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said Chief Magistrate of all and every the said Cities, Burroughs, or Towns Incorporate, the Justices of the Peace in their several counties, and the Vice-Chancellors of Our said Universities respectively, are hereby commanded to seize and take, all and every the Books aforesaid, in whose hands or possession soever they shall be found, and certify the names of the Offenders unto Our Privy Council
And We do hereby give special charge and command to the said Chief Magistrates, Justices of the Peace and Chancellors respectively, that they cause the said Books which shall be so brought unto any of their hands, or seized or taken as aforesaid, by virtue of this Our Proclamation, to be delivered to the respective Sheriffs of those counties, where they respectively live, the first and next assizes that shall after happen. And the said Sheriffs are hereby also required, in time of holding such assizes, to cause the same to be publickly burnt by the hand of the common hangman.
And We do further straightly charge and command, that no man hereafter presume to print, sell, or disperse any the aforesaid books, upon pain of our heavy displeasure, and of such further punishment, as for their presumption in that behalf, may any way be inflicted upon them by the laws of this Realm.
Given at Our Court at Whitehall, the 13th day of August,
in the twelfth year of Our Reign, 1660.]
In obedience to this order of the libertine despot, “ several copies” of the proscribed books, as Mr. Mitford observes, were committed to the flames on the 27th of August, and on the 29th the Act of indemnity passed. Notwithstanding this, how. ever, Milton lived in perpetual terror of being assassinated ; and well he might, remembering he was in the hands of those who had murdered Dorislas, and three other public functionaries, in the discharge of their duties abroad. In the British Museum is preserved an incomplete printed list of those murdered men, and Milton's name is added, probably to incite some loyal subject to augment the number of the victims. Dr. Symmons has quoted from Richardson a copy of verses, written perhaps by some poet of Whitehall, “Upon John Milton's not suffering for his Traitorous Book when the Tryers were executed, 1660.”
“That thou escaped'st that vengeance which o'ertook,
He would, I believe, have called Salmasius from the dead, or died himself, rather than have been author of such trumpery verses. Nine years after his death, (1683,) twenty-seven propositions from the writings of Milton, Hobbes, Buchanan, &c., were burnt at Oxford, says Mr. Mitford, as destructive to
church and state. This transaction, he continues, is celebrated in Musæ Anglicanæ, called Decretum Oxoniense, vol. iii. p. 180.
"Si similis quicunque hæc scripserit auctor,
They would no doubt have liked to roast the old man at Oxford, as a person whose name was hateful to heaven and earth. In the “Vindiciæ Carolinæ, or a Defence of Eikon Basiliké," published in 1692, we are told that “this Milton (the gall and bitterness of whose heart had so taken away his taste and judgment, that to write and be scurrilous were the same with him) is dead, 'tis true, and should have been forgotten by me, but that in this new impression he yet speaketh.” And will speak in repeated impressions, when his petty adversaries are buried in merited oblivion. The author admits that Milton " was a person of a large thought, and wanted not words to express those conceptions ; but never so truly, as when the argument and his depraved temper met together : witness his 'Paradise Lost, where he makes the devil—who, though fallen, had not given heaven for lost-speak at that rate himself would have done of the son of this royal Martyr, (upon his restoration,) had he thought it convenient; when in his “ Paradise Regained,' he is so indifferent, poor, and starvling, as if he never expected any benefit by it!”– No! he was condemned to another place by the charity of the royalists. This obscure defence of the “ king's book," as it was called, was written upon the reprinting of the “ Defence of the People of England,” at Amsterdam.
In 1698, the earliest complete edition of Milton's Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous Works, with a life of the author, was published in Holland by J. Toland, in 3 vols. folio. Next year the Life was printed separately in London. Milton's Letters of State, from 1649 to 1659, with an account of his life, and catalogue of his works, had appeared in London 1694, no doubt by the care of Toland. No second edition of the complete works was called for during thirty-five years; when, in 1733, they were published, with a new life by Dr. Birch; who, twenty years afterwards, brought them out in quarto. Fifty-one years then elapsed, from 1753 to 1804,- before a new edition of
Milton's prose works again appeared. The latter year is the date of the edition of Dr. Symmons, who prefixed a life, which has since been separately reprinted. Then ensued another interval of thirty years, when, in 1834, the whole of the Prose Works were reprinted in one large and elegant volume, with an able introductory essay by Mr. Robert Fletcher, who deserves well of every admirer of Milton. From this account it would appear that, upon an average, an edition of Milton's complete works has been called for, from 1698 to the present day, once in a little more than twenty-seven years.