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We come now to take a survey of him in that point of view, in which he will lw looked upon by all succeeding ages with equal delight and admiration. An interval of about twenty years had elapsed since he wrote the mask of Comus*, L'Allegro, Il Perseroso, and An, atat. Lycidast, all in such an exquifite strain, † 29. that though he had left no other mo. nument of his genius behind him, his name had been immortal; but neither the infirmities of age and conftitution, nor the viciffitudes of fortune. could depress the vigour of his mind, or divert it from executing a design he had long conceived, of writing an heroic poem*. , The fall of man was a subject that he had fome years before fixed on for a tragedy, which he intended to form by the models of antiquity : and some, not without probability, fay, the play opened with that speech in the fourth book of Paradise Loft, L. 32. which is addressed by Satan to the fun. Were it material, I believe I could produce other passages which more plainly appear to have been originally intended for the scene : but whatever truth there may be in this report, it is certain that he did not begin to mould his suhject in the form which it bears now, before he had concluded his controversy with Salmasius and More, when he had wholly lost the use of his eyes, and was forced to employ, in the office of an amanuensis, any friend who accidentally paid him a visit. Yet, under all these difcouragements, and various interruptions, . in the year 1669 t, he published his Paradise Loft, the noblest poem (next An. ctat. 61. to those of Homer and Virgil) that ever the wit of man produced in any age or nation. Need I mention any other evidence of its inestimable worth, than the finest geniuses who have succeeded him, have ever esteemed it a merit to relish and illustrate its beauties? whilst the critic who gazed, with so much wanton malice, on the nakedness of Shake
* Paradise Lost, Book IX. L. 26.
+ Milton's contract with his bookseller, S. Simmons, for the copy, bears, date April 27th, 1667.
speare when he slept, after having formally declared war against it*, wanted courage to make his attack; fushed though he was with conquests over Julius Cæfar, and the Moor, which infolence his muse, like the other allailins of Casar, severely revenged on herselft; and not long after her triumph became her own executioner. Nor is it unworthy our observation, that though perhaps not one of our English poets have excited so many admirers to imitate his manner, yet I think never asy was known to aspire to emulation ; even the late in genious Mr. Philips, who, in the co• lours of style, came the nearest of all the copiers to resemble the great original, made his distant advances with a filial reverence, and re trained ambition within the same bounds which Lucretius prescribed to his own iroitation.
Non ita certandi cupidus, quam propter amorem
And now perhaps it may pass for fiction, what with great veracity I affirm to be fact, that MILTON, after having with much difficulty prevailed to have this divine poem licensed for the press, could sell the copy for 1.0 more than fifteen pounds, the payment of which valuable confideration depended upon the sale of three numerous impressions. So unreasonable may personal prejudice affect the most excellent performances.
About two years after), together An. ætat. 63. with Samson Agonistes, (a tragedy not
unworthy the Grecian Itage when Athiens was inber glory) he published Paradise Regained; but, ch! what a falling off was there of which I will say no more, than that there is scarcely a more remarkable infance of the frailty of human reason than our author gave, in preferring this poem to Pa. radise Loft, nor a more instruđive caution to the best writers, to be very diffident in deciding the merit of their own productions.
* The tragedies of the last age considered, page 145.
Vide Edgar. They were licenftJ July 2g 3670, but not printed before the issuing.
And thus having attended him to the fixty.sixth year of his age, as closely as such imperfect lights as men of letters and retirement usually leave to guide our inquiry would allow, it now only remains to be recorded, that in the year 1674, the gout put a period to his life, at Bun
66. hill near London; from whence his An. ætat. body was conveyed to St. Giles' church
67 by Cripple gate, where it lies interred in the Chancel; but neither has nor wants a monu. ment to perpetuate his memory.
In his youth he is said to have been extremely handsome ; the colour of his hair was a light brown, the symmetry of his features exact, enlivened with an agreeable air, and a beautiful mixture of fair and rud. dy; which occafioned the Marquis of Vilia to give his epigram the same turn of thought*, which Gregory archdeacon of Rome had employed about a thousand years before, in praising the amiable complexions of fome English youths, before their conversion to chriftianity. His ftature † (as we find it measured by himself) did not exceed the middle size, neither too lean, nor corpulent; his limbs well proportioned, nervous, and active, serviceable in all respects to his exercising the sword, in which he much delighted; and wanted neither skill, nor courage, to resent an affront from men of the moit athletic constitutions. In his diet he was abstemious; not delicate in the choice of his dishes; and itrong liquors of all kinds were his 2. version. Being too fadly convinced how much his health had suffered by night-studies in his younger years, he used to go early (feldom later than nine) to rest, and rose commonly before five in the morning. It is reported, (and there is a paflege in one of his Latin elegies to countenance the tradition), that his fancy made the happiest Hights in the spring : but one
• Ut nicns, forma, decor, facies, mas, li pietis lic,
Non Anglus,, verum hercle angelus ipfe fores. † Defenfio fecunda, p. 87 fol.
of his nephews used to deliver it as Milton's own obe fervation, that his invention was in its highest perfection from September to the vernal equinox : however it
great inequalities to be found in his composures are incontestable proofs, that in some feasons he was, but one of the people. When blindness restrained him from other exercises, he had a machine to swing in for the preservation of his health, and diverted himself in his chamber with playing on an or. gan His deportment was erect, open, affable ; his conversation easy, chearful, instructive ; his wit on all occasions at command, facetious, grave, or fatiricali, as the subject required. His judgement, when disengaged from religious and political speculations, was just and penetrating ; his apprehension quick, his memory tenicious of what he read, his reading only not to extensive as his genius, for this was universal. And having treasured up such immense store of science, perhaps the faculties of his soul grew more vigorous after he was deprived of fight; and his imagination, (naturally sublime and enlarged by reading romances*, of which he was much enamoured in his youth), when it was wholly abstracted from material objects, was more at liberty to make sach amazing excursions into the ideal world, when in composing his divine work he was tempted to range
Beyond the visible liurnal sphere.
With so many accomplishments, not to have had some faults and misfortunes to be laid in the balance with the fame and felicity of writing Paradise Loft, would have been too great a portion for humanity ELIJAH FENTON.
* His apology for Smeet ymnuus, p. 177. fol.
UI legis AMMISSAM PARADISUM, grandia magni
Carmina MILTONI, quid nisi cuncta legis? Res cunctas, et cunctarum primordia rerum,
Et fata, et fines continet ite liber. : Intima panduntur magni penetralia mundi,
Scribitur et toto quicquid in orbe latet : Terræque, tractusque maris, cælumque profundum,
Sulphuremque Erebi, flammivomufque fpecus : Quæque colunt terras, pontumque, et Tartara cæca.
Queque colunt summi lucida regna poli:
Et sine fine Chaos, et fine fine Deus::
In CHRISTO ergo homines conciliatus amor.
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanno legit.
Quæ canit, et quanta proelia dira tuba!
Et que cælestes pugnae deceret agros ! Quantus in æthereis tollit se Lucifer armis !
Atque ipfo graditur vix Michaele minor!