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and held it hardly compatible with the duty of a good citizen to republish, in the present times, the prose of Milton, as he apprehended it might be productive of public evil. For my own part, although I sincerely respected the highly cultivated mind that harboured this apprehension, yet the apprehension itself appeared to me somewhat similar to the fear of Falstaff, when he says, “ I am afraid of this gunpowder Percy, though he be dead.” As the prose of Milton had a reference to the distracted period in which it arose, its arguments, if they could by any means be pointed against our existing government, are surely as incapable of inflicting a wound, as completely dead for all the purposes of hostility, as the noble Percy is represented, when he excites the ludicrous terror of Sir John: but while I presume to describe the prose of Milton as inanimate in one point of view, let me have the justice to add, that it frequently breathes so warm a spirit of genuine eloquence and philanthropy, that I am persuaded the prophecy of its great author concerning it will be gradually accomplished; its defects and its merits will be more temperately and
justly estimated in a future age, than they have hitherto been. The prejudices so recently entertained against it, by the two eminent writers I have mentioned, were entertained at a period when a very extraordinary panic possessed and overclouded many of the most elevated minds of this kingdom a period when a retired student could hardly amuse himself with perusing the nervous republican writers of the last century, without being suspected of framing deadly machinations against the monarchs of the present day; and when the principles of a Jacobin were very blindly imputed to a truly English writer of acknowledged genius, and of the purest reputation, who is, perhaps, of all men live ing, the most perfectly blameless in his sentiments of government, morality, and religion. But, happily for the credit of our national understanding, and our national courage, the panic to which I allude has speedily passed away, and a man of letters may now, I presume, as safely and irreproachably peruse or reprint the great republican writers of England, as he might translate or elucidate the political visions of Plato, a writer whom Milton, passionately admired, and to whom he bore, I think, in many points, a very striking resemblance. Perhaps they both possessed tao large a portion of fancy and enthusiasm to make good practical statesmen; the visionaries of public virtue have seldom succeeded in the management of dominion, and in politics it has long been a prevailing creed to believe, that government is like gold, and must not be fashioned for extensive use without the alloy of corruption. But I mean not to burthen you, my lively friend, with political reflections, or with a long dissertation on the great mass of Milton's prose ; you whose studies are so various and extensive, are sufficiently familiar with those singular compositions; and I am not a little gratified in the assurance that you think as I do, both of their blemishes and their beauties, and approve the use that I have made of them in my endeavours to elucidate the life and character of their authar. Much as we respected the classical erudition and the taste of your lamented brother, I am confident that we can neither of us subscribe to the censure he has passed on the Latin style of Milton, who, to my apprehension, is
often most admirably eloquent in that language, and particularly so in the passage Thave citeal from his character of Bradshaw; a character in which I have known very acrimonious enemies to the name of the man eommended, very candidly acknowledge the eloquence of the eulogist. Some rigorous idolaters of the unhappy race of Stuart may yet çensure me even for this dispassionate revival of such a character' ; but you, my liberal
friend to the
freedom of literary discussion, you will suggest to me, that the minds of our countrymen in general aspire to Roman magnanimity, in rendering justice to great qualities in men, who were occasionally the objects of public detestation, and you join with me in admiring that example of such magnanimity, to which I particularly allude. Nothing is more honourable to ancient Rome, than her generosity in allowing the statue of Hannibal to be raised and admired within the walls of the very city, which it was the ambition of his life to distress and destroy.
In emulation of that spirit, which delights to honor the excellencies of an illustrious antagonist, I have endeavoured to preserve in my own mind,
and to express on every proper occasion, my unshaken regard for the rare faculties and virtues of a late biographer, whom it has been my lot to encounter continually as a very bitter, and sometimes I think, an insidious enemy to the great poet,whose memory I have fervently wished to rescue from indignity and detraction,
The asperity of Johnson towards Milton has often struck the fond admirers of the poet in various points of view ; in one mament it excites laughter, in another indignation ; now it reminds us of the weapon of Goliah as described by Cowley ;
66 A sword so great, that it was only fit
now it prompts us to exclaim, in the words of an angry Roman;
* Nec bellua tetrior ulla est Quam seryi rabies in libera colla furentis."
I have felt, I confess, these different emotions of resentment in perusing the various sarcasms of the austere critic against the object of my poetical idolatry, but I have tried, and I hope with some