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,,much; fo that, in all the years he was about this, ,,poem, he may be faid to have spent half his time ,,therein."



Upon this relation Toland remarks, that in his opinion Philips has miftaken the time of the year; for Milton, in his Elegies, declares that with the advance of the Spring he feels the increase of his poetical force, redeunt in carmina vires. To this it is answered, that Philips could hardly mistake time fo well marked; and it inay be added, that Milton might find different times of the year favourable to different parts of life. Mr. Richardfon/conceives it impoffible that fub a work should be fufpended for fix months, or for one. It may go on fafter or flower, but it must go on. By what neceffity it must continually go on, or why it might not be laid afide and refumed, it is not eafy to discover.

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This dependance of the foul upon the seasons, thofe temporary and periodical ebbs and flows of intellect, may, I fuppofe, jufly be derided as the fumes of vain imagination. Sapiens dominabitur aftris. The author that thinks himself weather-bound will find, with a little help from hellebore, that he is only idle or exhaufted. But while this notion has poffeffion of the head, it produces the inability which it fuppofes. Our powers owe much of their energy to our hopes; poffunt quia poffe videntur. When fuccefs feems attainable, diligence is enforced; but when it is admitted that the faculties are fuppreffed by a cross wind, or a cloudy fky, the

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day is given up without refiftance; for who can contend with the courfe of Nature?

From fuch prepoffeffions Milton feems not to have been free. There prevailed in his time an opinion that the world was in its decay, and that we have had the misfortune to be produced in the decre

pitude of Nature. It was fufpected that the whole creation langnifhed, that neither trees nor animals had the height or bulk of their predeceffors, and that every thing was daily finking by gradual diminution. Milton appears to fufpect that fouls partake of the general degeneracy, and is not without fome fear that his book is to be written in an age too late for heroick poely.

Another opinion wanders about the world, and fometimes finds reception among wife men; an opinion that reftrains the operations of the mind to particular regions, and fuppofes that a lucklefs mortal may be born in a degree of latitude too high or too low for wifdom or for wit. From this fancy, wild as it is, he had not wholly cleared his head, when he feared left the climate of his country might be too cold for flights of imagination.

Into a mind already occupied by fuch fancies, another not more reasonable might eafily find its way. He that could fear left his genius had fallen upon too old a world, or too chill a climate, might confiftently magnify to himfelf the influence of the feafons, and believe his faculties to be vigorous only half the year.

His fubmiffion to the feafons was at leaft more reafonable than his dread of decaying Nature, or a frigid zone; for general caufes muft operate uniformly in a general abatement of mental power; if lefs could be performed by the writer, lefs likewise would content the judges of his work. Among this lagging race of frofty, grovellers he might itill have rifen into eminence by producing fomething which they should not willingly let die.

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inferior to the heroes who were born in better ages, he might still be great among his contemporaries, with the hope of growing every day. greater in the dwindle of pofterity. He might ftill be the giant of the pyginies, the one-eyed monarch of the blind.

Of his artifices of ftudy, or particular hours of compofition, we have little account, and there was perhaps little to be told. Richardfon, who feems to have been very diligent in his enquiries; but discovers always a wifh to find Milton discriminated from other men, relates, that "he would fometi,,nes lie awake whole nights, but not a verfe ,,could he make; and on a fudden his poetical fa,,culty would rufh upon him with an impetus or ,,ceftrum, and his daughter was immediately called ,,to fecure what caine. At other times he would ,,dictate perhaps forty lines in a breath, and then ,,reduce them to half the number."

Thefe burfts of lights, and involutions of darkness; thefe tranfient and involuntary excurfions and retro

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ceffions of invention, having fome appearance of deviation from the common train of Nature, are eagerly caught by the lovers' of a wonder. Yet fome thing of this inequality happens to every man in every mode of exertion, manual or mental. The mechanick cannot handle his hammen and his file at all times with equal dexterity; there are hours, he knows not why, when his hand is out. By Mr. Richardfon's relation, cafually conveyed, much regard cannot be claimed. That, in his intellectual hour, Milton called for his daughter to fecure what came, may be questioned: for unluckily it happens to be known that his daughters were never taught to write; nor would he have been obliged, as is uni verfally confeffed, to have employed any cafual vifis ter in difburthening his memory, if his daughter could have performed the office.

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The ftory of reducing his exuberance has been told of other authors', and, though doubtless true of every fertile and coplous mind, feems to have been gratuitoufly transferred to Milton.


What he has told us, and we cannot now know is that he composed much of his poem in the night and morning, I fuppofe before his mind was disturbed with common bufinefs; and that he poured out with great fluency his unpremeditated verfc. Verfification, free, like his, from the diftreffes of rhyme, muft, by a work fo long, be made prompt and habitual; and, when his thoughts were once adjusted, the words would coine at his command.



At what particular times of his life the parts of his work were written, cannot often be known. The beginning of the third book fhews that he had loft his fight; and the Introduction of the feventh, that the return of the King had clouded him with discountenance; and that he was offended by the licentious feftivity of the Restora tion. There are no other internal notes of time. Milton, being now cleared from all effects of his difloyalty, had nothing required from him but the common duty of living in quiet to be rewarded with the common right of protection: but this, which, when he fculked from the approach of his King, was perhaps more than he hoped, feems not to have fatisfied him; for no fooner is he fafe, than he finds himself in danger, fallen on evil days and evil tongues, and with darkness and with danger compass'd round. This darkness, had his eyes been better employed, had undoubtedly deferved compaffion: but to add the mention of danger was ungrateful and unjuft. He was fallen indeed on evil days; the time was come in which tegicides could no longer boat their wickednefs. But of evil tongues for Milton to complain, required impudence at least equal to his other powers; Milton, whofe warmneit advocates must allow, that he never fpared any asperity of reproach or brutality of infolence.

But the charge itfelf feems to be falfe; for it would be hard to recollect any reproach caft

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upon him

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