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Τ Ο Τ Η Ε
REV. JOSEPH WARTON, D.D. &c.
MY PLEASANT AND RESPECTABLE FRIEND!
IN prefixing your name to this volume, I feel and con
fess the double influence of an affectionate and of an ambitious desire to honour you and myself. Our loft and lamented Friend Gibbon has told us, I think very truly, in dedicating a juvenile work to his Father, that there are but two kinds of Dedications, which can do honour either to the Patron or the Author—the first arising from literary esteem, the second from personal affection. If either of these two characteristics may be sufficient to give propriety to a Dedication, I have little to apprehend for the present, which has certainly the advantage of uniting the
The kind and friendly manner in which you commended the first edition of this Life might alone have induced me to infcribe a more ample copy of it to that li
terary veteran, whose applause is so justly dear to me. I have additional inducements in recollecting your animated and enlightened regard for the glory of Milton. It is pleasing to address a sympathetic friend on a subject that interests the fancy and the heart. I remember, with peculiar gratification, the liberality and frankness, with which you lamented to me the extreme severity of the late Mr. Warton, in describing the controversial writings of Milton. I honour the rare integrity of your mind, my candid friend, which took the part of injured genius and probity against the prejudices of a brother, eminent as a scholar, and entitled also, in many points of view, to your love and admiration. I sympathize with
most cordially in regretting the severity to which I allude, fo little to be expected from the general temper of the critic, and from that affectionate fpirit, with which he had vindicated the poetry of Milton from the misrepresentations of cold and callous austerity. But Mr. Warton had fallen into a mistake, which has betrayed other welldisposed minds into an unreasonable abhorrence of Milton's prose; I mean the mistake of regarding it as having a tendency to subvert our existing government. man juftly think it has such a tendency, who recollects that no government, similar to that which the Revolution established for England, existed when Milton wrote. His impassioned yet disinterested ardour for reformation was
excited by those gross abuses of power, which that new settlement of the state very happily corrected.
Your learned and good-natured brother, my dear friend, was not the only man of learning and good-nature, who indulged a prejudice, that to us appears very extravagant, to give it the gentlest appellation. A literary Paladine (if I may borrow from romance a title of diftinction to honour a very powerful historian) even Gibbon himself, whom we both admired and loved for his literary and for his social accomplishments, furpassed, I think, on this topic, the severity of Mr. Warton, and held it hardly compatible with the duty of a good citizen to re-publish, in the present times, the prose of Milton, as he apprehended it might be productive of public evil. For my own part, although I sincerely respected the highly cultivated mind that harboured this apprehension, yet the apprehension itself appeared to me somewhat similar to the fear of Falstaff, when he says, “I am afraid of this “ gunpowder Percy, though he be dead.” As the prose of Milton had a reference to the distracted period in which it arose, its arguments, if they could by any means be pointed against our existing government, are surely as incapable of inflicting a wound, as completely dead for all the purposes of hostility, as the noble Percy is represented, when he excites the ludicrous terror of Sir John : but while I presume to describe the prose of Milton as
inanimate in one point of view, let me have the justice
the panic to which I allude has speedily passed away, and a man of letters may now, I presume, as fafely and irreproachably perufe or reprint the great republican writers of England, as he might translate or elucidate the political visions of Plato, a writer whom Milton passionately