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these. And it is to be considered, too, that his adversaries first began the attack: they loaded him with much more personal abuse, only they had not the advantage of so much wit to season it. If he had engaged with more candid and ingenuous disputants, he would have preferred civility and fair argument to wit and satire: "To do so was my choice, and to have done thus was my chance," as he expresses himself in the conclusion of one of his controversial pieces. All who have written any accounts of his life agree that he was affable and instructive in conversation, of an equal and cheerful temper; and yet I can easily believe that he had a sufficient sense of his own merits, and contempt enough for his adversaries.
His merits, indeed, were singular; for he was a man not only of wonderful genius, but of immense learning and erudition; not only an incomparable poet, but a great mathematician, logician, historian, and divine. He was a master not only of the Greek and Latin, but likewise of the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac, as well as of the modern languages, Italian, French, and Spanish. He was particularly skilled in the Italian, which he always preferred to the French language; and he not only wrote elegantly in it, but is highly commended for his writings by the most learned of the Italians themselves. He had read almost all authors, and improved by all, even by romances, of which, he had been fond in his younger years; and as the bee can extract honey out of weeds, so (to use his own words) "those books, which to many others have been the fuel of wantonness and loose living, proved to him so many incitements to the love and observation of virtue." His favourite author, after the Holy Scriptures, was Homer, whom he could repeat almost all without book; and he was advised to undertake a translation of his works, which no doubt he would have executed to admiration. But (as he says of himself in his postscript to the "Judgment of Martin Bucer") "he never could jelight in long citations, much less in whole traductions." He was possessed too much of an original genius to he a mere copier. "Whether it be natural disposition," says he, "or education in me, or that my mother bore me a speaker of what God made my own, and not a translator." After his severer studies, and after dinner, as we observed before, he used to divert and unbend his mind with music, of which he was as much a master as was his father, and he could perform both vocally and
instrumentally, and it is said that he composed very well, though nothing of this kind is handed down to us. It it is also said that he had some skill in painting as well as in music, and that somewhere or other there is a head of Milton drawn by himself. He had a quick apprehension, a sublime imagination, a strong memory, a piercing judgment, a wit always ready, and facetious or grave as the occasion required: and I know not whether the loss of his sight did not add vigour to the faculties of his mi id. He at least thought so, and often comforted himself with that reflection.
But his great parts and learning have scarcely gained him more admirers than his political principles have raised him enemies. And yet the darling passion of his soul was the love of liberty; this was his constant aim and end, however he might be mistaken in the means. He was, indeed, very zealous in what was called the good old cause, and with his spirit and his resolution it is somewhat wonderful that he never ventured his person in the civil war; but though he was not in arms, he was not unactive, and thought, I suppose, that he could be of more service to the cause by his pen than by his sword. He was a thorough republican, and in this he thought like a Greek or Roman, as he was very conversant with their writings. And one day, Sir Robert Howard, who was a friend to Milton as well as to the liberties of his country, and was one of his constant visitors to the last, inquired of him how he came to side with the republicans Milton answered, among other reasons, because theirs was the most frugal government, for the trappings of a monarchy might set up an ordinary commonwealth. But then, his attachment to Cromwell must be condemned, as being^ neither consistent with his republican principles, nor with his love of liberty. And I know no other way of accounting for his conduct, but by presuming (as I think we may reasonably presume) that he was far from entirely approving of Cromwell's proceedings, but considered him as the only person who could rescue the nation from the tyranny of the Presbyterians, who he saw were erecting a worse dominion of their own upon the ruins of prelatical episcopacy; and of all things he dreaded spiritual slavery, and therefore closed with Cromwell and the Independents, as he expected under them greater liberty of conscience. And though he served Cromwell, yet it must be said for him, that he served a great master,
and served him ably, and was not wanting from time to time in giving him excellent good advice, especially in his second defence.
In matters of religion, too, he has given as great offence, or even greater, than by his political principles. But still let not the infidel glory: no such man was ever of that party. He had the advantage of a pious education, and ever expressed the profoundest reverence of the Deity in his words and actions, was both a Christian and a Protestant, and studied and admired the Holy Scriptures above all other books whatsoever; and in all his writings he plainly shows a religious turn of mind, as well in verse as in prose, as well in his works of an earlier date as in those of later composition. When he wrote the " Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce," he appears to have been a Calvinist; but afterwards he entertained a more favourable opinion of Arminius. Some have inclined to believe that he was an Arian; but there are more express passages in his works to overthrow this opinion, than any there are to confirm it.
Milton was indeed a dissenter from the Church of England, in which he had been educated, and was by his parents designed for holy orders, as we related before; but he was led away by early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the Church; and in his younger years was a favourer of the Presbyterians; in his middle age he was best pleased with the Independents and Anabaptists, as allowing greater liberty of conscience than others, and coming nearest in his opinion to the primitive practice; and in the latter part of his life he was not a professed member of any particular sect of Christians, he frequented no public worship, nor used any religious rite in his family. Whether so mai.y different forms of worship as he had seen, had made him indifferent to all forms; or whether he thought that all Christians had in some things corrupted the purity and simplicity of the Gospel; or whether he disliked their endless and uncharitable disputes, and that love of dominion and inclination to persecution which he said was a piece of Popery inseparable from all Churches; or whether he believed that a man might be a good Christian without joining in any communion; or whether he did not look upon himself as inspired, as wrapped up in God, and above all forms and ceremonies, it is not easy to determine-—" to his own master he standeth or falleth:"
but if he was of any denomination, he was a sort of a Quietist, and was full of the interior of religion, though he so little regarded the exterior; and it is certain was to the last an enthusiast rather than an infidel.
His circumstances were never very mean, nor very great; for he lived above want, and was not intent upon accumulating wealth; 1 is ambition was more to enrich and adorn his mind. His father supported him in his travels, and for some time after. Then his pupils must have been of some advantage to him, and brought him either a certain stipend or considerable presents at least; and he had scarcely any other method of improving his fortune, as he was of no possession. When his father died, he inherited an elder son's shtire of his estate, the principal part of which, I believe, was his house in Bread-street. And not long after, he was appointed Latin Secretary with a salary of 200Z. a year; so that he was now in opulent circumstances for a man who had always led a frugal and temperate life, and was at little unnecessary expense besides buying of books. Though he was of the victorious party, yet he was far from sharing in the spoils of his country. On the contrary (as we learn from his second "Defence") he sustained great losses during the civil war, and was not at all favoured in the imposition of taxes, but sometimes paid beyond his due proportion. And, upon a turn of affairs, he was not only deprived of his place, but also lost 2,0007., which he had for security and improvement put into the Excise Office. He lost likewise another considerable sum for want of proper care and management, as persons of Milton's genius are seldom expert in money matters. And in the fire of London his house in Breadstreet was burned, before which accident foreigners have gone out of devotion (says Wood) to see the house and chamber where he was born. His gains were inconsiderable in proportion to his losses; for, excepting the thousand pounds which were given him by the Government for writing his "Defence of the People" against Salmasius, we may conclude that he got very little by the copies of his works, when it does not appear that he received any more than ten pounds for " Paradise Lost." Some time before he died he sold the greater part of his library, as his heirs were not qualified to make a proper use of it, and as he thought that he could dispose of it to greater advantage than they could after his decease. And finally, by one