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lar epigram, written by a servile foreigner, to prove Mil-? ton an atheist. Not contented with reviling the great author himself, he extends the virulent, attackto his nephew Philips, whom he accuses of having favoured, by a suspicious silence, the secret practice of his uncle, in rifling the treasures of others. “Philips (says Lauder)
every,' where in his · Theatrum Poetarum,' either wholly passes over in silence such authors as Miltoi
was most obliged to, or, if he chances to mention " them, does it in the most flight and superficial manner "imaginable." .:!!
There is some acuteness, and more truth, in this obfervation concerning Philips,' than Lauder was himself aware of. : Though Milton was indeed no plagiary, and his nephew of course had no thefts to conceal, it is very remarkable that Philips, giving an account of poets in all languages, omits such of their works as were built on subjects resembling those of his uncle. - This omiffion is not only striking in the brief account he gives of the Latin poets collected by Lauder; it extends to some: Italian writers, of whom I shall presently have occasion to speak more at large. Let me first obferve, in apology for the .omissions of Philips, which are too frequent to be considered as accidental, that he probably chofe not to enumerate various poems relating to angels; to Adam, and to Paradise, left ignorance and malice should abfurdly, consider the mere existence of such poetry, as a derogation from the glory of Milton. - That Philips had
himself no inconsiderable share of poetical taste, and that
“ Wit, ingenuity, and learning in verse, even elegance
This certain air and spirit are assuredly most confpicuous in Milton : he was a poet of nature's creation, but one who added to all her endowments every advantage that study could acquire.
By the force and opulence of his own fancy he was exempted from the inclination and the necessity of borrowing and retailing the ideas of other poets; but, rich as he was in his own proper fund, he chose to be perfectly acquainted, not only with the wealth, but even with the poverty of others. He seems to have read, in different languages, authors of every class; and I doubt not but he had perused every poem collected by Lauder, though fome of them hardly afford ground enough for a conjecture, that he remembered any passage they contain, in the +
course of his nobler composition. Johnson, in his preface
The critic was perfectly right in relinquishing his former idea concerning the Adamus Exul of Grotius; but, in his remark on Voltaire, he fhews how dangerous it is to censure any writer for what he fays concerning books, which the censurer has no opportunity of examining. Voltaire, indeed, from his predominant passion for ridi. cule, and from the rafh vivacity, that often led him to fpeak too confidently of various works from a very flight inspection of their contents, is no more to be followed implicitly in points of criticism, than he is on the more important article of religion: but his opinions in literature are generally worth examination, as he poffefsed: no common degree of taste, à perpetual thirst for universal knowledge, and, though not the most intimate, yet, per haps, the most extensive acquaintance with literary works
and literary men that was ever acquired by any india yidual. Con
When Voltaire vissted England in the early part of his life, and was engaged in foliciting a subscription for his Henriade; which first appeared under the title of !? The (League,” he published, in our language, an essay on Epic Foetry, a work which, though written under such disadvantage, poffefses the peculiar vivacity of this extraordinary writer, and is indeed so: curious a specimen of his versatile talents, that although it has been 'superseded by a French compofition of greater extent, runder the same title, it ought, I'think, to have found a place in that fignal monument to the name of Voltaire, the edition of his works in ninety-two volumes.
As my reader may be gratified in seeing the English style of this celebrated foreigner, I will transcribe, without abridgment, what he says of Andreini:
“ Milton, as he was travelling through Italy in his “youth, saw at Florence a comedy called Adamo, writ " by one. Andreini, a player, and dedicated to Mary de " Medicis, Queen of France. The subject of the play
was the Fall of Man ; the actors, God, the devils, the . angels, Adam, Eve, the Serpent, Death, and the seven s mortal fins: that topic, so improper for a drama, but “ fo suitable to the absurd genius of the Italian ftage (as “ it was at that time) was handled in a manner entirely $ conformable ' to the extravagance of the design: The
" scene opens with a chorus of angels, and a cherubim “thus speaks for the rest :- Let the rainbow be the “ fiddle-stick of the fiddle of the heavens! let the pla
nets be the notes of our music! let time beat care
fully the measure, and the winds make the sharps, “ &c.' Thus the play begins, and every scene rises above " the last in profusion of impertinence !
“ Milton pierced through the absurdity of that performance to the hidden majesty of the subject, which, being altogether unfit for the stage, yet might be (for the
genius of Milton, and for his only) the foundation of “ an epic poem.
“ He took from that ridiculous trifle the first hint of " the noblest work, which human imagination has ever “attempted, and which he executed more than twenty
“ In the like manner, Pythagoras owed the invention of " music to the noise of the hammer of a blacksmith; " and thus, in our days, Sir Isaac Newton, walking in his “ garden, had the first thought of his fyftem of gravita" tion upon seeing an apple falling from a tree.”
It was thus that, in the year 1727, Voltaire, then studying in England, and collecting all possible information concerning our great epic poet, accounted for the origin of Paradise Lost. Rolli, another foreign student in epid poetry, who resided at that time in London, and was engaged in translating Milton into Italian verse, published fome fevere çensures, in English, on the English essay of