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ancient clergyman in Dorsetshire, Dr. Wright, wio found him in a small house, which had (he thinks) but one room on a floor; in that, up one pair of stairs, which was hung with a rusty green, he saw John Milton sitting in an elbow chair, with black clothes, and neat enough, pale but not cadaverous, his hands and fingers gouty, and with chalk stones ; among other discourse he expressed himself to this purpose, that was he free from the pain of the gout, his blindness would be tolerable. But there is the less necd to be particular in the description of his person, as the idea of his face and countenance is fretty well known from the numerous prints, pictures, busts, medals, and other representations which liave been made of him. There are two pictures of greater value than the rest, as they are undoubted originals, and were in the possession of Milton's widow: the first was drawn when he was about twenty-one, and is at present in the collection of the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow, Esq. Speaker of the House of Commons: the other in crayons was drawn when he was about sixty-two, and was in the collection of Mr. Richardson, but was afterwards purchased by Mr. Tonson. Several prints have been made from both these pictures; and there is a print done, when he was about sixty-two or sixty three, after the life by Faithorn, which, though not so handsome, may yet perhaps be as true a resemblance as any of them.li is prefixed to some of our author's pieces, and to the folio edition of his prose works in three volumes, printed in 1698.
In his way of living he was an example of solriety and temperance. He was very sparing in the use of wine or strong liquors of any kind. Let meaner poets make use of such expedients to raise their fancy and kindle their imagination.' He wanted not any artificial spirits; he had a natural fire, and poe!ic warmth enough of his own.
He was likewise very abstemious in his diet, not fastidiously nice or delicate in the choice of his dishes, but content with any thing that was most in season, or easiest to be procured, eating and drinking (according to the distinc. tion of the philosopher) that he might live, and not living that he might eat and drink. So that probably his gout descended by inheritance from one or other of his parents; or if it was of his own acquirang, it must have been owing to his studious and sedentary life. And yet he delighted sometimes in Walking and using exercise, but we hear nothing of his riding or hunting. Having early learned to fence, he was such a master of his sword, that he was not afraid of resenting an affront from any man; and before he lost his sight, his principal recreation was the exercise of his arms ; but after he was confined by age and blindness, he had a machine to swing in for the preservation of his health. In his youth he was accustoined to sit uy late at his studies, and seldom went to bed before midnight; but afterwards, finding it to be the ruin of his eyes, and looking on this custom as very pernicious to lealth at any time, de used to go to rest early, seldom later than nine,
and would be stirring in the summer at four, and in the winter at five in the morning; but if he was not disposed to rise at his usual hours, he still did not lie sleeping, but had some body or other by his bed-side to read to him. At his first rising he had usually a chapter read to him out of the Hebrew Bible, and he commonly studied all the morning till twelve, then used some exercise for an hour, afterwards dined, and after dinner played on the organ, and either sung
himself or made his wife sing, who (he said) had a good voice but no ear; and then he went up to study again till six, when his friends came to visit him and sat with him perhaps till eight; then he went down to supper, which was usually olives or some light thing; and after supper he smoaked his pipe, and drank a glass of water, and went to bed.
He loved the country, and commends it, as poets usually do; but after his return from his travels, he was very little there, except during the time of the plague in London. The civil war might at first detain him in town; and the pleasures of the country were in a great measure lost to him, as they dependi mostly upon sight, whereas a blind man wanteth company and conversation, which is to be had betier in populous cities. But he was led out sometiines fur the benefit of the fresh air, and in warm sunny weather he used to sit at the door of his house near Bunhill Fields, and there, as well as in the house, received the visits of persons of quality and distinc
tion ; for he was no less visited to the last both by his own countrymen and foreigners, than he had been in his flourishing condition before the Restoration.
Some objections have indeed been made to his temper; and I remember there was a tradition in the Vaiversity of Cambridge, that he and Mr. King (whose death he laments in his Lycidas) were competitors for a fellowship, and when they were both equal in point of learning, Mr. King was preferred by the college for his character of good..nature, which was wanting in the other; and this was by Milton grievously resented. But the difference of their ages, Milton being at least four years elder, tenders this story not very probable; besides, Mr. King was not elected by the college, but was niade fellow by a royal mandate, so that there can be no truth in the tradition ; but if there was any, it is no sign of Miiton's resentment, but a proof of his generosity, that he could live in such friendship with a successful rival, and afterwards so passionately iament his decease. His method of writing controversy is urged as another argument of his want of temper : but some allowance must be made for the customs and manners of the time.
Controversy, as well as War, was rougher and more barbarors in those days, than it is in these. And it is to be considered too, that his adversaries first began the attack; they loaded him with much more personal abuse, only they had not the advantage of so much wit to season it. If he brad engaged with more candid and inger
nuous disputants, he would have preferred civility and fair argument to wit and satire: “ to do so was my choice, and to have done thus was my chance," as he expresses himself in the conclusion of one of his controversial pieces. All who have written any accounts of his life agree, that he was affable and instructive in conversation, of an equal and cheerful temper; and yet I can easily believe, that he had a suficient sense of his own merits, and contempt enough for his adversaries.
His merits indeed were singular; for he was a man not only of wonderful genius, but of immense learning and erudition ; not only an incomparable poet, but a great mathematician, logician, historian, and divine. He was a master not only of the Greek and Latin, but likewise of the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac, as well as of the modern languages, Italian, French, and Spanish. He was particularly skilled in the Italian, which he alwayş preferred to the French language, as ail the men of letters did at that time in England; and he not only wrote elegantly in it, but is highly commended for his writings by the most learned of the Italians themselves, and especially by the members of that celebrated acadeiny called Della Crusca, which was established at Florence for the refining and perfecting of the Tuscan language. He had read almost all authors, and improved by all, even by romances, of which he had been fond in his younger years; and as the bee can extract honey of weeds, so (to use his own words in his Apology