XXI. MILTON IN CALABRIA
You may spend pleasant days in this city of Cosenza, doing nothing whatever. But I go there a for set purpose, and bristling with energy. I go there to hunt for a book by a certain Salandra, which was printed on the spot, and which I have not yet been able to find, although I once discovered it in an old catalogue, priced at 80 grani. Gladly would I give 8000 for it!
The author was a contemporary of that Flying Monk of whom I spoke in Chapter X, and he belonged to the same religious order. If, in what I then said about the flying monk, there appears to be some trace of light fooling in regard to this order and its methods, let amends be made by what I have to tell about old Salandra, the discovery of whose book is one of primary importance for the history of English letters. Thus I thought at the time; and thus I still think, with all due deference to certain grave and discerning gentlemen, the editors of various English monthlies to whom I submitted a paper on this subject - a paper which they promptly returned with thanks. No; that is not quite correct. One of them has kept it; and as six years have passed over our heads, I presume he has now acquired a title by "adverse possession." Much good may it do him!
Had the discovery been mine, I should have endeavoured to hide my light under the proverbial bushel. But it is not mine, and therefore I make bold to say that Mr. Bliss Perry, of the "Atlantic Monthly," knew better than his English colleagues when he published the article from which I take what follows.
"Charles Dunster ('Considerations on Milton's Early Reading,' etc., 1810) traces the prima stamina of 'Paradise Lost' to Sylvester's 'Du Bartas.' Masenius, Cedmon, Vendei, and other older writers have also been named in this connection, while the majority of Milton's English commentators - and among foreigners Voltaire and Tiraboschi - are inclined to regard the 'Adamus Exul' of Grotius or Andreini's sacred drama of 'Adamo' as the prototype."
This latter can be consulted in the third volume of Cowper's 'Milton' (1810).
The matter is still unsettled, and in view of the number of recent scholars who have interested themselves in it, one is really surprised that no notice has yet been taken of an Italian article which goes far towards deciding this question and proving that the chief source of 'Paradise Lost' is the 'Adamo Caduto,' a sacred tragedy by Serafino della Salandra. The merit of this discovery belongs to Francesco Zicari, whose paper, 'Sulla scoverta dell' originale italiano da cui Milton trasse il suo poema del paradiso perduto,' is printed on pages 245 to 276 in the 1845 volume of the Naples 'Album scientifico-artistico-letterario' now lying before me. It is in the form of a letter addressed to his friend Francesco Ruffa, a native of Tropea in Calabria. [Footnote: Zicari contemplated another paper on this subject, but I am unaware whether this was ever published. The Neapolitan Minieri-Riccio, who wrote his 'Memorie Storiche' in 1844, speaks of this article as having been already printed in 1832, but does not say where. This is corroborated by N. Falcone ('Biblioteca storica-topo-grafica della Calabria,' 2nd ed., Naples, 1846, pp. 151-154), who gives the same date, and adds that Zicari was the author of a work on the district of Fuscaldo. He was born at Paola in Calabria, of which he wrote a (manuscript) history, and died in 1846. In this Milton article, he speaks of his name being 'unknown in the republic of letters.'. He it mentioned by Nicola Leoni (' Della Magna Grecia,' vol. ii, p. 153),]
Salandra, it is true, is named among the writers of sacred tragedies in Todd's 'Milton' (1809, vol. ii, p. 244), and also by Hayley, but neither of them had the curiosity, or the opportunity, to examine his 'Adamo Caduto'; Hayley expressly says that he has not seen it. More recent works, such as that of Moers ('De fontibus Paradisi Amissi Miltoniani,' Bonn, 1860), do not mention Salandra at all. Byse ('Milton on the Continent,' 1903) merely hints at some possible motives for the Allegro and the Penseroso.
As to dates, there can be no doubt to whom the priority belongs. The 'Adamo' of Salandra was printed at Cosenza in 1647. Richardson thinks that Milton entered upon his 'Paradise Lost' in 1654, and that it was shown, as done, in 1665; D. Masson agrees with this, adding that 'it was not published till two years afterwards.' The date 1665 is fixed, I presume, by the Quaker Elwood's account of his visit to Milton in the autumn of that year, when the poet gave him the manuscript to read; the two years' delay in publication may possibly have been due to the confusion occasioned by the great plague and fire of London.