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and abhorrence when they also became the agents of persecution; and as he had fully seen, and has forcibly exposed, the gross failings of republican reformers, had his life been extended long enough to witness the Revolution, which he might have beheld without suffering the decrepitude or imbecility of extreme old age, he would probably have exulted as warmly as the staunchest friend of our prefent constitution can exult, in that temperate and happy reformation of monarchical enormities.
Johnson also intimates, that he was a shallow politician, who supposed money to be the chief good, though with singular inconsistency he at the same time confesses, “ that fortune seems not to have had much of his care.”
Money, in fact, had so little influence over the elevated mind of Milton, that from his want of attention to it he sustained such losses as, according to his nephew's expreffion, “ might have ruined a man less temperate than he
Two thousand pounds he is said to have lost by entrusting it to government, and as much in a private loan, without sufficient security.
“ Towards the latter part of his time,” says one of his early biographers, “he contracted his library, both because the heirs he left could not make a right use of it, and that he thought he might sell it more to their advantage than they could be able to do themselves. His enemies reported, that poverty constrained him thus to part with his books; and were this true it would be a great disgrace, not to him (for persons of the highest merits have been often reduced to that condition) but to any country that should have no more
regard to probity or learning. This story, however, is so false, that he died worth fifteen hundred pounds, besides all his goods.”
Such are the remarks of Toland on the pecuniary circumstances of the poet; they shew with becoming spirit, that he was not reduced by absolute indigence to the fale of his library; yet every reader, whose literary feelings are acute, muft regret, that the old age of Milton was not guarded and enlivened by such affluence as might have saved him from a measure, in which those who have a passion for books must suppose him to have suffered some degree of mortification.
The necessities into which many deserving men of letters have fallen towards the close of life, and in various countries, may be regarded as an universal disgrace to civilized society, which the improving refinement and liberality of mankind ought effectually to remove. Literature, which is so eminently beneficial to a nation, is frequently ruinous to worthy individuals most fervently attached to it; and it should be regarded as a duty, therefore, by every polished people, to provide a public fund, which might afford a becoming competence to the advanced life of every illustrious scholar, whose public labours entitle him to that honourable distinction. Such meritorious veterans in literature as Milton and his late aged biographer should have been preserved, in their declining days, from every shadow of indigence, by the public gratitude of the nation to whom they had devoted their intellectual service. What friend to letters and to genius could fail to wish affluent comfort to the closing
life of such authors, however he might condemn the excesses of republican severity in the one, or those of servile and censorial bigotry in the other?
There can hardly be any contemplation more painful, than to dwell on the virulent excesses of eminent and good men; yet the utility of such contemplation may be equal to its pain. What mildness and candour should it not instil ordinary into mortals to observe, that even genius and virtue weaken their title to respect, in proportion as they recede from that evangelical charity, which should influence every man in his judgment of another.
The strength and the acuteness of sensation, which partly constitute genius, have a great tendency to produce virulence, if the mind is not perpetually on its guard against that subtle, insinuating, and corrosive passion, hatred against all whose opinions are opposite to our own.
our own. Johnson professed, in one of his letters, to love a good hater; and in the Latin correspondence of Milton, there are words that imply a similarity of sentiment; they both thought there might be a fanctified bitterness, to use an expression of Milton, towards political and religicus opponents ; yet surely these two devout men were both wrong, and both in some degree unchristian in this principle. To what fingular iniquities of judgment such a principle may lead, we might, perhaps, have had a most striking, and a double proof, had it been possible for these two energetic writers to exhibit alternately a portrait of each other. Milton, adorned with every graceful endowment, highly and holily accomplished as he was, appears, in the dark colouring of Johnson, a most unamia
ble being; but could he revifit earth in his mortal character, with a wish to retaliate, what a picture might be drawn, by that fublime and offended genius, of the great moralist, who has treated him with such excess of asperity. The passions are powerful colourists, and marvellous adepts. in the art of exaggeration ; but the portraits executed by love (famous as he is for overcharging them) are infinitely more faithful to nature, than gloomy sketches from the heavy hand of hatred; a passion not to be trusted or indulged even in minds of the highest purity or power; since hatred, though it may enter the field of contest under the banner of justice, yet generally becomes so blind and outrageous, from the heat of contention, as to execute, in the name of virtue, the worst purposes of vice. Hence arises that species of calumny the most to be regretted, the calumny lavished by men of talents and worth on their equals or superiors, whoni they have rafhly and blindly hated for a difference of opinion. To such hatred the fervid and opposite characters,
rise to this observation, were both more inclined, perhaps, by nature and by habit, than christianity can allow. The freedom of these remarks on two very great, and equally devout, though different writers, may possibly offend the partizans of both: in that case my, consolation will be, that I have endeavoured to speak of them with that temperate, though undaunted sincerity, which may satisfy the spirit of each in a purer state of existence. There is one characteristic in Milton, which ought to be considered as the chief source of his happiness and his fame; I mean his early and perpetual attachment to religion. It must gratify every S
christian to reflect, that the man of our country moft eminent for energy of mind, for intenseness of application, and for frankness, and intrepidity in allerting whatever he believed to be the cause of truth, was so confirmedly devoted to christianity, that he seems to have made the Bible, not only the rule of his conduct, but the prime director of his genius. His poetry flowed from the scripture, as if his unparalleled poetical powers had been expressly given him by Heaven for the purpose of imparting to religion fuch lustre as the most splendid of human faculties could bestow. As in the Paradise Loft he seems to emulate the sublimity of Moses and the prophets, it appears to have been his wish, in the Paradise Regained, to copy the fweetness and simplicity of the milder evangelists. If the futile remarks that were made upon the latter work, on its first appearance,
xcited the spleen of the great author, he would probably have felt still more indignant, could he have seen the comment of Warburton. That disgusting writer, whose critical dictates form a fantastic medley of arrogance, acuteness, and absurdity, has asserted, that the plan of Paradise Regained is very unhappy, and that nothing was easier than to have invented a good one.
Much idle censure seems to have been thrown on more than one of Milton's poetical works, from want of due attention to the chief aim of the poet:-if we fairly consider it in regard to Paradise Regained, the aim I allude to, as it probably occafioned, will completely justify, the plan which the prefumptuous critic has so superciliously condemned. Milton had already executed one extensive divine poem, Ff2