صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

against the growth of Popery," was published. His principle of toleration is agreement in the fufficiency of fcripture: and he extends it to all who profefs to derive their opinions from the facred writings. The Papists appealing to other teftimonies are not to be tolerated, for though they plead confcience, "we have no warrant," he fays, "to regard confcience, which is not founded on scripture." He confiders a diligent perufal of the Bible as the best preservative against the error of the Popish church, and he warns men of all profeffions, the countryman, the tradesman, the lawyer, the physician, the statesman not to excuse themselves by their much business from the ftudious reading of the Bible. The object of Milton in this treatise was to form a "general Protestant union" against the church of Rome, which he calls the "common adversary," not by any compromife of the peculiar tenets of the Proteftant fects, but by a liberal, and comprehenfive toleration grounded on the principle of making the Bible the rule of faith. "Error," he fays, "is not herefy," and he determines nothing to be herefy, but a wilful alienation from, or addition to the fcriptures. God, he says, will affuredly pardon all fincere inquiries after truth, though mistaken in fome points of doctrine; and speaking of the founders, or reviewers of fuch opinions in past times, he adds, that God having made no man infallible, hath pardoned their involuntary errors. Such, in the clofing evening of his life, were the laft thoughts of a pious, a learned, and a powerful mind, on a question connected with the preservation of true religion; a century and a half has closed, fince this work was written against the "worst of superstitions, and the heaviest of God's judgments, Popery," and it has lately been republished by a moft eminent and learned Prelate, to exhibit the folidity of its arguments, and to prove the unimpeachable piety of the author.

In 1673, the fame year in which the above named

treatise appeared, Milton reprinted his Juvenile Poems, with additions, and fome few corrections, accompanied with the Tractate on Education. That his Latin poems were not received with greater applause by the foreign scholars, has always been matter of astonishment to me.99 If fome mistakes in quantity fhocked the learning of Salmafius, or offended the taste of Heinfius,' we must recollect that they are but few and unimportant, while they are well compensated by a vigour of expreffion, a beauty of allufion, a fertility of imagery, and a truly poetical conception. Mr. Coleridge fays, "You may find a few minute faults in Milton's Latin verses; but you will not perfuade me that if these poems had come down to us as written in the age of Tiberius, we fhould not have confidered them to be very beautiful." Though Milton has formed his taste on the best models, and drawn his language from the pureft sources, his poems are not faded transcripts, or flavish imitations of the ancients. I know

99 Morhof ranks Milton among the inferior Latin writers. See Polybift. Lit. vol. i. p. 1070. Salmafii Refponfio, p. 5.

1 T. Warton fays that N. Heinfius had no taste in poetry. I differ decidedly from this opinion, from an intimate acquaintance with his works. I affirm that there never was a commentator on the Latin poets of finer taste or happier skill. Bentley over and over again calls him" elegantiffimus." "Solertiffimo ingenio-et critica et poetica laude nobilis." Burman, Pierfon (that admirable fcholar), Wakefield, and others bear the strongest teftimony to his taste and skill. De Puy fays, "Heinfius delicatulas veneres, et lepores cum fingulari virtute et doctrina conjunxit." v. Puteani Vitam, p. 140, 4to. His Latin poems are elegant and correct, but very inferior to Milton's in fertility of invention, and poetical feeling. He was called "The Swan of Holland." See Baillet, Jugement des Scavans, tom. vi. pt. ii. p. 359.

2 Vide Table Talk, vol. ii. p. 270. I have noticed, I believe, all the errors in quantity in the Notes to the Aldine edition.

3 The poets of Great Britain who have excelled in the compofition of Latin verfe might be thus arranged: Buchanan, Milton, T. May, Gray; and in the fecond order, Addifon, V. Bourne, and Anstey.

not where the scholars of the continent could have gone for more beautiful specimens of modern poetry than his First Elegy, and the Address to his Father; and has Lucretius himself ever clothed the bare and meagre form of metaphyfical speculations in a robe of greater brilliancy, or adorned it with more dazzling jewels of poetry than in the following lines? who, that reads the argument, could have anticipated the change it underwent as it paffed through the poet's mind.

DE IDEA PLATONICA QUEMADMODUM ARISTOTELES

INTELLEXIT.

Dicite, facrorum præfides nemorum deæ,
Tuque, o noveni perbeata numinis

Memoria mater, quæque in immenso procul
Antro recumbis otiofa Æternitas,
Monumenta fervans, et ratas leges Jovis,
Cœlique faftos, atque ephemeridas deûm,
Quis ille primus, cujus ex imagine

Natura folers finxit humanum genus,
Æternus, incorruptus, æquævus polo,

Seu fempiternus ille fiderum comes
Cali pererrat ordines decemplicis,
Citimumve terris incolit lunæ globum;
Sive inter animas corpus adituras fedens
Obliviofas torpet ad Lethes aquas;

Sive in remota forte terrarum plaga
Incedit, ingens hominis archetypus gigas,
Et iis tremendus erigit celfum caput,
Atlante major portitore fiderum.

In 1674, the last year of his laborious and honourable life, he published his familiar letters in Latin; to which he added some clever and pleafing academical exercises: and his long and fplendid lift of contributions to literature

Cowley poffeffed a facility of verfification, but his poetry is neither clasfical in its conception, nor correct in its execution. See Morbof, vol. i. p. 1065.

ended with a tranflation of the Latin declaration of the Poles in favour of John the Third. Some doubts, however, have been entertained as to this tranflation having proceeded from the pen of Milton; but as they turn entirely on the internal evidence of the ftyle, they can admit of no perfect solution.*

Milton had long been a fufferer by the gout, which had now, with the advance of age, greatly enfeebled his conftitution. Confidering that his life was about to close, he informed his brother Christopher that he wished to dictate to him the diftribution of his property. He died by a quiet and filent expiration, on Sunday the 8th of November, at his houfe in Bunhill Fields, in the fixtyfixth year of his age, having furvived the lofs of his fight for three and twenty years. He was buried next his father in the chancel of St. Giles, Cripplegate, attended, as Toland informs us, " by all his learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar." His wife furvived him the long period of fifty-four years. Her receipt to the bookfeller for the copyright

* Milton left in MS. a brief History of Moscovia, and of the other lefs known countries, lying eastward of Ruffia as far as Cathay, printed in 1688. On his tract concerning the militia, 1642, 4to. unnoticed by the biographers, fee Todd's Life, (first ed.) p. 127. In a Collection of Poems by C. Gildon, 1692, 12mo. p. 92, is Julii Mazarini Cardinalis epitaphium, auctore Joanne Milton. v. State Poems, vol. i. p. 56. Mr. Godwin, in his Life of Philips, p. 190, has mentioned a poem attributed to Milton, in State Poems, 1697, in which is-" Noah be d-d." On the works attributed to him, fee Todd's Life, p. 133-138; and Newton's Life, p. lxxxiii.

5 "He would be very cheerful even in his goute fitts, and fing: He died of the goute ftruck in, the 9 or 10 November, 1674, as appears by his Apothecaries' books.'"-Aubrey, Lett. vol. iii. p. 449.

6 Johnson says, about the 10th of November, and Mr. Hayley on the 15th; but Mr. Todd has ascertained the exact date from a reference to the register of St. Giles's, Cripplegate.

Note, fee Hunter's Notes on Shakespeare, p. 337

of Milton's Profe Works exists, I am told, in the church library of Houghton Conqueft.

The original stone laid upon the grave of Milton was removed not many years after his interment; and no memorial of the Poet's fame exifted in the church in which he was buried, till by Mr. Whitbread's munificence, a marble bust, and tablet, recording the date of his birth and death were erected in the middle aisle. To the author of Paradife Loft a fimilar tribute of refpect was paid in 1737, by Mr. Auditor Benson; and his monument, adorned with a buft, was placed at the expense of that gentleman in Westminster Abbey.

Thus was Milton's wifh, though late, fulfilled:

"Ille meos artus liventi morte folutos

Curaret parva componi molliter urna.

Forfitan et noftros ducat de marmore vultus."

Manfus, ver. 90.

When the infcription, written by Atterbury, to the memory of John Philips, was exhibited to Dr. Sprat, then Dean of Westminster, he refused to admit it, because the Poet was faid to be "foli Miltono fecundus." This anecdote was related to Johnson by Dr. Gregory. Such has been the change of opinion, he added, that I have seen erected in the church the ftatue of that man, whose name I once knew confidered as a pollution of its walls.

Milton, in his youth, is faid to have been eminently handsome. He was called the Lady of his college.9

• On the difinterment of the supposed coffin and corpfe of Milton in Auguft, 1790, fee the Pamphlet of P. Neve, Efq. and Todd's Life, p. 139. The exact place in the church where Milton and his father lie, is not ascertained. The father died about 1647. Speed the Hiftorian and Fox the Martyrologist are buried in the fame church.

Salmafius fays, "Tu quem olim Itali pro fœmina habuerunt." Salmas. Refp. p. 23, in his Prolufiones Acad. p. 132, he fays of him

« السابقةمتابعة »