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adınired, and to whom he bore, I think, in many points,
think as I do, both of their blemishes and their
revival of such a character; but you, my liberal friend to the freedom of literary discussion, you will suggest to me, that the minds of our countrymen in general aspire to Roman magnanimity, in rendering justice to great qualities in men, who were occasionally the objects of public detestation, and you join with me in admiring that example of such magnanimity, to which I particularly allude. Nothing is more honourable to ancient Rome, than her
generosity in allowing a 'statue of Hannibal to be raised and admired within the walls of the very city, which it was the ambition of his life to distress and destroy.
In emulation of that spirit, which delights to honour the excellencies of an illustrious antagonist, I have endeavoured to preserve in my own mind, and to express on every proper occasion, my unshaken regard for the rare faculties and virtues of a late extraordinary biographer, whom it has been my lot to encounter continually as a very bitter, and sometimes, I think, an insidious enemy to the great poet, whose memory I have fervently wished to rescue from indignity and detraction. The asperity of Johnson towards Milton has often struck the fond admirers of the poet in various points of view; in one moment it excites laughter, in another indignation ; now it reminds us of the weapon of Goliah as described by Cowley ;
“ A sword so great, that it was only fit
. now it prompts us to exclaim, in the words of an angry Roman :
« Nec bellua tetrior ulla eft.
Quam fervi rabies in libera colla furentis.'
I have felt, I confess, these different emotions of resentment in perusing the various farcasms of the austere critic against the object of my poetical idolatry, but I have tried, and I hope with some success, to correct the animosity they must naturally excite, by turning to the more temperate works of that very copious and admirable writer, particularly to his exquisite paper in the Rambler (N° 54) on the deaths, and asperity of literary men.' It is hardly possible, I think, to read the paper have mentioned without losing, for some time at least, all sensations of displeasure towards the eloquent, the tender moralist, and reflecting, with a fort of friendly satisfaction, that, as long as the language of England exists, the name of Johnson will remain, and deserve to remain,
Magnum et memorabile nomen.
As long as eloquence and morality are objects of public regard, we must revere that great mental physician, who has given to us all, infirm mortals as the beit of us are, such admirable prescriptions for the regimen of mind, and we should rather speak in sorrow than in anger,
when we are forced to recollect, that, like other physicians,
however able and perfect in theory, he failed to correct the infirmity of his own morbid spirit
. You, my dear Warton, whom an opposite temperament has made a critic of a more airy and cheerful complection, you are one of the best witnesses that I could possibly produce, if I had any occasion to prove that my ideas of Johnson's malevolent prejudices against Milton are not the offsprings of a fancy equally prejudiced itself against the great author, whose prejudices I have presumed to oppofe ; you, my dear friend, have heard the harsh critic advance in conversation an opinion against Milton, even more severe than the many detractive sarcasms with which his life of the great poet abounds; you have heard him declaim against the admiration excited by the poetry of Milton, and affirm it to be nothing more than the cant (to use his own favourite phrase) of affected sensibility.
I have presumed to say, that Johnson sometimes appears as an insidious enemy to the poet. Is there not some degree of insidious hostility in his introducing into his dictionary, under the article Sonnet, the very fonnet of Milton, which an enemy would certainly chufe, who wished to represent Milton as a writer of verses entitled to scorn and derision ? You will immediately recollect that I allude to the fonnet which begins thus :
“ A book was writ of late called Tetrachordon.”
The sonnet is, in truth, contemptible enough, if we fuppose that Milton intended it as a serious composition; but I apprehend it was an idle lufus poeticus, and either meant as a ludicrous parody on some other sonnet, which has funk into oblivion, or merely written as a trifling paftime, to shew that it is possible to compose a fonnet with words most unfriendly to rhyme. However this
However this may be, it was barbarous surely towards Milton (and, I might add, towards the poetry of England) to exhibit this unhappy little production, in so conspicuous a manner, as a fpecimen of Englith fonnets. Yet I perceive it is possible •to give a milder interpretation of Johnson's design in his display of this unfortunate sonnet; and as I most sincerely with not to charge him with more malevolence towards Milton than he really exerted, I will observe on this occasion, that as he had little, or rather no relish for sonnets, which the stern logician seems to have despised as perplexing trifles (difficiles nuga) he might only mean to deter young poetical students from a kind of verse that he dislikedy by leading them to remark, how the greatest of our poets had failed in this petty composition. You, who perfectly know how much more inclined I am to praise than to censure, will give me full credit for my sincerity in saying, that I wilh to acquit Johnson of malevolence in every article where my reason will allow me to do so. I have been under the painful necessity of