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of the Muses; and the historian's warm loyalism, in theory as well as personal attachment, would have felt abhorrence beyond other men for the immortal bard's political writings. We are constrained to leave the cause of this mercy in the dark, and give he glory to those who exerted it.

Now came in a flood of poetasters from the French school; dissolute, base-minded, and demoralizing,-with little genius, but some wit,-epigrammatists, satirists, and buffoons, ridiculing all that was grave, praising nothing but what was worldly and unprincipled.

It is true that Dryden was now beginning to work himself into fame, but on the French model; which, however, he improved by the force of thought and language, and harmony of vigorous versification. I need not observe how unlike was the genius of Milton and of Dryden: Johnson has admirably analyzed the latter, to which his own taste inclined. He who is partial to Dryden, will never, I think, much relish Milton; though it will be objected that the case was otherwise with Gray, who is said to have united his admiration of both. There is a want of grandeur, of sentiment, of creation, of visionariness in Dryden. His style is clear, powerful, and buoyant; but his thoughts are often common, and his imagery is unpicturesque and vague: he was more intellectual than imaginative: his mind was turned to the world, and the observances of actual and daily life: he was often happy in acuteness of discrimination upon the manners and characters of the time: witness his portrait of Achitophel (Lord Shaftesbury). Here the extreme subtlety of his understanding displayed itself in full force. This was exactly what suited the reigning taste at this epoch. Let us contemplate Milton while such things were the rage. He had now withdrawn himself from the angry and harsh contests in which he had been so many years engaged, and was contemplating battles a thousand-fold more exalted, of rebel angels with almighty power. Never, in his more worldly employments, seeing things but in their grandest phases, with what ealm scorn must he now have looked down upon the petty witticisms of what the Court and nation now considered the brilliant emanations of poetic genius! Davenant was his friend, and Milton may have found some fine things in Gondibert; but there are no traces that the two poets had at this period any familiarity or intercourse. I do not recollect that Milton and Cowley were acquainted; nor do Milton's early poems seem to have come under Cowley's notice: if they had, he would assuredly have quoted them in his "Prose Essays."*

The conduct of those who were now re-admitted to power, was too well calculated to confirm the poet's hatred of monarchy: but in silent solitude and darkness he worked complacently on. Conscious of his own superiority of genius, he did not regard the loud applauses of the mob in favour of others. He did not wonder that the dissolute in life should have no taste for the pure spiritualities of true poetry: he relied upon the rewards of posterity with a just and sure faith. While others were groping upon earth in sensual pleasures, he lived by his imagination in heaven: his outward blindness did but strengthen his inward light. Perhaps but for this blindness his creative faculties had not been sufficiently concentrated to produce his great poem. Something of this opinion he seems himself to have entertained; thus drawing comfort from his misfortune. He was now shut out from worldly distractions; and the day was as the covering calm of night to him. The humility of his fortune, the singularity of his habits, all aided contemplation. The Muse can never live, except feebly and languidly, amid material luxuries: she delights in the majesty of thought, the scorn of all sublunary pleasures.

The poet, in his long intercourse with the busy world, had, like others, shown the human passions of anger, bitterness, contempt, and invective;-he now threw them all off: they nowhere appear in the sublime poetry he now produced, unless perhaps by slight allusion in a few passages of "Samson Agonistes," where the memory of the past revives a few stings.

In 1665 Milton married his third wife, Elizabeth Minshull, daughter of Sir Edward

In fact, when they appeared in 1645, he was in the King's service, and personally attended His Majesty; and he died in 1667, before the second edition of the poems, and the very year in which the “Paradise Lost" was published.

Minshull, knight of an ancient Cheshire family. She survived him above fifty years, and, retiring to Nantwich in Cheshire, died there in 1727.

Ellwood, the quaker, now undertook to read to him, for the sake of the advantage of his conversation and instruction.* When the plague raged in London, 1663, Ellwood received Milton and his family into his house at Chalfont, St. Giles, in Buckinghamshire. Here Ellwood says it was that the poet communicated to him the manuscript of "Paradise Lost."

Bishop Newton remarks, that considering the difficulties "under which the author lay, his uneasiness at the public affairs and his own, his age and infirmities, his not being now in circumstances to maintain an amanuensis, but obliged to make use of any hand that came next to write his verses as he made them, it is really wonderful that he should have the spirit to undertake such a work, and much more that he should ever bring it to perfection."

At this time he addressed a beautiful Latin letter to his friend Peter Heimbach, a German, of which the following is Hayley's translation:

"If, among so many funerals of my countrymen, in a year so full of pestilence and sorrow, you were induced, as you say, by rumour to believe that I also was snatched away, it is not surprising; and if such a rumour prevailed among those of your nation, as it seems to have done, because they were solicitous for my health, it is not unpleasing; for I must esteem it as a proof of their benevolence towards me. But by the graciousness of God, who had prepared for me a safe retreat in the country, I am still alive and well; and, I trust, not utterly an unprofitable servant, whatever duty in life there yet remains for me to fulfil. That you remember me after so long an interval in our correspondence, gratifies me exceedingly; though, by the politeness of your expression, you seem to afford me room to suspect that you have rather forgotten me, since, as you say, you admire in me so many different virtues wedded together. From so many weddings I should assuredly dread a family too numerous, were it not certain that in narrow circumstances, and under severity of fortune, virtues are most excellently reared and most flourishing. Yet one of these said virtues has not very handsomely rewarded me for entertaining her; for that which you call my political virtue, and which I should rather wish you to call my devotion to my country (enchanting me with her captivating name), almost, if I may say so, expatriated me. Other virtues, however, join their voices to assure me that wherever we prosper in rectitude, there is our country. In ending my letter, let me obtain from you this favour; that if you find any parts of it incorrectly written, and without stops, you will impute it to the boy who writes for me, who is utterly ignorant of Latin, and to whom I am forced (wretchedly enough) to repeat every single letter that I dictate. I still rejoice that your merit as an accomplished man, whom I knew as a youth of the highest expectation, has advanced you so far in the honourable favour of your prince. For your prosperity in every other point you have both my wishes and my hopes. Farewell. "London, August 26, 1666.'


MILTON'S CONTEMPORARIES-"PARADISE REGAINED" AND 66 SAMSON AGONISTES." ON -27th April, 1667, Milton sold his "Paradise Lost" to Samuel Simmons for an immediate payment of five pounds; another five pounds to be paid on the sale of thirteen hundred copies of the first edition; a third five pounds on the sale of the same number of the second edition; and the same sum after an equal sale of the third edition; each edition not to exceed fifteen hundred copies. In two years the poet recovered the second payment: he did not live to receive the other payments: therefore 2800 copies had not been sold in seven years.

Johnson and others contend that the sale of thirteen hundred copies in two years, in these times, was a proof that the poet's merit was not unfelt. I do not think so. John Dennis observes in a passage of his "Familiar Letters," quoted by Mitford, that "never any poet left a greater reputation behind him than Mr. Cowley, while Milton remained * See Ellwood's "Autobiography," and see T. Warton's character of this book in Todd, i. 187.


obscure, and known but to few; but the great reputation of Cowley did not continue half a century, and Milton's is now on the pinnacle of the Temple of Fame."

Mitford enumerates the following poets as contemporary with Milton:-" Waller, | Suckling, Crashaw, Denham, Lovelace, Brome, Sherborne, Fanshaw, Davenant, besides others of inferior note." He might have added-Habington, Stanley, Carew, Herbert, Withers. But none of these were of any mark, or power of invention, unless Cowley and Davenant. It does continue to appear to me extraordinary, that so many false and petty beauties should start up successively to be the temporary fashion of poetry. Invention is not improbability: it is to embody and bring before others the spirits of the past and the absent; it is not the trick of flowery or sparkling language: but the busy-bodies of a nation,-they who give the tone in society, having no natural taste or feeling, require artificial stimulants. The court of Charles II. was too much adulterated to endure the spiritual grandeur of Milton: he would have dispelled all the delusions of the wicked magician of voluptuousness: his sternness, his haughty wisdom, his unbending dogmas, were to them terrible and revolting.

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At the same time, though the exalted bard was little noticed by the "fashionable world," or by popular authors, we cannot suppose that he found no readers. That class of learned men, who were now thrown into the shade-the republican party,-must have remembered and admired Milton's zeal in their cause, and have had the curiosity to read his poem; but perhaps in silence and obscurity.

Dryden, too, though of so different a genius and taste, as well as politics, was fully sensible of the poet's merit. In the Preface to his "State of Innocence," soon after Milton's death, he says, "I cannot, without injury to the deceased author of Paradise Lost,' but acknowledge that this poem has received its entire foundation, part of the design, and many of the ornaments from him. What I have borrowed will be so easily discerned from my mean productions, that I shall not need to point the reader to the places; and truly I should be sorry, for my own sake, that any one should take the pains to compare them together; the original being undoubtedly one of the greatest, most noble, and most sublime poems, which either this age or nation has produced." Other notices are collected by Todd, which it is not necessary to repeat.

In 1688 appeared a folio edition of the "Paradise Lost," under the patronage of Lord Somers: in 1695 appeared a third folio edition, with the learned commentary of Patrick Hume.

In 1670 appeared the poet's "History of England," carried down to the Norman Conquest; which was mutilated by the licenser, by striking out passages which have since been recovered and replaced.

In 1671 were published the "Paradise Regained" and "Samson Agonistes." It is said that Milton was mortified at finding that the former was considered inferior to the "Paradise Lost." It is inferior because it has less invention; but in many of the sublime merits of the last, not at all inferior: there is more of human interest in it. Nor is the "Samson Agonistes" the production of a less vigorous and majestic genius.

The "Paradise Regained" is supposed to have been planned or begun at Chalfont. Ellwood having called on the poet after his return to London, was shown by him this poem, with the remark, "This is owing to you; for you put it into my head by the question you put to me at Chalfont." He is said to have written it in a state of uninterrupted fervour, according to the spirit which he names as inherent in him, in a letter to his friend Deodate, September 2d, 1637 :

"It is my way to suffer no impediment, no love of ease, no avocation whatever, to chill the ardour, to break the continuity, or divert the completion of my literary pursuits." In several passages of the "Samson Agonistes" the poet is supposed to allude to his own feelings and fate, especially in these lines, beginning at v. 75:—

I, dark in light, exposed

To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
Within doors or without, still as a fool,

In power of others, never in my own;

Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half,

O, dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,

Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse

Without all hope of day! &c.

Hayley says, "In these lines the poet seems to paint himself. The litigation of his will produced a collection of evidence relating to the testator, which renders the discovery of those long-forgotten papers peculiarly interesting: they show very forcibly, and in new points of view, his domestic infelicity and his amiable disposition. The tender and sublime poet, whose sensibility and sufferings were so great, appears to have been almost as unfortunate in his daughters as the Lear of Shakspeare. A servant declares in evidence, that her deceased master, a little before his last marriage, had lamented to her the ingratitude and cruelty of his children: he complained that they combined to defraud him in the economy of his house, and sold several of his books in the basest manner. His feelings on such an outrage, both as a parent and a scholar, must have been singularly painful; perhaps they suggested to him these very pathetic lines."

Dunster adds, that, "as it appears, from the latest discoveries relating to the domestic life of Milton, that his wife was particularly attentive to him, and treated his infirmities with much tenderness, this passage seems to restrict the time when this drama was written to a period previous to his last marriage, or at least nearly to that immediate time while the singular ill-treatment of his daughters was fresh in his memory." This also coincides with what Mr. Hayley observed respecting its being written immediately after the execution of Sir Henry Vane, which took place June 14th, 1662. Milton was then in his fifty-fourth year, in which we are told he married his third wife. This would make the "Samson Agonistes" at least three years prior to the "Paradise Regained;" of which we know he had not thought previous to the summer of 1665. In that magnificent passage beginning at 1. 667,

God of our fathers! what is man,

That thou towards him with hand so various,

Or might I say contrarious,

Temper'st thy providence through his short course,

Not evenly, as thou rulest

The angelic orders, and inferior creatures mute,

Irrational and brute?

Nor do I name of men the common rout,

That wandering loose about,

Grow up and perish as the summer fly,

Heads without name, no more remember'd;

But such as thou hast solemnly elected,

With gifts and graces eminently adorn'd,

To some great work thy glory,

And people's safety, which in part they effect.

Yet towards these thus dignified, thou oft,

Amidst their highth of noon,

Changest thy countenance, and thy hand, with no regard

Of highest favours past,

From thee on them, or them to thee of service.

Nor only dost degrade them, or remit

To life obscured, which were a fair dismission;

But throw'st them lower than thou didst exalt them high,

Unseemly falls in human eye,

Too grievous for the trespass or omission;

Oft leavest them to the hostile sword

Of heathen and profane, their carcasses

To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captived;

Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times,

And condemnation of the ingrateful multitude.

If these they 'scape, perhaps in poverty

With sickness and disease thou bow'st them down,

Painful diseases and deform'd,

In crude old age; »

Though not disordinate, yet causeless suffering

The punishment of dissolute days: in fine,

Just or unjust alike seem miserable,

For oft alike both come to evil end ;

Bishop Newton says, that, in speaking of the unjust tribunals, Milton reflected on the trials and sufferings of his party after the Restoration; and that when he talks of poverty,

*Not till 1665.

this was his own case; he escaped with life, but lived in poverty; and though he was always very sober and temperate, yet he was much afflicted with the gout, and other "painful diseases in crude old age,"-when he was not yet a very old man.

"But," ," Newton adds, "Milton was the most heated enthusiast of his time: speaking of Charles the First's murder, in his 'Defence of the People of England,' he says, 'Quanquam ego hæc divino potius instinctu gesta esse crediderim, quoties memoriâ repeto,'" &c.

The poet goes on:

Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn
His labours, for thou canst, to peaceful end.

"These concluding verses," says Hayley, "of this beautiful chorus appear to me particularly affecting, from the persuasion that Milton, in composing them, addressed the last two immediately to Heaven, as a prayer for himself. If the conjecture of this application be just, we may add, that never was the prevalence of a righteous prayer more happily conspicuous; and let me here remark, that however various the opinions of men may be concerning the merits or demerits of Milton's political character, the integrity of his heart appears to have secured to him the favour of Providence; since it pleased the Giver of all good not only to turn his labour to a peaceful end, but to irradiate his declining life with the most abundant portion of those pure and sublime mental powers, for which he had constantly and fervently prayed, as the choicest bounty of Heaven."

Again, Hayley thinks that at 1. 759 Milton alludes to his own connubial infelicity, and regret for his forgiveness at the repentance of his first wife, suspicious of its sincerity. But it is not only to the unhappiness of his marriage that Milton alludes in this stern poem: he also renews his political prejudices at l. 1418.

Lords are lordliest in their wine,

And the well feasted priest then soonest fired
With zeal, if aught religion seem concern'd;
No less the people on their holydays
Impetuous, insolent, &c.

Warton observes that he here expresses his contempt of a nobility and an opulent clergy, that is, lords both spiritual and temporal, who by no means coincided with his levelling and narrow principles of republicanism and Calvinism, and whom he tacitly compares with the lords and priests of the idol Dagon.

There can be no doubt that the whole of this poem arose out of the state of Milton's personal feelings at the Restoration. It is the blaze of a mind as gigantic as Samson's form and strength. His imagination is everywhere on fire both with intellectual and material visions. A vulgar taste in poetry would call the nakedness of his language prosaic: but in the enthusiasm of forceful thought the petty ornaments of language are disregarded. It is in the exaltation of the soul, in belief in visionary presence, that high poetry consists.

We are bound to contemplate the bard in these lofty moods;-to think how his spirit rose above his unprosperous and painful situation;—and with what sublime images, sentiments, and reflections, he soothed himself!-How he glowed, when he imagined Samson pulling down destruction on the hands of his foes!-His vigorous and enthusiastic mind roused him to be thus ready to devote himself to the common ruin.

Though now retired, neglected, and subject to many stings of disappointment, I doubt not he was altogether happier than when his mere memory, observation, and judgment were occupied in the coarse conflict of practical affairs. Imagination is more gratifying than memory, and idealism than reality. It is difficult to conceive how so creative a mind could so long bend itself to the servile office of secretaryship: to find correctness of expression in a dead language for diplomatic communications was but a pedantic employment; and a waste of powers which ought only to have been I applied to the highest intellectual exertions.

It is clear, however, that by whatever arguments the poet might reconcile himself to his blindness, there were moments when he felt most bitterly the deprivation: the passages I have cited from "Samson Agonistes" prove this. In his poverty he could

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