MILTON – ‘LOFTY BUT IRREGULAR’

The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry, contain’d in some new Discoveries never made before, requisite for the Writing and Judging of Poems surely. Being a Preliminary to a larger Work design’d to be publish’d in Folio, and entituled, a Criticism upon our most celebrated English Poets deceas’d …

London, Printed for Geo. Strahan … and Bernard Lintott … 1704.

8vo., pp. [48], 127, [1], with the half-title; a very good, crisp copy in recent half calf, preserving the old red morocco label.

£1250

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First edition. Published as a ‘preliminary’ to a proposed, but never completed, masterwork, The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry comprises a Preface, Proposal and ‘Specimen’, the latter being an essay substantially on Milton, ‘one of the greatest and most daring Genius’s that has appear’d in the World, and who has made his Country a glorious present of the most lofty, but most irregular Poem, that has been produc’d by the Mind of Man’.

An indifferent playwright perhaps best remembered as an antagonist of Pope, Dennis was however a discerning and influential critic. The Grounds of Criticism was built on themes suggested in The Advancement and Reformation of modern Poetry (1704) – the sublime, passion and the place of religion in literature – but was perhaps too ambitious for his contemporaries. The subscribers ‘for the whole year’ (who included Richard Blackmore, Nicholas Rowe, Mrs. Manley, and Pope’s mentor William Walsh) were not numerous enough to support further work on the project.

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