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till the attention be weary, or memory have its full fraught; then with useful and generous labours preserving the body's health and hardiness to render lightsome, clear, and not lumpish obedience to the mind, to the cause of religion, and our country's liberty, when it shall require firm hearts in sound bodies to stand and cover their stations, rather than to see the ruin of our protestation, and the enforcement of a slavish life.'--Vol. I. p. 220.
We have enlarged on the strictness and loftiness of Milton's virtue, not only from our interest in the subject, but that we may put to shame and silence those men who make genius an apology for vice, and take the sacred fire, kindled by God within them, to inflame men's passions, and to minister to a vile sensuality.
We see Milton's greatness of mind in his fervent and constant attachment to liberty. Freedom in all its forms and branches was dear to him, but especially freedom of thought and speech, of conscience and worship, freedom to seek, profess and propagate truth. The liberty of ordinary politicians, which protects men's outward rights, and removes restraints to the pursuit of property and outward good, fell very short of that, for which Milton lived and was ready to die. The tyranny which he hated most, was that which broke the intellectual and moral power of the community. The worst feature of the institutions which he assailed was, that they fettered the mind. He felt within himself, that the human mind had a principle of perpetual growth, that it was essentially diffusive and made for progress, and he wished every chain broken that it might run the race of truth and virtue with increasing ardour and success. This attachment to a spiritual and refined freedom, which never forsook him in the hottest controversies, contributed greatly to protect his genius, imagination, taste, and sensibility from the withering and polluting influences of public station, and of the rage of parties. It threw a hue of poetry over politics, and gave a sublime reference to his service of the commonwealth. The fact that Milton, in that stormy day, and amidst the trials of public office, kept his high faculties undepraved, was a proof of no common greatness. Politics, however they make the intellect active, sagacious, and inventive, within a certain sphere, generally extinguish its thirst for universal truth, paralyse sentiment and imagination, corrupt the simplicity of the mind, destroy that confidence in human virtue, which lies at the foundation of philanthropy and generous sacrifices, and end in cold and prudent selfishness. Milton passed through a revolution, which, in its last stages and issue, was peculiarly fitted to damp enthusiasm, to scatter the visions of hope, and to infuse doubts of the reality of virtuous principle; and yet the ardour, and moral feeling, and enthusiasm of his youth came forth unhurt, and even exalted from the trial.
Before quitting the subject of Milton's devotion to liberty, it ought to be recorded, that he wrote his celebrated •Defence of the People of England' after being distinctly forewarned by his physicians, that the effect of this exertion would be the utter loss of sight.' His reference to this part of his history in a short poetical effusion is too characteristic to be withheld. It is inscribed to Cyriac Skinner, the friend to whom he appears to have confided his lately discovered Treatise on Christian Doctrine.
Cyriac, this three years day these eyes, though clear,
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not
Of heart or hope ; but still bear up and steer
The conscience, Friend, to have lost them overply'd
In liberty's defence, my noble task,
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask,
Content though blind, had I no better guide.'--Sonnet XXII. We see Milton's magnanimity in the circumstances under which Paradise Lost was written. It was not in prosperity, in honour, and amidst triumphs, but in disappointment, desertion, and in what the world calls disgrace, that he composed that work. The cause, with which he had identified himself, had failed. His friends were scattered; liberty was trodden under foot; and her devoted champion was a by-word among the triumphant royalists. But it is the prerogative of true greatness to glorify itself in adversity, and to meditate and execute vast enterprises in defeat. Milton, fallen in outward condition, afflicted with blindness, disappointed in his best hopes, applied himself with characteristic energy to the sublimest achievement of intellect, solacing himself with great thoughts, with splendid creations, and with a prophetic confidence, that however neglected in his own age, he was framing in his works a bond of union and fellowship with the illustrious spirits of a brighter day. We delight to contemplate him in his retreat and last years. To the passing spectator, he seemed fallen and forsaken, and his blindness was reproached as a judgment from God. But though sightless, he lived in light His inward eye ranged through universal nature, and his imagination shed on it brighter beams than the sun. Heaven, and Hell, and Paradise were open to him. He visited past ages, and gathered round him ancient sages and heroes, prophets and apostles, brave knights and gifted bards. As he looked forward, ages of liberty dawned and rose to his view, and he felt, that he was about to bequeath to them an inheritance of genius 'which would not fade away, and was to live in the memory, reverence and love of remotest generations.
We have enlarged on Milton's character not only from the pleasure of paying that sacred debt, which the mind owes to him who has quickened and delighted it, but from an apprehension that Milton has not yet reaped his due harvest of esteem and veneration. The mists, which the prejudices and bigotry of Johnson spread over his bright name, are not yet wholly scattered, though fast passing away. We wish not to disparage Johnson. We could find no pleasure in sacrificing one great man to the manes of another. But we owe it to Milton and to other illustrious names to say, that Johnson has failed of the highest end of biography, which is to give immortality to virtue, and to call forth fervent admiration towards those who have shed splendour on past ages. We acquit Johnson, however, of intentional misrepresentation. He did not and could not appreciate Milton. We doubt whether two other minds having so little in common as those of which we are now speaking, can be found in the higher walks of literature. Johnson was great in his own sphere, but that sphere was comparatively of the earth ;' whilst Milton's was only inferior to that of angels. It was customary in the day of Johnson's glory to call him a Giant, to class him with a mighty but still an earth-born race. Milton we should rank among Seraphs. Johnson's mind acted chiefly on man's actual condition, on the realities of life, on the springs of human action, on the passions which now agitate society, and he seems hardly to have dreamed of a higher state of the human mind than was then exhibited. Milton, on the other hand, burned with a deep yet calm love of moral grandeur and celestial purity. He thought not so much of what man is, as of what he might become. His own mind was a revelation to him of a higher condition of humanity, and to promote this he thirsted and toiled for freedom, as the element for the growth and improvement of his nature.-In religion Johnson was gloomy and inclined to superstition, and on the
refreshing his whole
subject of government leaned towards absolute power; and the idea of reforming either never entered his mind but to disturb and provoke it. The church and the civil polity under which he lived seemed to him perfect, unless he may have thought that the former would be improved by a larger infusion of Romish rites and doctrines, and the latter by an enlargement of the royal prerogative. Hence a tame acquiescence in the present forms of religion and government marks his works. Hence we find so little in his writings, which is electric and soul-kindling, and which gives the reader a consciousness of being made for a state of loftier thought and feeling than the present. Milton's whole soul, on the contrary, revolted against the maxims of legitimacy, hereditary faith, and servile reverence for established power. He could not brook the bondage to which men had bowed for ages. • Reformation was the first word of public warning which broke from his youthful lips, and the hope of it was a fire in his aged breast. The difference between Milton and Johnson may be traced not only in these great features of mind, but in their whole characters. Milton was refined and spiritual in his habits, temperate almost to abstemiousness, and refreshed himself after intellectual effort by music. Johnson inclined to more sensual delights. Milton was exquisitely alive to the outward creation, to sounds, motions, and forms, to natural beauty and grandeur. Johnson, through defect of physical organization, if not through deeper deficiency, had little susceptibility of these pure and delicate pleasures, and would not have exchanged the Strand for the vale of Tempe or the gardens of the Hesperides. How could Johnson be just to Milton! The comparison, which we have instituted, has compelled us to notice Johnson's defects. But we trust we are not blind to his merits. His stately march, his pomp and power of language, his strength of thought, his reverence for virtue and religion, his vigorous logic, his practical wisdom, his insight into the springs of human action, and the solemn pathos which occasionally pervades his descriptions of life and his references to his own history, command our willing admiration. That he wanted enthusiasm, and creative imagination, and lofty sentiment, was not his fault. We do not blame him for not being Milton. We love intellectual power in all its forms, and delight in the variety of mind. We blame him only, that his passions, prejudices, and bigotry engaged him in the unworthy task of obscuring the brighter glory of one of the most gifted and virtuous men. We would even treat what we deem the faults of Johnson with a tenderness approaching respect; for they were results, to
a degree which man cannot estimate, of a diseased, irritable, nervous, unhappy physical temperament, and belonged to the body more than to the mind. We only ask the friends of genius not to put their faith in Johnson's delineations of it. His biographical works are tinged with his notoriously strong prejudices, and of all his Lives,' we hold that of Milton to be the most apocryphal.
We here close our general remarks on Milton's intellectual and moral qualities. We venerate him as a man of genius; but still more as a man of magnanimity and christian virtue; who regarded genius and poetry as sacred gifts, imparted to him not to amuse men, or to build up a reputation, but that he might quicken and call forth what was great and divine in his fellow-creatures, and might secure the only true fame, the admiration of minds which his writings were to kindle and exalt.
We come now to the examination of the newly discovered “Treatise on Christian Doctrine. This work, we have said, owes its chief interest to the character of its author. From its very nature, it cannot engage and fix general attention. It' consists very much of collections of texts of scripture, which, however exciting in their proper places, are read with little thought or emotion when taken from their ordinary connexion, and marshalled under systematic heads. Milton aims to give us the doctrines of revelation in its own words. We have. them in a phraseology long familiar to us, and we are disappointed; for we expected to see them, not in the language of the Bible, but as existing in the mind of Milton, modified by his peculiar intellect and sensibility, combined and embodied with his various knowledge, illustrated by the analogies, brightened by the new lights, and clothed with the associations with which they were surrounded by this gifted man. We hoped to see these doctrines as they were viewed by Milton in his moments of solemn feeling and deep contemplation, when they pervaded and moved his whole soul. Still there are passages in which Milton's mind is laid open to us. We refer to the parts of the work, where the peculiarity of his opinions obliges him to state his reasons for adopting them; and these we value highly, for the vigour and independence of intellect with which they are impressed. The work is plain and unambitious in style. Its characteristics are a calm earnestness, and that profound veneration for scripture, which certain denominations of Christians, who have little congeniality with Milton, seem to claim as a monopoly.
His introduction is worthy every man's attention, as a de