Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

T

HE narrative may proceed from the information of

Milton himself. On his return he procured a residence in London, ample enough for himself and his books, and felt happy in renewing his interrupted studies * This first establishment (as we learn from his nephew) was a lodging in St. Bride's Church-yard, where he received, as his disciples, the two sons of his sister, John and Edward Philips ; the latter is his biographer ; but although he has written the life of his illustrious relation with a degree of laudable pride and affectionate fpirit, he does not communicate that abundance of information, which might have been expected from the advantage he possessed. In one article his pride has a ludicrous effect, as it leads him into an awkward attempt to vindicate his uncle from the fancied opprobrium of having engaged professionally in the education of youth ; a profession which, from its utility and impor

* Ipfe, ficubi poffem, tam rebus turbatis & fluctuantibus, locurn consistendi circumspiciens mihi librisque meis, fat amplam in urbe domum conduxi; ibi ad intermiffa ftudia

4

beatulus me recepi; rerum exitu deo imprimis & quibus id muneris populus dabat, facilè permiffo.'

tance,

tance, from the talents and virtues it requires, is unquestionably entitled to respect. Philips will not allow that his uncle actually kept a school, as he taught only the fons of his particular friends. Johnson ridicules this distinction, and seems determined to treat Milton as a profest schoolmaster, for the sake of attempting to prove, that he did not sustain the character with advantage, but adopted a vain and preposterous plan of education.

“ Let me not be censured,” says the Doctor, as pedantic “ or paradoxical ; for if I have Milton against me, I have “ Socrates on my side : it was his labour to turn philosa

phy from the study of nature to speculations upon life; “ but the innovators, whom I oppose, are turning off atten« tion from life to nature ; they seem to think that we

are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the “ motions of the stars ; Socrates was rather of opinion, " that what we had to learn was, how to do good and avoid

" evil.”

Οτιι τοι εν μεγάροισι κακόνταγαθόνε τέτυκαι.

This insidious artifice of representing Milton and Socrates as antagonists is peculiarly unfortunate, since no man appears to have imbibed the principles of Socratic wisdom more deeply than our poet; his regard and attachment to them is fervently expressed, even in his juvenile letters ; the

very maxims of moral truth, which he is accused of counteracting, never shone with more lustre than in the following paffage of the Paradise Lost:

But

[ocr errors]

.. But

apt

the mind or fancy is to rove
Uncheck’d, and of her roving is no end,
Till warn’d, or by experience taught, she learn,
That not to know at large of things remote
From use, obscure and subtle, but to know.
That, which before us lies in daily life,
Is the prime wifdom ; what is more is fume,
Or emptiness, or fond impertinence,
And renders us in things that most concern,

Unpractis’d, unprepar’d, and still to seek. : These beautiful lines are built in some measure, as Bentley has remarked, upon a verse of Homer, the very verse admired by Socrates, which Dr. Johnson has not scrupled to quote, as a part of his fingular ill-grounded attempt to prove that Milton's ideas of education were in direct opposition to those of the great moralist of Greece; an attempt that arose from a very inoffensive boaft of Milton's nephew, who gives a long list of books perused by the scholars of his uncle, which merely proves, that they read more books than are usually read in our common fchools; and that their diligent in; structor thought it advisable for boys, as they approach towards fixteen, to blend a little knowledge of the sciences with their Greek and Latin.:

That he taught the familiar and useful doctrine of the Attic philosopher, even in his lighter poetry, we have a pleasing instance in the following lines of his sonnet to Syriac økinner, who was one of his scholars :

“ To measure life learn thou betimes, and know
“ Toward folid good what leads the nearest-way."

I

But

[ocr errors]

66 and war.

But his brief treatise, addrested to Hartlib, affords, perhaps, the best proof that his ideas of moral discipline were perfectly in unison with those of Socrates; he says, in that treatise, “I call ä сomplete and generous education that, " which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both private and public, of peace

Who can define a good education in terms more truly Socratic?

Milton, however, in his attachment to morality, forgot not the claims of religion; his Sundays were devoted to theology, and Johnson duly praises the care, with which he instructed his scholars in the primary duties of men.

With a critic fo fincerely devout as Johnson unquestionably was, we might have hoped that the sublime piety of our author would have secured him from sarcastic attacks; but we have yet to notice two insults of this kind, which the acrimony of uncorrected spleen has lavished upon Milton as a preceptor.

“ From this wonder-working academy,” says the biographer, “ I do not know that there ever proceeded any man very

eminent for knowledge ; its only genuine product, I “ believe, is a small history of poetry, written in Latin by “ his nephew, of which, perhaps, none of my readers ever “ heard.” The contemptuous spirit and the inaccuracy of this sarcasm are equally remarkable. The scholars of Milton were far from being numerous. Can it be just to speak with derision of a small academy, merely because it raises no celebrated author, when we consider how few of that description every, nation produces? We know little of those,

who

who were under the tuition of our poet, except his two nephews; these were both writers; and a biographer of Milton should not have utterly forgotten his obligations to Edward Philips, if he allowed no credit to his brother, for the spirited Latin treatise in which that young man appeared as the defender of his uncle. But the striking inaccuracy of the critic consists in not giving a just account of a book that particularly claimed his attention, Philips's Theatrum Poetarum, a book that, under a Latin title, contains in English a very comprehensive list of poets, ancient and modern, with reflections upon many of them, particularly those of our own nation. It is remarkable that this book was licensed Sept. 14, 1674, just two months before the death of Milton, and printed the following year. The author-assigns'an article both to his uncle and his brother. ! After 'enumerating the chief works of the former, he modestly says, “ how far he hath revived the majesty and " true decorum of heroic poesy and tragedy, it will better “ become a person less related than myself to deliver his

judgment.”

Though he here suppresses a desire to praise his most eminent relation, it bursts forth in an amiable manner, when he comes to speak of his brother; for he calls him, “the maternal nephew and disciple of an author of most “ deserved fame, late deceased, being the exactest of heroic

poets (if the truth were well examined, and it is the opi"nion of many, both learned and judicious persons) either w of the ancients or moderns, either of our own or whatever 6 nation else.”

I 2

I transcribe

« AnteriorContinuar »