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gious morality! to which no feeling heart can subfcribe. No, say his implacable enemies, he lost his eyes in the vindication of wickedness : but admitting their assertion in its full force, justice and humanity' ftill contend, that, instead of diminishing, it rather doubles his claim to compassion; to fuffer in a spirited defence of guilt, that we mistake and esteem as virtue, is, perhaps, of all pitiable mise fortunes, what a candid and consideratę mind should be most willing to pity.
But Johnson proceeds to say, “ of evil tongues “ for Milton to complain required impudence at " least equal to his other powers; Milton, whose " warmest advocates must allow, that he never ** fpared any asperity of reproach or brutality of in46 folence.”
These are, perhaps, the most bitter words that were ever applied by an author, illustrious himself for
great talents, and still more for christian virtue, to a character pre-eminent in genius and in piety. By shewing to what a marvellous degree a very cultivated and devout mind may be exasperated by party rage, may they serve to caution every.fervid fpirit against that outrageous animosity, which a difference of sentiment in politics and religion is so apt to produce. It would seem almost an affront to the meinory of Milton to vindicate him elaborately from a charge, whose very words exhibit fo palpable a violation of decency and truth.
His coldest advocates, instead of allowing that he never spared any brutality of infolence, may rather contend, that his native tenderness of heart, and
very graceful education, rendered it hardly poffible for him at any time to be insolent and brutal. It would have been wonderful indeed, had he not written with some degree of afperity, when his antagonist Salmafius asserted, that he ought to fuffer an ignominious and excruciating death. Against the unfortunate (but not innocent) Charles the First, he expressly declares, that he published no, thing till after his decease; and that he meant not, as he says in one of his Latin works, to insult the Manes of the king, is indeed evident to an unprejudiced reader, from the following very beautiful and pathetic sentence, with which he begins his answer to the Eikon Bafilike :
" To descant on the misfortunes of a person fat, len from so high a dignity, who hath also paid his final debt, both to nature and his faults, is neither of itself a thing commendable, nor the intention of this discourse." Those who fairly consider the exasperated state of the contending parties, when Milton wrote, and compare his political compositions with the savage ribaldry of his opponents, however mistaken they may think him in his ideas of government, will
find more reason to adinire. his temper than to condemn his asperity.
If in a quiet study, at a very advanced period of life, and at the distance of more than a century from the days of the republic; if a philosopher so situat. e could be hurried by political heat to speak of Milton with such harsh intemperance of language, though writing under the friendly title of his biographer, with what indulgence ought we to view
that asperity in Milton himself, which arose from the immediate preffure of public oppression and of private outrage ; for his fpirit had been enflamed, not only by the fight of many national vexations, but by seeing his own moral character attacked with the most indecent and execrable calumny that can incite the indignation of insulted virtue. If the fascinating powers of his sacred poem, and the lustre of his integrity, have failed to soften the virulence of an aged moralist' against him in our days, what must he not have had to apprehend from the raging paflions of his own time, when his poetical genius had not appeared in its meridian fplendor, and when most of his writings were considered as recent crimes against those, who were entering on their career of triumph and revenge? Johnson, indeed, asserts in his barbarous censure of Milton's exquisite picture of his own situation, that the poet, in speaking of his danger, was ungrateful and unjust; that the charge itself seems to be false, for it would be hard to recollect any reproach cast upon him, either serious or ludicrous, through the whole remaining part of his life; yet Lauder, once the associate of Johnson in writing against Milton, expressly affirms, that it was warmly debated for three days, whether he should suffer death with the regicides or not, as many contended that his guilt was superior to theirs. Lauder, indeed, mentions no authority for his assertion ; and the word of a man so supremely infamous would deserve no notice, were not the circumstance rendered probable by the rancour and atrocity of party pirit. To what de
teftable excesses this fpirit could proceed we have not only an example in Lauder himself (of whose malignity to the poet I shall have fubfequent occafion to speak) but in that collection of virulent invectives against Milton, composed chiefly by his contemporaries, which Lauder added as an appendix to his own most malignant pamphlet. The most singular and indecent of these invectives, whose fcurrility is too grofs to be transcribed, has been imputed to that very copious writer, Sir Roger L'Estrange; and if a pen employed so savagely against Milton' could obtain public encouragement and applause, he might surely, without affectation or timidity, think himself exposed to the dagger of some equally hostile and more sanguinary royalist. L'Estrange, for such sufferings in the cause of roya alty as really entitled him to reward, obtained, not long after the restoration, the revived but unconftitutional office of licenser to the press. It was happy for literature that he possessed not that oppressive jurisdiction when the author of the Paradise Loft was obliged to solicit an imprimatur, since the excess of his malevolence to Milton might have then exerted itself in such a manner as to entitle both the office and its pofsefsor to the execration of the world. The licenser of that period, Thomas Tomkyns, chaplain to archbishop Sheldon, though hardly so full of rancour as L'Estrange (if L'Estrange was the real author of the ribaldry ascribed to him) was absurd or malignant enough to obstruct, in some measure, the publication of Paradise Lost. “ He, among other frivolous exceptions (says To
land) would needs suppress the whole poem, for imaginary treason in the following lines ;
as when the fun new risen
By what means the poet' was happily enabled to triumph over the malevolence of an enemy in office we are not informed by the author, who has recorded this very interesting anecdote; but from the peril to which his immortal work was exposed, and which the mention of a licenser to the press has led me to anticipate, let us return to his personal danger : the extent of this danger, and the particulars of his escape, have never been completely discovered. The account that his nephew gives of him at this momentous period is chiefly contained in the following sentence :
" It was a friend's house in Bartholomew Close where he lived till the act of oblivion came forth, which, it pleased God, proved as favourable to him as could be hoped or expected, through the intercession of fome that stood his friends both in council and parliament; particularly in the House of Commons, Mr. Andrew Marvel, a member for Hull, acted vigorously in his behalf, and made a considerable party for him.”
Marvel, like the superior author whom he fo nobly protected, was himself a poet and a patriot.