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The same year were printed Paradise Regained; and Sampson Agonistes, a tragedy written in imitation of the ancients, and never designed by the author for the stage. As these poems were published by another bookseller, it has been asked, whether Simmons was discouraged from receiving them by the slow sale of the former? Why a writer changed his bookseller a hundred years ago, I am far from hoping to discover. Certainly, he who in two years sells thirteen hundred copies of a volume in quarto, bought for two payments of five pounds each, has no reason to repent his purchase.
When Milton showed Paradise Regained to Elwood, “this,” said he,“ is owing to you; for you put it in my head by the question you put to me at Chalfont, which otherwise I had not thought of."
His last poetical offspring was his favourite. He could not, as Elwood relates, endure to hear Paradise Lost preferred to Paradise Regained. Many causes may vitiate a writer's judgment of his own works. On that which has cost him much labour he sets a high value, because he is unwilling to think that he has been diligent in vain; what has been produced without toilsome efforts, is considered with delight, as a proof of vigorous faculties and fertile invention; and the last work, whatever it be, has, necessarily, most of the grace of novelty. Milton, however it happened, had this prejudice, and had it to himself.
To that multiplicity of attainments, and extent of comprehension, that entitled this great author to
our veneration, may be added a kind of humble dignity, which did not disdain the meanest services to literature. The epick poet, the controvertist, the politician, having already descended to accommodate children with a book of rudiments, now, in the last years of his life, composed a book of logick, for the initiation of students in philosophy; and published, 1672, Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio ad Petri Rami Methodum concinnata; that is, a new scheme of logick, according to the method of Ramus. I know not whether, even in this book, he did not intend an act of hostility against the universities; for Ramus was one of the first oppugners of the old philosophy, who disturbed with innovations the quiet of the schools.
His polemical disposition again revived. He had now been safe so long, that he forgot his fears, and published a Treatise of true Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and the best means to prevent the growth of Popery.
But this little tract is modestly written, with respectful mention of the church of England, and an appeal to the thirty-nine articles. His principle of toleration is, agreement in the sufficiency of the scriptures; and he extends it to all who, whatever their opinions are, profess to derive them from the sacred books. The papists appeal to other testimonies, and are, therefore, in his opinion, not to be permitted the liberty of either publick or private worship; for, though they plead conscience, “we have no warrant,” he says, “to regard conscience, which is not grounded in scripture.”
Those who are not convinced by his reasons, may be, perhaps, delighted with his wit. The term “Roman catholick is,” he says, “one of the pope's bulls; it is particular universal, or catholick schismatick.
He has, however, something better. As the best preservative against popery, he recommends the diligent perusal of the scriptures, a duty, from which he warns the busy part of mankind not to think themselves excused.
He now reprinted his juvenile poems, with some additions.
In the last year of his life he sent to the press, seeming to take delight in publication, a collection of Familiar Epistles in Latin; to which, being too few to make a volume, he added some academical exercises, which, perhaps, he perused with pleasure, as they recalled to his memory the days of youth, but for which nothing but veneration for his name could now procure a reader.
When he had attained his sixty-sixth year, the gout, with which he had been long tormented, prevailed over the enfeebled powers of nature. He died by a quiet and silent expiration, about the tenth of November, 1674, at his house in Bunhill fields; and was buried next his father in the chancel of St. Giles at Cripplegate. His funeral was very splendidly and numerously attended.
Upon his grave there is supposed to have been no memorial; but in our time a monument has been erected in Westminster Abbey “to the author of
Paradise Lost,” by Mr. Benson, who has, in the inscription, bestowed more words upon himself than
When the inscription for the monument of Philips, in which he was said to be “soli Miltono secundus,” was exhibited to Dr. Sprat, then dean of Westminster, he refused to admit it; the name of Milton was, in his opinion, too detestable to be read on the wall of a building dedicated to devotion. Atterbury, who succeeded him, being author of the inscription, permitted its reception. “And such has been the change of publick opinion,” said Dr. Gregory, from whom I heard this account, “that have seen erected in the church a statue of that man, whose name I once knew considered as a pollution of its walls.”
Milton has the reputation of having been, in his youth, eminently beautiful, so as to have been called the lady of his college. His hair, which was of a light brown, parted at the foretop, and hung down upon his shoulders, according to the picture which he has given of Adam. He was, however, not of the heroick stature, but rather below the middle size", according to Mr. Richardson, who mentions him as having narrowly escaped from being “short and thick.” He was vigorous and active, and delighted in the exercise of the sword, in which he is related to have
d“Statura fateor non sum procera: sed quæ mediocri tamen quam parvæ proprior sit: sed quid si parva, qua et summi sæpe tum pace tum bello viri fuere, quanquam parva cur dicitur, quæ ad virtutem satis magna est.” Defensio Secunda. ED.
been eminently skilful. His weapon was, I believe, not the rapier, but the backsword, of which he recommends the use in his book on education.
His eyes are said never to have been bright; but, if he was a dexterous fencer, they must have been once quick.
His domestick habits, so far as they are known, were those of a severe student. He drank little strong drink of any kind, and fed without excess in quantity, and, in his earlier years, without delicacy of choice. In his youth he studied late at night; but afterwards changed his hours, and rested in bed from nine till four in the summer, and five in the winter. The course of his day was best known after he was blind. When he first rose, he heard a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, and then studied till twelve; then took some exercise for an hour; then dined, then played on the organ, and sang, or heard another sing; then studied to six; then entertained his visiters till eight; then supped, and, after a pipe of tobacco and a glass of water, went to bed.
So is his life described: but this even tenour appears attainable only in colleges. He that lives in the world will, sometimes, have the succession of his practice broken and confused. Visiters, of whom Milton is represented to have had great numbers,
come and stay unseasonably; business, of which every man has some, must be done when others will do it.
When he did not care to rise early, he had something read to him by his bedside; perhaps, at this