« PreviousContinue »
of nations and of kings sirik into questions of grammar, if grammarians discuss them,” Elsewhere he lias a
pregnancy and vigour of mind peculiar to himself:” is said to have been “ able to select from nature or from story, from ancient fable or from modern science, whatever could illustrate or adorn his thoughts ;” and is praised for “ the vigour and amplitude of his mind;" and is acknowledged to have been “ born for whatever is arduous.” Next he is sneered at for having “ told every man he was equal to his king;” which he never did, but might have done with good authority, since the Scripture tells us that “all men are equal before God." Then he is said to have“ delighted himself with the belief that he had shortened Salinasius's life:" Milton alludes, in the Defensio Secunda, to the report that such had been the fact; but I can discover no delight in his expressions.
Proceeding with the confidence of a man who expects no reprisals, Johnson represents the poor schoolmaster and grammarian betraying the liberties of England to Cromwell, as if suddenly all the interests of the nation had depended on him. Previous to his engaging in the service of the state he is described, in one place, as too indigent to keep famine from the door; for, “having tasted the honey of public employment,”—Dr. Johnson took the honey and left the employment to others.--" he would not return to hunger and philosophy.” But presently, when he had forgotten what he here says, he obliges us with another version of the story : “ Fortune appears not to have had much of his care. In the civil wars he lent his personal estate to the parliament; but when, after the contest was decided, he solicited repayment, he met not only with neglect, but sharp rebuke; and having tired both himself and his friends, was given up to poverty and hopeless indignation, till he shewed how ahle he was to do greater service. He was then made Latin Secretary, with two hundred pounds a year.” Being a dictionary maker, Dr. Johnson may be thought to have understood the meaning of common English words, and must therefore have known that, among ordinary mortals,“ poverty” and “indigence are supposed to be pretty nearly synonymous; but by the gods they are, I suppose, employed to signify different things; else he could never, in the same page with the above, have said, “there is yet no reason to believe that he was ever reduced to indigenoe. His wants, being few, were competently supplied.” He was not necessitated, therefore, to pacify his hunger with philosophy, as, had we rashly believed the Doctor's first assertion, our humanity might have been * pained by imagining.
In short, it is clear that while he was engaged in writing this Life of Milton, Johnson's better and worse angel were at constant war, the former pulling him by the sleeve on one side, the latter on the other; and that he sometimes listened to the angel, and sometimes, pernaps more frequently, to the fiend. “Such is his (Milton's) ma
lignity, that hell grows darker at his frown,” says the latter, who might be supposed to be acquainted with what passes below. But this is strange, answers the angel, since “in Milton every line breathes sanctity of thought and purity of manners." But the devil soon gets the upper hand, and goes on to say, that in 1659, he printed his treatise of Civil Power, &c. to gratify his malevolence to the clergy; that next year he was found kicking when he could no longer strike; that he skulked from the returning king ; (who it might be said, had also skulked for some years from the parliament ;) that his blindness, considering how it was caused, deserved no compassion; that he was ungrateful and unjust; that he complained because no longer able to boast of his wickedness; that he was brutally insolent, and guilty of falsehood; yet calm and constant in his mind, and supported by the consciousness of merit ! He adds, that he was of no church, yet lived untainted by heresy; and grew old without any visible worship, or hour of prayer, “either solitary
or with his household : omitting public prayers, he omitted all.” • Who could know this ? Indeed, immediately afterwards, he corrects himself, and says,
“ That he lived without prayer can hardly be affirined, his studies and meditations were an habitual prayer." What! Milton, at whose frown hell grew darker ?
But enough of this. From the narrative of Johnson the reader might infer, that on the return of Charles II., very little molestation of any kind was offered to Milton, whom, on the contrary, he represents as having been treated with particular tenderness, and al. lowed to pursue his “studies, or his amusements, without persecution, molestation, or insult.” However, he admits that, on the 16th of June, 1660, an order was issued to seize Milton's Defence, and Goodwin's Obstructors of Justice, another book of the same tendency, and burn them by the common hangman.” Johnson, I presume, had not read this tender order, which was not issued in June, but on the 13th of August, and printed the 15th, after his majesty's tenderness had been vainly employed, during several months, in seeking for his victims, whom, at length, he describes as so obscure that they were not to be found ! Such being the case, he bestows his "lenity' upon their books, as the reader will perceive by the following proclamation.
BY THE KING. A PROCLAMATION, For calling in and suppressing of two books written by John Milton; the one entituled, Johannis Miltoni Angli pro Populo Anglicano Defensio, contra Claudii Anonymi, alias Salmasii, Defensionem Regiam; and the other in answer to a book entituled, The Portraiture of his Sacred Majesty in his Solitude and Sufferings. And also a book entituled, The Obstructors of Justice, written by John Goodwin. CHARLES R.
WHEREAS, John Milton, late of Westminster, in the County of Middlesex, hath published in print two several books, the one entituled,
Johannis Miltoni Angli pro Populo Anglicano Defensio, contra Claudii Anonymi, alias Salmasii, Defensionem Regiam. And the other in answer to a book entituled, The Portraiture of his Sacred Majesty in his Solitude and Sufferings. In both which are contained sundry treasonable passages against us and our Government, and most impious endeavours to justify the horrid and unnatural murder of our late dear Father of Glorious Memory,
And whereas, John Goodwin, late of Coleman-street, London, clerk, hath also published in print, a book entituled, The Obstructors of Justice, written in Defence of his said late Majesty.* And whereas the said John Milton and John Goodwin are both fled, or so obscure themselves, that no endeavours used for their apprehension can take effect, whereby they might be brought to legal tryal, and deservedly receive condign punishment for their treasons and offences.
Now, to the end that our good subjects may not be corrupted in their judgments, with such wicked and traitorous principles, as are dispersed and scattered throughout the before-mentioned books, We, upon the motion of the Commons in Parliament now assembled, do hereby strictly charge and command, all and every person and persons whatsoever, who live in any City, Burrough, or Town Incorporate within this our Kingdom of England, the Dominion of Wales, and Town of Berwick upon Tweed; in whose hands any of those books are, or hereafter shall be, that they, upon pain of our high displeasure, and the consequence thereof, do forthwith, upor. publication of this our command, or within ten days immediately following, deliver or cause the same to be delivered, to the Mayor, Bailiffs, or other chief officer or Magistrate, in any of the said Cities, Borroughs, or Towns Incorporate, where such person or persons do live; or if living out of any City, Burrough, or Town Incorporate, then to the next Justice of Peace adjoining to his or their dwelling, or place of abode; or if living in either of Our Universities, then to the Vice-Chancellor of that University, where he or they do reside.
And in default of such voluntary delivery, which We do expect in observance of our said command, That then, and after the time before limited, expired, the said Chief Magistrate of all and every the said Cities, Burroughs, or Towns Incorporate, the Justices of the Peace in their several counties, and the Vice-Chancellors of Our said Universities respectively, are hereby commanded to seize and take, all and every the Books aforesaid, in whose hands or possession soever they shall be found, and certify the names of the Offenders unto Our Privy Council.
And We do hereby give special charge and command to the said Chief Magistrates, Justices of the Peace and Chancellors respectively, that they cause the said Books which shall be so brought unto any of their hands, or seized or taken as aforesaid, by virtue of this Our Proclamation, to be delivered to the respective Sheriffs of those counties, where they respectively live, the first and next assizes that shall after happen. And the said Sheriffs are hereby also required, in time of holding such assizes, to cause the same to be publickly burnt by the hand of the common hangman.
And We do further straightly charge and command, that no man hereafter presume to print, sell, or disperse any of the aforesaid books, upon pain of our heavy displeasure, and of such further punishment, as for their presumption in that behalf, may any way be inflicted upon them by the laws of this Realm.
[Given at Our Court at Whitehall, the 13th day of August,
in the 12th year of our Reign, 1660.j * There must here be some mistake in the Proclamation, but so it is printed.
In obedience to this order of the libertine despot, several copies" of the proscribed books, as Mr. Mitford observes, were committed to the flames on the 27th of August, and on the 29th the Act of indemnity passed. Notwithstanding this, however, Milton lived in perpetual terror of being assassinated : and well he might, remembering he was in the hands of those who had murdered Dorislas, and three other public functionaries, in the discharge of their duties abroad. In the British Museum is preserved an incomplete printed list of those murdered men, and Milton's name is added, probably to incite some loyal subject to augment the number of the victims. Dr. Symmons has quoted from Richardson a copy of verses, written perhaps by some poet of Whitehall, “ Upon John Milton's not suffering for his Traitorous Book when the Tryers were executed, 1660.”
“That thou escaped’st that vengeance which o'ertook,
Milton, thy regicides, and thy own book,
So, for to live, thoud'st call Salmasius from the dead.”
years after his death, (1683,) twenty-seven propositions from the writings of Milton, Hobbes, Buchanan, &c., were burnt at Oxford, says Mr. Mitford, as destructive to church and state. This transaction, he continues, is celebrated in Musæ Anglicanæ, called Decretum Oxoniense, vol. iii. p. 180.
"Si similis quicunque hæc scripserit auctor,
Miltonum cælo terrisque inamabile noumen.' They would no doubt have liked to roast the old man at Oxford, as a person whose name was hateful to heaven and earth. In the Vindiciæ Carolinæ, or a Defence of Eikon Basilike, published in 1692, we are told that “this Milton (the gall and bitterness of whose heart had so taken away his taste and judgment, that to write and be scurrilous were the same with him) is dead, 't is true, and should have been forgotten by me, but that in this new impression he yet speaketh.” And will speak in repeated impressions, when bis petty adversaries are buried in merited oblivion. The author admits that Milton "
was a person of large thought, and wanted not words to express those conceptions ; but never so truly, as when the argument and his depraved temper met together: witness his Paradise Lost, where he makes the devil— who, though fallen, had not given heaven for lost-speak at that rate himself would have done of the son of this royal martyr, (upon his restoration,) had he thought it convenient; when in his Paradise Regained, he is so indifferent, poor, and staru
ling, as if he never expected any benefit by it!”–No! he was condemned to another place by the charity of the royalists. This obscure Defence of the “king's book," as it was called, was written upon the reprinting of the Defence of the People of England, at Amsterdam.
In 1698, the earliest complete edition of Milton's Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous Works, with a Life of the Author, was published in Holland by J. Toland, in 3 vols. folio. Next year the Life was printed separately in London. Milton's Letters of State, from 1649 to 1659, with an account of his life, and catalogue of his works, had appeared in London 1694, no doubt by the care of Toland. No second edition of the complete works was called for during thirtyfive years; when, in 1733, they were published, with a new Life by Dr. Birch; who, twenty years afterwards, brought them out in quarto. Fifty-one years then elapsed—from 1753 to 1804-before a new edition of Milton's prose works again appeared. The latter year is the date of the edition of Dr. Symmons, who prefixed a Life, which has since been separately reprinted. Then ensued another interval of thirty years, when in 1834, the whole of the Prose Works were reprinted in one large and elegant volume, with au able introductory essay by Mr. Robert Fletcher, who deserves well of every admirer of Milton. From this account it would appear that, upon an average, an edition of Milton's complete works has been called for, from 1698 to the present day, onco in a little more than twentyseven years.