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see Windsor Castle, the only difference pleasant and shady walk," as he writes between what it looked then and what to Deodati, where he might loiter and appears now being the altered height dream. For it must be confessed that of the Round Tower, then more squat, the beauty of which he was enamoured and the trees which fringe these was not the beauty of Nature. Milton north-easterly slopes; for the Georgian was not one of those who in times of pointing and the hideous Portland we stress and dissatisfaction can crouch are fortunately too far off to distin- back to the bosom of the great mother guish. And the fields; they must and be at rest there : no! it was rather have been a little more trackless of the beauty of thought; of high ideals; and irregular, more bosky and of conceptions dim and sublime. Nature tumbled, retaining a little
was no necessity to Milton. In later hill and dale, an irregularity which life he became a settled Londoner, and generation after generation of plough- not a regretful one; he did not fly back ing has nearly counteracted; with into the country as to his true home. copses and old field roads, if we can He was not the sort of poet who can trust the dim Constables and Gains- lie on his back and watch the willowboroughs, and with a general sense leaves and the water hour after hour. of less being required from them : What he wanted in a country place a feeling, distressing to the economist was quiet, absence of distracting imbut beloved by the poet, that landlords pressions, free play for his mind, and did not try to work the earth quite for such sombre fancies as ranged themso hard, to get all they could out of selves within it. her, but let her have her
in We may amuse ourselves by conjecpatches and corners, and make a little turing how his day was spent. In pastime of her own in nooks and
summer, we may imagine, he rose with dingles, so long as she served them the dawn to turn
over Latin and well in the open ground ; perhaps the Greek authors, in no casual dilettante reason why she seems to be in revolt spirit, but jotting down facts, hard just now.
facts, and little else, as his extractBut here let our amateur researches books show, or impulsively turning a have an end. We will not dive into psalm into Greek Homerics, as he parish registers and title-deeds; we writes to Deodati, or pursuing his need not inquire whether the old great scheme of History, laboriously scrivener held his lease from the Bul- advancing Greeks and Romans through strodes of Bulstrode or the Earl of
year after year, for “insight into all Bridgewater. We have merely come generous and seemly acts and affairs," to Horton to try and realise a page in as he says; and then books, books all a biography—to try and read a great day, excepting a dreamy stroll, and figure into a landscape where it was books again, bringing to them as he once at home.
did the keen lustre of a mind sharpA solitary scholar living in the ened by perpetual temperance, and country—a picture with little va- emasculated by no self-indulgence, riety of outline but an indefinable dimmed by no ungentle retrospects. charm. It was not till Charles the Like Hippolytus in the Ion he brings Second that the “fascinating pleasure with him a gush of morning air of sauntering” was devised, developed, and voices of birds ; comely with his and dignified, but we may be quite soft brown curling locks and “exhaling sure that Milton knew of it. Tired a the penetrating fragrance of youth.” little of the inconveniences of Buck- Undoubtedly to settle down for year inghamshire, the frequency of visits after year to a life of deliberate aloofto London necessary for books and ness from career or worldly interests music, he speaks of taking chambers at shows either a drifting habit like an Inn of Court,-and why? To get "a Hawthorne's, which may, as in the
latter's case, bloom into a fantastic but in the first and only) letter of the unpruned luxuriance, or a stern devo- elder to the younger man, are not tion to self-education-a plan for in- merely complimentary, they are affectentional culture which few would tionate. have the power to devise, very few to But Milton was a bad correspondent. carry out. The instinct, the necessity He speaks of the obstinacy of his for solitude, characterising either the silences, confesses that he was by brutish or the divine nature, was upon
nature slow and reluctant to write. him imperiously; he seems (as far as The letters of the Horton period are we can judge) to have had no reproach- few, though we cannot argue the same ful reveries, no haunting sadness, too unexpansiveness from a small correoften the result of such a choice ; for spondence then as we can nowadays. the sonnet on his twenty-third birth- But the law is the same for Milton, day, if read rightly, does not contain a can see, as for most men—the hint of self-blame; it gazes with a fewer obvious duties a man has, the more momentary melancholy upon the ra- perfunctorily they will be performed. pacity of time, and its inadequacy for Milton, with his long contemplative the combination of a practical ideal- spaces, his complete freedom from but there is nothing more.
or prescribed action, selfSolitary we may be sure he was ; imposed as they were, was probably not till he was on the point of his no
exception to the rule. continental tour did he put himself There is one delightful thing which in communication even with Henry we glean from scattered hints, notably Wotton, the retired diplomatist and from Andrew Marvel's description of courtier, then Provost of Eton, and the arrangement of his ordinary day residing within a four-mile walk; and in later life, and from the sonnet then it was only for the sake of con. to Henry Lawrence. Milton venience in travel and superior intro one of those home-bred natures that ductions. Yet Henry Wotton, with literally loved monotony; the sonnet his love for tobacco, and his zealous is a delightful description in the fishing expeditions, with his bottle of strictest Horatian manner of how to Eton ale, was pre-eminently a sociable spend a wet day satisfactorily in the person-an ideal for Milton in the
country—a light lunch, followed by graceful touch with which he brought music or singing. to bear modern ideas and a cosmopoli
“ He who of such delights can judge, and spare tan ease on a taste naturally delicate
To interpose them oft, is not unwise. and artificially refined. And Wotton, too, as we can absolutely augur from -a delightful confession. Such enjoythe delightful letter which he writes ment only belongs to the lives of those to him, took the kind of affectionate who cling to home and regular hours, fancy for Milton which an older and and a small circle of very habitual accomplished scholar, who has sucked friends. the honey of life and found, not its He was evidently one of those sweetness, but only his own powers of
natures who learnt very early by a enjoyment fail, will sometimes take to kind of fastidious instinct the high a young and fascinating soul, already pleasures of abstinence; not by tamfar upon the same path with himself, pering with indulgence and finding his like the launaondópos of Sparta, a fit mistake, a course which may lower successor to whom to hand on the the succeeding temperance from the lighted brand. “Your friend, as much realm of pleasure to that of a disat command as any of longer date, tasteful and curative necessity. He Henry Wotton !" - The fomentation had evidently discovered that spare of our friendship too soon interrupted in diet, short slumbers, rigorous restraint, the cradle ;” these phrases, occurring leave, when the first tremors and
cravings of the discontented body are been a sweet one, to see the young over, the mind pure and free and scholar trudging home through the vigorous with great spring and pleni- summer twilight, watching the stars tude of animal spirits, and not dulled come out above the orchards, and the or clouded by any of the fumes and bats flap noiselessly about the warm humours that haunt the brain of the dusk, while the pleasant country full-blooded, easy liver. On the other sounds fall fainter and fainter over hand, he, no doubt, suffered from the the fields and running water, till at vague and delicious melancholy com- last there is nothing to be heard but mon to austere souls and eremitic the gurgle of the brimming stream in frames; it is a common mistake to its pools, and under its long grasses ; speak of music as solacing or charming the sigh of the elms in the fragrant away such melancholy—it is not so; air, and the sound of distant wheels, music is potent to lift the black clouds, louder and fainter alternately, speedthe gloomy horrors of morbid melan- ing some belated traveller home. choly, resulting on mental exhaustion “What God has resolved concerning or physical prostration, but the dreamy, me I know not, but this at least; pensive mood, a condition of high and He has instilled into me, at all events, exalted delight, needs no curing; it is a vehement love of the beautiful. fed by music, strenuously bruising the Not with so much labour, as the fables sweetness out of it, the harmony and have it, is Ceres said to have sought the rhythm working up the soul to a her daughter Proserpine, as I am wont purified ecstasy far different from the day and night to seek for the idea of blind and animal rapture induced on the beautiful (hanc του καλού ιδέαν) merely sensuous natures.
through all the forms or faces of things Now, the reason why we look with a (for many are the shapes of things regretful longing at such an exile, such divine).” So wrote Milton on a a sojourn on Patmos as Milton's was, June evening from Horton, stung, it is twofold. We are genuinely charmed may have been, into speech by the by the beauty as well as the rightness tormenting beauty of the summer and simplicity of a life lived within so twilight. secluded a pale; and then there comes And we who pursue her too, though another feeling; we admire it because faintly and with less heart, where it would be so impossible for ourselves, could we find her better than in the so intolerable; not because we could picture of the life that imaged this not, if we would, step aside from career constant thought? We seem to be and place and the struggling world, very near her; almost to clutch the but because we know we dare not; fringe of her garments and comprehend because such a life is too arduous, too the vanishing form. exacting for us. A life apart, if spent But our reverie too must have an in indolence is so inglorious a thing- end. A clock peals its summons from and we feel that we should so easily a red Colnbrook roof, undistinguishslip into that; and thus jaded by the ably grey in the evening colouring; stress of circumstances we peer into the setting sun is doing his best to such a remote region as this, and atone for the Vandalism of the wind wish we had strength 'and courage to by gilding the ragged cloud-terraces an share it too. We know what we would angry red. It seems as if a mighty fain pursue ; but public feeling, and spirit had been abroad, drawing all the lower and apparently simpler issue who were attuned in mood and will of staying where we are rushes over into consonance with him. Let us us, and we are drawn away again. creep home in silence, for he has passed
Yet if it has been a dream, it has over and gone by.
LEFT were the busy quays, the street,
“I HAVE neither space, nor wish,” echoes sinks to a rustic murmur. writes Mr. Ruskin in his autobio- coat, his waistcoat, his shoes and graphy,2 “ to extend my proposed stockings, his trousers, his hat, his account of things that have been by wit and humour, his pathos and his records of correspondence; it is too umbrella, all come before me like much the habit of modern biographers visions of my youth.” That is the to confuse epistolary talk with vital way of half our modern biographies.
It is a long while since Mr. Mr. Sampson Brass failed as a lawyer; Ruskin has written anything so entirely but had he lived on to our time he to the purpose. In too much, perhaps, of might have made his fortune as a all modern writing the vital fact is apt biographer. A cunning artist may to get a little confused and lost sight indeed contrive to give these dry bones of; in biography it is certainly so. some semblance of life; but cunning How could it be otherwise ? Half of artists do not just at present seem our latter-day biographies were worth inclined to labour in the field of biowriting in no circumstances ; con- graphy. Too often the work has not siderably more than one half of the the saving virtue of Justice remainder have too obviously been Shallow's estate :-“ Barren, barren, written in circumstances that could barren; marry, good air;" but we not but be fatal to the best bio- miss even the good air. grapher who ever set himself to paint And in those rare cases where the a man “in his habit as he lived." tale of the finished life is one we That Gyas and Cloanthus were brave would willingly hear, still some mamen no one doubts; and all would lignant spirit is so apt to intervene. So cordially allow them the merit of fast the world moves now, so strenhaving been most charming in their uously must we all pant after it, that family circles. But when the story of unless the page comes hot from the their lives comes to be writ large in press to supplement the funeral serblack and white, how apt the charm is vice, it is, we say, or seem to say, too to fade. In the garish light of print late. The moment passes with the the ways, the looks, the arts that
It is, indeed, a wonder we do seemed so winning and so wonderful not improve on the French fashion, to those who saw and felt them in their and deliver our biographies impromptu freshness, are apt to show such little over the open grave. They could not things. The wit and the learning well be more perfunctory; and they that set the affectionate critics of the could not but be shorter. fireside in a roar, or lulled them into Small wonder then that our current mute admiring, but make the stony biographical literature is such as it so public stare. Those ethereal eyes that frequently is; so confused, so barren flashed such heavenly gleams beneath and yet so wordy, so wanting in the bar of Michael Angelo, fade to the selection,
selection, arrangement, proportion; common light of every day. The great that so rarely the right man seems wave that was to fill the world with its to have been chosen, or to have
chosen himself, for the work. He who 1 «The Life of Henry Wadsworth Long- can work fastest is the man for fellow, with Extracts from his Journals and Correspondence.' Edited by Samuel Long
our money ; and where angels fear to fellow. Two volumes. London, 1886.
tread who knows not what manner of 2 . Præterita,' ch. vii.
man rushes in ?