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tainly a sincere wish for his relief from what may justly be considered as the severest of human evils.
I belong to a fallible species, and am, probably, to be numbered with the most fallible of its individuals : but I am superior to fraud, and am too proud for concealment. Truth, religious, moral, and political, is what alone I profess to pursue ; and if I tancied that I discerned this prime object of my regard by the side of the Mufti or the grand Lama, of the wild demagogues of Athens or the ferocious tribunes of Rome, I would instantly recognise and embrace her. As I find her, however, or find a strong and bright resemblance of her in my own country, I feel that I am not summoned to propitiate duty with the sacrifice of prudence, and that, conscious of speaking honestly, I can enjoy the satisfaction of speaking safely. Without acknowledging any thing in common, but a name, with that malignant and selfish faction which, surrendering principle to passion, inflicted in the earlier periods of the last cenitury, some fatal wounds on the constitution, or with those mer, who in later times, have struggled, in the abandonment of their party and its spirit, to retain its honourable appellation,-' glory as I profess myself to be a whig, to be of the school of Sommers and of Locke, to arrange myself in the same political class with those enlightened and virtuous statesmen, who framed the Bill of Rights and the Act Or Settlement, and who, presenting a crown, which they had wrested from a pernicious bigot and his family, to the House of HANOVER, gave that most honourable and legi. timate of titles, the FREE CHOICE OF THE PEOPLE, to the So. vereign, who now wields the imperial sceptre of Britain.'
Such a writer is peculiarly calculated to be the biographer of Milton ; especially when he brings to the task diligence of research, and a mind replete with learning and taste, chastised by sound judgment.
Though Mr. Hayley, in his Life of Milton, prefixed to an edition of his Poetical Works, (of which we gave some account, Vol. xvi. N. S. p. 121.) has been actuated by a motive equally honourable with that of the present author, he was not so minute in his examination, and in the display of justificatory evidence, nor so forcible in argument. Dr. Symmons does not, however, arrogate superiority on that head, but vindicates his publication of this new memoir on the ground that
« The cause of morals, and of the best interestă of man, seems to justify that indignation, which would brand, again and again, the and lifted in violation of the illustrious dead. The dead, indeed, are at rest from their labours, and, far from the reach of human malice, are in possession of their reward ; but it is discouraging to the weakness of the living, and is consequently calculated to diminish the incentives to virtuous exertion, when it is perceived that no endowments of nature, no accumulations of knowledge, no just and sacred appropriation of talents, can secure the distinguished mortal from those in-. sults of posthumous calumny, which may bring him from the emi
nence that he has gained, and may level him with the vulgar of the earth.'
In Dr. S. are combined the biographer, the historian, and the critic: in the first of these characters, he presents us with the circumstances of Milton's life ; in the second, he animadverts on the prominent features and characters of the times in which he lived: and in the last, he judiciously comments on his prose and poetical works.
It is not necessary for us to follow the writer through the several incidents of our great poet's life, which are well known: but the remarks which they suggest often merit attention, as well for their vigor as for their accuracy; and on on some disputed points, the arguments and documents here produced appear to us very satisfactory. After Dr. S.'s examination, the idle tale of Milton having been corporeally punished at college will be no more repeated, and the reasons for the part which he acted on his return from Italy, at the commencement of the civil wars, can be no longer mistaken. It is well known that Dr. Johnson, (Lives of English Poets, Vol.i. p. 141.) in adverting to the conduct of Milton on this occasion, exults on his apparent inactivity, and hastily pronounces that “this is the period of Milton's life from which all his biographers are inclined to shrink :" but Dr. Symmons brings evidence to repel the sneer of the tory at the republican. He clearly proves, from a passage in the Defensio Secunda, that the part which Milton assigned to himself was taken with much deliberation, and is justified by the reasons which he alleges for his choice. We shall give the passage of his present biographer relative to this point, together with a quotation from the Defensio Secunda, which is now little known; and which probably Dr. Johnson never read, since otherwise he could not have affected such merriment at Milton's "great promises and small performance."
• Determined, from his first acquaintance with the struggles of his country, to devote himself to her service, he did not hesitate with respect to the part which he was to act. Conscious of his own proper strength, and sensible that genius, armed with knowledge, was a power of far greater and more extensive efficiency than the bodily force of any individual, he decided in favour of the pen against the sword ; and stationed himself in the closet, where he was himself an host, rather than in the field, where every muscular common man would be his superior. This is substantially the account which we have from himielf; and the motives of his conduct must obtain our approbation as honourable and wise. *'
“* Atque illi quidem Deo perinde confisi, servitutem honestissimis armis pefulere: cujus laudis etsi nullam parlem mihi vindico, á reprehensione It has also been alleged against Milton that he was unamiable as a family man: but it should be recollected that the evidence on oath, found in the Prerogative Registry, with Milton's nuncupatory will, (and the whole of which has been given to the public in Mr. Warton's second edition of Milton's Juvenile Poems,) goes to prove that our “ blind Mæonides” was more sinned against than sinning ; that his daughters were very unkind to him; that they even sold his books to “the dunghill women,” as the witness calls them; and that they endea. voured to persuade his servant to defraud him in his marketings. In all family disagreements, however, the probability is that there are faults on both sides ; on which side the greatest fault lay in this instance, it were perhaps now equally useless and vain to inquire: but while any doubt remains, it is obviously unfair to form a strong accusation of Milton on insufficient evidence.
Respecting the purity of Milton's political conduct, in connection with Cromwell, we shall have some remarks to offer towards the conclusion of this article.
tamen vel timiditatis vel ignavia, siqua infertur, facilé me tueor. Neque enim militie labores et pericula sic defugi, ut non alia ratione, et operam multò utiliorem, nec minore cum periculo meis civibus navarim, et animum dubiis in rebus neque demissum unquam, neque ullius invidie, vel etiam mortis plus equo metuentem præstiterim. Nam cúm ab adolescentulo humanioribus essem studiis, ut qui maximé deditus, et ingenio semper quam corpore validior, posthabilê castrensi opera, qua me gregarius quilibet robustior. facilè superasset, ad ea me contuli, quibus plus potui ; ut parte mei meliore ac potiore, si saperem, non deteriori, ad rationes patrie, causamque hanc prestantissimam, quantum maximé possem momentum accederem.”
“ Relying on the assistance of God, they, indeed, repelled servi. tude with the most justifiable war; and though I claim no share of their peculiar praise, I can easily defend myself against the charge, (if any charge of that nature should be brought against me) of timidity or of indolence. For I did not for any other reason decline the toils and the dangers of war than that I might in another way, with much more efficacy, and with not less danger to myself, render as. sistance to my countrymen, and discover a mind neither shrinking from adverse fortune, nor actuated by any improper fear of calumny or of death. Since from my childhood I had been devoted to the more liberal studies, and was always more powerful in my intellect than in my body, avoiding the labours of the camp, in which any robust common soldier might easily have surpassed me, I betook myself to those weapons, which I could wield with the most effect; and I conceived that I was acting wisely when I thus brought my better and more valuable faculties, those which constituted my prina cipal strength and consequence, to the assistance of my country, and her most honourable cause."
Not satisfied with rescuing the fame of Milton from unme. rited aspersion, and with pursuing his detractors to their com. plete discomfiture, Dr. Symmons looks forwards with poetic enthusiasm to remote posterity, and predicts that the reputation of his author will outlive the British Empire. Speaking of the Juvenile Poems, he says:
· Although these poems obtained some early notice, the number of their admirers was for a long time small. Éven from the wits of our Augustan age, as the age of Addison and Pope has sometimes been called, their share of notice was inconsiderable : and it is only in what may be considered as the present generation, that they have acquired any large proportion of their just praise. Their-reputation seems to be still increasing ; and we may venture to predict that it will yet increase, till some of those great vicissitudes, to which all that is human is perpetually exposed, and which all must eventually experience, shall blot out our name and our language, and bury us in barbarism. But even amid the ruins of Britain, Milton will survive: Europe will preserve one portion of him; and his native strains will be cherished" iu the expanding bosom of the great queen of the Atlantic, when his own Londou may present the spectacle of Thebes, and his Thames roll a silent and solitary stream through heaps of blended desolation.'
To Dr. Johnson's remark on the Epitaphium Damonis, that it is written with the childish affectation of pastoral life," it is here replied:
• Affectation is every where a just object of reprobation ; but how a writer can, with propriety, be said to be guilty of it, for employing any allowed and established species of composition as the vehicle of his thoughts, is more than I can possibly comprehend. When Milton chose to embody his sorrow in the form of a pastoral, to invoke the powers of song, who once warbled on the plains of Sicily, and to trace the steps of Theocritus and Virgil, he was not aware that he could be exposing himself to the charge of childish affectation.'
As an historian, Dr. S. presents us with some strictures on the character of Laud, in which his lenity struggles for a time with his love of justice : at last, however, the scale preponderates against the persecuting arch-bishop, and his conduct receives merited chastisement. If history indeed be designed to teach, it must learn magnanimously to condemn, as well as cordially to applaud ; and he who writes to promote the cause of virtue must be inspired by a sacred reverence for truth. While the present author avows his attachment to the Church of England, he reprobates persecution as a measure of promoting her interests, and heaps on the memory of Laud the odium to which his cruel bigotry is justly amenable. With not less freedom has Dr. S. spoken of the prince than of the prelate. His account of Charles I. we shall transcribe :
Separated Separated from the cause of the monarchy and of the church of England, the cause of Charles is much more open to assault than it is susceptible of defence. If he has been lowered beneath his just level by his enemies, he has been proportionably raised above it by his friends, and, with a nice regard to truth, we may probably place him in the central point between Nero, to whom he has been resembled by the former, and either of the intonines, above whom he has been advanced, not without a degree of prophane temerity, to the honours , of sainthood and martyrdom by the latter. His private life was not, perhaps, liable to censure, as it was blemished only with common imperfection ; but his public conduct betrayed the violence of a despot, with the duplicity and equivocating morality of a follower of Loyola *
Of the style of Milton's polemic writings, the following is a correct delineation:
• His language, is every where original, figurative, and bold: but his sentences are either not sufficiently or not happily laboured. His words, attentive only to sense, appear to rush into their places as they can; and whenever their combination forms an harmonious period, the effect looks like the result of chance, unconcerted and unheeded by the writer. Force is that character of style which he principally affects, and, that he may obtrude his mind with weight and impression on the mind of his reader, he scruples not to avail himself of the coarsest images and expressions. His object is to array him. self in strength; and, not satisfied with making us to understand his meaning, he must, also, make us to feel it. His matter and his mariner are often equally erroneous; but his deficiencies are sometimes concealed from us by those flashes of imagination, which cover his rough pages, and are sometimes pardoned by us in consequence of that conviction, which he enforces, of the thorough honesty of his heart.'
To “ The Defence of the People of England,” particular attention is given; large extracts are made from it, to justify the praise of the biographer; and in a note the Doctor' vindicates his hero from a censure unwarily thrown on him by the present enlightened Bishop of Landaff, for having asserted that the Reformers on the Continent entertained poinical principles similar to his own.
The suspicions of Milton that Charles was not the author of the Icon Basiliké are here fully justified ; and the readers of Hume should refer on this subject to Dr. S., who corrects the historian.
When we consider the unpropitious and even dispiriting circumstances under which the immortal poem on “Paradise Lost" was produced, we have additional reason for regarding it as a monument of intellectual vigor, and creative energy, and perseverance, which can very rarely meet with a parallel. It is here compared to ' a pine on the rocks of Norway, ascending to its
• The character of Cromwell is sketched with an equally masterly haad, p. 376.