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regard to his political writing at large, even after the prejudices of party have subsided, Milton, I believe, has found no great share of favour, of applause, or even of candour, from distant generations. His Si quid meremur, in the sense here belonging to the words, has been too fully ascertained by the mature determination of time. Toland, about thirty years after the Restoration, thought Milton's Prose Works of sufficient excellence and importance to be collected and printed in one body. But they were neglected and soon forgotten. Of late years, some attempts have been made to revive them, with as little success. At present, they are almost unknown. If they are ever inspected, it is perhaps occasionally by the commentator on Milton's verse as affording materials for comparative criticism, or from motives of curiosity only as the productions of the writer of Comus and Paradise Lost, and not so much for any independent value of their own. In point of doctrine, they are calculated to annihilate the very
foundations of our civil and .
religious establishment, as it now subsists: they are subversive of our legislature, and our species of government. In condemning tyranny, he strikes at the bare existence of kings; in combating superstition, he decries all public religion. These discourses hold forth a system of politics, at present as unconstitutional, and almost as obsolete, as the nonsense of passive obedience: and in this view, we might just as well think of republishing the pernicious theories of the kingly bigot James, as
of the republican usurper Oliver Cromwell. Their style is perplexed, pedantic, poetical, and unnatural: abounding in enthusiastic effusions, which have been mistaken for eloquence and imagination. In the midst of the most solemn rhapsodies, which would have shone in a . fast-sermon before Cromwell, he sometimes indulges a vein of jocularity; but his witticisms are as aukward as they are unsuitable, and Milton never more misunderstands the nature and bias of his genius, than when he affects to be arch either in prose or verse. His want of deference to superiors teaches him to write without good manners: and when we consider his familiar acquaintance with the elegancies of antiquity, with the orators and historians of Greece and Rome, few writers will be found to have made so slender a sacrifice to the Graces. From some of these strictures, I must except the Tractate on Education, and the Areopagitica, which are written with a tolerable degree of facility, simplicity, purity, and perspicuity; and the latter, some tedious historical digressions, and some little sophistry excepted, is the most close, conclusive comprehensive, and decisive vindication of the liberty of the press that has yet appeared, on a subject on which it is difficult to decide, between the licentiousness of scepticism and sedition, and the arbitrary exertions of authority. In the mean time, Milton's Prose Works, I suspect, were never popular: he deeply engaged in most of the ecclesiastical disputes of his times, yet he is seldom quoted or mentioned by his contempora
ries, either of the presbyterian or independent persuasion: even by Richard Baxter, pastor of Kidderminster, a judicious and voluminous advocate on the side of the presbyterians, who vehemently censures and opposes several of his coadjutors in the cause of church-independency, he is passed over in profound silence. For his brethren the independents he seems to have been too learned and unintelligible. In 1652, Sir Robert Filmer, in a general attack on the recent antimonarchical writers, bestows but a very short and slight refutation on his politics. It appears from the Censure of the Rota, a pamphlet published in 1660, said to be fabricated by Harrington's club, that even his brother partywriters ridiculed the affectations and absurdities of his style. [Oldys attributes this pamphlet to Harrington, in his Catalogue of the pamphlets in the Harleian Library.] Lord Monboddo is the only modern critic of note, who ranks Milton as a prosewriter with Hooker, Sprat, and Clarendon. I have hitherto been speaking of Milton's Prose Works in English. I cannot allow, that his Latin performances in prose are formed on any one chaste Roman model. They consist of a modern factitious mode of Latinity, a compound of phraseology gleaned from a general imitation of various styles, commodious enough for the author's purpose. His Defensio pro populo Anglicano against Salmasius, so liberally rewarded by the presbyterian administration, the best apology that ever was offered for bringing kings to the block,
and which diffused his reputation all over Europe, is remembered no more. Doctor Birch observes of this prophetic hope in the text, that “ the universal admiration with “ which his works are read, jus“tifies what he himself says in “ his Ode to Rouse.” Life, p. lxiii. But this hope, as we have seen, our author here restricts to his political speculations, to his works on civil and religious subjects, which are still in expectation of a reversionary fame, and still await the partial suffrages of a sana posteritas, and a cordatior aetas. The flattering anticipation of more propitious times, and more equitable judges, at some remote period, would have been justly applicable to his other works; for in those, and those only, it has been amply and conspicuously verified. It is from the ultimi nepotes that justice has been done to the genuine claims of his poetical character. Nor does any thing, indeed, more strongly mark the improved critical discernment of the present age, than that it has atoned for the contemptible taste, the blindmess and the neglect, of the last, in recovering and exalting the
poetry of Milton to its due de
gree of cultivation and esteem: and we may safely prognosticate, that the posterities are, yet unborn, which will bear testimony to the beauties of his calmer imagery, and the magnificence of his more sublime descriptions, to the dignity of his sentiments, and the vigour of his language. Undoubtedly the Paradise Lost had always its readers, and perhaps more numerous and devoted admirers even at the infancy of its publication, than our biographers have commonly supposed. Yet, in its silent progression, even after it had been recommended by the popular papers of Addison, and had acquired the distinction of an English classic, many years elapsed before any symptoms appeared, that it had influenced the national taste, or that it had wrought a change in our versification, and our modes of poetical thinking. The remark might be still farther extended, and more forcibly directed and brought home, to the pieces which compose the present volume. Among other proofs of our reverence for Milton, we have seen a monument given to his memory in Westminster Abbey. But this splendid memorial did not appear, till we had overlooked the author of Reformation in England, and the Defensio: in other words, till our rising regard for Milton the poet had taught us to forget Milton the politician. Not long before, about the year 1710, when Atterbury's inscription for the monument of John Philips, in which he was said to be soli Miltono secundus, was shewn to Doctor Sprat then Dean of Westminster, he refused it admittance into the church; the name of Milton as Doctor Johnson observes, who
first relates this anecdote, “being
“in his opinion, too detestable “ to be read on the wall of a “building dedicated to devo“tion.” Yet when more enlarged principles had taken place, and his bust was erected where once his name had been deemed a profanation, Doctor George, Provost of King's College, Cambridge, who was solicited for an epitaph on the occasion, forbearing to draw his topics of reconciliation from a better source, thought it expedient to apologize for the reception of the monument of Milton the republican into that venerable repository of kings and prelates, in the following hexameters; which recal our attention to the text, and on account of their spirited simplicity, and nervous elegance, deserve to be brought forward, and to be more universally circulated.
Augusti regum cineres, sanctaeque favillae Heroum, vosque O, venerandi nominis, umbrae Parcite, quod vestris, infensum regi
bus olim, Sedibus infertur nomen; liceatdue supremis Funeribus finire odia, et mors obruat iras. Nunc sub foederibus coeant felicibus, una Libertas, et jus sacri inviolabile sceptri. Rege sub Augusto fas sit laudare Catonem.
OF THE LESS COMMON WORDS OCCASION ALLY EXPLAIN ED AND
P. R. stands for Paradise Regained, S.A. Samson Agonistes, P. Poems, and S. Sonnets.