Puslapio vaizdai




which he had discharged with fo much integrity and ability under Cromwell; but he perfifted in refufing it, tho' the wife preffed his compliance; "Thou "art in the right, fays he; you, as other women, "would ride in your coach; for me, my aim is to "live and die an honeft man,' What is more certain is, that in 1661 he published his Accedence commenced Grammar, and a tract of Sir Walter Raleigh intitled Aphorifms of State; as in 1658 he had published another piece of Sir Walter Raleigh intitled the Cabinet Council difcabinated, which he printed from a manufcript, that had lain many years in his hands, and was given him for a true copy by a learned man at his death, who had collected feveral fuch pieces: an evident fign, that he thought it no mean employment, nor unworthy of a man of genius, to be an editor of the works of great authors. It was while he lived in Jewen Street, that Elwood the quaker (as we learn from the hiftory of his life written by his own hand) was first introduced to read to him; for having wholly loft his fight, he kept always fome body or other to perform that office, and ufually the fon of fome gentleman of his acquaintance, whom he took in kindness, that he might at the fame time improve him in his learning. Elwood was recommended to him by Dr. Paget, and went to his houfe every afternoon except Sunday, and read to him fuch books in the Latin tongue, as Milton thought proper. And Milton told him, that if he would have the benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and understand Latin authors, but to converfe with foreigners either broad or at home, he must learn the foreign pronunciation

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nunciation; and he inftructed him how to read accordingly. And having a curious ear, he understood by my tone, fays Elwood, when I understood what I ready and when I did not; and he would ftop me, and examin me, and open the most difficult paffages to me. But it was not long after his third marriage, that he left Jewen Street, and removed to a house in the Artillery Walk leading to Bunhill Fields: and this was his laft ftage in this world; he continued longer in this house than he had done in any other, and lived here to his dying day: only when the plague began to rage in London in 1665, he removed to a fmall houfe at St. Giles Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, which Elwood had taken for him and his family; and there he remained during that dreadful calamity; but after the fickness was over, and the city was cleanfed and made fafely habitable again, he returned to his house in London.

His great work of Paradife Loft had principally engaged his thoughts for fome years past, and was now completed. It is probable, that his firft defign of writing an epic poem was owing to his converfations at Naples with the Marquis of Villa about Taffo and his famous poem of the delivery of Jerusalem; and in a copy of verfes prefented to that nobleman before he left Naples, he intimated his intention of fixing upon King Arthur for his hero. And in an eclogue, made foon after his return to England upon the death of his friend and fchoolfellow Deodati, he propofed the fame defign and the fame fubject, and declared his ambition of writing fomething in his native language,

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which might render his name illuftrious in thefe ilands, though he should be obfcure and inglorious to the rest of the world. And in other parts of his works, after he had engaged in the controverfies of the times, he still promised to produce fome noble poem or other at a fitter feafon; but it doth not appear that he had then determined upon the fubject, and King Arthur had another fate, being referved for the pen of Sir Richard Blackmore. The firft hint of Paradife Loft is faid to have been taken from an Italian tragedy; and it is certain, that he first defigned it a tragedy himself, and there are feveral plans of it in the form of a tragedy ftill to be seen in the author's own manufcript preserved in the library of Trinity College Cambridge. And it is probable, that he did not barely sketch out the plans, but also wrote fome parts of the drama itself. His nephew Philips informs us, that fome of the verfes at the beginning of Satan's fpeech, addreffed to the fun in the fourth book, were fhown to him and fome others as defigned for the beginning of the tragedy, feveral years before the poem was begun: and many other paffages might be produced, which plainly ap pear to have been originally intended for the fcene, and are not so properly of the epic, as of the tragic ftrain. It was not till after he was difengaged from the Salmafian controverfy, which ended in 1655, that he began to mold the Paradife Loft in its prefent form; but after the Restoration, when he was difmiffed from public bufinefs, and freed from controverfy of every kind, he profecuted the work with clofer application. Mr. Philips relates a very remarkable circumftance in the composure of this



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poem, which he fays he had reafon to remember, as it was told him by Milton himself, that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal, and that what he attempted at other times was not to his fatisfaction, tho' he courted his fancy never fo much. Mr. Toland imagins that Philips might be mistaken as to the time, because our author, in his Latin elegy, written in his twentieth year, upon the approach of the fpring, feemeth to fay just the contrary, as if he could not make any verfes to his fatisfaction till the fpring begun and he fays farther that a judicious friend of Milton's informed him, that he could never compose well but in fpring and autumn. But Mr. Richardfon cannot comprehend, that either of these accounts is exactly true, or that a man with fuch a work in his head can fufpend it for fix months together, or only for one; it may go on more flowly, but it must go on: and this laying it afide is contrary to that eagerness to finish what was begun, which he fays was his temper in his epiftle to Deodati dated Sept. 2. 1637. After all Mr. Philips, who had the perufal of the poem from the beginning, by twenty or thirty verfes at a time, as it was compofed, and having not been fhown any for a confiderable while as the fummer came on, inquired of the author the reafon of it, could hardly be mistaken with regard to the time: and it is easy to conceive, that the poem might go on much more flowly in fummer than in other parts of the year; for notwithstanding all that poets may fay of the pleasures of that feafon, I imagin moft perfons find by experience, that they can compofe better at


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any other time, with more facility and with more fpirit, than during the heat and languor of fummer, Whenever the poem was wrote, it was finished in 1665, and as Elwood fays was shown to him that fame year at St. Giles Chalfont, whither Milton had retired to avoid the plague, and it was lent to him to peruse it and give his judgment of it: and confidering the difficulties which the author lay under, his uneafinefs on account of the public affairs and his own, his age and infirmities, his gout and blindnefs, his not being in circumftances to maintain an amanuenfis, but obliged to make use of any hand that came next to write his verfes as he made them, it is really wonderful, that he should have the fpirit to undertake fuch a work, and much more, that he hould ever bring it to perfection. And after the poem was finished, ftill new difficulties retarded the publication of it. It was in danger of being fuppreffed thro' the malice or ignorance of the licencer, who took exception at fome paffages, and particularly at that noble fimile, in the first book, of the fun in an eclipfe, in which he fancied that he had difcovered treafon. It was with difficulty too that the author could fell the copy; and he fold it at laft only for five pounds, but was to receive five pounds more after the fale of 1300 of the first impreffion, and five pounds more after the fale of as many of the fecond impreffion, and five more after the fale of as many of the third, and the number of each impreffion was not to exceed 1500. And what a poor confideration was this for fuch an ineftimable performance! and how much more do others get by the works of great authors, than


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