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few of that description every nation produces? We know little of those, who were under the tuition of our poet, except his two nephews; these were both writers; and a biographer of Milton should not have utterly forgotten his obligations to Edward Philips, if he allowed no credit to his brother for the spirited Latin treatise, in which that young man appeared as the defender of his uncle. But the striking inaccuracy of the critic consists in not giving a just account of a book that particularly claimed his attention, Philips's Theatrum Poetarum, a book, that under a Latin title, contains in English, a very comprehensive list of poets, ancient and modern, with reflections upon many of them, particularly those of our own nation. It is remarkable that this book was licensed Sept. 14, 1674, just two months before the death of Milton, and printed the following year. The author assigns an article both to his uncle and his brother. After enumerating the chief works of the former, he modestly says, "how far he hath revived the majesty and true decorum of heroic poesy and tragedy, it will better become a person less related than myself to deliver his judgment."
Though he here suppresses a desire to praise his most eminent relation, it bursts forth in an amiable manner, when he comes to speak of his brother; for he calls him, "the maternal nephew and disciple of an author of most deserved fame, late deceased being the exactest of heroic poets (if the truth were well examined, and it is the Opinion of many, both learned and judicious persons) either of the ancients or moderns, either of our own or whatever nation else."
I transcribe with pleasure this honest and simple eulogy; it does credit to the intelligence and affection of the poet's disciple, and it in some measure vindicates the good sense of our country, by shewing that, in the very year of Milton's decease, when some writers have supposed that his poetical merit was almost utterly unknown, there were persons in the nation, who understood his full value.
Let us return to the author in his little academy, and the second sarcastic insult, which his biographer has bestowed upon him as the master of a school. The lodging in which he settled, on his arrival from the continent, was soon exchanged for a more spacious house and garden, in Aldersgatestreet, that supplied him with conveniences for the reception of scholars: on this occasion Johnson exclaims, "let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with some degree of merriment on great promises and and small performance; on the man who hastens home, .because his countrymen are contending for their liberty, and when he reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in a private boarding-school."
To excite merriment by rendering Milton ridiculous for having preferred the pen to the sword, was an enterprise that surpassed the powers of Johnson; the attempt affords a melancholy proof how far prejudice may mislead a very vigorous understanding. What but the blind hatred of bigotry could have tempted one great author to deride another, merely for having thought that he might serve his country more essentially by the rare and highly cultivated faculties of his mind, than by the ordinary service of a soldier. But let us hear Milton on this subject. We have this obligation to the malice of his contemporaries, that it led him to speak publicly of himself, and to relate in the most manly and explicit manner, the real motives of his conduct.
Speaking of the English people, in the commencement of his Second Defence, he says*, "it was the just vindication of their
* Quos non logum contemptus aut violatio in effraena. tam licentiam effudit; non virtutis & gloriae falsa species, aut stulta veterum aemulatio inani nomine libertatis incendit, sod innocentia vitas, morumque sanctitas rectum atque solum iter ad libertatem veram docuit, legum et religionis justissima defensio necessario armavit. Atque illi quidem Deo perinde confisi, servitutem honestissimis armis pepulerc: cujus laudis etsi nullam partem mini vindico, a reprehensione tauten vel timiditatis yel ignaviae, si qua infertur, facile me tueor. Neque enim militiae labores & pcricula sic defugi, ut non alia ratione, & opcram, multo utiliorem, nec minore cum periculo mcis civibus navarim, & aniraum dubiis in rebus neque laws and their religion, that necessarily led them into civil war; they have driven servitude from them by the most honorable arms; in which praise, though I can claim no personal share, yet I can easily defend myself from a charge of timidity or indolence, should any such be alledged against me; for I have avoided the toil and danger of a military life only to render my country assistance more useful, and not less to my own peril, exerting a mind never dejected in adversity, never influenced by unworthy terrors of detraction or of death; since from my infancy I had been addicted to literary pursuits, and was stronger in mind than in
demissum unquam, ncque ullius invidiae, vol etiam mortis plus aequo metuentem proestiterim. Nam cum ab adolescentulo humanioribus essem studiis, ut qui maxime deditus, & ingenio semper quam corpore validior, posthabita castrensi opera, qua me gregarius quilibet robustior facile superasset, ad ea me contuli, quibus plus potui; ut parte mci meliore ac potiore, si sapertm, non deteriore, ad rationes patriae, causamque hanc prastantissimam, quantum maxime possem momentum accederem. •