THE POETICAL WORKS OF JOHN MILTON. With A Life of the Author, by William Hayley
(London: By W. Bulmer and Co., Shakespeare Printing Office for John and Josiah Boydell, and George Nicol, 1794-1797).
A REGAL SET OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THE GREAT ENGLISH POET AND WRITER TO INCLUDE THE FAMOUS ENGRAVINGS FROM RICHARD WESTALL. The Boydells would use Westall to illustrate their two greatest printing efforts, the two greatest masters of the English language, John Milton and William Shakespeare. Though Westall’s illustrations would be used again in a number of later editions and printings, this is by far the largest, finest and most impressive of any of the presentations. The Boydell text is equally fitting to these magnificent plates, impressively laid out and making use of the fonts of William Martin.
In the years that would follow, Westall would become quite famous, for these illustrations to Milton and for his portrait of Princess Victoria. He would serve as Princess Victoria’s drawing master until the time of his death in 1836.
The very fine bindings are quite fitting and elegant. The volumes are beautifully fitting to the presentation inscribed in this copy and were a gift from Lord Lansdowne, William Petty, the first Marquis of Landsdowne and Prime Minister from 1782-1783, to his close friend M. Chauvet, the French diplomat who resided for many years at Kensington. The inscription is dated 1802 and correlates with Chauvet’s being recalled to France due to the growing hostilities between France and England after the Treaty of Amiens.
In PARADISE LOST, PARADISE REGAINED and SAMSON AGONISTES Milton revived the heroic verse of Homer and Virgil to frame the tale of Satan and Paradise that has become the best-known epic poem written in English. He had difficulty in finding a publisher because of the plague of 1665, which killed many pressmen, and the Great Fire of the following year, which destroyed many printing houses—and those publishers who were still operating were wary of the project because of Milton's anti-Restoration sympathies.
Simmons, to whom he finally came, drove a hard bargain, and according to the agreement reached and the number of copies sold, Milton was paid a total of £15. Milton’s work survives and is revered to this day as amongst the most significant poetry and prose ever penned and additionally important, at a defining moment in the development of the English language. A truly towering figure, Milton remains one of the most celebrated and analyzed poets in English literature. Dryden described ‘Paradise Lost’ as ‘one of the greatest, most noble and sublime poems which either this age or nation has produced,’ while Blake, keying in on the poem’s heretical implications, described Milton as ‘a true Poet, and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.’
This thorough collection includes not only ‘Paradise Lost’ and the other major works, including ‘Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, and Comus’, but the sonnets, psalms, translations, and his work in Latin. As well, there is a fine Memoir of Milton and history of his literary work.
PARADISE LOST has remained one of the greatest classics of modern English vernacular, indeed some say, that it constitutes the beginning of modern English poetry and literature. Item #24326
3 volumes. First edition of this Boydell issue, the first edition with the plates by Richard Westall, and a magnificent presentation copy, given by Lord Lansdowne, the first Marquis of Landsdowne to the French diplomat, M. Chauvet, who for many years resided at Kensington in London. An especially large copy. With 32 fine large plates, being the 28 plates by Richard Westall and 4 portraits of John Milton. Folio (41 x 30 cm), very finely bound in exceptional full contemporary bindings of crushed red morocco, French in style with fine gilt rolled borders within gilt ruled frames on all covers, each frame with corners formed with central gilt circular devices, the spines with flat gilt ruled bands creating compartments decorated with small gilt central star burst tools, one compartment lettered in gilt, a second with gilt volume numbers and additional gilt lettering at the bottom of the spines, gilt tooled edges to the covers and gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, a.e.g. cxxxiii, 213; 286; 300,  pp. A most beautiful and exceptional set.