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We come now to take a furvey of him in that point of view, in which he will be looked upon by all fucceeding ages with equal delight and admiration. An interval of about twenty years had elapfed fince he wrote the mafk of Co* 26. mus*, L'Allegro, Il Perferofo, and An. ætat. Lycidast, all in fuch an exquifite ftrain, that though he had left no other monument of his genius behind him, his name had been immortal; but neither the infirmities of age and conftitution, nor the viciffitudes of fortune. could deprefs the vigour of his mind, or divert it from executing a defign he had long conceived, of writing an heroic poem. The fall of man was a fubject that he had fome years before fixed on for a tragedy, which he intended to form by the models of antiquity; and fome, not without probability, fay, the play opened with that speech in the fourth book of Paradife Loft, L. 32. which is addreffed by Satan to the fun. Were it material, I believe I could produce other paffages which more plainly appear to have been originally intended for the fcene: but whatever truth there may be in this report, it is certain that he did not begin to mould his subject in the form which it bears now, before he had concluded his controverfy with Salmafius and More, when he had wholly loft the use of his eyes, and was forced to employ, in the office of an amanuenfis, any friend who accidentally paid him a vifit. Yet, under all these difcouragements, and various interruptions, in the year 1669 †, he published his Paradife Loft, the nobleft poem (next An. atat. 61. to thofe of Homer and Virgil) that e
ver the wit of man produced in any age or nation. Need I mention any other evidence of its ineftimable worth, than the fineft geniuses who have fucceeded him; have ever efteemed it a merit to relish and illuftrate its beauties? whilt the critic who gazed, with fo much wanton malice, on the nakednefs of Shake
* Paradife Loft, Book IX. L. 26..
+ Milton's contract with his bookfeller, S. Simmons, for the copy, bears date April 27th, 1667.
fpeare when he flept, after having formally declared war against it, wanted courage to make his attack; fufhed though he was with conquests over Julius Cæfar, and the Moor, which infolence his muse, like the other affaffins of Cafar, feverely revenged on herselft; and not long after her triumph became her own executioner. Nor is it unworthy our obfervation, that though perhaps not one of our English poets have excited fo many admirers to imitate his manner, yet I think never any was known to aspire to emulation ; even the late ingenious Mr. Philips, who, in the co• lours of ftyle, came the nearest of all the copiers to refemble the great original, made his diftant advances with a filial reverence, and refrained ambition within the fame bounds which Lucretius prescribed to his own imitation.
Non ita certandi cupidus, quam propter amorem
And now perhaps it may pafs for fiction, what with great veracity I affirm to be fact, that MILTON, after having with much difficulty prevailed to have this divine poem licensed for the prefs, could fell the copy for no more than fifteen pounds, the payment of which valuable confideration depended upon the fale of three numerous impreffions. So unreasonable may perfonal prejudice affect the most excellent performances. About two years afterį, together An. atat. 63. with Samfon Agonifles, (a tragedy not unworthy the Grecian ftage when Athens was in her glory) he published Paradife Regained; but, ch! what a falling off was there!-of which I will fay no more, than that there is scarcely a more remarkable inftance of the frailty of human reason than our author gave, in preferring this poem to Paradife Loft, nor a more inftructive caution to the best
The tragedies of the last age confidered, page 145.
They were licensed July 2, 1670, but not printed before the
writers, to be very diffident in deciding the merit of their own productions.
And thus having attended him to the fixty-fixth year of his age, as closely as fuch imperfect lights as men of letters and retirement ufually leave to guide our inquiry would allow, it now only remains to be recorded, that in the year 1674, the
gout put a period to his life, at Bun
hill near London; from whence his An. ætat. body was conveyed to St. Giles' church
by Cripple gate, where it lies interred in the Chancel; but neither has nor wants a monu. ment to perpetuate his memory.
In his youth he is faid to have been extremely handfome; the colour of his hair was a light brown, the fymmetry of his features exact, enlivened with an agreeable air, and a beautiful mixture of fair and rud. dy; which occafioned the Marquis of Villa to give his epigram the fame turn of thought*, which Gregory archdeacon of Rome had employed about a thousand years before, in praising the amiable complexions of fome English youths, before their converfion to chriftianity. His ftature † (as we find it measured by himself) did not exceed the middle fize, neither too lean, nor corpulent; his limbs well proportioned, nervous, and active, ferviceable in all respects to his exercifing the fword, in which he much delighted; and wanted neither fkill, nor courage, to refent an affront from men of the most athletic conftitutions. In his diet he was abftemious; not delicate in the choice of his dishes; and strong liquors of all kinds were his averfion. Being too fadly convinced how much his health had fuffered by night- ftudies in his younger years, he used to go early (feldom later than nine) to reft, and rofe commonly before five in the morning. It is reported, (and there is a paffage in one of his Latin elegies to countenance the tradition), that his fancy made the happiest flights in the fpring: but one
• Ut mens, forma, decor, facies, mos, fi pietas fic, Non Anglus,, verum hercle angelus ipfe fares. Defenfio fecunda, p. 87 fol.
of his nephews ufed to deliver it as MILTON's Own ob⚫ fervation, that his invention was in its highest perfection from September to the vernal equinox: however it was, the great inequalities to be found in his compofures are inconteftable proofs, that in some seasons he was, but one of the people. When blindness reftrained him from other exercifes, he had a machine to fwing in for the prefervation of his health, and diverted himself in his chamber with playing on an organ His deportment was erect, open, affable; his converfation eafy, chearful, inftructive; his wit on all occafions at command, facetious, grave, or fatirical, as the fubject required. His judgement, when difengaged from religious and political fpeculations, was juft and penetrating; his apprehenfion quick, his memory tenacious of what he read, his reading only not fo extenfive as his genius, for this was univerfal. And having treasured up fuch immenfe ftore of fcience, perhaps the faculties of his foul grew more vigorous after he was deprived of fight; and his imagination, (naturally fublime and enlarged by reading romances*, of which he was much enamoured in his youth), when it was wholly abftracted from material objects, was more at liberty to make fuch amazing excurfions into the ideal world, when in compofing his divine work he was tempted to range
Beyond the vifible diurnal fphere.
With fo many accomplishments, not to have had fome faults and misfortunes to be laid in the balance with the fame and felicity of writing Faradife Loft, would have been too great a portion for humanity
His apology for Smečłymnuus, p. 177. fol.
UI legis AMMISSAM PARADISUM, grandia magni Carmina MILTONI, quid nifi cuncta legis? Res cunctas, et cunctarum primordia rerum, Et fata, et fines continet iste liber. Intima panduntur magni penetralia mundi, * Scribitur et toto quicquid in orbe latet: Terræque, tractufque maris, cælumque profundum, Sulphuremque Erebi, flammivomufque fpecus: Quæque colunt terras, pontumque, et Tartara caça. Quæque colunt fummi lucida regna poli: Et quodcunque ullis conclufum eft finibus ufquam, Et fine fine Chaos, et fine fine DEUS:
Et fine fine magis, fi quid magis eft fine fine,
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanno legit.
Et que cœleftes pugnae deceret agros!