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    That Late Villain Milton Essay (1230 words)

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    As a supplementary note to the volume of Milton’s Letters of State in the Columbia edition of his Works (Volume XIII), as well as an illuminating guide to his reputation immediately subsequent to his death, when Williamson’s phrase, “that late Villain Milton,” would have met with nearly unanimous approval, it seems worthwhile to furnish a summary of information bearing on their publication. The gathering of this material has been in progress for some time. The principal contributors have been Sumner (in his edition of the Christian Doctrine), Hamilton, Masson, Tanner, and Howarth (editors of Pepys), and Hanford.

    Their contributions being somewhat scattered, I have here brought together the chief items. I am also able to add several new letters that have not been published previously, to correct and clarify certain dates, and, I hope, to arrange the whole in such a way that its story unfolds logically and easily. The record is probably still incomplete. New letters will likely yet be found among the voluminous Williamson documents, among Pepys papers still unprinted, and elsewhere. No one, so far as I know, has investigated thoroughly the Dutch archives for light on the Letters. In private libraries, there may be other papers like that from Longleat (printed below) that have never been gathered into the Milton fold.

    But as a summary of findings up to the present time and a skeleton of what may reasonably be hoped for in the future, this list may be a fairly complete record. From 1649 to 1659, Milton wrote Letters of State as Latin Secretary. In 1674 (before December?), the Danish resident persuaded Milton to have the Letters transcribed (see Milton’s Works, ed. John Toland (1698), I, 188). The amanuensis may have been Daniel Skinner. There must have been several copies of the Letters.

    We may be certain of the following:

    1. The original individual drafts which Milton saved after writing each letter, which were the basis of all subsequent collections, but which probably no longer exist;
    2. A copy, stolen from Milton, used as the basis of the surreptitious edition of 1676, and now lost;
    3. Skinner’s transcript, first sent to the Dutch printer Daniel Elzevir, later recovered, deposited with Sir Joseph Williamson in London, and now preserved in the Public Record Office (“the Skinner transcript”);
    4. Another transcript of Skinner’s, which he showed to Williamson while the former set was with Elzevir, and which is no longer known to be extant;
    5. The copy now preserved in the Columbia University Library (“the Colum- bia manuscript”);
    6. A letter-book of Cromwell letters, formerly belonging to Richard Bridgeman, and now in the Bodleian Library, MS. Rawl. A 260, containing a small number of those usually accepted as Milton’s with a great many others, and labeled in an old hand as being “without doubt, the compositions of John Milton”;
    7. A similar book, MS. Rawl.A 261, containing many of the same letters and others as well. The last two sets were probably not made for Milton.

    In 1674, Milton planned to publish the Letters. In the preface to the Epistolarum Familiarum (1674, sig. A3), the printer says that the intention had been to publish the public letters in that same volume, but the authorities prevented him.

    In 1674, someone stole one copy of the Letters. Elzevir (letter to Sir Joseph Williamson, November 20, 1676) says that someone “les avoit derobe au feu Milton,” and Skinner (letter to Samuel Pepys, November 9/19, 1676) mentions “a poor fellow that had formerly surreptitiously gott’um from Milton.” Masson (Life, vi, 806) ventured the guess that it was Phillips who supplied the surreptitious copy to the printer; if so, there would be no question of stealing them.

    In 1674, Milton left his Letters to Daniel Skinner. Skinner (letter to Pepys, November 9/19, 1676) mentions Milton’s papers, “which he left behind him to me.” Though Aubrey says, “vidua Affirmat she gave all his papers…to his Nephew,” Edward Phillips, it is natural to assume that after Skinner had received the two collections which he most desired, Phillips got what remained. Skinner’s statement receives support, if any were needed, from an undated and unsigned letter now in the collection of the Marquis of Bath at Longleat.

    Previously published in Notes and Queries, IV, iii (1869), 144, it is here printed from a transcript kindly furnished me by its owner. From the details mentioned in it, I should date it about the last of October, 1676: “I am informed that since the death of Mr. Milton his Books have byn lookt over by one Mr. Skinner, a scholar and a bold young man who has cull’d out what he thought fitt, & amongst the rest he has taken a manuscript of Mr. Milton’s written on the Civil & Ecclesiastical Government of this Kingdom [i.e., the Letters and the Christian Doctrine], which he is resolved to print and to that purpose is gone into Holland and intends to print it at Leyden (and at this present is either there or at Nemeguen) and then to bring and disperse the copys in England. Mr. Skinner is nephew (or of nearer relation) to that Skinner that occasion’d that difference between the two Houses of Parliament, and I am informed his Father is in some office at the Custom house.”

    In 1675, Skinner sent Milton’s papers to Elzevir. This fact becomes clear from subsequent events. Masson suggests that since Elzevir was visiting London this year, Skinner may have met him there and delivered the packet personally.

    In 1675 (November 2), Elzevir agreed to print the Letters. He writes (to Williamson, November 20, 1676), “H y a environ un an que je suis convenu avec Monsieur Skinner d’imprimer les lettres de Milton, et un autre manuscript en Théologie.” Skinner (to Pepys, November 9/19,1676) confesses, “I had agreed with a printer at Amsterdam to have urn printed.”

    In 1676 (May?), Moses Pitt, a London printer, tells Skinner he has bought Milton’s papers and desires to collaborate with him.

    In 1674, Milton planned to publish the Letters. In the preface to the Epistolarum Familiarum (1674, sig. A3), the printer says that the intention had been to publish the public letters in that same volume, but the authorities prevented him.

    In 1674, someone stole one copy of the Letters. Elzevir (letter to Sir Joseph Williamson, November 20, 1676) says that someone “les avoit derobe au feu Milton,” and Skinner (letter to Samuel Pepys, November 9/19, 1676) mentions “a poor fellow that had formerly surreptitiously gott’um from Milton.” Masson (Life, vi, 806) ventured the guess that it was Phillips who supplied the surreptitious copy to the printer; if so, there would be no question of stealing them.

    In 1674, Milton left his Letters to Daniel Skinner. Skinner (letter to Pepys, November 9/19, 1676) mentions Milton’s papers, “which he left behind him to me.” Though Aubrey says, “vidua Affirmat she gave all his papers…to his Nephew,” Edward Phillips, it is natural to assume that after Skinner had received the two collections which he most desired, Phillips got what remained. Skinner’s statement receives support, if any were needed, from an undated and unsigned letter now in the collection of the Marquis of Bath at Longleat.

    Previously published in Notes and Queries, IV, iii (1869), 144, it is here printed from a transcript kindly furnished me by its owner. From the details mentioned in it, I should date it about the last of October, 1676: “I am informed that since the death of Mr. Milton his Books have byn lookt over by one Mr. Skinner, a scholar and a bold young man who has cull’d out what he thought fitt, & amongst the rest he has taken a manuscript of Mr. Milton’s written on the Civil & Ecclesiastical Government of this Kingdom [i.e., the Letters and the Christian Doctrine], which he is resolved to print and to that purpose is gone into Holland and intends to print it at Leyden (and at this present is either there or at Nemeguen) and then to bring and disperse the copys in England. Mr. Skinner is nephew (or of nearer relation) to that Skinner that occasion’d that difference between the two Houses of Parliament, and I am informed his Father is in some office at the Custom house.”

    In 1675, Skinner sent Milton’s papers to Elzevir. This fact becomes clear from subsequent events. Masson suggests that since Elzevir was visiting London this year, Skinner may have met him there and delivered the packet personally.

    In 1675 (November 2), Elzevir agreed to print the Letters. He writes (to Williamson, November 20, 1676), “H y a environ un an que je suis convenu avec Monsieur Skinner d’imprimer les lettres de Milton, et un autre manuscript en Théologie.” Skinner (to Pepys, November 9/19,1676) confesses, “I had agreed with a printer at Amsterdam to have urn printed.”

    In 1676 (May?), Moses Pitt, a London printer, tells Skinner he has bought Milton’s papers and desires to collaborate with him.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    That Late Villain Milton Essay (1230 words). (2017, Aug 01). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/late-villain-milton-5221/

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