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alone have induced me to infcribe a more ample copy of it to that literary veteran, whose applause is so justly dear to me. I have additional inducements in recollecting your animated and enlightened regard for the glory of MILTON. It is pleasing to address a sympathetic friend on a subject that interests the fancy and the heart. I remember, with peculiar gratification, the liberality and frankness, with which you lamented to me the extreme severity of the late Mr. Warton, in describing the controversial writings of Milton. I honor the rare integrity of your mind, my candid friend, which took the part of injured genius and probity against the prejudices of a brother, eminent as a scholar, and entitled also, in many points of view, to your love and admiration. I sympathize with you most cordially in regretting the severity to which I allude, so little to be expected from the general temper of the critic, and from that affectionate spirit, with which he had vindicated the poetry of Milton from the misrepresentations of cold and callous austerity. But Mr. Warton had fallen into a mistake, which has betrayed other well-disposed minds into an
unreasonable abhorrence of Milton's prose; I mean the mistake of regarding it as having a tendency to subvert our existing government. Can any man juftly think it has such a tendency, who recollects that no government, similar to that which the Revolution established for England, existed when Milton wrote. His impassioned yet disinterested ardor for reformation was excited by those gross abuses of power, which that new settlement of the state very happily corrected.
Your learned and good-natured brother, my dear friend, was not the only man of learning and good-nature, who indulged a prejudice, that to us appears very extravagant, to give it the gentleft appellation. A literary Paladine ( if I may borrow from romance a title of distinction to honor a very powerful historian) even Gibbon himself, whom we both admired and loved for his literary and for his social accomplishments, surpassed, I think, on this topic, the severity of Mr. Warton, and held it hardly compatible with the duty of a good citizen to re-publish, in the present times, the profe of Milton, as he apprehended it might be productive of public evil.
For my own part, although I sincerely respected the highly cultivated mind that harboured this apprehension, yet the apprehension itself appeared to nie somewhat similar to the fear of Falstaff, when he says', “ I am afraid of this “ gunpowder Percy, though he be dead.” As the profe of Milton had a reference to the distracted period in which it arose, its arguments, if they could by any means be pointed against our existing government, are surely as incapable of inflicting a wound, as completely dead for all the purposes of histility, as the noble Percy is represented, when he excites the ludicrous terror of Sir John : but while I presume to describe the prose of Milton as inanimate in one point of view, let me have the justice to add, that it frequently breathes so warm a spirit of genuine eloquence and philanthropy, that I am persuaded the prophecy of its great author concerning it will be gradually accomplished; its defects and its merits will be more temperately and justly estimated in a future age than they have hitherto been. The prejudices so recently entertained against it, by the two eminent writers I have mentioned, were entertained
at a period when a very extraordinary panic possessed and overclouded many of the most elevated and enlightened minds of this kingdom--a period when a retired student could hardly amuse himself with perusing the nervous republican writers of the last century, without being suspected of framing deadly machinations against the monarchs of the present day; and when the principles of a Jacobin were very blindly imputed to a truly English writer of acknowledged genius, and of the purest reputation, who is, perhaps, of all men living, the moft perfectly blameless in his sentiments of government, morality, and religion. But, happily for the credit of our national understanding, and our national courage, the panic to which I allude has speedily passed away, and a man of letters may now, I presume, as safely and irreproachably peruse or reprint the great republican writers of England, as he might translate or elucidate the political visions of Plato a writer whom Milton passionately admired, and to whom he bore, I think, in many points, a very striking resemblance. Perhaps they both possessed too large a portion of fancy and enthufiasm to make
good practical statesmen; the visionaries of public
endeavours to elacidate the life and character of their author. Much as we respected the classical erudition and the taste of your lamented brother, I am confident that we can neither of us subscribe to the censure he has passed on the Latin style of Milton, who, to my apprehension, is often most admirably eloquent in that language, and particularly so in the passage I have cited from his character of Bradshaw; a character in which I have known very acrimonious enemies