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ing his temper, and she happens to be the only one of his children who has delivered a deliberate account of it; but her account, instead of confirining Johnson's idea of her father's domestic severity, will appear to the candid reader to refute it completely. " She spoke of him (says Richardson) with great tenderness ; she said he was delightful company, the life of the conversation, and that on account of a flow of subject, and an unaffected cheerfulness and civility.” It was this daughter who related the extraordinary circumstance, that she and one of her fifters read to their father several languages, which they did not understand : it is remarkable, that she did not speak of it as a hardship; nor could it be thought an intolerable grievance by an affectionate child, who thus assisted a blind parent in labouring for the maintenance of his family. Such an employment, however, must have been irksome; and the confiderate father, in finding that it was so, “ fent out his children (according to the expression of his nephew) to learn some curious and ingenious forts of manufacture, particularly embroideries in gold or silver."
That he was no penurious parent is strongly proved by an expression that he made use of in speaking of his will, when he declared, that “ he had made provision for his children in his life-time, and had spent the greatest part of his estate in providing for them.” It is the more barbarous to arraign the poet for domestic cruelty, because he appears to have suffered from the fingular tenderness and generosity of his nature. He had reason to lament that excess of indulgence,
with which he forgave and received again his disobedient and long-alienated wife, since their re-union not only disquieted his days, but gave birth to daughters, who seem to have inherited the
perversity of their mother :
The wiseft and best men full oft beguild
These pathetic lines, in a speech of his Sampfon Agonistes, strike me as a forcible allufion to his own connubial infelicity. If in his first marriage he was eminently unhappy, his success in the two last turned the balance of fortune in his favour. That his fecond wife deserved, possessed, and retained his affection, is evident from his fonnet occafioned by her death ; of the care and kindnefs which he had long experienced from the partner of his declining life, he spoke with tender gratitude to his brother, in explaining his testamentary intention; and we are probably indebted to the care and kindness, which the aged poet experienced from this affectionate guardian, for the happy accomplishment of his inestimable works. A blind and desolate father must be utterly unequal to the management of disobedient daughters conspiring against him; the anguilh he endured from their filial ingratitude, and the base deceptions, with which they continua ally tormented him, must have rendered even the strongest mind very unfit for poetical application.
The marriage, which he concluded by the advice and the aid of his friend Dr. Paget, seems to have been his only resource against a most exafperating and calamitous species of domestic disquietude ; it appears, therefore, not unreasonable to regard thofe immortal poems, which recovered tranquillity enabled him to produce, as the fruits of that marriage. As matrimony has, perhaps, annihilated many a literary design, let it be remembered to its honour, that it probably gave birth to the brightest offspring of literature.
The two eldest daughters of Milton appear to me utterly unworthy of their father ; but those who adopt the dark prejudices of Johnson, and believe with him, that the great poet was an austere domestic tyrant, will find, in their idea of the father, an apology for his children, whose destiny in the world I shall immediately mention, that I may have occasion to speak of them no more. Anne, the eldest, who with a deformed person had a pleasing face, married an architect, and died, with her first infant, in child-bed. Mary, the second, and apparently the most deficient in affection to her father, died unmarried. Deborah, who was the favourite of Milton, and who, long after his decease, discovered, on a casual sight of his genuine portrait, very affecling emotions of filial tenderness and enthusiasm, even Deborah deserted him without his knowledge, not in consequence of his paternal severity, of which she was very far from complaining, but, as Richardson intimates, from a disgust she had conceived against her mother-in-law. On quitting
the houfe of her father, she went to Ireland with i
The poor grand-daughter of Milton gained but
forded peculiar comfort to her declining age, by enabling her to retire to Islington with her hulband: she had seven children, who died before her, and by her own death it is probable that the line of the poet became extinct. Let us haften from this painful survey of his progeny to the more enlivening contemplation of his rare mental endowments. The most diligent researches into all that can elucidate the real temper of Milton only confirm the opinion, that his native characteristics were mildness and magnanimity. In controversy his mind was undoubtedly overheated, and passages may be quoted from his profe works, that are certainly neither mild nor magnanimous; but if his controversial afperity is compared with the outrageous infolence of his opponents, even that asperity will appear moderation; in social intercourse he is represented as peculiarly courteous and engaging. When the celebrity of his Latin work made him esteemed abroad, many enquiries were made concerning his private character among his familiar acquaintance, and the result of such enquiry was, that mildnefs and affability were his distinguishing qualities. “ Virum esse miti comique ingenio aiunt,” says the celebrated Heinsius, in a letter that he wrote concerning Milton, in the year 1651, to Gronovius. Another eminent foreigner represents him in the same pleasing light, and from the best information. Voffius, who was at that time in Sweden, and who mentions the praise, which liis royal patroness Christina bestowed on Milton's re. cent defence of the English people, informs his