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diately under the conduct and providence of God
: when regarded in this manner, it could not fail to quicken and invigorate his mental powers. Blindness, indeed, without the aid of religious enthusiasm, has a natural tendency to favour that undisturbed, intense, and continual meditation, which works of magnitude require. Perhaps we sometimes include in the catalogue of disadvantages the very circumstances that have been partly'instrumental in leading extraordinary men to distinction. In examining the lives of illustrious scholars we may discover, that many of them arose to glory by the impulse of personal misfortune ; Bacon and Pope were deformed; Homer and Milton were blind.
It has been frequently remarked, that the blind are generally cheerful ; it is not therefore marvellous that Milton was very far from being dispirited by the utter extinction of his fight; but his unconquerable vigour of mind was signally displayed in continuing to labour under all the pains and inconveniencies of approaching blindness, a state peculiarly unfavourable to mental exertion.
* Sed neque ego cæcis afflictis morentibus imbecillis tametsi vos id miserum ducitis aggregari me discrucior ; quando quidem fpes eft, co me propriùs ad mifericordiam fummi patris atque tutelam pertinere. Eft quoddam per imbecillitatem præeunte apoftolo ad inaximas vires iter: fim ego debiliffimus; dummodo in niea debilitate immortalis ille et melior vigor eo fe efficacius exerat ; dummodo in meis tenebris divini
vultus lumen eo clarius eluceat, tum enim infirmiffimus ero fimul et validiffimus cæcus eodem tempore et perspicacisfimus; hac pofsim ego infirmitate consummari, hac perfici poslim in hac obfcuritate lic' ego irradiari. Et fanè haud ultima Dei cura cæci fumus; qui nos quo minus quicquam aliud præter ipsum cernere valemus, eo clementius atque benignius respicere dignatur. -Prose Works, vol. 2.
From the very eloquent preface to his Defence we learn, that while he was engaged on that composition, and eager to throw into it all the force of his exalted mind, “ his in
firmity obliged him to work only by starts, and scarce “ to touch, in short periods of study broken by hourly in
terruptions, what he wished to pursue with continued “ application *.” In this most uneasy and perilous labour he exerted his failing eyes to the utmost, and, to repeat his own triumphant expression,
Lost them overply'd
His left eye became utterly blind in 1651, the year in which the book that he alludes to was published, and he lost the use of the other in 1654, the year in which he wrote concerning his blindness to his Athenian friend. In this interval he repeatedly changed his abode. As every spot inhabited by such a man acquires a sort of consecration in the fancy of his admirers, I shall here transcribe from his nephew the particulars of his residence,
“ First he lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the “ Bull Head tavern at Charing Cross, opening into th:
* Quod fi quis miretur fortè cur ergò tam diu intactum et ovantem, noftroque omnium filentio infatum volitare paffi fumus de aliis fane nescio, de nie audacter poffum dicere, non mihi verba aut arguinenta quibus causam juerer tam bonam diu quærenda aut investiganda fuifle fi otium et valetudinem (quæ
quidem scribendi laborem ferre poffit) nactı essem. Quâ cum adhuc etiam tenui admo dum utar carptim hæc cogor et intercisis pei singulis horis vix attingere, quæ continer stylo atque ftudiopersequi debuiflem. Pro. Works, vol. 2. p. 278.
Spring Garden, which seems to have been only a lodging “ taken till his designed apartment in Scotland Yard was
prepared for him; for hither he soon removed from the “ aforesaid place, and here his third child, a fon, was born, “ which, through the ill-usage or bad constitution of an ill« chosen nurse, died an infant. From this apartment, « whether he thought it not healthy or otherwise conve" nient for his use, or whatever else was the reason, he “ foon after took a pretty garden-house in Petty France, in « Westminster, next door to the Lord Scudamore's, and
opening into St. James's Park, where he remained no “ less than eight years, namely, from the year 1652 till “ within a few weeks of King Charles the Second's resto
Philips also informs us, that while his uncle lodged at Thomson's he was employed in revising and polishing th Latin work of his youngest nephew John, who, on the publication of a severe' attack upon Milton, ascribed to Bramhall, Bishop of Derry, vindicated his illustrious relation, and satirized his supposed adversary with a keenness and vehemence of invective, which induced, perhaps, fome readers to suspect that the performance was written entirely by Milton. The traces, however, of a young hand are evident in the work; and John Philips, at the time it appeared, 1652, was a youth of nineteen or twenty, eager (as he declares) to engage unsolicited in a composition, which, however abounding in juvenile defects, proves him attached to his country, and grateful to his friends.
In 1654, Milton, now utterly blind, appeared again in the field of controversy, first, in his Second Defence of the English People, and the following year in a defence of himself, " Autoris
se Defenfio.” The first of these productions is in truth his own vindication ; it is the work in which he speaks most abundantly of his own character and conduct; it displays that true eloquence of the heart, by which probity and talents are enabled to defeat the malevolence of an insolent accuser ; it proves that the mind of this wonderful man united to the poetic imagination of Homer the argumentative energy of Demofthenes.
It must however be allowed, that while Milton defended hiinself with the spirit of the Grecian orator, in imitating the eloquent Athenian he promiscuously caught both his merits and defects. It is to be regretted, that these mighty masters of rhetoric permitted so large an alloy of personal virulence to debase the dignity of national argument; yet as the great orators of an age more humanized are apt, we see, to be hurried into the same failing, we may conclude that it is almost inseparable from the weakness of nature, and we must not expect to find, though we certainly should endeavour to introduce, the charity of the Gospel in political contention.
If the utmost acrimony of invective could in any case be justified, it might assuredly be so by the calumnies which hurried both Demosthenes and Milton into those intemperate expressions, which appear in their respective vindications like specks of a meaner mineral in a mass of the richest ore. The outrages that called forth the vindịctive
thunders of the eloquent Athenian are sufficiently known. The indignation of Milton was awakened by a Latin work, published at the Hague in 1652, entitled, “Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Cælum ;” The Cry of Royal Blood to Heaven. In this book all the bitter terms of abhorrence and reproach, with which the malignity of passion can dishonour learning, were lavished on the eloquent defender of the English commonwealth. The secret author of this scurrility was Peter du Moulin, a Protestant divine, and son of a French author, whom the biographers of his own country describe as a satirist without taste and a theologian without temper. Though du Moulin seems to have inherited the acrimonious spirit of his father, he had not the courage to publish himself what he had written as the antagonist of Milton, but sent his papers to Salmasius, who entrusted them to Alexander More, a French protestant of Scotch extraction, and a divine, who agreed in his principles with the author of the manuscript.
Most unfortunately for his own future comfort, More published, without a' name, the work of Du Moulin, with a dedication to Charles the Second, under the signature of Ulac, the Dutch printer. He decorated the book with a portrait of Charles, and applied at the fame time to Milton the Virgilian delineation of Polypheme :
Monstrum horrendum informe ingens, cui lumen ademptum.
A monstrous bulk deform’d, depriv'd of sight.