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friend Heinsius, that he had obtained a very particular account of the author from a relation of his own, the learned Junius, who wrote the elaborate and interesting history of ancient painting, refided in England, and particularly cultivated the intimacy of Milton.
Indeed, when we reflect on the poet's uncommon tenderness towards his parents, and all the advantages of his early life, both at home and abroad, we have every reason to believe, that his manners were singularly pleasing. He was fond of refined female fociety, and appears to have been very fortunate in two female friends of distinction, the Lady Margaret Ley, whose society consoled him when he was mortified by the defertion of his first wife, and the no less accomplished Lady Ranelagh, who had placed her son under his care, and who probably assisted him, when he was a widower and blind, with friendly directions for the management of his female infants. A passage in one of his letters to her son fuggests this idea ; for he condoles with his young correspondent, then at the University, on the loss they would both sustain by the long absence of his most excellent mother, passing at that time into Ireland; “ her departure must grieve us both,” says Milton, “ for to me also she supplied the place of
every friend * ;' an expression full of tenderness and regret, highly honourable to the lady, and a pleasing memorial of that sensibility and gratitude, which I am persuaded we should have seen most
* Nam et mihi omnium neceffitudinum loco fuit.
eminent in the character of Milton, if his English letters had been fortunately preserved, particularly his letters to this interesting lady, whose merits are commemorated in an eloquent fermon, preached by bishop Burnet, on the death of her brother, that mild and accomplished model of virtue and of learning, Robert Boyle. Lady Ranelagh must have been one of the most exemplary and engaging characters that ever existed, since we find she was the darling fister of this illustrious philosopher, and the favourite friend of a poet still more illustrious, Four of Milton's Latin letters are addressed to her fon, and they blend with moral precepts to the young student respectful and affectionate praise of his mother *,
In the Latin correspondence of Milton we have some vestiges of his sentiments concerning the au. thors of antiquity; and it is remarkable, that in a deliberate opinion on the merits of Sallust t, he
* In the quarto edition of Boyle there are a few letters from his favourite fister, Lady Ranelagh; one very interesting, in which she speaks of the poet Waller; but she does not mention the name of Milton in the whole collection. Her fou (the first and last Earl of Ranelagh) who was in his childhood a disciple of the great poet, proved a man of talents, business, and pleasure.
+ De Sallustio quod scribis, dicam libere ; quoniam ita vis plane ut dicam quod fentio, Sallustium cuivis Latino historico me quidem anteferre; quæ etiam conftans fere antiquorum fententia fuit. Habet fuas laudes tuus Tacitus, fed eas quidem judicio maximas, quod Sallustium nervis omnibus fit
prefers him to all the Roman historians. Milton, however, did not form himself as a writer on any Roman model : being very early most anxious to excel in literature, he wisely attached himself-to. those prime examples of literary perfection, the Greeks s among
he particularly delighted in Euripides and Homer; his favourites in profe feem to have been Plato and Demosthenes ; the first peculiarly fit to give richness, purity, and lustre to the fancy; the second, to invigorate the understand
imitatus. Cum hæc tecum coram differerem perfecisse videor quantum ex eo quod fcribis conjicio, ut de illo cordatissimo fcriptore ipse jam idem prope fentias : adeòque ex me quæris, cum is in exordio belli Catilinarii perdifficile effe dixerit historiam scribere, propterea quod facta di&tis exæquanda funt qua potiffimum ratione id affequi historiarum scriptorem poffe exiftimem. Ego vero fic exiftimo; qui geftas res dignas digne scripserit, eum animo non minus maggo rerumque ufu præditum fcribere oportere quam is qui eas gefferit: ut vel maximas pari animo comprehendere atque metiri poffit, et comprehensas fermone puro atque cafto distincte gravitèrque narrare : ornate non admodum laboro ; hiftoricum enim, non oratorem requiro. Crebras etiam fententias, et judicia de rebus gestis interjecta prolixe nollem, ne, interrupta rerum ferie, quod politici fcriptoris munus est historicus invadat ; qui fi in confiliis explicandis, fa&tisque enarrandis, non suum ingenium aut conjecturam, fed' veritatem potiffimum fequitur, fuarum profecto par.' tium fatagit. Addiderim et illud Sallustianum, qua in re ipfe Catonem maxime laudavit, poffe multa paucis absolvere ; id quod fine acerrimo judicio, atque etiam temperantiâ quâdam neminem poffe arbitror. Sunt multi in quibus vel fermonis elegantiam vel congeftarum rerum copiam non defideres, qui brevitatem cum copia conjunxerit, id est, qui multa paucis abfolverit, princeps meo judicio est Sallustius. ---Prose Works, vol. 2. P: 582.
ing, and inspire the fervid energy of public virtue. It is a very just remark of Lord Monboddo, that even the poetical speeches in Paradise Loft derive their consummate propriety and eloquence from the fond and enlightened attention with which the poet had studied the most perfect orator of Athens : the studies of Milton, however, were very extensive; he appears to have been familiar not only with all the best authors of antiquity, but with those of every refined language in Europe; Italian, French, Spanish, and Portugueze. Great erudition has been often supposed to operate as an incumbrance on the finer faculties of the mind; but let us observe to its credit, the sublimest of poets was also the most learned : of Italian literature he was particularly fond, as we may collect from one of his letters to a professor of that language, and from the ease and fpirit of his Italian verses. To the honour of modern Italy it may be faid, that she had a considerable share in forming the genius of Milton. In Taffo, her brightest ornament, he found a character highly worthy of his affectionate emulation, both as à poèt and as a man; this accomplished personage had, indeed, ended his illustrious and troubled life several years before Milton visited his country; but he was yet living in the memory of his ardent friend Manso, and through the medium of Manfo's conversation his various excellencies made, I am persuaded, a forcible and permanent impression on the heart and fancy of our youthful countryman. It was hardly the example of Trislino, as Johnson supposes, that tempted Milton to his bold experi.
ment of blank verse; for Trissino's epic poem is a very heavy performance, and had funk into fuch oblivion in Italy, that the literary friend and biographer of Talso considers that greater poet as the first person who enriched the Italian language with valuable blank verse: “ our early works of that kind,” says Manso, “ are translations from the Latin, and those not successful.” The poem in blank verse, for which this amiable biographer applauds his friend, is an extensive work, in seven books, on the Seven Days of the Creation, a subject that has engaged the poets of many countries. The performance of Tafso was begun at the house of his friend Manso, and at the suggestion of a lady, the accomplished mother of the Marquis. As this poem is formed from the Bible, and full of religious enthusiasm, it probably influenced the English visitor of Manso in his choice of blank verse. Taflo was a voluminous author, and we have reason to believe that Milton was familiar with all his compositions, as the exquisite eulogy on connubial affection, in tñe Paradise Lost, is founded on a profe co nposition in favour of marriage, addressed by the . Italian poet to one of his relations * ; but Milton,
* Tasso begins this interesting discourse, by informing his kinsman Ercole, that he first heard the news of his having taken a wife, and then was surprised by reading a composition of his, in which he inveighs not only against the ladies, but against matrimony. The poet, with great politeness and spirit, assumes the defence of both, and in the close of a learned and eloquent panegyric, indulges his heart and fancy in a very animated and beautiful address to wedded love, which Milton has copied with his usual dignity and sweetness of expression.