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To enter into a preliminary discussion of the doc
trines or opinions contained in the present volume, seems, properly speaking, to be no necessary part of the Translator's duty. After stating, therefore, in the first place, the circumstances under which the original manuscript was discovered, and the reasons for considering it as the long lost theological work of Milton, it will be sufficient to subjoin, as briefly as possible, a few remarks, chiefly relating to certain peculiarities in the following treatise, by which it is distinguished from the author's other compositions.
From information communicated by Robert Lemon, sen. Esq. Deputy Keeper of His Majesty's State Papers, who has lately completed from the documents under his care an entire series of the Order-Books of the Council of State during the Interregnum, it appears that Milton retired from active official employment as Secretary for Foreign Languages, about the middle of the year 1655. The following entry occurs under the date of April 17 in that year:
"The Councell resumed the debate from the Committee of the Councell to
upon the report made whom it was referred
to consider of the establishment of the Councell's contingencies.
"Ordered. . . . That the former yearly Salary of Mr. JOHN MILTON, of Two Hundred Eighty-Eight Pounds, &c., formerly charged on the Councell's contingencies, be reduced to One Hundred and Fiftie pounds per annum, and paid to him, during his life, out of His Highness' Exchequer."
This sum must have been intended as a retiring pension in consideration of past services, as it is evident from another entry, under the same date, that a successor was already appointed, at a reduced salary, to discharge the duties of the situation which Milton had previously occupied.
"For the Fee of Mr. Phillip Medows,
From this time it is presumed that Milton ceased to be employed in public business, as his name does not again occur in the Books of the Council of State, which continue in uninterrupted succession till the 2d of September 1658, the day preceding the death of Cromwell.*
per annum. £200 0 0"
*The Orders of the Council of State during the Interregnum, brought to light and arranged by the industry of Mr. Lemon, form one of the most interesting series of documents relative to English History at present in existence. They contain the daily transactions of the executive government in England from 1648-9 to September 1658, and are particularly valuable from the period of the dissolution of the Long Parliament in 1653, to the death of Cromwell in September 1658; as during the greater part of that time the Council of State, under the Protector, combined both the executive and legislative functions of government, and as these books are the authentic, but hitherto unknown records of their daily proceedings. It is greatly to be desired that the attention of the Record Commissioners should be drawn to
It is mentioned by the biographers of Milton (Toland's Life of John Milton, p. 148, 12mo. London, 1699; Newton's Life of Milton, Vol. I. p. xl. and lxiii. 8vo. London, 1757; Symmons's Life of Milton, appended to his edition of the Prose Works, Vol. VII. p. 500, London, 1806) that about the time when he was thus released from public business, he entered upon the composition of three great works, more congenial to his taste than the employments in which he had been recently engaged, and fitted to occupy his mind under the blindness with which he had been afflicted for nearly three years. The works commenced under these circumstances were Paradise Lost, a Latin Thesaurus, intended as an improvement on that by Robert Stephens, and a body of Divinity compiled from the Holy Scriptures, 'all which,' according to Wood (Fasti Oxonienses, Part I. 1635, col. 486, edit. 1817) notwithstanding the several troubles that befel him in his fortunes, he finished after His Majesty's Restoration.' After enumerating the works of Milton then published, Wood says; 'These I think are all the things he hath yet extant; those that are not, are a Body of Divinity, which my friend (Aubrey) calls Idea Theologiæ, now, or at least lately, in the hands of the author's acquaintance, called CYRIACK SKINNER, living in Mark Lane, London; and the Latin Thesaurus, in those of EDWARD PHILIPPS, his nephew.'
these valuable documents, and perhaps it might be advisable that a fair transcript of them should be made, under their sanction, to guard against loss or damage by any accident which may happen to the originals.
In allusion to the work which is thus called by Wood, on the authority of Aubrey, Idea Theologiæ, Toland has the following passage: He wrote likewise a System of Divinity, but whether intended for public view, or collected merely for his own use, cannot determine. It was in the hands of his friend CYRIACK SKINNER, and where at present is uncertain.'* Dr. Symmons also says, in a note, Vol. VII. p. 500: An answer to a libel on himself, and a system of Theology, called, according to Wood, Idea Theologiæ, are compositions of Milton which have been lost. The last was at one time in the hands of Cyriack Skinner, but what became of it afterwards has not been traced.'
It appears then from the above testimonies, that a treatise on Divinity was known to have been compiled by Milton, and deposited, either for safe custody, or from motives of friendship, in the hands of Cyriack Skinner; since which time all traces of it have been lost. It is necessary to show, in the next place, what are the grounds for supposing that the original work, from which the following translation has been executed, is the identical treatise so long concealed from the researches of all the editors and biographers of the author of Paradise Lost.
It is observable that neither Wood, nor any of the subsequent biographers of Milton, have mentioned the language in which his theological treatise was
*Life, p. 148.