Over the course of the eighteenth century, Milton's place in the British poetic canon was both contested and established. The first scholarly editions of Paradise Lost were printed, and the full range of his verse—both in form and content—was frequently imitated as well as discussed. Modern critics, such as Dustin Griffin (1986), have explored how Milton's poetry influenced writers in the succeeding century, yet its appropriation in miscellaneous publications remains largely unexplored. This essay analyzes the history of Milton's reception in the period 1700-1800 through his appearance in miscellanies, in the form of quotation, imitation, and as an exemplar of a distinctly British poetic identity. It traces the way in which Milton's Paradise Lost is quoted from in these collections, and explores how his poetry was read aloud, and for what purpose, by so-called “ordinary” readers, and it also documents the appearance of Milton's shorter poems in the period before Thomas Warton's seminal publication of these works in his Poems upon Several Occasions (1785). By surveying Milton's place in poetic miscellanies, this essay aims to demonstrate the various and changing functions his poetry supplied for eighteenth-century readers.

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