Imatges de pÓgina
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trodden field. But let it not be thought that we are presuming to do what Macaulay left undone; we only wish we possessed a tithe of his powerful critical skill and acumen. Still, we flatter ourselves that we shall be doing good service to the cause of literature, if we direct attention to these long-forgotten creations of our great national poet, so full of interest and instruction, and select from the prose works of John Milton all that is really valuable and worth preserving. He himself has told us that "a wise man, like a good refiner, can gather gold from the drossiest volume." And believing this, and that the grains of gold are there, the work before us will be to "find out the precious gem of truth, as amongst the numberless pebbles of the shore ;" to separate the gold from the dross; the sentences 'written as if an angel held the pen,' from the sentences written 'in Cobbett's style;' the sentences "of a venturous edge, uttered in the height of zeal (and who knows whether they might not be the dictates of a Divine Spirit ?)" from those uttered, we are constrained to confess, in malice and bitterness, and all uncharitableness; and thus to save our readers the cost of purchasing, and the trouble of wading through, the five volumes of Bohn's edition, or the two quartos of Dr. Birch's edition, or the three large folios of Toland's edition.

For much, very much of Milton's prose is scarcely

worth reading. His political opinions are republican, visionary, and Utopian; and his religious opinions are for the most part equally erroneous, onesided, and overstrained. No wonder they made so little impression on his contemporaries. They despised them; we abhor them. No one would rise from their perusal a better man, a better citizen, or a better Christian. When stript of the truly magnificent language in which he knows so well to clothe them, and seen in their naked deformity, the politician, however liberal, and the Christian, however puritancial, would infallibly shrink from their adoption.

Perhaps it may seem strange that the Editor, who calls himself a staunch Conservative and moderate High Churchman, should desire to direct public attention to the writings of a red-hot republican; especially in these unsettled times when the foundations of the earth seem out of course, and all time-honoured and long-tried, and therefore sacred, institutions seem in peril, and the revolutionary days of Milton may again recur, as history is known to repeat itself. But in defence we may say that it is lawful to be taught even by an enemy-that a close study of Milton's works will prove him to have been less revolutionary, and less puritanical, than he is commonly supposed to have been-that most men of his way of thinking are better than their opinions, and themselves would pause before they carried them out to their legitimate

consequences that the lucubrations of a mind which could conceive Paradise Lost or the Areopagitica must always have a certain value, whether or not we agree with some particular conclusions; and for other reasons which appear in the course of these prefatory remarks, we do not shrink from avowing our deep admiration and fervent love for this great and good

man.

The sound common-sense of Englishmen may, we trust, avert the apprehended danger arising from the levelling and revolutionary principles so rife amongst us-such common-sense, for instance, as Dr. Johnson evinces in the following anecdote, given in Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. i., p. 305. 'One day, at the house of Catharine Macaulay Graham, the celebrated author of the story of England, History of America, and other works chiefly philosophical, and, by the way, a great-aunt of the Editor, the Doctor put on a very grave countenance, and said to her, 'Madam, I am now become a convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof than I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and dine with us.' I thus, sir, showed her the absurdity of the levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot

bear levelling up to themselves. They would all have some people under them; why not, then, have some people above them ?'

But Milton, republican as he was from the force of circumstances, and the unhappy times in which his lot was cast, was, as we have said, far superior to his views, and was always sincere and honest. His mind was essentially a religious mind. The subjects he chose, in prose or verse, were themselves sacred, or had a sacred tendency. And we are not surprised at this, when we remember that he contemplated taking Holy Orders. Thither he bent all his studies; and as in mature life he produced the Paradise Lost, so in earliest youth he had been "smit with the love of sacred song," paraphrasing Psalms at fifteen, and at twenty-one producing his inimitable Ode on the Nativity. In the strength and pride of manhood, he forsook his first love, and abandoning his high calling, launched on the troubled waters of political and party strife. Here religion was still the lodestar that through all kept his life and spirit pure. And twenty years after, when he abandoned prose, and once more with renewed ardour "wandered where the muses haunt," "escaped the Stygian pool" of politics and controversy, "though long detained in that obscure sojourn," his lyre will respond to none but sacred themes.

Ἡ βάρβιτος δὲ χορδαῖς
Ερωτα μοῦνον ἠχεῖ.

'But my perverse, rebellious lyre

Breathes nought but love and soft desire.'

No holier songs than the Paradise Lost and Regained ever fell from the enraptured lips of sacred heaven-inspired bard; and what greatly enhances the spotless purity of these productions is the time at which they were composed, when 'obscene tumult raged all around him, the effect of the prevalence of Puritanism under the Commonwealth.' It was now the Restoration, and the reaction of vice and immorality had set in. In the midst of all, and undisturbed by all, this great, and pure, and good man, 'tried at once by pain, danger, poverty, obloquy, and blindness, meditated a song so sublime, and so holy, that it would not have misbecome the lips of those ethereal Virtues whom he saw with that inner eye which no calamity could darken, flinging down on the jasper pavement their crowns of amaranth and gold.' But all his life through Milton was ever the same holy and saintly man, uncorrupted and uncorruptible, like his own seraph Abdiel, “faithful found, among the faithless faithful only he." How can we help admiring and loving him? We care not for his political and public character-we know that he had strange notions concerning divorce and polygamy; we have heard of his unkind daughters and unkinder

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