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The long literary career of Milton was now drawing towards its termination, and it closed as it began, with a fervent regard to the interest of religion.--Alarmed by that encroachment, which the Romish superstition was making under the connivance of Charles the Second, and with the aid of his apoftate brother, Milton published “A treatise «s of true Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and the 36 best Means to prevent the Growth of Popery.". The patriotic scope of this work was to unite and consolidate the jarring sects of the protestants, by persuading them to reciprocal indulgence, and to guard them against those impending dangers from Rome, which, in a short period, burst upon this island, and very happily terminated in our signal deliverance from many of those religious and political evils; which the spirit of Milton had, through a long life, moft resolutely and conscientiously oppofed.
His treatise against the growth of popery, which was published in 1673, was the last considerable performance that he gave to the world; but publication-in' fone shape seems to have contributed to his amusement as long as he existed. In the same year he reprinted his smaller poems with the Tractate on Education; and in the year following, the last of his laborious life, he published his Familiar Letters, and a Declaration of the Poles in praise of their heroic sovereign, John Sobieski, translated from the Latin criginal : A brief history of Moscovia, which he appears to have compiled, in the early parts of his life, from various travellers who had visited that country, was published a few years after his death, and two of his compositions (both perhaps intended for the. 9
press) have probably perished; the first, a System of Theology in Latin, that seems to have been entrusted to his friend Cyriac Skinner; the second, an Answer to a scurrilous libel upon himself, which his nephew supposes him to have suppressed from a juít contempt of his reviler.
Soon after his marriage in.. 1661, he had removed from Jewin-street to a house in the Artillery-walk, leading to Bunhill-fields, a spot that to his enthusiastic admirers. may appear consecrated by his genius : here he resided in that period of his days, when he was peculiarly entitled to veneration; bere he probably finished no less than three of his most admirable works; and here, with a dissolution so easy that it was unperceived by the persons in his chamber, he closed a life, clouded indeed by uncommon and various calamities, yet ennobled by the constant exercise of such rare endowments as render his name, perhaps, the very firft in that radiant and comprehensive list, of which England, the most fertile of countries in the produce of mental power, has reason to be proud.
For some years he had suffered much from the gout, and in July, 1674, he found his constitution fo broken by that diftemper, that he was willing to prepare for his departure · from the world. With this view he informed his brother Christophes, who was then a bencher in the Inner Temple, of the disposition he wished to make of his property: “ Bro . ther (faid the invalid) the portion due to me from. Mr. Powell, my first wife's father, I leave to the unkind children I had by her; but I have received no part of it; and my : will and meaning is, they shall have no other benefit of my
estate than the said portion, and what I have besides done for them, they having been very undutiful to me; and all the residue of my estate I leave to the disposal of Elizabeth, my loving wife.” Such is the brief testament, which Milton dictated to his brother, about the 20th of July, but which Christopher does not appear to have committed to paper till a few days after the decease of the testator, who expired on Sunday night, the 15th of November, 1674. “ All his learned and great friends in London, (says Toland) not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar, accompanied his body to the church of St. Giles, near Cripplegate, where he lies buried in the chancel.” This biographer, who, though he had the misfortune to think very differently from Milton on the great article of religion, yet never fails to speak of him with affectionate respect, indulged a pleasing expectation, when he wrote his life in the close of the last century, that national munificence would speedily raise a monument worthy of the poet, to protect and to honour his remains. To the discredit of our country she has failed to pay this decent tribute to the memory of a man, from whose genius she has derived so much glory; but an individual, Mr. Benfon, in the year 1737, placed a bust of the great author in Westminster Abbey; an act of liberality that does him credit, though Johnson and Pope have both fatyrized the monumental inscription with a degree of cynical asperity: such asperity appears unseasonable, because all the oftentation, so severely censured in Mr. Benfon, amounts merely to his having said, in the plainest manner, that he raised the monument; and to his having
added to his own name a common enumeration of the offices he poffeffed ; a circumstance in which candour might have discovered rather more modesty than pride.--Affluence appears particularly amiable when paying a voluntary tribute to neglected genius, even in the grave; nor is Benson the only individual of ample fortune, who has endeared himself to the lovers of literature by generous endeavours to promote the celebrity of Milton. Affectionate admirers of the poet will honour the memory of the late Mr. Hollis, in recollecting that he devoted much time and money to a similar purfuit; and they will regret that he was unable to discover the Italian verses, and the marble bust, which he diligently fought for in Italy, on a suggestion that such memorials of our poetic traveller had been carefully preserved in that country. But from this brief digression on the recent admirers of Milton, let us return to his family at the time of his decease.
His will was contested by the daughters, whose undutiful conduct it condemned: being deficient in form, it was set aside, and letters of administration were granted to the widow, who is said to have allotted an hundred pounds to each daughter, a sum which, being probably too little in their opinion, and too much in her’s, would naturally pro: duce reciprocal animosity and censure between the contending parties.
It has been already observed, that the recent discovery of this forgotten will, and the allegations annexed to it, throw considerable light on the domestic life of Milton; and the more insight we can gain into his social and sequestered
hours, the more we shall discover, that he was not less entitled to private affection, than to public esteem ; but let us contemplate his person before we proceed to a minuter examination of his mind and manners.
So infatuated with rancour were the enemies of this illustrious man, that they delineated his form, as they represented his character, with the utmost extravagance of malevolent fallhood : he was not only compared to that monster of deformity, the eyeless Polypheme, but described as a diminutive, bloodless, and shrivelled creature. Expressions of this kind, in which absurdity and malice are equally apparent, induced him to expose the contemptible virulence of his revilers by a brief description of his own figure *. He
* Veniamus nunc ad mea crimina; estne quod in vita aut moribus reprehendat ? Certe nihil. Quid ergo? Quod nemo nisi immanis ac barbarus feciffet, formam mihi ac cæcitatein objectat. Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui
lumen ademptum. Nunquam ' existimabam quidem fore, ut de forma, cum Cyclope certamen mihi effet; verum ftatim fe revocat.
( Quanquam nec ingens, quo nihil eft exilius exfanguius contractius.” Tametfi virum nihil attinet de forma dicere, tandem quando hic quoque eft unde gratias Deo agam et mendaces redarguam ne quis (quod Hispanorum vulgus de hereticis, quos vocant, plus nimio facerdotibus fuis credulum opinatur) me forte cynocephalum quempiam aut rhinocerota efle putet, dicam. Deformis quidem à nemine quod fciam, qui modo me vidit sum unquam habitus; formosus necne minus laboro; ftatura fateor non fum procera; sed quæ
mediocri tamen quam parvæ proprior fit; fed quid fi parva, qua et fummi fæpe tum pace tum bello viri fuere, quanquam parva cur di
citur, quæ ad virtutem fatis magna est? Sed neque exilis admodum eo sane animo iisque viribus ut cum ætas vitæque ratio fic ferebat, nec ferrum tractaré, nec stringere quotidiano
ufu exercitatus nescirem ; eo accinctus ut. · plerumque eram cuivis vel multo robuftiori
exæquatum me putabam, fecurus quid mihi quis injuriæ vir viro inferre posset. Iden. hodie animus, eædem vires, oculi non iidem; ita tamen extrinfecus illæfi, ita fine nube clari ac lucidi, ut eorum qui acutiffimum cernunt; in hac solum parte, meinet invito, simulator fam. In valtu" quo “ nihil exfan“guius” esse dixit, is manet etiamnum color exfangui et pallenti planè contrarius, ut quadragenario major vix fit cui non denis prope. annis videar natu minor ; neque corpore, contracto neque cute. In his ego fi ulla ex parte mentior : multis millibus popularium meorum qui de facie me norunt, exteris etiam non paucis, ridiculus meritò fim : fin ifte in re minimè neceflaria tam impudenter gratuito mendax comperietur poteritis de reliquo candem conjecturam facere. Atque hæc de forma mea vel coactus.