MILTON AGAINST THE BISHOPS

Of Reformation. Touching Church-Discipline in England: and the Causes that hitherto have hindered it. Two Bookes, written to a Freind.

[London], Printed, for Thomas Underhill 1641

Small 4to., pp. [4], 90, [2, blank]; lightly washed, small rust hole in leaf I1, but a very good copy in full red crushed levant by Rivière.

£2400

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First edition of Milton’s first prose work.

Addressed to an unnamed friend, quite probably Milton’s sometime tutor Thomas Young, one of the divines writing under the joint pseudonym SMECTYMNUUS, Of Reformation was Milton’s first contribution to the debate on episcopacy then raging in the Long Parliament following the ‘Root and Branch’ petition and the impeachment of Archbishop Laud. The debate was attended by a flurry of pamphlets on both sides, notably between the Smectymnuans and Bishops Hall and Ussher. Although Of Reformation is a temperate historical discussion – Milton’s tone was to change in the later tracts – it identified him firmly with the Puritan cause. ‘For the first and last time in his life’, says Parker, ‘Milton found himself on the winning side’.

Wing M 2134; Parker, pp. 847-8; Coleridge 42.

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