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and moral knowledge of right and wrong; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove, by events, the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and justice are virtues and excellencies of all times and of all places; we are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary, and at leisure. Physiological learning is of such rare emergence, that one may know another half his life, without being able to estimate his skill in hydrostaticks or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.
Those authors, therefore, are to be read at schools that supply most axioms of prudence, most principles of moral truth, and most materials for conversation; and these purposes are best served by poets, orators, and historians.
Let me not be censured for this digression, as pedantick or paradoxical; for, if I have Milton against me, I have Socrates on my side. It was his labour to turn philosophy from the study of nature to speculations upon life; but the innovators whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They seem to think, that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars. Socrates was rather of opinion, that what we had to learn was, how to do good, and avoid evil: "Οτι του εν μεγάροισι κακόν τ' αγαθόν τε τέτυκται.
Of institutions we may judge by their effects. From this wonder-working academy, I do not know that there ever proceeded any man very eminent for knowledge: its only genuine product, I believe, is a small history of poetry, written in Latin by his nephew Philips, of which, perhaps, none of my readers has ever heard.
That in his school, as in every thing else which he undertook, he laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for doubting. One part of his method deserves general imitation. He was careful to instruct his scholars in religion. Every Sunday was spent upon theology; of which he dictated a short system, gathered from the writers that were then fashionable in the Dutch universities.
He set his pupils an example of hard study and spare diet; only now and then he allowed himself to pass a day of festivity and indulgence with some gay gentlemen of Gray's inn.
He now began to engage in the controversies of the times, and lent his breath to blow the flames of contention. In 1641, he published a treatise of Reformation, in two books, against the established church; being willing to help the puritans, who were, he says, “inferior to the prelates in learning."
3 Johnson did not here allude to Philip's Theatrum Poetarum, as has been ignorantly supposed, but, as he himself informed Mr. Malone, to another work by the same author, entitled, Tractatulus de carmine dramatico poetarum veterum præsertim in choris tragicis et veteris comoediæ. Cui subjungitur compendiosa enumeratio poetarum (saltem quorum fama maxime enituit) qui a tempore Dantis Aligerii usque ad hanc ætatem claruerunt, etc. J. B.
Hall, bishop of Norwich, had published an Humble Remonstrance, in defence of episcopacy; to which, in 1641, five ministerst, of whose names the first letters made the celebrated word Smectymnuus, gave their answer. Of this answer a confutation was attempted by the learned Usher; and to the confutation Milton published a reply, entitled, of Prelatical Episcopacy, and whether it may be deduced from the Apostolical Times, by virtue of those testimonies which are alleged to that purpose in some late treatises, one whereof goes under the name of James, lord bishop of Armagh.
I have transcribed this title to show, by his contemptuous mention of Usher, that he had now adopted the puritanical savageness of manners. His next work was, the Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, by Mr. John Milton, 1642. In this book he discovers, not with ostentatious exultation, but with calm confidence, his high opinion of his own powers; and promises to undertake something, he yet knows not what, that may be of use and honour to his country. “This,” says he, “is not to be obtained but by devout prayer to that eternal spirit that can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases. To this must be added, industrious and select reading, steady observation, and insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs; till which
Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, William Spurstow. R.
in some measure be compast, I refuse not to sustain this expectation.” From a promise like this, at once fervid, pious, and rational, might be expected the Paradise Lost.
He published, the same year, two more pamphlets, upon the same question. To one of his antagonists, who affirms that he was "vomited out of the university,” he answers, in general terms: “The fellows of the college, wherein I spent some years, at my parting, after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified, many times, how much better it would content them that I should stay. As for the common approbation or dislike of that place, as now it is, that I should esteem or disesteem myself the more for that, too simple is the answerer, if he think to obtain with me. Of small practice were the physician who could not judge, by what she and her sister have of long time vomited, that the worser stuff she strongly keeps in her stomach, but the better she is ever kecking at, and is queasy: she vomits now out of sickness; but, before it will be well with her, she must vomit by strong physick. The university, in the time of her better health, and my younger judgment, I never greatly admired, but now much less.”
This is surely the language of a man who thinks that he has been injured. He proceeds to describe the course of his conduct, and the train of his thoughts; and, because he has been suspected of incontinence, gives an account of his own purity: “That if I be justly charged,” says he,“ with
this crime, it may come upon me with tenfold shame."
The style of his piece is rough, and such, perhaps, was that of his antagonist. This roughness he justifies, by great examples, in a long digression. Sometimes he tries to be humorous: “Lest I should take him for some chaplain in hand, some squire of the body to his prelate, one who serves not at the altar only, but at the court-cupboard, he will bestow on us a pretty model of himself; and sets me out half a dozen ptisical mottoes, wherever he had them, hopping short in the measure of convulsion fits; in which labour the agony of his wit having escaped narrowly, instead of well-sized periods, he greets us with a quantity of thumb-ring poesies. And thus ends this section, or rather dissection, of himself.' Such is the controversial merriment of Milton; his gloomy seriousness is yet more offensive. Such is his malignity, “that hell grows darker at his frown."
His father, after Reading was taken by Essex, came to reside in his house; and his school increased. At Whitsuntide, in his thirty-fifth year, he married Mary, the daughter of Mr. Powel, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. He brought her to town with him, and expected all the advantages of a conjugal life. The lady, however, seems not much to have delighted in the pleasures of spare diet and hard study; for, as Philips relates, “having for a month led a philosophick life, after having been used at home to a great house, and much company and