's intimacy with the facts and dates of Milton
's career renders him peculiarly fit in some respects to undertake an edition of the poetical works.
His edition, accordingly, has distinguished merits.
The introductions to the several poems are excellent and leave scarcely anything to be desired.
The general Introduction, on the other hand, contains a great deal that might well have been omitted, and not a little that is positively erroneous.
's discussions of Milton
's English seem often to be those of a Scotsman to whom English is in some sort a foreign tongue.
It is almost wholly inconclusive, because confined to the Miltonic verse, while the basis of any altogether satisfactory study should surely be the Miltonic prose; nay, should include all the poetry and prose of his own age and of that immediately preceding it. The uses to which Mr. Masson
has put the concordance to Milton
's poems tempt one sometimes to class him with those whom the poet himself taxed with being ‘the mousehunts and ferrets of an index.’
For example, what profits a discussion of Milton
's ἅπαξ λεγόμενα,
a matter in which accident is far more influential than choice?1
What sensible addition is made to our stock of knowledge by learning that ‘the word woman
does not occur in any form in Milton
's poetry before “ Paradise Lost
,” ’ and that it is ‘exactly so with the word female
’ Is it any way remarkable that such words as Adam, God, Heaven, Hell, Paradise
, Sin, Satan
, and Serpent
should occur ‘very frequently’ in ‘Paradise Lost
Would it not rather have been surprising that they should not?
Such trifles at best come under the head of what old Warner
would have called cumber-minds.
It is time to protest against this