in the half century following the death of Milton. We must not neglect, however, to mention the well-known anecdote of Sir John Denham entering the House of Commons with a proof-sheet of Paradise Lost, wet from the press, and on being questioned concerning the paper; declaring it was “ part of the noblest poem that ever was writ: ten in any language or age.” The truth of this anecdote has been doubted, but without reason; and if true, proves thus early a just and public appreciation of the ornament of his times. Indeed, his living reputation only ceased with his life; which terminated on the 8th of November, 1674, in the sixtysixth year of his age. . Toland, his early biographer, and friend of his family, writes, that “all his learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar, accompany'd his body to the Church of St. Giles, near Cripplegate; where he lies buried in the Chancel; and where the piety of his admirers will shortly erect a monument becoming his, worth, and the incouragement of letters in King William's reign.''+
For an accurate list of the portraits and prints of the poet, we must refer to Granger, and to Hollis's Memoirs.
We shall, on a future occasion, complete our Bibliographical Review of Milton, and recommence with his Prose works. ,
We cannot, however, close without a just tribute of praise to the taste and public spirit of Mr. Pickering, whose reprints of the standard English Poetry, with such typographical cor: rectness and beauty, will rank his name and reputation with that of Tonson, Bowyer, and Baskerville; and the day will
* Shakespeare.--Merchant of Venice, 5th act, Ist-scene.
come when the copies of his editions will be scarce and most
“ Nothing can cover his high fame but heaven; ,
Art. VI.-The Works of Geffray Chaucer, Printed at London
by Thomas Godfray. 1532. Fol. b. 1. The Works of Geffray Chaucer, newly printed with divers works
that were never printed before. Printed by Wyllyam Bonham. | 1542. Fol. b. 1. The Works of our Ancient & Learned English Poet Geffray
Chaucer [with additions enumerated]. Printed by Adam Izlip, at the charges of Thomas Wright. 1598. Fol. b. I. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, compared with the former editions, . & many valuable MSS. Out of which, three Tales are added
which were never before printed ; by John Urry, Student of
Christ's Church, Oxon, deceased; together with a Glossary, by a · Student of the same College. To the whole is prefixed the Ău
thor's life newly written, & a preface, giving an account of this
Edition. London, Printed for Bernard Lintot. 1721, foi.. The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, Modernized by several hands.
Published by Mr. Ogle. 3 vols. 8vo. Tonson 1741. The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer. By Thomas Tyrwhit, Esq. F.R. S. Clarendon Press. 1798. 2 vols. 4to.
We redeem at length our long-neglected pledge, (see Ret. Rev. vol. ix. p. 206,) of resuming our observations on the Works of Chaucer; and in doing so, direct, in the first instance, a more particular attention to his Canterbury Tales—the only portion of the works of this venerable patriarch of our poetic literature, of which we have any edition worthy of his reputa
tion, or creditable to the attention of our literati to the antiquarian monuments of our Poetry and Language.
Of the merits of Mr. Tyrwhitt's edition of the Tales, of what with so much skill and industry he has done, and of what yet remains to do, with respect both to this and the other portions of the works of our author, we have spoken sufficiently at large in our former article. For those who are disposed to make the literature of the Olden Time a study, he has perhaps given almost all the assistance that, with respect to this portion of the works of Chaucer, could be desired; and all that such students have now to wish for, is a collated edition, equally careful and judicious, of the other remains of our author. But our business is principally with the general reader, to whom the beauties even of the Canterbury Tales, and the information, (important as, in more points of view than one, we have shewn it to be,) which they convey, remain almost as closely shut up as they were before Mr. Tyrwhitt's edition was undertaken. Some detached mere portions of these Tales have indeed been modernized, or rather paraphrased, (as have indeed some two or three of the minor poems,) especially by Dryden and Pope ;* and the Wife of Bath's Prologue, and the January and May of the latter, in particular, have a brilliancy and eclat which have popularized, at least, the name of Chaucer, and might have been expected to stimulate some editor competent to the task to present a popular or modernised edition of the whole. But the paraphrases of Pope and of Dryden, however amusing to the reader, or creditable to their own poetic genius, are much too free, and too ambitious of interpolation, to give a faithful idea of the characteristic genius of the original, as we shall hereafter have further occasion to observe; and such a transcript of any portion of the works of Chaucer as the changes of idiom, of spelling, and pronunciation alone have rendered requisite, for their accommodation to the ear and apprehension of modern readers, is still a desideratum of our popular literature.
“A volume in 8vo,” says Mr. Tyrwhitt, “ containing the
* The portions of Chaucer modernized by Dryden are, The Knight's Tale, Palemon and Arcite, The Nun's Priests, Tale of the Cock and the Fox, The Wife of Bath's Tale, and The Character of the Good Parson, from the Cant. Tales, and the Apologue of the Flower and the Leaf. See Miscellaneous Works of Dryden, in 4 volumes, 8vo. Tonson. 1760. Vol, 3..
Pope, it is well known, has added the Merchant's Tale, January and May, and the Wife of Bath's Prologue. His - Temple of Fame” is rather built upon than an adornment of the Second book of Chaucer's 's House of Fame.”
Prologue and the Knight's Tale, with large explanatory notes, &c. was published in 1737, by a gentleman (as I am informed) who has since distinguished himself by many other learned and useful publications. He appears to have set out upon the only rational plan of publishing Chaucer, by collecting the best MSS. and selecting from them the genuine readings; and accordingly his edition, as far as it goes, is infinitely preferable to any of those which preceded it.” - This edition of 1737, we have never happened to meet with; but if it be the original (as the internal evidence is almost demonstrative that it must have been) of the volume now before us, it did or attempted something more, which Mr. Tyrwhitt, perhaps, should have noticed; but which, at any rate, it is directly in our way to remark upon. It bears the following title "The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, in the original, from the most authentic Manuscripts ; and as they are turned into Modern Language by several eminent hands. With references to authors, Ancient and Modern ; various Readings & Explanatory Notes. The second edition. London, printed for J. Osborn, at the Golden Ball, in Paternoster Row. 1740.”
Of this volume, which was evidently intended as the precursor of a complete edition of the Tales, Mr. Tyrwhitt has conspicuously availed himself in his notes and glossary; and it is even to be wished that he had done so still more liberally: at least, there are several of the notes not transcribed by Mr. T. which, if ever such an edition of Chaucer as we have repeatedly suggested should be undertaken, we should wish to see incorporated. But it is to that part of the volume in question which Mr. T. has entirely overlooked that our attention is, at present, more particularly directed.
An edition of Chaucer, or even of his Canterbury Tales, combining a correct and collated version of the original text, together with an accompanying version, (on the opposite page, we should say,) judiciously (and by masterly and poetic hands) “ turned into modern language,” would be indeed a monument to the glory of the father of our national poesy, worthy of the liberality of literary patronage, and of the merits and reputation of our author. But the specimens here presented, with a partial exception only to the Knight's Tale, by Dryden, are far from answering to our description.
“ Chaucer's Characters : or the Introduction to the Canterbury Tales, by Mr. Betterton,” and other eminent hands, will neither satisfy the fastidious ear, nor the sense of poetic feeling, in those who are familiar with the graces and harmonies of the present, or of what was called our Augustan Age: nor will this modernized version of those masterly sketches of ancestral portraiture convey any correct idea either of the genius and
mode of thinking of our patriarcbal bard, or of the characters which it was his intention to delineate. The feebleness of the transcripts is not their only fault. They give not only very imperfect, but in many instances very unfaithful representations of the manners which Chaucer with such mastery of touch had sketched and coloured ; and in some instances, even directly invert the attributes of the characters personified; and of some at least of the Pilgrims, new dressed by Messrs. Betterton and Co., it may with truth be said, that they are no longer the Pilgrims of Chaucer..
From the first part of this censure, (that which relates to the harmony and poetic diction,) “ The Parson, imitated and enlarged by Mr. Dryden,” will of course be exempted. Our objection to this, as part of an edition of Chaucer, is merely that, instead of a version, it presents a loose paraphrase, in which the design was evidently quite as much to satirize the clergy of the paraphrast's ownage, as to give a picture of those of the age in which Chaucer wrote. How loose, and consequently unfaithful, that paraphrase must necessarily.be, will be sufficiently obvious when it is noticed that, for the fifty pregnant and characteristic lines of the original, one hundred and forty are substituted in the paraphrase; and of the species of interpolation by which this is effected, a tolerable idea may be formed from the following lines, for which there is not the least authority whatever in the text of our author. • “In deference to his virtues, I forbear
To shew you what the rest in orders were ;
These verses are indeed in the true sparkling and ambitious style of Dryden; but they have no relish of the original spirit and characteristic humour of Chaucer; and, what is worse, they completely falsify the record : for Chaucer has “shewn what the rest, (or many of them at least,) in orders were." His lordly Monk, his Friar, his Nun's Priest, his Canon, his Pardoner, &c. presenting us with the priestly character, under such varieties of modification, as to render these lines, in any pretended version of his works, a palpable absurdity and contradiction. The - reader who shall compare the whole passage as it stands, either in the volume referred to, or in any of the editions of Dryden's works with the transcript from the original, in our former article, will he fully satisfied how much he has been hitherto misled if he has formed his idea of Chaucer from the versions of Dryden.
The only other of the eminent co-operators of Mr. Betterton, at all specified, is T. M. [Thomas Markland] of whose mode of