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clouds of matter-clouds lost in the splendour of God-does he bestow one glance on the grain of sand that he has left? If an atheist, he sleeps, without breathing or awaking, the sleep, called death. Nothing then is more vain than glory beyond the tomb—at least, unless it has kept friendship alive-unless it has been useful to virtue, serviceable to distress—and unless it be given us to enjoy in heaven the sense of one consoling, generous, liberating idea, left by us upon earth!” Vol. I. p. 319.
A very rapid sketch of the literature of England, from the time of Shakspeare to that of Milton, is next presented to usour author appearing desirous of hastening to his hero, to a consideration of whom he devotes most of the remainder of his work. Upon the second volume we cannot dwell so much at length as we have done upon the first, on account of the space we have already occupied, though there is in it an abundance of interesting matter to detain us. To Milton, then, the conmonwealth, and Cromwell, let us direct our attention for a short time.
Milton's career is, we suppose, familiar to our readers. We shall not, therefore, present them with any part of Chateaubriand's account, except for the new dress in which he clothes his facts-serving up old things in a style to render them doubly agreeable. With his remarks upon Milton, too, we shall have but little fault to find, our admiration for him being equal to that of our author himself.
Milton traveled on the continent after he had finished his studies, and when he had already distinguished himself by his writings. The beauty of his person and his accoinplishments procured him great consideration abroad. He hastened home, however, without visiting Greece, upon news of coming disturbances in his native country. His stand was at once taken
- he went for liberty. He did not, indeed, instantly assume an active part in the first movements of the revolution. Domestic duties, and his studies, engrossed him for a while; but when his thoughts were matured, he poured them out unceasingly into the ears of his countrymen. They were the notes of freedom; and they sounded sweetly in the ears of her partisans. The pen, not the sword, fell to his share in the contest.
Johnson, in his rough way, attacks Milton for his temporary inactivity; he even attempts a joke at his expense. Chateaubriand defends him; though not at all at length, nor as ably as he might. Milton's character, however, will survive the assault even of a Johnson.
In Italy, Milton fell in love. The incident is thonght to have so sensibly affected his feelings as to have cooled their natural fervour; he is supposed not to have loved any of the three wives he afterwards took to himself as ardently as the Italian VOL. XXI.-NO. 41.
beauty. His first marriage was a strange affair. Our author narrates it thus
“The Earl of Essex having taken Reading in 1643, Milton's father and mother, who had retired to that town, returned to London, and took up their residence with the poet. Milton was then thirty-five years old. One day, he stole away from home wholly unattended. His absence lasted a month, at the expiration of which he returned a married man to that abode which he quitted a bachelor. He had married the eldest daughter of Richard Powell, a justice of the peace, of Forest Hill, near Sholover, in Oxfordshire. Powell had borrowed of Milton's father five hundred pounds, which he never repaid ; but he considered that he should seitle the account by giving his daughter to the son of his creditor. This match, contracted as clandestinely as an illicit amour, was not less inconstant. Milton did not forsake his wife, like Shakspeare; it was his wife who forsook him. The family of Mary Powell were royalists ; whether it was because Mary would not live with a republican, or for some other reason, she returned to her parents. She promised to come back at Michaelmas, but she did not keep her word. Milton wrote letter after letter, but received no reply; at length he despatched a messenger, who threw away his elnquence and bis time. The deserted husband then resolved to repudiate his runaway spouse. In order to extend to other husbands thai independence which he asserted for himself, his genius suggested to him to convert a question of personal susceptibility into a question of liberty, and he published his treatise on 'The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.'” Vol. II. pp. 22, 23.
The issue, however, was creditable to both parties.
"In accordance with his principles respecting divorce, Milton solicited the hand of the young and accomplished daughter of a Dr. Davis, but she felt no partiality for the great genius who paid his addresses to her. The poet's wife now bethought herself of him: the Powell family, whose loyaliy had cooled in proportion as the royal cause became less prosperous, wished for an accommodation. Milton having called upon a relative named Blackborough, the door of the room suddenly flew open ; Mary threw herself in tears at the feet of her husband, and confessed her fauli. Milton pardoned the offender. Posterity has profited by a connubial quarrel, for to this adventure we are indebted for that admirable scene between Adam and Eve, in the 10th book of Paradise Lost:
Soon his heart relented
Now at his feet submissive in distress !! “ The issue of a romantic marriage, begun in mystery, renewed in tears, was three daughters, and two of these Antigones reopened the pages of antiquity to their blind father.
After the triumph of the parliament, Milton offered an asylum to his wife's family." Vol. II. pp. 27, 28.
The civil war was now raging, and Milton's pen was untiringly at work. Publication after publication issued from the press. Every great act of the king's opponents found an advocate in the poet, while he as energetically attacked the doings of the royalists. Chateaubriand presents a graphic sketch of
Milton, quietly seated at his desk in composition, while all was in commotion around him.
“In 1645, Milton published a collection of the English and Latin poems of his youth. The songs were set to music by Henry Laws, who belonged to the chapel of Charles I.: the voice of the apologist was soon lo penetrate to the coffin of the sovereign in the chapel of Windsor.
“Milton's father died; the parents of the poet's wife returned to their own home; and his house, says Phillips, once more became the temple of the muses. At this time, Milton was on the point of being employed as adjutant-general of the troops under Sir William Waller, a general of the presbyterian party, who has left us his memoirs.
“When, in the month of April, 1647, Fairfax and Cromwell bad made themselves masters of London, Milton, in order to pursue his studies more quietly, gave up his large establishment in Barbican, and retired 10 a small house in High Holborn, near which I long resided. It may not be amiss here to repeat an observation which I made at the beginning of this work :- A view of literature,' I said, 'apart from the history of nations, would produce a prodigious fallacy: to hear the successive poets calmly singing their loves and their sheep, you would figure to yourself the uninterrupted existence of the golden age on the earth.
. In every nation, even at the moment of the direst catastrophes, and of the greatest events, there will always be a priest who prays, a poet who sings,' &c.
"We see Milton marry, engage in the study of languages, instruct boys, publish compositions in prose and verse, as if England
were enjoy: ing the most profound peace; and yet civil war was kindled, a thousand parties were tearing one another in pieces, and people walked amidst blood and ruins.
“In 1644, the battles of Marstonmoor and Newbury were fought; and the head of the aged Archbishop Laud fell beneath the axe of the executioner. The years 1645 and 1646 beheld the battle of Naseby, the taking of Bristol, the defeat of Montrose, and the retreat of Charles I. to the Scotish army, who delivered up their sovereign to the English for the sum of four hundred thousand pounds.
“The years 1647, 1648, and 1649, were still more tragic. They comprise within their fatal period the rising of the army, the seizure of the king by Joyce, the oppression of the parliament by the soldiery, the second civil war, the escape of the king, his second apprehension, the violent sifting of the parliament, the trial and death of Charles I.
“Let the reader refer to these dates, and place under them successively the works of Milton which I am about to treat of. Milton was probably present as a spectator at the decapitation of his sovereign; he returned home perhaps to write some verses, or to arrange for boys a paragraph of his Latin grammar: "Genders are three; masculine, feminine, and Deuter. The fate of empires and of men is of no more account than this in the movement by which societies are carried along.
"In France, too, there were, in 1793, poets who sang of Thyrsis, one of the characters of the Masque, and who were no Miltons; people went to plays, the dramatis personæ of which were honest country folk; shepherds trod the stage, while tragedy ran about the streets. We know that the Terrorists were remarkably mild in their manners; these gentle swains were particularly fond of little children. Fouquier Tin. ville and his man Sampson, who smelt of blood, amused themselves at night in the theatre, and wept at the delineation of innocent country life." Vol. II. pp. 32-35.
The viscount dwells largely upon the prose works of his favourite ; gives copious extracts, and claims some credit to himself for his notice of them. It may be that in France they are unknown ; in England, and this country, though not very generally read, they are still by no means undiscovered gems. We should, however, welcome any attempt to make them more familiar even to us; and we think it not out of place to introduce here a remarkable passage, from his Defence of the Regicides, against the pamphlet of Peter Du Moulin. It is strkingly prophetic.
" I seem to overlook, as from the top of a hill, a great extent of sea and land. Spectators crowd around: their unknown faces betray thoughts similar to my own. Here, Germans, whose masculine spirit disdains servitude; there, French, with a living and generous impetuosity in behalf of liberty; on one side, the composure and valour of the Spaniard; on the other, the reserve and the circumspect magnanimity of the Italian. All the lovers of independence and virtue, the valiant and the sage, in whatever place they may be, are for me. Some favour me in secret, some approve me openly; others welcome me with applause and congratulations; others, again, who had long withstood all conviction, at length yield themselves captive to the force of truth. Surrounded by this multitude, I now imagine that, from the pillars of Hercules to the extremities of the earth, I behold all nations recovering the liberty from which they had been so long exiled; I fancy that I see my country men conveying to other lands a plant of superior quality and of nobler growth than that which Triptolemus carried with him from region to region; they are sowing the benefits of civilization and freedom among cities, kingdoms, and nations. Perhaps I shall not unknown approach this concourse; perhaps I shall be loved by it, when it is told that I am the man who engages in single combat with the proud champion of despotism." Vol. II. pp. 51, 52.
In reading Milton's political writings, we seem to have in hand a liberal author of our own day, and not one of the seventeenth century. We find no such sentiments in the mouth of any other individual of his time in any country; they are the opinions and the reasonings of a much later era.
We must leave the recital of the fortunes of " Cromwell's Latin secretary:" blind though he was, the protector knew the value of securing the transmission of his name to posterity as the friend of Milton. How nobly the bard on all occasions defended the fame of his benefactor, is well known. Some remarks upon the character and death of Milton we will give from the work before us :
" The bard of Eden said that a poet 'ought to be himself a true poem ;' that is, a model of the best and most honourable qualities.
“ Milton rose at four in the morning during summer, and at five in the winter. He wore almost invariably a dress of coarse gray cloth; studied till noon, dined frugally, walked with a guide, and, in the evening, sung, accompanying himself on some instrument. He understood harmony,
and had a fine voice. He for a long time addicted himself to the practice of fencing. To judge by Paradise Lost, he must have been passionately fond of music and the perfume of flowers. He supped off five or six olives and a little water, retired to rest at nine, and composed at night, in bed. When he had made some verses, he rung, and dictated to his wise or daughters. On sunny days he sat on a bench at his door; he lived in Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields.
“From without, insults were heaped on this the sick and forsaken lion. These lines were addressed to him, headed “Upon John Milton's not suffering for his Traitorous Book, when the Tryers were executed, 1660:
'That thou escap’dst that vengeance which o'ertook,
So, for to live, thou’dst call Salmasius from the dead.' They reproached him with his age, his ugliness, his small stature, and applied to him this verse of Virgil :
“Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.' observing that the word ingens was the only one which did not apply to his person. He had the simplicity to reply (Defensio Autoris) that he was poor because he had never enriched himself; that he was neither large nor small; that at no age had he been considered ugly; that in youth, with a sword by his side, he had never feared the bravest.
“In fact, he had been very handsome, and was so even in his age. The portrait of Adam is his own. His hair was admirable, his eyes of extraordinary clearness; no defect could be perceived in them; it would have been impossible to guess that he was blind. If we were not aware what party rage can do, could we believe that it would make it a crime for a man to be blind? But let us thank this abominable hate, we owe to it some exquisite lines. Milton first replies that he lost his sight in the defence of liberty, then adds these passages, full of sublimity and tenderness:
“In the night that surrounds me, the light of the Divine Presence shines the more brightly for me. God beholds me with greater tenderpess and compassion, because I can see nought but Him. The Divine law ought not only to shield me from injury, but to render me more sacred ; not on account of the loss of sight, but because I am under the shadow of the Divine wings, which seem to produce this darkness in me. To this I attribute the affectionate assiduities of my friends, their soothing attentions, their kind visits, and their respectful behaviour.'
* We see to what shifts he was reduced in writing, by a passage in one of his letters to Peter Heimbach.
“That virtue of mine which you call my political virtue, and which I would rather you had called 'devotion to my country-patriotism, enchanting me with her captivating name, almost, if I may so say, expatriated me. In finishing my letter, let me beg of you this favour, that, if you find some parts incorrectly written, you will impute the fault to the boy who writes for me; he is utterly ignorant of Latin, and I am obliged wretchedly enough to spell every word I dictate.'
“The miseries of Milton were still more aggravated by domestic griefs. I have already said that he lost his first wife, Mary Powell; she