« AnteriorContinuar »
were deposited, reside."* He held also the Liturgy of the Church of England, he had that when the people would not elect such a a strong aversion ; thinking, that by such council, it was the duty of any man who had forms, the spirit of true devotion is stinted, the power to benefit his country, by declar- that the imposition of them is “a tyranny ing this to be his mind, and calling in the that would have longer hands than those aid of the army to assist in the prosecution giants who threatened bondage to heaven,"* thereof. With such views, we do not see and that the Book of Common Prayer was how he could have felt any very great scru
"an Englished mass-book, composed, for ple, under any circumstances, in continuing aught we know, by men neither learned nor to adhere to the service of Cromwell after he godly."Indeed, to forms of all sorts, le became Protector. There can be no doubt had a disinclination, which so grew upon that he regarded Oliver as the best man of him, that he ended by neglecting every kind his age. In his sonnet to the Protector, he of social or apparent worship, and by standexpressly styles him, “ Cromwell, our chief ing aloof from all religious parties. He is of men;" and in the apostrophe addressed commonly classed among the Independents, to him in the Defensio $ecunda,” he tells and a Baptist minister wrote a book some him, speaking of his elevation as Protector, years ago, professedly on Milton's Life and "such power is thy due, thou liberator of Times, but really for the purpose of proving thy country, author of her freedom, her him to have been a Baptist.I But with the guardian also and conservator.” Why, then, Independents as a religious body, whether should not he who desired to see England Baptist or Pædobaptist, he was never idengoverned by her best men, consent to the tified. In many of his opinions he more apsupremacy of one whose superiority to all proximated the Quakers than any other deothers was in his view unquestionable-of nomination of Christians. one whose services to his country threw It would be interesting to know in what those of all others into the shade of one light Milton was regarded by the great and who had alone showed himself competent good men whose names have come down to to guide the vessel of the state through the us as the religious leaders of that time. One storms and breakers amidst which it had would like to know what Owen thought of been cast?
him; or Baxter, or Howe, or Godwin; all In ecclesiastical matters, Milton was whol- of whom must have known him, and been in ly at one with the predominant party in the the habit of meeting him at Whitehall. One Commonwealth. He was the strenuous ad- can easily believe that with some of these vocate of liberty of conscience. He desired men he had little sympathy; but between to see all sects on a footing of perfect equal. such a mind as that of Howe and such a ity, so far as relation to the civil power was mind as that of Milton, there must have been concerned. He opposed the endowment of much that was congenial. But no trace rereligion by the state, as unscriptural and im- mains of the intercourse of any of these parpolitic; as the fruitful source of corruption ties with him ; no indication of their judgto the church, and of disquiet and misrule to ment of him. It would be impossible, we the community. He claimed equal liberty think, to infer from any portion of their or his of profession and of worship for all Chris- published writings, either that they had read tians, with the one exception of the Roman- any of Milton's books, or that he had read any ists, whom he regarded as politically unsafe, of theirs. The distance between him and them as contemners of the sole authority in relig- is, to all appearance, as great as if they and ious matters—the Bible, and as idolators. he had lived in different ages, and written in Of episcopacy, in all its forms, and through different tongues. all its grades, he had an implacable hatred. It is not easy to account for this. Perhaps His dislike to presbytery was hardly less bit- Milton, in his fierce dislike of priests, was not ter; be maintained that “ New Presbyter is disposed to have intercourse with any who but old Priest writ large;" and he bestows sustained, however meekly and holily, the upon the Presbyterian party, in his own day, sacred profession. Perhaps his open neglect names not much more savory than those of forms of worship, and the public instituwhich he had always at hand for the bish- tions of religion, led those good men to reops. To forms of prayer, and especially to
* Eiconoclastes, c. 16. Works, vol. i. p. 431. Ready Way to establish a Free Commonwealth, + Ibid., p. 433. vol. ii. p. 121.
John Milton : his Life and Times, Religious and + See Letter General Monk, vol. ii. p. 108. Political Opinions, &c. By Joseph Ivimey. Lond. Comp. First Defence, vol. i. p. 143.
gard him with suspicion, to shun his society, , any rate, we may reasonably doubt whether and to neglect his books. Perhaps they it was to this he owed his manifest estrangehardly deemed him altogether of sound mind, ment from the great evangelical sectaries of and thought the less they had to do with his day. him and his crotchets the better. And it But whatever may have been the defects may be, that Milton was really what of late or errors of Milton's theological creed, it is it has been confidently asserted he was, in impossible to refuse him the honor due to a heart an Arian; in which case, men such as life of the sincerest piety and the most dignithose we have named would have shrunk fied virtue. No man ever lived under a more from him with horror.
abiding sense of responsibility. No man We state this latter suggestion as resting ever strove more faithfully to use time and on an assumption which, at the best, is doubt talent “as ever in the great Taskmaster's ful. The only direct evidence that Milton eye.” No man so richly endowed was ever was imbued with the sentiments of the less ready to trust in his own powers, or more Arians, is supplied by his long-lost System prompt to own his dependence on “that of Divinity, recently brought to light and eternal and propitial throne, where nothing published, with a translation, by the Bishop is readier than grace and refuge to the disof Winchester. But this evidence is greatly tresses of mortal suppliants.” His morality invalidated by the following circumstances : was of the loftiest order. He possessed a 1. Whilst in some passages of this work Mil- self-control which, in one susceptible of such ton speaks like an Arian, in others he uses vehement emotions, was marvelous. No one language entirely incompatible with the ever saw him indulging in those propensities Arian system. 2. There is no evidence to which overcloud the mind and pollute the show that this work was the production of heart. No youthful excesses, no revelries Milton's maturer years; so that, for aught or debaucheries of maturer years, treasured that appears, it may contain only the crude up for him a suffering and remorseful old conceptions of his earlier years. 3. There is age. From his youth up, he was temperate no evidence to show that Milton ever wrote in all things, as became one who had consethis work as one continuous composition, at crated himself to a life-struggle against vice,
4. there is abundant evidence to and error, and darknesss, in all its forms. show that he was in the habit, during the He had started with the conviction “ that he course of his life, of compiling opinions on who would not be frustrate of his hope to theology from the writings of foreign divines, write well hereafter in laudable things, ought whose words he quoted; so that, for aught himself to be a true poem ; that is, a compowe can tell, this treatise may be merely a sition and pattern of the best and honorable, compilation of opinions, many of which are est things;" and from this he never swerved. naturally discordant, and which Milton may His life was indeed a true poem ; or it might have cited for various reasons, and not al- be compared to an anthem on his own favorways because he held the views expressed ; ite organ-high-toned, solemn, and majestic. and, 5. The MS. of this work is obviously in. We may regret, that with all this stately elecomplete, in many places it is interlined, and vation and severe purity of character, there many slips containing additional matter, are was not mingled more of the sweetness and pasted on the margin; so that what it would gentleness that ought to mark the Christian. have become, had Milton prepared it for the But perfection was not the privilege of Milpress, we cannot say. It seems, therefore, ton, any more than of other men. It is hardly fair to the memory of the poet, to enough for his eulogy to say, that with a build on such a work any very serious genius such as bas never been surpassed, charge against his orthodoxy; more especi- and with attainments which have seldom ally as that charge is contradicted by ex- been equaled, he combined the loftiest depress declarations contained in the works he votion, the most inflexible integrity, and the himself published during his lifetime.* At most severe self-command. He stands be* In the Iconoclastes, he speaks of the infections blest development, retaining all its stern vir
fore us as the type of PURITANISM, in its noof Arian and Palagian heresies.” (w. i. 483.) Comp. Par. Lost, ii. 138; Ode on Christ's Nativity; | tue and passionate devotion, but without its Of Reformation in England, book ii. (Works, vol. coarseness, its intolerance, or its stoicism. ii., p. 417,) &c.
From Blackwood's Magazine.
Par M. le VICOMTE DE CHATEAUBRIAND. 4 vols.
Mémoires d'Outre Tombe.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY, when skillfully and judi- with which it is written, and the judgment it ciously done, is one of the most delightful displays, conspicuous alike in what is revealspecies of composition of which literature can ed and what is withheld in the narrative. It boast. There is a strong desire in every in- steers the middle channel so difficult to find, telligent and well-informed mind to be made so invaluable when found, between ridiculous acquainted with the private thoughts, and vanity on the one side, and affected modesty secret motives of action, of those who have on the other.
We see, from many passages filled the world with their renown. We long in it, that the author was fully aware of the to learn their early history, to be made ac- vast contribution he had made to literature, quainted with their first aspirations—to learn and the firm basis on which he had built his how they became so great as they afterward colossal fame. But he had good sense turned out. Perhaps literature has sustained enough to see, that those great qualities no greater loss than that of the memoirs were never so likely to impress the reader as which Hannibal wrote of his life and cam- when only cautiously alluded to by the aupaigns. From the few fragments of his say- thor. He knew that vanity and ostentation ings which Roman admiration or terror has never fail to make the character in which preserved, his reach of thought and states- they predominate ridiculous—if excessive, man-like sagacity would appear to have been contemptible; and that, although the world equal to his military talents. Cæsar's Com. would thankfully receive all the details, how mentaries have always been admired; but ! minute soever, connected with his immortal there is some doubts whether they really work, they would not take off his hands any were written by the dictator; and, suppos- symptom of his own entertaining the opinion ing they were, they relate almost entirely to of it which all others have formed. It is the military movements and public events, with- consummate judgment with which Gibbon out giving much insight into private charac- has given enough of the details connected ter. It is that which we desire in autobiog. with the preparation of his works to be inraphy: we hope to find in it a window by teresting, and not enough to be ridiculous, which we may look into a great man's mind. which constitutes the great charm, and has Plutarch's Lives owe their vast and enduring occasioned the marked success, of his autopopularity to the insight into private charac- biography. There are few passages in the ter which the innumerable anecdotes he has English language so popular as the wellcollected, of the heroes and statesmen of an- known ones in which he has recounted the tiquity, afford.
first conception, and final completion of his Gibbon's autobiography is the most per- history, which, as models of the kind, as fect account of an eminent man's life, from well as passages of exquisite beauty, we canhis own band, which exists in any language. not refuse ourselves the pleasure of tranIndependent of the interest which naturally scribing, the more especially as they will set belongs to it as the record of the studies, and off, by way of contrast, the faults in some the picture of the growth of the mind of the parallel passages attempted by Chateaugreatest bistorian of modern times, it pos- briand and Lamartine. sesses a peculiar charm from the simplicity
“ At the distance of twenty-five years, I can would be contrasted with its subsequent trineither forget nor express the strong emotions umphant success. Amidst his many great which agitated my mind as I first approached and and good qualities, there is none for which entered the Eternal City. After a sleepless night, Sir Walter Scott was more admirable than I trod with a lofty step the ruins of the Forum. Each memorable spot—where Romulus stood, or
the unaffected simplicity and good sense of Tully spoke, or Cæsar fell—was at once present his character, which led him to continue to my eyes; and several days of intoxication through life utterly unspotted by vanity, and were lost, or enjoyed, before I could descend to a. unchanged by an amount of adulation from cool and minute investigation. It was at Rome; the most fascinating quarters, which would on the 15th October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol , while the barefooted friars probably have turned the head of any other
man. Among the many causes of regret were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing this Decline and Fall of which the world has for the catastrophes the city first started to my mind. But my origin which overshadowed his latter years, it is al plan was circumscribed to the decay of the city, not the least that it prevented the complerather than of the empire ; and though my read. tion of that autobiography with which Mr. ing and reflections began to point toward that Lockhart has commenced his Life. His object, some years elapsed, and several avocations simplicity of character, and the vast number intervened, before I was seriously engaged in the of eminent men with whom he was intimate, execution of that laborious work."- Life, p. 198,
as well as the merit of that fragment itself, 8vo edition.
leave no room for doubt that he would have Again, the well-known description of the made a most charming memoir, if he had conclusion of his labors :
lived to complete it. "This observation does
not detract in the slightest degree from the “I have presumed to mark the moment of con- credit justly due to Mr. Lockhart, for his adception : I shall now commemorate the hour of mirable Life of his illustrious father-in-law: my final deliverance. It was on the day, or on the contrary, it forms its highest encomium. raiher night, of the 27th June, 1787, between the The charm of that work is mainly owing to hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last its being so imbued with the spirit of the lines of the last page, in a summer-house in my subject, that it may almost be regarded as garden. After laying down my pen, I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk of acacias,
an autobiography which commands a prospect of the country, the
Continental writers of note have, more lake, and mountains. The air was temperate, the than English ones, fallen into that error sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was which is of all others the most fatal in autoreflected from the waters, and all nature was biography—inordinate vanity. At the head silent. I will not dissemble the first emotions of of all the delinquents of this class we must joy on recovery of my freedom, and perhaps the place Rousseau, whose celebrated Confessions establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread
contain a revelation of folly so extreme, vaniover my mind, by the idea that I had taken an ty so excessive, and baseness so disgraceful, everlasting leave of an old and agreeable com- that it would pass for incredible if not provpanion; and that, whatever might be the future ed by the book itself, which is to be found in fate of my History, the life of the historian must
every library. Not content with affirming, be short and precarious."-Life, p. 255, 8vo edition.
when past fifty, that there was no woman of
fashion of whom he might not have made Hume's account of his own life is a model the conquest if he chose to set about it," he of perspicuity, modesty, and good sense; but thought fit to entertain the world with all it is so brief that it scarcely can be called a the private details of his life, which the biography. It is not fifty pages long. The greater prudence of his most indiscreet biogwary Scotch author was well aware how raphers would have consigned to oblivion. vanity in such compositions defeats its own No one who wishes to discredit the Genevese object: he had too much good sense to let philosopher, need seek in the works of others it appear in his pages. Perhaps, however, for the grounds of doing so. Enough is to the existence of such a feeling in the recesses be found in his own to consign him to eternal of his breast may be detected in the promi- execration and contempt. He has told us nent manner in which he brings forward the equally in detail, and with the same air of discouragement he experienced when the infantine simplicity, how he committed a theft first volume of his history was published, and the extremely limited sale it met with
* “Il y a peu des femmes, meme dans le haut for some time after its first
appearance. knew well how these humble beginnings I enterprise." —Biographie Universelle, xxxix. 136.
rang, dont je n'eusse fait la conquete si je l'avais
when in service as a lackey, and permitted | horrors of the 10th August.—"Je connais an innocent girl, his fellow-servant, to bear bien les grands, mais jene connais pas les the penalty of it; how he alternately drank petits.” He drew the vices of the former the wine in his master's cellars, and made love from observation, he painted the virtues of to his wife; how he corrupted one female the latter from imagination. Hence the abbenefactress who had sheltered him in ex- surdity and unnatural character of many of tremity of want, and afterward made a boast his dramas, which, to the inhabitant of our of her disgrace; and abandoned a male ben- free country, who is familiar with the real efactor who fell down in a fit of apoplexy on working of popular institutions, renders them, the streets of Lyons, and left him lying on despite their genius, quite ridiculous. But, the pavement, deserted by the only friend in the delineation of what passed in his own whom he had in the world. The author of breast, he is open to no such reproach. His so many eloquent declamations against moth- picture of his own feelings is as forcible and ers neglecting their children, on his own ad- dramatic as that of any he has drawn in his mission, when in easy circumstances, and tragedies; and it is far more truthful, for it impelled by no necessity, consigned five of is taken from nature, not an imaginary world his natural children to a foundling hospital, of his own creation, having little resemblance with such precautions against their being to that we see around us. His character and known that he never did or could hear of life were singularly calculated to make such them again! Such was his vanity, that he a narrative interesting, for never was one thought the world would gladly feed on the more completely tossed about by vehement crumbs of this sort which fell from the table passions, and abounding with melodramatic of the man rich in genius. His grand theory incidents. Alternately dreaming over the was that the human mind is born innocent, most passionate attachments, and laboring of with dispositions only to good, and that all his own accord at Dante fourteen hours a the evils of society arise from the follies of day; at one time making love to an English education or the oppression of government. nobleman's wife, and fighting him in the Park, Judging from the picture he has presented of at another driving through France with fourhimself, albeit debased by no education but | teen blood horses in harness; now stealing what he himself had afforded, we should say from the Pretender his queen, now striving his disposition was more corrupt than has to emulate Sophocles in the energy of his even been imagined by the most dark-minded picture of the passions, he was himself a livand bigoted Calvinist that ever existed. ing example of the intensity of those feelings
Alfieri was probably as vain in reality as which he has so powerfully portrayed in his Rousseau ; but he knew better how to con- dramas. It is this variety, joined to the ceal it. He had not the folly of supposing simplicity and candor of the confessions, that he could entertain women by the boast- which constitutes the charm of this very reful detail of his conquests over them. He markable autobiography. It could have judged wisely, and more like a man who had been written by no one but himself; for an met with bonnes forlunes, that he would at- ordinary biographer would only have detain more effectually the object of interesting scribed the incidents of his life, none else their feelings, by painting their conquests could have painted the vehement passions, over him. He has done this so fully, so sin- the ardent aspirations, from which they cerely, and with such eloquence, that he has sprang.
made one of the most powerful pieces of From the sketches of Goethe's life which - biography in any language. Its charm con- have been preserved, it is evident that,
sists in the picture he has drawn, with equal though probably not less vain than the truth and art, of a man of the most impetu- French philosopher or the Italian poet, his ous and ardent temperament, alternately im- vanity took a different direction from either pelled by the strongest passions which can of theirs. He was neither vain of his turagitate the breast-love and ambition. Born pitudes, like Rousseau, nor of his passions, of a noble family, inheriting a great fortune, like Alfieri. His self-love was of a more he exhibited an uncommon combination of domestic kind; it partook more of the patrician tastes and feelings with republican home-scenes of the Fatherland. principles and aspirations. He was a demo will question the depth of Goethe's knowlcrat because he knew the great by whom he edge of the heart, or the sagacity of the was surrounded, and did not know the hum- light which his genius has thrown on the ble who were removed to a distance. He most profound feelings of human nature. said this himself, after witnessing at Paris the But his private life partook of the domestic
VOL. XVIII. NO. III.