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JOHNSON'S LIFE OF MILTON

FIRTH

HENRY FROWDE, M.A.

PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

LONDON, EDINBURGH

NEW YORK AND TORONTO

JOHNSON'S LIVES OF THE POETS

MILTON

EDITED, WITH NOTES, ETC.

BY

C. H. FIRTH

OXFORD

AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

COLLEGE

HARVARD

APR 27 1920
LIBRARY

Ward hund

OXFORD

PRINTED AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

BY HORACE HART, M.A.
PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY

PREFACE

In the spring of 1777 the London booksellers formed the design of publishing a new collection of the English poets, and decided to treat with Johnson for prefaces to their works. A series of those writers was then being published at Edinburgh, of which the type was bad and the text inaccurate. Moreover its publication was an invasion of what the London booksellers had been accustomed to consider their literary property. The booksellers long believed that they possessed a claim by the common law to a perpetual interest in the books whose copyright they had bought from their authors. But a statute passed in 1710 had given them an exclusive right for fourteen years only, and the Lords decided in 1774 that by it any right at common law was thenceforth extinguished. To compete with their Scotch rivals the London booksellers sought the aid of Johnson's pen. They proposed to publish an elegant and uniform edition with a concise account of the life of each author. A deputation waited on him on May 20, 1777, to arrange terms. He asked merely for two hundred, although, according to Malone, he might safely have demanded one thousand or even fifteen hundred guineas.

The booksellers at once agreed, and added spontaneously 100 guineas in 1781 on the completion of the work, and another 100 in 1783 when Johnson revised the third edition. He was quite satisfied with this sum, although small compared with the gains of many of his contemporaries, and always described the booksellers as having treated him with fairness and generosity. The first four volumes of

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