Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

tunity of humbling herself to him, and finally effect ed a cordial reconciliation, not only for herself, bui also for her family, who, at the time, when tha Royalists were bard pressed, found refuge and suc. wur in the house of Milton.

In the year 1645, he published a collection of Latin and English Poems, in which the “ Allegro," and “ Penseros)," were included. Shortly after the execution of Charles the First, Cromwell appointed him Latin secretary to himself and the parliament, which office he held until the Restoration. He lived with his family for some time in Whiteball; but he was compelled to take lodgings in St. James' Park, in consequence of ill health. While residing here, ho lost his wife in child-bed, who left bim three daughters: this affliction was speedily followed by another--the loss of sight. Under these distress.“ ing circumstaoces, he gained the affections of a Miss Hancock, of Hackney, whom he married, spa whose loss he had to deplore in less than twelve months, from a similar cause to that which had occasioned the death of his former wife. This de privation the Poet beautifully alludes to in his eighteenth sonnet.

Being now at the age of forty-seven, freed from external interruption, through his loss of sight, he determined to prosecute the design he had long formed of three works-- The History of his Coun. try-A Latin Dictionary and an Epic l'oem. His Latin Dictionary he never finished : but the three folio volumes which he left behind, were of the greatest use to the compilers of the Cambridge Dictionary.” The wonder is, not that he did nos complete it, but that, with the disadvantages under which be laboured, of using the sight of others for the purpose of reference, he completed so large a portion. To this circumstance inay also be attic outed the gmall progress be made in his listory, obiich aus reached the periud of the Conquest. The

[ocr errors]

subject which he at leugth chose for his Epic w: “ Paradise Lost."

Upon the Restoration, Milton being apprehensive of the vengeance of the Royalists, concealed himsel In Bartholomew Close, where he remained until after the passing of the act of oblivion. About this period he married for the third time, but this event was productive of any thing but comfort and consolation to him. He had a house in Jewin Street for some time, from whence he removed to Artillery Wa near Bunhill Fields, where he resided dur. ing the remainder of his life.

Upon quitting the office of Latin secretary, his time became free for the cultivation of his literary pursuits; and he then in good earnest applied the fruitful resources of his elegant and accomplished mind to composition. The “ Paradise Lost" was written at different times, and was sold on the 27th of April, 1667, to Samuel Simmons, for five pounds, with an agreement for the same sum when fifteen hundred copies should be disposed of ; and again five pounds when the same number should be sold of a second edition, and another five pounds after a similar sale of the third. All the editions were limited to fifteen hundred copies. The third was publisbed in 1678 ; and the widow, to whom the copyright then devolved, sold all her right in the work to Simmons for eight pounds : whence ir appears that twerty-eight pounds was the reinone eration received for a work which immortalized she poet, and the nation which gave him birth!

In the year 1671, four years after the publication of the Paradise Lost," he produced his “ Paradise Regained,” and “ Samson Agonistes." Some years after he printed his “Familiar Epistiev," in Latin, to which, in order to form a he added some Lacin Exercises.

Like Homer, Milton appears not to have formed a just opinion of his own writings. As the former

Dreforred the Odyssey, so the latter considered th* " Paradise Regained" to be his best production Ar straordinary fact, which shows how highly gifted soever an author may be, and however com petent to judge on other matters, that he is not a on the subject of his own compositions.

Towards the close of his life he was greatly troubled with the gout, which, in the year 1674, caused his death, He died on the 10th of Novemver, in the most quiet and placid manner, in his 66th year, and was buried in the chancel of St. Giles', Cripplegate, next to the grave of his father. Although his funeral appears to have beeu splendid, and the followers numerous, it is remarkable that no stone marked the spot where his remains were deposited. A monument was however raised to his memory in Westminster Abbey ;--but he left ono behind him in his works, far more durable than any that human art could erect : and by no on can the line of Horace be more property or justly claimed :

“ Exegi Monumentum tre perennius. Milton when young was exceedingly handsome His complexion was fair and ruddy, with every appearance of health ; light brown flowing hair ; blue eyes, of marked expression ; long eyelashes arched eyebrows ; and a beautifully formed forehead. The portrait which has been chosen for the present yolume is considered one of the most faithful likenesses which were taken of him, at an advanced period of his life.

In his halits be was strict, and in his diet par. ricularly abstemious : he scrupulously avoided spi. tous liquors, being convinced of their destructive lendency to individuals of sedentary occupations. His health having suffered by night studies in his fruth, he was accustomed to retire early (seldona ater than pine) to bed, and rose generally at five

in summer, and six in winter. When blindges prevented his taking other exercises, he had a me. chine to swing on, and amused bimself with playing on an organ. His deportment was erect, open, ani affable; his conversation easy, cheerful, and instruce tive ; his wit was always at command, facetious grave, or satirical, as the subject required. His judgment was just, his apprehension quick, and his memory peculiarly retentive. Of the English poets he preferred Spenser, Shakspeare, and Cowley. On his " Paradise Lost" too much praise cannot be bestowed, and as Dr. Johnson justly observes, the purpose of the poem was the most useful and ar. duous that could be chosen to vindicate the works of God to man. His subject is the fate of worlds, the revolution of heaven and earth; rebellion against the supreme King, raised by the highest order of created beings; the overthrow of their host, and the punishment of their enemies; tho creation of a new race of reasonable creatures; their original happiness and innocence; their forfeiturs of immortality : and their restoration to hope and peace. Here is a full display of the united forco of study and genius, of a greater accumulation of materials, with judgment to digestand fancy to com. bine them.--His large works were performed un. der discountenance, and in blindness ; but difficul. ties vanish at his touch , ho was born for what. ever is arduous, and his work is not the greates, of heroic poems only because it is not the first."

Great as is this praise bestowed by the elegan. critic above named, it does not go beyond the just bounds of truth and justice. Milton with Shaks peare will descend to ages yet to come, as stat who have brightenod and adorned the literatu's

of their country

64

« ZurückWeiter »