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meanness of expression, that too clearly discovers how cordially he detested him. But perhaps this detestation was the mere effect of political prejudice, the common but unchristian abhorrence that a vehement royalist thinks it virtue to harbour and to manifeit against a republican. We might indeed easily believe that Johnson's rancour against Milton was merely political, had he not appeared as the biographer of another illustrious republican ; but when we find him representing as honourable in Blake the very principles and conduct which he endeavours to make infamous and contemptible in Milton, can we fail to observe, that he renders not the fame justice to the heart of the great republican author which he had nobly rendered to the gallant admiral of the republic. To Blake he generously afligns the praise of intrepidity, honesty, contempt of wealth, and love of his country. Afsuredly these virtues were as eminent in Milton, and however different their lines in life may appear, the celebrated speech of Blake to his seamen, “ It is our business to hinder foreigners from fooling us,” by which he juftified his continuance in his poft under Cromwell, is singularly applicable to Milton, who, as a fervant engaged by the state to conduct in Latin its foreign correspondence, might think himself as strongly bound in duty and honour as the justly applauded admiral, “ to hinder his country from being fooled " by foreigners.” - But Milton,” says his uncandid biographer, “ continuing to exercise his office “ under a manifest usurpation, betrayed to his power that liberty which he had defended.”
Was the usurpation more manifest to Milton than to Blake? Or is it a deeper crime against liberty to write the Latin dispatches, than to fight the naval battles of a nation under the controul of an ufurper? Afsuredly not: nor had either Blake or Milton the least intention of betraying that liberty, which was equally the darling idol of their elevated and congenial spirits ; but in finding the learned and eloquent biographer of these two immortal worthies so friendly to the admiral, and so inimical to the author, have we not reason to lament and reprove fuch inconsistent hostility.
That the Latin secretary of the nation deserved not this bitterness of censure for remaining in his office, may be thought fufficiently proved by the example of Blake. If his conduct in this article required farther justification, we might recollect with the candid bishop Newton, that the blameless Sir Matthew Hale, the favourite model of integrity, exercised under Cromwell the higher office of a judge; but the heaviest charge against Milton is yet unanswered, the charge of lavishing the most servile adulation on the usurper.
In replying to this most plausible accusation, let me be indulged in a few remarks, that may vindicate the credit not only of a single poet but of all Parnafsus. The poetical fraternity have been often accused of being ever ready to flatter ; but the general charge is in some measure inconsistent with a knowledge of human nature.
As poets, generally speaking, have more sensibility and less pru. dence than other men, we should naturally expect
to find them rather distinguished by abundance than by a want of sincerity; when they are candidly judged, they will generally be found so; a poet indeed is as apt to applaud a hero as a lover is to praise his mistress, and both, according to the forcible and true expression of Shakespear,
" Are of imagination all compact.”
Their descriptions are more faithful to the acuteness of their own feelings than to the real qualities of the obje&s described. Paradoxical as it may sound, they are often deficient in truth, in proportion to the excess of their fincerity; the charm or the merit they celebrate is partly the phantom of their own fancy; but they believe it real, while they praise it as a reality, and as long as their belief is fincere, it is unjust to accuse them of adulation. Milton himself gives us an excellent touchstone for the trial of praise in the following passage of his Areopagitica; “ there are three principal things, without " which all praising is but courtship and flattery; “ first when that only is praised, which is folidly “ worth praise; next, when greatest likelihoods
are brought that such things are truly and really " in those persons to whom they are ascribed; the “ other, when he who praises, by shewing that “ fuch his actual persuasion is of whom he writes,
can demonstrate that he flatters not.” If we try Milton by this his own equitable law, we must honourably acquit him of the illiberal charge that might almost be thought sufficiently refuted by its apparent inconsistency with his elevated fpirit.
Though in the temperate judgment of posterity, Cromwell appears only a bold bad man, yet he dazzled and deceived his contemporaries with such a strong and continued blaze of real and visionary splendor, that almost all the power and all the talents on earth seemed eager to pay him unsolicited homage: but I mean not to rest the vindication of Milton on the prevalence of example, which, however high and dignified it might be, could never serve as a sanction for the man, to whom the rare union of spotless integrity with consummate genius had given an elevation of character that no rank and no powers unsupported by probity could possibly bestow; though all the potentates and all the literati of the world conspired to flatter the usurper, we might expect Milton to remain, like his own faithful Abdiel,
Assuredly he was so; and in praising Cromwell he
Dissembled zeal, ambition's old disguise,
It was more as a saint than as an hero that Cromwell deluded the generous credulity of Milton ; K
and, perhaps, the recollection of his having been thus deluded inspired the poet with his admirable apology for Uriel deceived by Satan.
For neither man nor angel can discern
That sublime religious enthusiasm, which was the predominant characteristic of the poet, exposed him particularly to be duped by the prime artifice of the political impostor, who was indeed so consummate in the art of deception, that he occasionally deceived the prudent unheated Ludlow and the penetrating inflexible Bradshaw; nay, who carried his habitual deception to such a length, that he is supposed, by fome acute judges of human nature, to have been ultimately the dupe of his own hypocritical fervour, - and to have thought himself, what he induced many to think him, the selected servant of God, expressly chosen to accomplish wonders, not only for the good of his nation, but for the true interest of Chriftendom.
Though Cromwell had assumed the title of Protector, when Milton in his second defence sketched a masterly portrait of him (as we have seen he did of Bradshaw in the same production) yet the new potentate had not, at this period, completely unveil