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harmony - in short sentences abrupt transitions - interrogations- unrounded periods, purposely introduced where the most consummate art would have them placed, to break up the surface of the style, and banish monotony. But why need I dwell on the mere mechanism of his language ? Though frequently attentive to this point, he trusted—too much perhaps,to other beauties, of a higher kind, inasmuch as what delights the intellect must be superior to what only charms the ear—and instead of periods turned with unrivalled skill, unfolds before the mental eye a style glowing with imagery, animated, vehement, instinct in all its parts with life.
In fact, no one at all conversant with our older authors can have failed to perceive that, though they differed considerably from us in their conception of style, our forefathers were still more sensible perhaps than we of its loftier beauties, and proportionably more solicitous to attain them. Doubtless it was their principai object to collect or give birth to new or great thoughts. For with wise men how could it be otherwise ? But, having extensively read, and reflected profoundly, they manifestly regarded it as the object next in importance, not to suffer the grandeur or utility
of their speculations to be diminished by language mean or unsuitable. This care is particularly observable in the voluminous exuberance and solemn march of Clarendon, in the learned stateliness of Hooker, in the cynical and ostentatious plainness of Hobbes, in the metaphysical eloquence of Baxter, in the glowing philanthropy of Jeremy Taylor and Algernon Sydney; but most of all, where, perhaps, we should most expect it, in the philosophical, but somewhat cold grandeur of Bacon, and in the fiery vehemence and impetuous energy of Milton.
I admit that we are ofttimes disposed to attribute to design and artifice, what, if more deeply investigated, would be found due to circumstances alone, or to that instinctive correctness of feeling, which, better than all rules, teaches what on every occasion is becoming. But I am warranted, I think, both from the tone of the extract above given, and from an expression found in the preface to the work itself, to ascribe to Milton's exquisite judgment the calm which broods over the whole surface of the Eikonoklastes, though the reader feels that, beneath this serenity of aspect, there lurks a consciousness of irresistible power, as in the slumbering ocean,
“Subdola cum ridet placidi pellacia ponti!” Ostensibly he is confuting the arguments of the dead ; and his language therefore, and the whole body of his reasoning, assume a soberness, almost a solemnity, which is seldom, throughout the work, laid aside. It was, however, in appearance only that he contended against a deceased author ; for, besides that the Eikon Basilikè must manifestly have appeared to Milton not to be the king's work, his object, at any rate, was not so much to expose the fallacies of that specious production, as to defend the parliament against a party from whose arsenal of sedition this particular engine had been taken. "For which reason, in spite of his eager prosecution of one main object, he sometimes permits himself to unbend his brow, and relax into a smile. But, upon the whole, it is a tragic pleasure that is to be derived from the Eikonoklastes. Civil war can never, in fact, be other than a saddening spectacle; and when we recollect that, in the struggle here described, it was Englishmen, our forefathers, who fought and bled in it, and that England's green fields were the scene, we shall have many addi. tional motives for regarding the picture with deep interest.
When the last impression* of Milton's prose works was committed to my care, I executed that trust with the greatest fidelity. Not satisfied with printing from any copy at hand, as editors are generally wont, my affection and zeal for the author induced me to compare every sentence, line by line, with the original edition of each treatise that I was able to obtain. Hence, errore innumerable of the former impression were corrected; besides what improvements were added from the author's second edition of the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, which Mr. Toland had either not seen, or had neglected to commit to the press. After I had endeavoured to do this justice to my favourite author, the last summer I discovered a second edition of his Eikonoklastes, with many large and curious additions, printed in the year 1650, which edition had escaped the notice both of Mr. Toland and myself. In communicating this discovery to a few friends, I found that this edition was not unknown to some others, though from low and base motives secreted from the public. But I, who from my soul love liberty, and for that reason openly and boldly assert its principles at all times, resolved that the public should no longer be withheld from the possession of such a treasure. I therefore now give a new impression of this work, with the additions and improvements made by the author ; and I deem it a singular felicity, to be the instrument of restoring to my country so many excellent lines long lostand in danger of being for ever lost-of a writer who is a lasting honour to our language and nation—and of a work, wherein the principles of tyranny are confuted and overthrown, and all the arts and cunning of a great tyrant and his adherents detected and laid open. The love of liberty is a public affection, of which those men must be altogether void that can suppress or smother anything written in its defence, and tending to serve its glorious
What signify professions, when the actions are opposite and contradictory ? Could any high-churchman, any partisan of Charles I., have acted a worse, or a different part, than some pretended friends of liberty have done in this instance ? Many high-church priests and doctors have laid out considerable sums to destroy the prose works of Milton, and have purchased copies of his particular writings for the infernal pleasure of consuming them.t This practice, however detestable, was yet consistent with principle. But no apology can be made for men that espouse a cause, and at the same time conceal aught belonging to its support. Such men may tell us that they love
* The only portion of Milton's prose works edited by Baron, is his Eikonoklastes, 4to. London, 1756. But he assisted Birch in his edition published 1753, in 2 vols. 4to.—ED.
+ This hath been practised with such zeal by many of that cursed tribe, that it is a wonder there are any copies left. John Swale, a bookseller of Leeds in Yorkshire, an honest man, though of high church, told me, that he could have more money for burning Milton's Defence of Liberty and the People of England, than I would give for the purchase of it. Some priests in that neighbourhood used to meet once a year, and after they were well warmed with strong beer, they sacrificed to the flames the author's Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, as also this treatise against the EIKAN. I have it in my power to produce more instances of the like sacerdotal spirit, with which in some future publication I may entertain the world.-BARON.
liberty; but I tell them that they love their bellies, their ease, their pleasures, their profits, in the first place. A man that will not hazard all for liberty, is unworthy to be named among its votaries, unworthy to participate its blessings.
Many circumstances at present loudly call upon us to exert ourselves. Venality and corruption have well-nigh extinguished all principles of liberty. The bad books also, that this age hath produced, have ruined our youth. The novels and romances, which are eagerly purchased and read, emasculate the mind, and banish everything grave and manly. One remedy for these evils is, to revive the reading of our old writers, of which we have good store, and the study whereof would fortify our youth against the blandishments of pleasure and the arts of corruption. Milton in particular ought to be read and studied by all our young gentlemen as an oracle. He was a great and noble genius, perhaps the greatest that ever appeared among men; and his learning was equal to his genius. He had the highest sense of liberty, glorious thoughts, with a strong and nervous style. His works are full of wisdom, a treasure of knowledge. In them the divine, the statesman, the historian, the philologist, may be all instructed and entertained. It is to be lamented, that his divine writings are so little known. Very few are acquainted with them, many have never heard of them. The same is true with respect to another great writer contemporary with Milton, and an advocate for the same glorious cause; I mean Algernon Sydney, whose Discourses on Government are the most precious legacy to these nations.
All antiquity cannot show two writers equal to these. They were both great masters of reason, both great masters of expression. They had the strongest thoughts, and the boldest images, and are the best models that can be followed. The style of Sydney is always clear and flowing, strong and masculine. The great Milton has a style of his own, one fit to express the astonishing sublimity of his thoughts, the mighty vigour of his spirit, and that copia of invention, that redundancy of imagination, which no writer before or since hath equalled. In some places, it is confessed, that his periods are too long, which renders him intricate, if not altogether unintelligible to vulgar readers; but these places are not many. In the book before us his style is for the most part free and easy, and it abounds both in eloquence and wit and argument. I am of opinion, that the style of this work is the best and most perfect of all his prose writings. Other men have commended the style of his History as matchless and incomparable, whose malice could not see or would not acknowledge the excellency of his other works. It is no secret whence their aversion to Milton proceeds; and whence their caution of naming him as any other writer than a poet. Milton combated superstition and tyranny of every form, and in every degree. Against them he employed his mighty strength, and, like a battering-ram, beat down all before him. But notwithstanding these mean arts, either to hide or disparage him, a little time will make him better known and the more he is known, the more he will be admired. His works are not like the fugitive short-lived things of this age, few of which survive their authors : they are substantial, durable, eternal writings ; which will never die, never perish, whilst reason, truth, and liberty have a being in these nations.
Thus much I thought proper to say on occasion of this publication, where. in I have no resentment to gratify, no private interest to serve: all my aim VOL. I.
is to strengthen and support that good old cause, which in my youth I embraced, and the principles whereof I will assert and maintain whilst I live.
The following letter to Milton, being very curious, and nowhere published perfect and entire, may be fitly preserved in this place.
A Letter from Mr. Wall to John Milton, Esq. SIR,— I received yours the day after you wrote, and do humbly thank you, that you are pleased to honour me with your letters. I confess I have (even in my privacy in the country) oft had thoughts about you,
and that with much respect, for your friendliness to truth in your early years, and in bad times. But I was uncertain whether your relation to the court* (though I think a commonwealth was more friendly to you than a court) had not clouded your former light; but your last book resolved that doubt. You complain of the non-proficiency of the nation, and of its retrograde motion of late, in liberty and spiritual truths. It is much to be bewailed ; but yet let us pity human frailty. When those who made deep protestations of their zeal for our liberty both spiritual and civil, and made the fairest offers to be assertors thereof, and whom we thereupon trusted ; when those, being instated in power, shall betray the good thing committed to them, and lead us back to Egypt, and by that force which we gave them to win us liberty hold us fast in chains; what can poor people do? You know who they were, that watched our Saviour's sepulchre to keep him from rising.t
Besides, whilst people are not free, but straitened in accommodations for life, their spirits will be dejected and servile: and conducing to that end, there should be an improving of our native commodities, as our manufactures, our fishery, our fens, forests, and commons, and our trade at sea, &c. which would give the body of the nation a comfortable subsistence; and the breaking that cursed yoke of tithes would much help thereto.
Also another thing I cannot but mention, which is, that the Norman conquest and tyranny is continued upon the nation without any thought of removing it ; I mean the tenure of lands by copyhold, and holding for life under a lord, or rather tyrant of a manor ; whereby people care not to improve their land by cost upon it, not knowing how soon themselves or theirs may be outed it; nor what the house is in which they live, for the same reason : and they are far more enslaved to the lord of the manor, the rest of the nation is to a king or supreme magistrate.
We have waited for liberty, but it must be God's work and not man's, who thinks it sweet to maintain his pride and worldly interest to the gratifying of the flesh, whatever becomes of the precious liberty of mankind.
But let us not despond, but do our duty; and God will carry on that blessed work, in despite of all opposites, and to their ruin, if they persist therein.
Sir, my humble request is, that you would proceed, and give us that other member of the distribution mentioned in your book ; viz. that hire doth greatly impede truth and liberty : it is like if you do, you shall find opposers; hut remember that saying, Beatius est pati quam frui ; or, in the apostle's words, James, v. 11, “We count them happy that endure.”
I have sometimes thought (concurring with your assertion of that storied voice that should speak from heaven) when ecclesiastics were endowed with
Milton was Latin Secretary.- BARON. + Soldiers : this is a severe insinuation against a standing army.-BARON.
worldly preferments, hodie venenum infunditur in ecclesiam : for, to use the speech of Genesis iv. ult. according to the sense which it hath in the Hebrew, “then began men to corrupt the worship of God.” I shall tell you a supposal of mine, which is this: Mr. Drury has bestowed about thirty years' time in travel, conference, and writings, to reconcile Calvinists and Lutherans, and that with little or no success. But the shortest way were-take away ecclesiastical dignities, honours, and preferments, on both sides, and all would soon be hushed ; the ecclesiastics would be quiet, and then the people would come forth into truth and liberty. But I will not engage in this quarrel; yet I shall lay this engagement upon myself to remain
Your faithful friend and servant, *Causham, May 26, 1659.
JOHN WALL. From this letter the reader may see in what way wise and good men of that age employed themselves : in studying to remove every grievance, and to break every yoke. And it is matter of astonishment, that this age, which boasts of greatest light and knowledge, should make no effort toward a reformation in things acknowledged to be wrong; but both in religion and in civil government be barbarian! Below Blackheath, June 20, 1756.
MILTON'S PREFACE. To descant on the misfortunes of a person fallen from so high a dignity, who hath also paid his final debt both to nature and his faults, is neither of itself a thing commendable, nor the intention of this discourse. Neither was it fond ambition, nor the vanity to get a name, present or with posterity, by writing against a king, I never was so thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and means, better and more certain to attain it; for kings have gained glorious titles from their favourers by writing against private men, as Henry VIII. did against Luther ; but no man ever gained much honour by writing against a king, * as not usually meeting with that force
* Mr. D’Israeli the elder, is of a very different opinion. He almost seems to think that Luther owed his celebrity to the condescension of his crowned antagonist. “ Luther,” he says, “ was no respecter of kings ; he was so fortunate, indeed, as to find among his antagonists a crowned head: a great good fortune
for an obscure controversialist, and the very punctum saliens of controversy. Our Henry VIII. wrote his book against the new doctrine: then warm from scholastic studies, Henry presented Leo X. with a work highly creditable to his abilities, and no inferior performance according to the genius of the age (How wonderful that a work "highly creditable to his abilities” should be “no inferior performance !”] “ Collier, in his Ecclesiastical History, has analysed the book, and does not ill describe its spirit:
Henry seems superior to his adversary in the vigour and propriety of his style, in the force of his reasoning, and the learning of his citations. It is true he leans too much upon his character, argues in his garter-robes, and