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Three years after the publication of Paradise Lost, , he published "Sampson Agonistes" a tragedy in the purest style of the Greek Drama, and " Paradise Regained;" which he is said to have preferred to his great work, but in which preference he remains alone. Paradise Regained has suffered much in the comparison. It is said the following circumstance gave rise to this poem: Elwood, the Quaker, who had been introduced to him for the purpose of improving himself by the perusal of the classical writers, suggested the idea of such a work just before he came to Chalfont, and the Poet presented him with it on his return to London. Milton had indeed given him the perusal of Paradise Lost in manuscript, and he having read it, upon returning the copy, put this quaint interrogation, -“What hast thou to say to Paradise Found ?" This simple, yet natural question, gave rise to Paradise Regained; a work as much obscured by the splendour of Paradise Lost, as the lustre of the morning star by the sun's meridian blaze; but if any other than Milton had been the author, it would have justly claimed and received universal praise. Our great Poet at last, worn out by the gout, paid the debt of nature on the 10th of November, 1674, in his 66th year, at his house in Bunhill-fields, and was buried in St. Giles's, Cripplegate; his funeral was splendidly and numerously attended. On the Restoration, Milton's friends were greatly alarmed for his safety, lest he should be proceeded against as a regicide; they therefore used all their influence to procure him a pardon, in which I am happy to say, they succeeded. The Government contented themselves with calling him before the House, as may be seen by the following extract from the journal of the House of Commons.*
Milton seems to have been saved principally by the earnest and grateful interposition of Sir William Davenant, who had been captured by the fleet of the Commonwealth, on his passage from France to America, and had been ordered by the Parliament, in 1651, on his trial before the High Court of Justice.
The mediation of Milton; had essentially contributed to spatch him from danger; and urged by that generous benevolence which shone conspicuously in his character, he was now eager to requite, with a gift of equal value, the beuefit which he had received. For the existence of Davenant's obligation to Milton, we have the testimony of Wood, and for the subsequent part of the story, so interesting in itself, and so honourable to human nature, the evidence is directly to be traced from Richardson to Pope, and from Pope to Betterton, the immediate client and intimate of Davenant.
His nuncupative Will, which has lately been discovered in the Prerogative Registry, and published by Mr. Warton, opens a glimpse into the interior of Milton's house, and shows him to have been both amiable and injured, in that private scene, in which alone he has generally been considered as liable to censure, or rather, perhaps not entitled to our affection. In this Will, and in the paper connected with it, we find the venerable father complaining of his “unkind children,” for leaving and neglecting him, because he was blind; and we see him compelled, as it were, by their injurious conduct, to appeal against them, even to his servants. We are assured also, by the deposition on oath, of one of these servants, that his complaints were not extorted by slight wrongs, or uttered by capricious passion on slight provocation; that his children, (with the exception probably of Deborah, who, at the time immediately in question, was not more than nine years old,) would occasionally sell his books to the dunghill-women, as the witness calls them; that they were capable of combining with the maid servant, and advising her to cheat her master and their father in her marketings; and that one of them, Mary, on being told that her father was to be married, replied, “that is no news, but if I could hear of his death, that were something."
* Saturday, 15th December, 1660.-—“ Ordered, that Mr. Milton, now in custody of the sergeant attending this house, be forthwith released, paying his fees.” A complaint made that the sergeant at arms had demanded excessive fees for the imprisonment of Mr. Milton, the house again
“Ordered,—that it be referred to a committee of privileges, to examine this business, and to call Mr. Milton, and the sergeant before them, and to determine what is fit to be given to the sergeant for his fees in this case.”
Much has been said on the unequal flow of our Poet's genius; and by some it has been represented as under the influence of particular seasons, while by others it has been regarded as the effect of immediate and positive inspiration. Phillips declares, that his uncle's poetic faculty was vivid only in the winter, and Toland assigns the spring as the season of its peculiar activity ; while Richardson, with a proper respect to the ardent character of the author's mind, expresses a doubt whether such a work could be suffered for any considerable period to stand absolutely still. Phillips, to whom his relation was accustomed to shew the poem in its progress, informs us that, not having seen any verses for some time, on the approach of summer he requested to know the cause of what appeared to him to be extraordinary; and that he received as a reply from the poet, that “ his vein never flowed happily, but from the autumnal equinox till the vernal; and that what he attempted at other times was never to his satisfaction, though he courted his fancy ever so much." In opposition to this, and in support of his own opinion, Toland adduces the information given to him by a friend of Milton's, and the testimony of the bard himself, who, in his beautiful elegy, “On the Arrival of Spring," speaks of that delightful season, as renovating and invigorating his genius. While the former part of this evidence cannot be poised against that of the author's confidential friend and nephew, the latter must be considered as too weak and uncertain to be entitled to any great regard. Mrs. Milton, who survived her husband, says that he composed principally in the winter, and on his waking in the morning, would make her write down sometimes twenty or thirty verses. On being asked whether he did not frequently read Homer and Virgil, she replied, "that he stole from nobody but the Muse who inspired him.” To a lady who inquired who that Muse
was, she said, “it was God's grace, and the Holy Spirit that visited him nightly."
A small monument, with his bust, was erected not long since to his memory, in Westminster Abbey. Milton, in stature, did not exceed the middle size,
but was formed with perfect symmetry, and was moreover, in his youth, eminently beautiful; of wbich many portraits yet to be seen, and the following epigram of the Marquis of Villa, are incontestable proofs.
“So perfect thou, in mind, in form, in face;
“ Thou’rt not of English, but Angelic race." In his habits, he was abstemious in his diet, and naturally disliked all strong liquors. In his youth he studied late, but afterwards reversed his hours. His amusements consisted in the conversation of his friends, and in music, in which he was a great proficient. After he became blind, he was assisted in his studies by his daughters, whom he taught to read Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, without their understanding any of them; and for transcribing, he employed any casual acquaintance. His literature was great; he was a perfect master of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, French and Spanish. Of the English Poets, he preferred Spencer, Shakspeare, and Cowley. His deportment was erect, open, and affable; his conversation easy, cheerful, and instructive; his wit on all occasions at command, facetious, grave, or satirical, as the subject required; his judgment just and penetrating; his apprehension quick; his memory tenacious of what he read; his reading, only not so extensive as his genius, for that was universal. With so many accomplishments, not to have faults and misfortunes to be laid in the balance, with the fame and felicity of writing Paradise Lost, would have been too great a portion for humanity.
As Milton equalled Homer in his genius, so he equalled him in his misfortunes. Homer had reached