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His character as a poet is given in the following lines, written by Dryden under his picture:

• Three poets, in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
The first in loftiness of thought surpast;
The next, in majesty ; in both, the last.
The force of Nature could no farther go:
To make a third, she join'd the former two.'

In his politics, he was a thorough republican; having probably imbibed his principles from the Greek or Roman writers, with whose productions he was so intimately and perpetually conversant. When his friend Sir Robert Howard asked him, "How he came to side with the Republicans ?' he replied, among other things, because theirs was the most frugal government; for the trappings of a Monarchy might set up an ordinary Commonwealth.'

This is not the only instance, evincing that he was as free in his conversation as in his writings. The Duke of York, afterward James II., one day called upon him out of mere curiosity. In the course of their conversation, being asked by his illustrious visitor, Whether he did not think the loss of his sight was a judgement upon him for what he had written against the late King?' he readily replied; “ If your Highness thinks that the calamities which befall us here are indications of the wrath of heaven, in what manner are we to account for

father's fate? The displeasure of heaven must, upon this supposition, have been much greater against him, than against me: for I have only lost my eyes, whereas he lost his head." By this answer the


Duke was exceedingly offended, and went away very angry

In religion,' he was a dissenter from the Church of England. In the latter part of his life, however, he was not a professed member of any particular sect of Christians : he frequented no public worship, and is even said, but without authority, not to have used any religious rites in his family.

His circumstances were never either very mean, or very affluent: he lived above want, and was content with competency. During his travels, he was supported by his father. When he was appointed Latin Secretary, his salary amounted to two hundred pounds per ann.; and, though he was of the victorious party, he was far from sharing with them in the spoils. On the contrary, as we learn from his • Second Defence,' he sustained great losses during the civil war, and instead of being favoured (as had been represented) in the imposition of taxes, sometimes paid even beyond his due proportion; and upon the turn of affairs was not only deprived of his place, but also lost two thousand pounds, which he had put for security into the Excise Office.

He died, says Dr. Newton, by one means or other worth one thousand five hundred pounds,* beside his household-goods, which was no incompetent subsistence for him, who was as great a philosopher as a poet.

Milton seems not to have been very happy in his marriages. His first wife offended him by her elope

* Some time before he died, he sold the greatest part of his library, as his heirs were not qualified to make a proper use of it, and as he thought he could dispose of it himself to the greatest advantage.

ment: the second, whose love, sweetness, and delicacy he celebrates, lived not a twelvemonth with him: and his third, by whom he had no issue, was said to be a woman of a most violent spirit, and a severe stepmother to his children.* She died, says Dr. Newton, very old, at Nantwich in Cheshire; and, from the accounts of those who had seen her, I have learned that she confirmed several things related before: and, particularly, that her husband used to compose his poetry chiefly in the winter; and, on his waking on a morning, would make her write down twenty or thirty verses. Being asked, "Whether he did not often read Homer and Virgil ?' she understood it as an imputation upon him for stealing from these authors; and answered, with eagerness, that he stole from nobody but the Muse that inspired him: and being asked by a lady present, · Who the Muse was?' she answered, . It was God's grace, and the Holy Spirit that visited him nightly. She was likewise asked, “Whom he approved most of our English poets ?' and answered, " Spenser, Shakspeare, and Cowley :' and being asked, What he thought of Dryden ?' she said, 'Dryden used sometimes to visit him; but he thought him no poet, but a good rhymist. This censure, however, was uttered before Dryden had acquired much reputation, or had composed his most valuable works. She likewise used to say, that “ her husband was applied to by message from the King, and invited to write for the court;' but his answer was, that “such a behaviour would be very inconsistent with his former

* Of this information, however, there is much reason to doubt.

conduct, for he had never yet employed his pen against his conscience.'

It would be injustice to this illustrious poet, to omit any part of his character. We must therefore add, that he was as eminent for his erudition, as for his extraordinary natural genius. He was a master not only of the Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac languages; but also of the principal modern tongues, especially the Italian, which he wrote with so much elegance, that many members of the Academy Della Crusca, established at Florence for the refining and perfecting of that language, bestowed upon his stile high commendation.

In fine, he was an honest and a good, as well as a great man: in his private life an example of sobriety, temperance, patience, and frugality; and, in his public capacity, a model of persevering attention to the dictates of conscience, from which he could not be induced to swerve either by the dread of punishment, or by the temptation of reward.

The writer of the · Biographical Prefaces to the Works of the English Poets,' has done gross injustice to his personal character; but he has spoken in the strongest terms of his · Paradise Lost,' and of his genius as an author. Of this magnificent effort of imagination, even Johnson pronounces, that it “ is a poem which, considered with respect to design, may claim the first place, and with respect to performance the second, among the productions of the human mind.”—“ The subject of an epic poem is, naturally, an event of great importance. That of Milton is not the destruction of a city, the conduct of a colony, or the foundation of an empire. His subject is the fate of worlds, the revolutions of VOL. III.


heaven and of earth; rebellion against the Supreme King, raised by the highest order of created beings; the overthrow of their host, and the punishment of their crimes; the creation of a new race of reasonable creatures; their original happiness and innocence, their forfeiture of immortality, and their restoration to hope and peace.

“ Great events can be hastened, or retarded, only by persons of elevated dignity. Before the greatness displayed in Milton's poem, all other greatness shrinks away.

The weakest of his agents are the highest and noblest of human beings, the original parents of mankind; with whose actions the elements consented, and on whose rectitude or deviation of will depended the fate of terrestrial nature, and the condition of all the future inhabitants of the globe.

“ Of the other agents in the poem, the chief are such, as it is irreverence to name on slight occasions. The rest were lower powers,

• Of which the least could wield
Those elements, and arın him with the force
Of all their regions ;'

powers, which only the control of Omnipotence restrains from laying creation waste, and filling the vast expanse of space with ruin and confusion. To display the motives and actions of beings thus superior, so far as human reason can examine them, or human imagination represent them, is the task which this mighty poet has undertaken and performed.”

“ The thoughts, which are occasionally called forth in the progress [of this poem], are such as could only be produced by an imagination in the highest degree fervid and active, to which materials were sup

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