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xi Preface P. J. K L E M P A Variorum Commentary on the Poems of John Milton has been a work in progress for over half a century. Another step in bringing closure to that monumental work, this volume on books 11–12 of Paradise Lost, like the volumes on book 4 and on Samson Agonistes published by Duquesne University Press in 2009, is a tangible sign of the scholarly continuity that exists between a new generation of Miltonists and our esteemed predecessors. Commentary about Milton’s poems extends back to his own time, when the first variorum edition of Paradise Lost appeared in 1749 and that of Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, and many of the shorter poems in 1752, both edited by Thomas Newton. While this current volume looks back to those landmarks of scholarship, our main goal is to continue and complete the Variorum Commentary published between 1970 and 1975 by Columbia University Press. Although the Variorum Commentary appeared in the 1970s, its inception occurred fully two decades earlier, in 1949. Merritt Y. Hughes, the Variorum Commentary ’s first general editor, explains the process by which that scholarly project took shape. Following a survey of the Modern Language Association’s members conducted by J. Milton French, in December 1949 the “interested section” of that organization “commissioned” the new Variorum Commentary. The editors selected were some of the twentieth century’s finest Milton scholars, starting with French, who conducted the initial survey and declined the offer to become general editor. The rest of the participants were of the same stature, many of them joining French in being named Honored Scholars of the Milton Society of America: Merritt Y. Hughes (assigned to annotate Paradise Lost), Walter MacKellar (Paradise Regained), William Riley Parker (Samson Agonistes), A. S. P. Woodhouse xii Preface (the so-called minor English poems), Douglas Bush (the Latin and Greek poems), and James E. Shaw (the Italian poems). If this epic catalog of scholars shines so brightly as to intimidate future generations who toil in the variorum’s fields, it soon grew shorter. For this generation of Milton scholars faced mortality, some well before their time. The opening volume of the Columbia University Press Variorum Commentary refers to the deaths of James E. Shaw, whose work on the Italian poems was updated by A. Bartlett Giamatti, and of William Riley Parker, whose work on Samson Agonistes would be carried on by John Steadman and, decades later, by Stephen B. Dobranski and Archie Burnett. The second volume refers to more departures —including that of A. S. P. Woodhouse, whose commentary on the minor English poems was completed by Douglas Bush. In his preface to that volume, Bush expresses his grief over the death of Merritt Y. Hughes, the annotator of Paradise Lost, which would mark perhaps the greatest impediment to the completion of the Variorum Commentary. If some of the variorum’s charter members left scholarly work for others to complete almost immediately, Hughes’s work on Paradise Lost and Parker’s on Samson Agonistes would need to wait for future generations. Since no one except John Steadman had expressed any interest in completing the Variorum Commentary, the indefatigable Albert C. Labriola stepped in as general editor, prompted by his respect for the labors of Hughes and Parker, a respect that also motivates the new contributing editors. Having seen the Variorum Commentary languish in an unfinished state, Al first located the typescripts that had been collecting dust in boxes. With the help of John Steadman, who held the draft of Hughes’s annotations to Paradise Lost (and had done some minor revising of them) as well as Parker’s introduction and annotations to Samson Agonistes, Al gathered up these typescripts, facilitated the transfer of the publishing rights, recruited a new group of esteemed Miltonists to take over the research and compilation, and secured funding to allow the project to get underway. In mid-1997, the editorial process officially began when a delivery van brought seven boxes of this material to my doorstep. Fortunately, just before his death in early 2009, Al was able to see the appearance of the first volume of the new Variorum Commentary that he had initiated. Because more than three centuries of scholarship have accumulated about Milton’s poems, much of that scholarship rich and perceptive, no variorum commentary could synthesize and present all, or even the bulk, of it. The term variorum, as demonstrated by the original Columbia University Press volumes and “Paradise...


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