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which was indulg'd to his perfon; ne tanti facinoris immanitas aut extitiffe, aut non vindicata fuisse videatur.
Having thus gain'd a full protection from the Government, (which was in truth more than he cou'd have reasonably hop'd) he appear'd as much in publick as he formerly us'd to do; and employing his Friend Dr. Paget to make choice of a third confort, on his recommendation he married Elizabeth the Daughter of Mr. Minsbul a Chefhire Gentleman, by whom he had no iffue. Three Daughters by his firft wife were then living; the two elder of whom are faid to have been very ferviceable to him in his ftudies. For having been inftructed to pronounce not only the modern, but also the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages; they read in their refpective originals whatever Authors he wanted to confult; though they understood none but their mother-tongue. This employment, however, was too un-pleafant to be continued for any long procefs of time; and therefore he difmifs'd them to receive an education more agreeable to their Sex, and temper.
We come now to take a furvey of him in that point of view, in which he will be look'd on by all fucceeding ages with equal delight, and admiration. An interval of above twenty years had elaps'd fince he wrote the Mask of * Comus, L'Allegro, Il Penferofo, & † Lycidas; all of 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, cou'd deprefs the vigor of his mind; or divert it from executing a defign he had long conceiv'd of writing an Heroic Poem. The Fall of Man was a fubject which he had fome years before fix'd on for a Tragedy, which he intended to
Par. Loft B. 9. V. 26.
form by the models of Antiquity: and fome, not without probability, fay the Play open'd with that Speech in the fourth book of PARADISE LOST, ver. 32, which is addrefs'd by Satan to the Sun. Were it material, I believe I cou'd produce other paffages which more plainly appear to have been originally intended for the Scene. But whatever truth there may be in this report, 'tis certain that he did not begin to mold his fubject in the form which it bears now, before he had concluded his controverfy with Salmafius and More; when he had wholly loit the ufe of his eyes; and was forc'd to employ in the office of an amanuenfis any friend who accidentally paid him a vifit. Yet under all thefe difcouragements, & various interruptions, in the * year An. Ætat. 61. 1669. He publish'd his PARADISE LOST; the nobleft Poem next to thofe of Homer and Virgil, that ever the wit of man produc'd in the any age or nation. Nor need I mention any other evidence of its ineftimable worth, than that the finest geniuses who have fucceeded him have ever esteem'd it a merit to relish, and illuftrate, its beauties whilft the Critic who gaz'd with so much wanton malice on the nakedness of Shakespear when he flept, after having † formally declar'd war against it, wanted courage to make his attack; flush'd though he was with his conqueft over Julius Cafar, and The Moor: which infolence his Mufe, like the other Affaffines of Cafar, ‡ feverely reveng'd on herfelf; and not long after her triumph became her own executioner. Nor is it unworthy our obfervation, that though, perhaps, no one of our English Poets hath excited fo many admirers to imitate his manner, yet I think never any was known to afpire to emu
* Milton's Contract with his Bookfeller S. Simmons for the Copy bears date April 27th, 1667.
The Tragedies of the last age confider'd. p. 143.
lation even the late ingenious Mr. Philips, who, in the colors of ftyle, came the nearest of all the Copiers to resemble the great Original, made his diftant advances with a filial reverence; and restrain'd his ambition within the fame bounds which Lucretius prefcrib'd to his own imitation:
Non ita certandi cupidus, quàm propter amorem Quad TE imitari aveo: quid enim contendat birunda Cycnis?
And now perhaps it may país for fiction, what with great veracity I affirm to be fact, that MILTON, after having with much difficulty prevail'd to have this divine Poem licens'd for the Prefs, cou'd fell the Copy for no more than fifteen pounds: the payment of which valuable confideration depended on the fale of three numerous impreffions. So unreasonably may perfonal prejudice affect the most excellent perfor
About two years after, together An. Ætat. 63. with SAMSON AGONISTES (a Tragedy not unworthy the Grecian Stage when Athens was in her glory) he publish'd PARADISE REGAIN'D. But, Oh! what a falling-off was there! . Of which I will fay no more, than that there is fcarcely a more remarkable inftance of the frailty of human reafon, than our Author gave in prefering this Poem to PARADISE LOST; nor a more inftructive caution to the beft 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, & retirement ufually leave to guide our inquiry wou'd allow; it now only remains to be
They were Licensed July 2. 1670, but not printed before the year enfuing.