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With Life, Critical Dissertation, and
REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN.
JAMES NICHOL, 9 NORTH BANK STREET.
LONDON: JAMES NISBET AND CO.
DUBLIN: W. ROBERTSON.
THE LIFE OF JOHN MILTON.
ALL biographies are, more or less, skeletons. Even Boswell's Life of Johnson, which is the fullest in the world, is but an outline of its gigantic subject. This is much more true of the lives of those distinguished men who lived before biography had become a necessary article of public entertainment—before conversation was a marketable commodity-who were either lost in the general melée of the warfare and action of their times, or who cultivated a majestic solitude, living "collaterally or aside" to the world and their own age. It is remarkable, that the four greatest of all poets, Homer, Dante, Shakspere, and Milton, are those precisely of whom least has been told us, and the incidents of whose private history are in a peculiar degree at once scanty and uncertain. Homer is little more than a Voice, lonely, melancholy, and powerful, rhapsodizing on the Chian strand. Dante stands forth more clearly from the clouds of the past, but he, too, is surrounded by darkness, and his personality is that of a shade. Shakspere has been described as a munificent and modest benefactor, who knocked at the door of the human family by night-threw in inestimable wealthfled-and the sound of his footsteps was all the tidings he gave of himself. Of Milton what we know is only sufficient to make us regret that we know no more-a regret increased by the reflection, that his life was as lofty as his genius, and that his conversation seems to have been as rich as his poetry.