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of which you endured so many hardships and encountered so many perils, now that you have obtained it, to be violated by yourself, or in any part be impaired by others. You indeed, without our freedom, cannot yourself be free: for it is so ordained by Nature, that he who destroys the liberty of others, shall first lose his
and feel that he himself is the first slave of all-and justly so. But if the very patron, and the guardian deity as it were of liberty—the man, than whom none was deemed more eminent for justice-none for sanctity--none a better man, should invade that liberty which he himself asserted; such an act will necessarily be a ruinous and deadly blow, not only to himself, but to the whole interest of virtue and of piety: honour itselfvirtue itself, will appear to have vanished : there will in future be but little faith reposed in religion-little public character ; than which no wound more grievous, ever since that primæval one, can be inflicted on mankind. You have undertaken a most onerous duty, which will search you to the quick-will scrutinize you thoroughly and intimately, and show what disposition—what vigour—what stability there is in you: whether in truth there lives within you that patriotism—that good faiththat justice, and moderation of soul, for which we believe that you have been elevated before all others, through the direction of the Deity, to the highest pitch of dignity. To rule with judgment three puissant nations - to lead their people from vicious institutions to a better state of morality and discipline than before existed—to make the anxious mind and thoughts penetrate the remotest quarters—to watch-to foresee-to decline no labour-to spurn every blandishment of pleasure-to shun the pomp of wealth and power ;—these are those arduous labours, in comparison with which war is but sport : these will winnow and sift you : these require a man supported by the Divine assistance-a man advised, warned, and instructed, almost by a conference with the Deity.
“ All this and more, I doubt not, you often reflect on within yourself, and revolve in your mind; so that you may be best enabled to accomplish all these mighty objects, and render our liberty secure and enlarged; which, in my judgment, you can
in no other way better effect, than by admitting, as you do, as the chief partners of your counsels, those whom you found the companions of your toils and your dangers—men, in truth, of the greatest moderation, integrity, and courage; whom the sight of so much death and slaughter before their eyes tutored not to cruelty and hardness of soul; but to justice, and a reverence for the Divinity, and a sympathy for the lot of man; and to a more vigorous preservation of liberty, in proportion as they exposed their lives to greater perils on its account. These are men not sprung from the kennel of the rabble, or of strangersno promiscuous throng; but citizens, most of them of the better rank; of noble, or of respectable birth ; of ample or of moderate fortune."*
• Fleetwood, Lambert, Overton, Hawley, Sydney, Lawrence, Whitelock, &c., on each of whom he pronounces an appropriate eulogy.
ORIGIN OF THE POEM-HIS TIME AND HABITS OF COMPOSITION-PUBLICATION
ОР THE POEM.-CHIEF EDITIONS-HIS IMITATIONS - EXTRACTS
There is a general and natural curiosity to know every circumstance connected with the commencement, and completion, of Paradise Lost. It would be easy to amuse the reader with many attractive conjectures of various commentators : however, the plain truth is, that we only know it was completed in 1665, when Milton fled from the great plague of London to Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, and showed the finished MS. to his former secretary, Elwood. Of the time of its commencement there is no conclusive evidence ; but it is generally believed that it was begun at the close of the Salmasian controversy, 1651 or 1652, when he had acquired such matchless celebrity all over Europe, and was allowed assistant secretaries by the council of state to lighten the burdens of his office. He had long promised some great poetical work, which would, as he intimates, (see the sketches of his autobiography,) secure the approbation and raise the literary renown of his country. He had, no doubt, been preparing the materials even during the twenty years he was so hotly engaged in polemical and political controversy ; and most probably only began to reduce them to order some three or four years before he brought the work to such immortal completion. From one of his letters to Deodati, it appears that after he had arranged his plan, his execution in all his works was brisk, vigorous, methodical, and untiring-never losing sight of his purpose
never distracted by illness or worldly care. It is also certain, from a great body of MSS. found after his death, and the evidence of his nephew and constant associate, Phillips, that he at first only meditated a tragedy on the Grecian model, the opening of which was to be Satan's address to the sun; but afterwards his imagination and design rose and expanded with the vastness of the sub
There have been numerous and elaborate dissertations on the origin of this poem, each critic and commentator rivalling another in a parade of learning and ingenuity to attempt the proof of the original fountain from which Milton imbibed the conception.
It has been well observed that few poets could themselves tell when the seeds of their great works were first sown in their minds. This may apply to most writers of fiction. It applies remarkably to Milton, who distinctly apprised his readers many years before of his design to give his country some great work; and while mentioning the story of Prince Arthur, Alfred, and others, as fit foundations to build an epic on, yet does not glance even at the story of the fall ; though he almost has made a parade of his predilection for scriptural subjects. It is evident, then, that while he had been storing his mind with the materials for an epic, he had not made his election till after the publication of his chief prose works, in which he is very communicative about his principles, feelings, and literary projects. Had he conceived the thought of the fall before, as a subject, (much more brought it to maturity,) there is the strongest presumptive evidence that he would have given some intimation of it. The only real insight we can obtain (for his friends and his biographers are silent on the subject) into the commencement of the poem, he himself gives us in that remarkable passage at the opening of the Ninth Book :
“If answerable style I can obtain
Of my celestial patroness, who deigns
From this it appears, not only that he conceived himself inspired (a notion with which all his family were impressed), but that he had not selected his subject till he was far advanced in life. But then comes the inquiry as to the sources from which he derived the scheme of the poem. Voltaire, who resided in England in 1727, and was a complete master of our language, first broached the thought. He pretended, in his natural vanity of making a great discovery, to trace the origin of Paradise Lost to the Adamo of Andreini, an Italian stage-player of no literary repute, but possessing a vivid and wild imagination. His Adamo was a sort of burlesque comedy, in which Adam, Eve, God, Satan, angels, and devils were characters.
The first scene opens with a chorus, in which a cherub speaks for the rest, commencing thus :-“Let the rainbow be the fiddlestick of heaven ; let time make the sharps ; and let the planets be the notes of our musick.” Is it to such laughable and grotesque mummery as this, that Voltaire, and even some admirers of Milton, would ascribe the origin of Paradise Lost ? On examination, the Adamo was found to be too flimsy a foundation on which to erect such a superstructure as Paradise Lost; and that conceit was abandoned. But the idea was too alluring to be abandoned ; the mania of discovery infected the critics, and every scholar gave his guess. About a dozen Italian writers, many of less note than even Andreini, have been grubbed out of their obscurity by as many critics in their idle search. The Italian origin having eventually been given up as hopeless, a whole host of Latin poems, written by jesuits, monks, and others—among them the Adamus Exul of Grotius, and the poems of Avitus, have been severally quoted : these, again, have given way before the force of rigorous investigation. Next, some English poems have been quoted ; but when examined, they too were found wanting. Having toiled through this mass of critical investigation, I see not a shadow of proof that he has borrowed from any other source than what he himself acknowledges--the pure fountain of Holy Writ.
The unrivalled greatness of the work first tempted and next stimulated so much inquiry; and the numerous discrepancies between the opinions of so many learned critics, are, I think, sufficient