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might possibly want'correction as to the orthography and pointing). Having, as the summer came on, not been shewed any for a considerable while, and desiring the reason thereof, was answered that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumual equinox to the vernal.”
Johnson takes occasion, from this anecdote, to treat the fensations of Milton with sarcastic severity, and to deride him for submitting to the influence of the seasons; he lavishes ridicule, not less acrimonious, on the great poet, for having yielded to a fashionable dread of evils still more fantastic. -" There prevailed in his time (says the critic) an opinion that the world was in its decay, and that we have had the misfortune to be born in the decrepitude of nature.” Johnson exposes, with great felicity of expression, this absurd idea, of which his own frame of body and mind was a complete refutation ; but instead of deriding the great poet for harbouring so weak a conceit, he might have recollected that Milton himself has spurned this chimera of timid imagination in very spirited Latin verse, written in his twentieth year, and expressly against the folly of supposing nature impaired.
Ergone marcescet, fulcantibus obfita rugis,
How! Thall the face of nature then be plough'd
and halt And palsy-smitten Thake her starry brows!
The spirit of the poet was, in truth, little formed for yielding to any weaknesses of fancy that could impede mental exertion ; and we may consider it as one of the striking peculiarities of his character, that with an imagination fo excursive he possessed a mind fo industrious.
His studious habits are thus described by his acquaintance Aubrey and others, who collected their account from his widow:-He rose at four in the summer, at five in the winter, and regularly began the day by hearing a chapter in the Hebrew Bible; it was read to him by a man, who, after this duty, left him to meditation of some hours, and, returning at seven, either read or wrote for him till twelve ; he then allowed himself an hour for exercise, which was usually walking, and when he grew blind, the occasional resource of a swing : after an early and temperate dinner he commonly allotted some time to music, his favourite amusement; and his own musical talents happily furnished him with a pleasing relaxation from his severer pursuits ; he was able to vary his instrument, as he played both on the bass viol and the organ, with the advantage of an agreeable voice, which his father had probably taught him to cultivate in his youth. This regular custom of the great
poet, to indulge himself in musical relaxation after food, has been recently praised as favourable to mental exertion, in producing all the good effects of Neep, with none of its disadvantages, by an illustrious scholar, who, like Milton, unites the passion and the talent of poetry to habits of intense and diversified application. Sir William Jones, in the third volume of Asiatic Researches, has recommended, from his own experience, this practice of Milton, who from mufic returned to study; at eight he took a light fupper, and at nine retired to bed.
If such extreme regularity could be preserved at any period, it must have been in the closing years of his life. While he was in office his time was undoubtedly much engaged, not only by official attendance, but by his intercourse with learned foreigners, as the parliament allowed him a weekly table for their reception. The Latin compositions of Milton had rendered him, on the continent, an object of idolatry; " and strangers (says Wood, who was far from being partial to his illustrious contemporary) visited the house where he was born.” Even in his latter days, when he is supposed to have been neglected by his countrymen, intelligent foreigners were solicitous to converse with him as an object of their curiosity and veneration; they regarded him, and very justly, as the prime wonder of England; for he was, in truth, a person so extraordinary, that it may be questioned if any age or nation has produced his parallel. Is there, in the records of literature, an author to be found, who, after gaining such extensive celebrity as a political disputant, cast off the mortal
vesture of a polemic, and arose in the purest splendor of poetical immortality?
Biographers are frequently accused of being influenced by affection for their subject ; to a certain degree it is right that they should be fo; for what is biography in its fairest point of view ? a tribute paid by justice and esteem to genius and to virtue ; and never is this tribute more pleasing or more profitable to mankind, than when it is liberally paid, with all the fervor and all the fidelity of friendship : the chief delight and the chief utility that arises from this attractive branch of literature consists in the affectionate intereft, which it displays and communicates in favour of the talents and probity that it aspires to celebrate ; hence the most engaging pieces of biography are those that have been written by relations of the deceased. This remark is exemplified in the life of Agricola by Tacitus, and in that of Racine, the dramatic poet, written by his son, who was also a poet, and addressed to his grandson.
It has been the lot of Milton to have his life frequently described, and recently, by a very powerful author, who, had he loved the character he engaged to delineate, might, perhaps, have fatisfied the admirers of the poet, and closed the lift of his numerous biographers. But the very wonderful mind of Johnson was so embittered by prejudice, that in delineating a character confessedly pre-eminent in eminent accomplishments, in genius, and in piety, he perpetually endeavours to represent him as unamiable, and instead of attributing any mistaken opinions that he might entertain to such fources as charity and reason conspire to
suggest, imputes them to supposed vices in his mind, most foreign to his nature, and the very worst that an enemy could imagine.
In the course of this narrative I have considered it as a duty incumbent upon me to notice and counteract, as they occurred, many important strokes of the hostility which I am now lamenting ; these become still more remarkable in that portion of the biographer's labour to which I am at length arrived; it is in diffecting the mind of Milton, if I may
use such an expression, that Johnson indulges the injurious intemperance of his hatred.
“ It is to be suspected (he says) " that his predominant desire was to destroy rather than “ establish ; and that he felt not so much the love of li
berty as repugnance to authority.” Such a fufpicion may indeed be harboured by political rancour, but it must be in direct opposition to justice and truth ; for of all men who have written or acted in the service of liberty, there is no individual, who has proved more completely, both by his language and his life, that he made a perfect distinction between liberty and licentiousness. No human spirit could be more sincerely a lover of just and beneficent authority; for no man delighted more in peace and order ; no man has written more eloquently in their praise, or given sublimer proofs of his own personal attachment to them by the regulation of his own orderly and peaceful studies. If he hated power (as Johnson asserts) in every established form, he hated not its falutary influence, but its pernicious exertions. Vehement as he occasionally was against kings and prelates, he spoke of the sectaries with equal indignation