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company this state of spiritualism without being searched for. If the thought does not predominate over the expression, it is not only charmless, but weak and faulty :
Cold as the snow upon Canadian hills,
It wakes no spark within, but chills the heart. The spell comes from the imagination :--there can be no warmth in literary com. position where there is no imagination.
The force and brightness of the fire is in proportion to the richness and abundance of the fuel applied to it. Milton applied all invention, all wisdom, all learning, and all knowledge.
Perhaps we must bring to the reading of Milton much greatness of spirit, a strong and unsophisticated fancy-much erudition, and much power of thought, to enable us thoroughly to taste and admire him. In this he differs from Shakspeare, who is equally fitted for the people and for the most radiant and most cultivated minds. One can scarcely deny that this is a superiority in Shakspeare : Milton could not have been what he was without the aid of intense study ; but as Milton could not have done what Shakspeare did, so Shakspeare could not have done what Milton did. To have produced “ Samson Agonistes” would have been utterly beyond Shakspeare's reach : Shakspeare, however, would have given more variety of characters, and richness and contrast of incidents: he would have drawn Dalilah more inviting, and Samson more tender: his language would have been more flowingmore vernacular ; and if not so sublime, more beautiful: it would have sunk with less cousideration, and more immediately into people's hearts.-“Samson Agonistes” is for study, and not to be lightly perused. But let no scholar-let no magnanimoussouled being, who understands the Euglish language, and has any tincture of education, omit to read it, and muse upon it again and again, and lay it up in the treasured stores of his memory: it will exercise and improve all his intellectual faculties
, and elevate his heart:mit has at once novelty, truth, and wisdom. He may learn by it lessons for the great affairs of life, enlarge his comprehension, and fortify his bosom. He may be taught that sublimity and strength of language lie not in glitter or floweriness ;--that strength is naked, and boldness of conception can support itself.
CONCLUSION. I have thus given my opinion distinctively of Milton's epic, dramatic, and lyrical genius. I have done it sincerely, without exaggeration, and, after a habit of considering the subject for many years, with an earnest desire to form a right judgment.
To praise upon mere authority can answer no good purpose ; the repetition of false praise will add to its nauseousness: but there can be no certainty of merit, unless we strictly establish principles which shall become a test to it. The endless diversity of capricious opinion puts every thing afloat: we can trust to nothing but the concurrence of all ages and all nations. If, therefore, we find that what was laid down by Aristotle has received the sanction of posterity under all changes of manners and varieties of countries, reason enjoins us to rely upon it as truth : I take
, therefore, Aristotle's four requisites of good poetry to be undeniable. By these rules Milton must ever stand where he has been placed-at the head of his art, if art it may be called. But the extraordinary thing is, that he has no second in this combination of merits,-that he stands alone! There are those whom this will offend ; but it is the stern truth. If fable, in the sense in which Aristotle uses it, is a necessary essential, the conclusion is incontrovertible,
Of all the fifty-two poets whose Lives have been written by Johnson, and of whom not less than seventeen are mere versifiers, and several of them mediocre versifiers, -Dryden and Pope stand, in common estimation, next to Milton. But however i may sin against the popular. opinion, I persevere in saying that they are deficient in this first essential, to which I have alluded : 1 assert that they have no poetical invention. Pope's “ Rape of the Lock” will scarcely be objected to me; nor Dryden's " Fables," which are all borrowed. Sir William Temple's observation of the rarity of poetical genius, so often cited, is thus verified. Single qualities may not be uncommon; it is the union of all the essentials which so seldom occurs. Milton had them all; and each in the most eminent degree. Pope may be said to have had the last three: Dryden wanted the first, and, perhaps, the third,
So far as poetry is to be considered not only the voice of pleasure but the voice of wisdom, whatever fiction is contrary to probability, is not only not praiseworthy, but culpable. It justly brings poetry into contempt, and gives it the name of an idle, empty art. I prefer even insipidity and triteness to extravagance; the effort to surprise is always vicious. The poet's business is to exhibit nature, but nature in an exalted state: hence I cannot approve Crabbe's poetry, however true to life his descriptions may be. On the other hand, I must admit that Byron in his fictions goes sometimes far beyond nature. These are small names, aven the last, to mention after Milton, whose fables utter the songs of angels and archangels; and whose sanctity, elevated into the highest sublimity, keeps due music with the choirs of Heaven ! Not but Byron might, if he had been equally devout, have followed Milton in this track.
I am conscious what talents far above mine it requires to treat adequately the subject I have here undertaken: but others, as weak as I am, have already entered on the task with less respectfulness and less love, and I am willing to attempt to wipe away some of the stains they have left. For fifty years I have had an unquenchable desire to refute Johnson's perverse criticisms and malignant obloquies. I know not by what spell his authority over the public is still great. To almost every new edition of Milton, except Todd's and "Mitford's, Johnson's Life of the Poet has continued to be reprinted. This repetition surely becomes nauseous.
But he who gains novelty at the expense of truth, pays too dear for it; and gains what is not worth having. Nothing is more easy than to stimulate for a moment by what is new, though unfounded: but sobriety of judgment, and nicety of taste, must give their sanction to what is pronounced. All inconsiderate and unmeasured praise is hurtful. I have forborne to commend any composition of this mighty poet without long and calm thought. I have considered that the powers of Johnson entitled him to a cool and careful consideration before I ought to venture to contradict his opinion ; but that, when I could no longer doubt, no force of authority ouglit to restrain my expression.
But much greater authority than Johnson's on a poetical question is on my side: -Dryden, Addison, Gray, the Wartons, Cowper, Hayley, and innumerable others.
It would be almost superfluous to say more of Milton's merits as a poet, after all that I have said: recapitulation in his case would probably weaken its effect. He had not only every requisite of the Muse; but every one of the highest order, and in the highest degree. His invention of poetical fable, and poetical imagery, was exhaustless, and always grand, and always consistent with the faith of a cultivated and sensitive mind. Sublimity was his primary and unfailing power. His chiaracters were new, surprising, gigautic, or beautiful; and full of instruction, such as high wisdom sanctioned. His sentiments were lofty, comprehensive, eloquent, consistent, holy, original; and an amalgamation of spirit, religion, intellect, and marvellous learning. His language was his own: sometimes a little rough and unvernacular; but as magnificent as his mind : of pregnant thought ; naked in its strength ; rich and picturesque, where imagery was required ; often exquisitely harmonious, where the occasion permitted ; but sometimes strong, mighty, and speaking with the voice of thunder.
I can scarcely go further, to constitute the greatest poet of our nation, and, in my opinion, of the world: for surely, taking dignity of fable and other characters into the question, llomer and Virgil cannot be compared with Milton! And, to fortify me, Addison and Dryden have come to the same conclusion.
In moral character the poet stands among the noblest and the best. His spirit was as holy, and his heart as sanctified, as his writings : for this we must admit the testimony of his own repeated declaration in the face of malignant enemies, and the foulest passion of detraction. But, as humanity cannot be perfect, he was provoked by diabolical slander into recriminations unbecoming the dignity of his supreme genius, and devout heart. His politics were severe, and, in my apprehension, wrong ; but they were conscientious. The principles which he entertained, the boldness of his mind pushed to an unlimited and terrible extent: and thus he was brought to justify the decapitation of Charles I. I would forget this, if I could ; because, remembering it, I cannot but confess that I feel it a cloud upon his dazzling glory; but as Horsley said on another occasion : –
One passing vapour shall dissolve away,
No. I. MEMORANDA KELATING TO THE FAMILY OF POWELL OF FOREST-HILL, OXFORDSHIRE.
* Milton married in 1643, a daughter of Justice Powell of Sandford, in the vicinity of Oxford, and lived in a bouse at Forest-hill, about three miles from Oxford."
TODD'S LIFE OF MILTON, vol. i. p. 25, ed. 1809. Nothing can possibly be more erroneous.
The families of Powell, alias ap Howell
, of Sandford, and Powell of Forest-hill, were not in the remotest degree connected : the former were Roman Catholics. Milton's first wife was Mary, daughter of Richard Powell of Forest-hill. About twenty years ago, the writer, being strongly impressed with the incorrectness of the above statement, and residing for a few months at Oxford, compiled a pedigree of the family of Powell of Sandford, by which the fact is proved to demonstration. There were then no memorials of the family in the church of Forest-hill ; and the earliest register commencing 4. D. 1700, no notice respecting them could be gleaned from that source. It is probable they came gradually into prosperity under the wings of the Bromes. One Richard Powell is “ remembered" as a “servant" (perhaps bailiff or steward) under the will of George Brome of Halton, and is mentioned before the testator's armourer.
Richard Powell of Forest-hill, and Sir Edward Master of Ospringe, in Kent, were executors under the will of George Brome's widow, Eliz. (made 8th September, 1629) proved February 6th, 1634-5.
The will of Edmund Brome of Forest-hill, made November 8th, 1625, was proved August 12th, 1628, by Richard Powell, (sole executor,) Milton's father-in-law. There is no pedigree of the family to be met with ; but the following are some memoranda respecting the will of Richard Powell of Forest-hill, Esq., made December 30th, 1646, proved March 26th 1647, by his widow, Anne ; and on May 10th, 1662, by his son Richard ; by which act the effect of the power so given to the mother was done away with. One of the attesting witnesses was John Milton his son-in-law ; but the original will not being now (1831) at Doctors' Commons, curiosity will be disappointed in the expectation of seeing the poet's handwriting.
The testator names as executor, in the first place, his eldest sop Richard ; and in the second, in case of said Richard's unwillingness to act, his wife Anne ; and in the third place, in case of said Anne being unwilling to do so, his friend' Mr. John Ellstone of Forest-hill, to whom he gives twenty shillings for a ring. He appoints as overseers his loving friends Sir John Curson and Sir Robert Pye, Knights, and gives to them twenty shillings each for a ring.
He devises his house, &c., at Forest-hill, (alias Forsthall) and alludes to his recently compounding for the same at Goldsmiths' Hall, to his eldest son Richard, subject, however, to as follows :-Payment of debts and funeral expenses, &c., satisfying a bond to Anne his, the testator's, wife, in reference to her jointure, and which the testator was not able at that period (1646) to discharge out of luis personal property; and the remainder was then to be divided into two parts : one of them to belong to the said Richard, and the other to be divided among such of his brothers and sisters as might not have been already, at the time of the testator's decease, provided for ; and the sisters to have one-third more apiece than their brothers.
The testator desires that his daughter, Milton, may be bad regard to, as to the sufficiency of her portion ; and more, if his, the testator's estate will bear it.
His houses and lands at Wheatley, and all other properties of the testator, not 50 above specifically bequeathed, &c., are given to his said son Richard.
The marriage portion, £1000, promised to John Milton by his father-in-law, was never paid, according to the biographies of the poet. His distresses in the royal cause prevented, probably, the payment of it. [I am indebted for this information to the kindness of Mr. Frederick Holbrooke of larkhurst, Bexlego-Er.]
DESCENDANTS OF MILTON *. Milton's direct descendants can only exist, if they exist at all, among the posterity of his youngest and favourite daughter Deborah, afterwards Mrs. Clarke, a woman of cultivated understanding, and not unpleasing manners, known to Richardson and Professor Ward, and patronised by Addison, who intended to have procured a permanent provision for her, and presented with fifty guineas by Queen Caroline. Her affecting exclamation is well known, on seeing her father's portrait for the first time more than thirty years after his death :- Oh, my father, my dear father!' She spoke of him,' says Richardson, with great tenderness ; she said he was delightful company, the life of the conversation, not only by a flow of subject, but by unaffected cheerfulness and civility. This is the character of him whom Dr. Johnson represents as a morose tyrant, drawn by one of the supposed victims of his domestic oppression.
“Her daughter, Mrs. Foster, for whose benefit Dr. Newton and Dr. Birch procured Comus to be acted, survived all her children. The only child of Deborah Milton, of whom we have any accounts besides Mrs. Foster, was Caleb Clarke, who went to Madras in the first years of the eighteenth century, and who then vanishes from the view of the biographers of Milton. We have been enabled, by accident, to enlarge a very little this appendage to his history. It appears from an examination of the parish register of Fort St. George, that Caleb Clarke, who seems to have been parish-clerk of that place, from 1717 to 1719, was buried there on the 26th of October of the latter year. By his wife Mary, whose original surname does not appear, he had three children born at Madias :- Abraham, baptized on the 2nd of June, 1703 ; Mary baptized on the 17th of March, 1706, and buried on December the 15th of the same year; and Isaac, baptized the 13th of February, 1711. of Isaac no further account appears. Abraham, the greatgrandson of Milton, in September, 1725, married Anna Clarke ; and the baptism of his daughter, Mary Clarke, is registered on the 2nd of April, 1727. With her all notices of this family cease. But as neither he nor any of his family, nor his brother Isaac, died at Madras, and as he was only twenty-four years of age at the baptism of his daughter, it is probable that the family migrated to some other part of India, and that some trace of them might yet be discovered by examination of the parish registers of Calcutta and Bombay. If they had returned to England, they could not have escaped the curiosity of the admirers and historians of Milton. We cannot apologise for the minuteness of this genealogy, or for the eagerness of our desire that it should be enlarged. We profess that superstitious veneration for the memory of that greatest of poets, which regards the slightest relic of him as sacred; and we cannot conceive either true poetical sensibility, or a just sense of the glory of England, to belong to that Englishman, who would not feel the strongest emotions at the sight of a descendant of Milton, discovered in the person even of the most humble and unlettered of human beings †."
DATED 27TH APRIL, 1667. “ THESE Presents made the 27th of day April 1667, between John Milton, Gent, of the one part, and Samuel Symons, printer, of the other part, wittness That the said John Milton in consideration of five pounds to him now paid by the said Samuel Symons, and other the consideracons herein mentioned, hath given, granted and assigned, and by these pñts doth give, grant and assign unto the said Samll Symons, his executors and assignees, All that Booke, Copy, or Manuscript of a Poem intituled Paradise Lost, or by whatsoever other title or name the same is or shall be called or distinguished, now lately licensed to be printed, together with the full benefitt,
* From a critiqne on Godwin's 'Lives of Milton's Nephews,' in Edinburgh Review, No. L.
| While the grandson of Milton resided at Madras, in a condition so humble as to make the office of parish-clerk an object of ambition, it is somewhat remarkable that the elder brother of Addison should have been the governor of that settlement. The Honourable Galston Addison died there in the year 1709.
profit, and advantage thereof, or weh shall or may arise thereby. And the said John Milton for him, his ex" and adm", doth covenant wth the said Sam" Symons, his ex" and ass', that he and they shall at all times hereafter have, hold and enjoy the same and all impressions thereof accordingly, without the lett or hindrance of bim the said John Milton, his ex" or ass", or any person or persons by his or their consent or privity. And that he the said John Milton, his ex's or adm's, or any other by his or their meanes or consent, shall not print or cause to be printed, or sell, dispose or publish the said book or manuscript, or any other book or manuscript of the same tenor or subject, without the consent of the said Sam" Symons, his ex" or ass: In concideracon whereof the said Samell Symons for him,-his ex's and asim", doth covenant with the said John Milton, his exrs and ass', well and truly to pay unto the said John Milton, his exts and adm's, the sum of five pounds of lawfull english money at the end of the first Impression, which the said Samil Symons, his ex" or asss, shall make and publish of the said copy or manuscript, which impression shall be accounted to be ended when thirteen hundred books of the said whole copy or manuscript imprivted, shall be sold and retailed off to particular reading customers. And shall also pay other five pounds, unto the said John Milton or his ass', at the end of the second impression to be accounted as aforesaid, And five pounds more at the end of the third impression, to be in like manner accounted. And that the said three first impressions shall not exceed fifteen hundred books or volumes of the said whole copy or manuscript, a piece. And further, that he the said Samuel Symons and his ex”, adm's, and ass shall be ready to take oath before a Master in Chancery concerning his or their knowledge and belief of or concerning the truth of the disposing and selling the said books by retail, as aforesaid, whereby the said Mr. Milton is to be entitled to his said money from time to time, upon every reasonable request in that behalf, or in default thereof shall pay the said five pounds agreed to be paid upon every iropression, as aforesaid, as if the same were due, and for and in lieu thereof. In witness whereof, the said parties bave to this writing indented, interchangeably sett their hands and seales the day and yeare first above written.
John Milton. (Seal). Sealed and delivered in John Fisher. the presence of us, Benjamin Greene, servt to Mr. Milton.
April 26, 1669. Rec! then of Samuel Simmons five pounds, being the Second five pounds to be pid-mentioned in the Covenant. I say recd by me,
John MILTON. Witness, Edmund Upton. I do hereby acknowledge to have received of Samuel Symonds Cittizen and Sta
toner of London, the Sum of Eight pounds : which is in full payment for all my right, title or interest, which I have or ever had in the Coppy of a Poem Lutitled Paradise Lost in Twelve Bookes in 8vo—By John Milton Gent. my late
husband. Wittness my hand this 21st day of December 1680. Wittness, William Yopp, Ann Yopp.
ELIZABETH Milton. Know all men by these pesents that I Elizabeth Milton of London Widdow, late
wife of Jolm Milton of London Gent : deceased-have remissed released and for ever quitt claimed And by these pssents doe remise release & for ever quitt clayme unto Samuel Symonds of London, Printer-his heirs Executrs and Administrators All and all manner of Accoñ and Accoñs Cause and Causes of Accoñ Suites Bills Bonds writinges obligatorie Debts dues duties Accompts Summe and Sumes of money Judgments Executions Extents Quarrells either in Law or Equity Controversies and demands—And all & every other matter cause and thing whatsoever which against the said Samuel Symonds, I ever had and which I my beires Executers or Administrators shall or may have clayme & challenge or demand for or by reason or means of any matters cause or thing whatsoever from the beginning of the World unto the day of these pssents. In witness wtserenf I have hereunto sett my hand and seale the twenty-ninth day of April in the thirty-third Year of the Reigne of our Sovereign Lord Charles by the grace of God of England Scotland ffrance and Ireland Kivg defender of the ffaith & Anno Dni. 1681.
ELIZABETH Milton. Signed and delivered in the pssence of Jos, LEIGE Wm. WILKINS.