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who was perhaps of all authors the least addicted to imitation, rarely intimates even Taffo in compofition: in life, indeed, he copied him more closely, änd to his great poetical compeer of Italy he disa covers a very striking resemblance in application to study, in temperance of diet, in purity of morals, and in fervency of devotion. The Marquis of Villa, in closing his life of Taffo, has enumerated all the particular virtues by which he was distinguished; these were all equally conspicuous in Milton; and we may truly say of him, what Manso says of the great Italian poet, that the preference of virtue to every other consideration was the predominant passion of his life.
Enthusiasm was the characteristic of his mind; in politics, it made him sometimes too generous, ly credulous, and sometimes too rigorously decisive; but in poetry it exalted him to such a degree of excellence as no man has hitherto surpafl. ed; nor is it probable that in this province he will ever be excelled; for although in all the arts there are undoubtedly points of perfection much higher than any mortal has yet attained, still it requires such a coincidence of so many advantages depending on the influence both of nature and of destiny to raise a great artist of any kind, that the world has but little reason to expect productions of poetical genius superior to the Paradise Lost. There was a bold yet refined originality of conception, which characterised the mental powers of Milton, and give him the highest claim to distinction : we are not only indebted to him for having extended and ennobled the province of epic poetry, but he has anon P 2
ther title to our regard, as the founder of that recent and enchanting English art, which has embellished our country, and, to speak the glowing lan. guage of a living bard very eloquent in its praise,
Made Albion smile,
The elegant historian of modern gardening, Lord Orford, and the two accomplished 'poets, who have celebrated its charms both in France and England, De Lille and Mafon, have, with great justice and felicity of expression, paid their homage to Milton, as the beneficent genius, who bestowed upon the world this youngest and most lovely of the arts. As a contrast to the Miltonic garden, I may point out to the notice of the reader, what has escaped, I think, all the learned writers on this engaging subject, the garden of the imperious Duke of Alva, described in a poem of the celebrated Lope de Vega. The sublime vision of Eden, as Lord Orford truly calls it, proves indeed, as the same writer obferves, how little the poet suffered from the loss of sight. The native disposition of Milton, and his personal infirmity, conspired to make contemplation his chief business and chief enjoyment: few poets have devoted so large a portion of their time to intense and regular study; yet he often made a pause of some months in the progress of his great work, if we may confide in the circumstantial narrative of his nephew.
“ I had the perusal of it from the very beginning," says Philips, “ for some years, as
I went from time to time to visit him, in parcels of ten, twenty, or thirty verses at a time (which, being written by whatever hand came next, might posfibly want correction as to the orthography and pointing). Having, as the summer came on, not been shewed any for a considerable while, and defiring the reason thereof, was answered that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal."
Johnson takes occasion, from this anecdote, to treat the fenfations of Milton with sensations feverity, and to deride him for fubmitting to the influence of the seasons; he lavishes ridicule, not less acrimonious, on the great poet, for having yielded to a fashionable dread of evils still more fantastic. “ There prevailed in his time (says the critic) an opinion that the world was in its decay, and that we have had the misfortune to be born in the decrepitude of nature.” Johnson exposes, with great felicity of expression, this absurd idea, of which his own frame of body and mind was a complete reharbouring so weak a conceit, he might have re. collected that Milton himself has spurned this chimera of timid imagination in very spirited Latin verses, written in his twentieth year, and expressly against the folly of supposing nature impaired.
Ergone marcescet, fulcantibus obfita rugis,
How ! shall the face of nature then be plough'd
The spirit of the poet was, in truth, little formed for yielding to any weaknesses of fancy that could impede mental exertion; and we may consider it as one of the striking peculiarities of his character, that with an imagination fo excurfive he possessed a mind so industrious.
His studious habits are thus described by his ac, quaintance Aubrey and others, who collected their account from his widow :-He rose at four in the fummer, at five in the winter, and regularly began the day by hearing a chapter in the Hebrew Bible; it was read to him by a man, who, after this duty, left him to meditation of some hours, and, returning at seven, either read or wrote for him till twelve; he then allowed himself an hour for exercise, which was usually walking, and when he grew blind, the occasional resource of a swing : after an early and temperate dinner he commonly allotted some time to music, his favourite amusement; and his own musical talents happily furnished him with a pleafing relaxation from his severe pursuits; he was able to vary his instrument, as he played both on the bass viol and the organ, with the advantage of an agreeable vioce, which his father, had probably taught him to cultivate in his youth. This regular
custom of the great poet, to indulge himself in musical relaxation after food, has been recently praised as favourable to mental exertion, in producing all, the good effects of sleep, with none of its disadvantages, by an illustrious scholar, who, like Milton, unites the passion and the talent of poetry to habits of intense and diversified application. Sir William Jones, in the third volume of Asiatic Researches, has recommended, from his own experience, this practice of Milton, who from music re. turned to study; at eight he took a light supper, and at nine retired to bed.
If such extreme regularity could be preserved at any period, it must have been in the closing years of his life. While he was in office his time was undoubtedly much engaged, not only by official attendance, but by his intercourse with learned foreigners, as the parliament allowed him a weekly table for their reception.' The Latin compositions of Milton had rendered him, on the continent, an object of idolatry; “ and strangers (says Wood, who was far from being partial to his illustrious contemporary) visited the house where he was born.” Even in his latter days, when he is supposed to have been neglected by his countrymen, intelligent for reigners were solicitous to converse with him as anobject of their curiosity and veneration; they regarded him, and very justly, as the prime wonder of England; for he was, in truth, a person so extraordinary, that it may be questioned if any age or nation has produced his parallel. Is there, in the records of literature, an author to be found, who,