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an attempt has been made to sully the memory of Milton.
Of his erudition so much has necessarily been said in the progress of this work, that it would be superfluous to enlarge upon
the subject. To Doctor Ward, the rhetoric professor of Gresham College, Mrs. Clarke related that extraordinary circumstance of her and her sisters (it ought with strict accuracy to have been sister) having been accustomed to read to their father in eight different languages. The languages are not specified, and, unless we separate the two dialects of the Hebrew and the two also of the Spanish, we can reckon only six of them; but with Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish we know that Milton was intimately conversant; and that, by unremitting study, he improved this large acquaintance with language into the mean of the most ample knowledge. If his Greek learning must be allowed to have been less accurate than that of a few of his contemporaries or of some of the illustrious scholars of the present day, it was unquestionably not less extensive; and it gave him full dominion of the historians, the poets, the orators, the philosophers of that favoured country, in which the human intellect seems to have at
on the great
not imagine confined will tion. His versed the
there was so
had not pen
For thos was steadily
! the terminal has always
tained its highest stature, its keenest vision, and its most comprehensive embrace. Among the Greeks, his favourite authors are said to have been Euripides, Demosthenes, Plato and Homer, whose long poems he could nearly recite by memory. Of the Latins, Ovid, as we are certain, possessed a prime place in his regard; and, from the circumstantial eulogy which he pronounces, in one of his familiar epistles, on the merits of Sallust, we may infer the superior value which he assigned to the weighty and pregnant compression of that admirable historian. He zealously, however, followed the precept of the Roman critic,"and sedulously formed his taste on the great models of Greece. But we must not imagine that Milton's knowledge was confined within the pale of classical erudition. His active and strong intellect traversed the whole circle of the sciences, and there was scarcely one of them of which he had not penetrated more than the surface.
For those political opinions, by which he was steadily actuated from the beginning to the termination of his career, some apology has always been expected, when in truth
& Henrico de Bras, P. W. v. vi. 135.
Vos exe'nplaria Græca
none can be 'necessary. From his own to the present times, the republicanism of this great man has uniformly been regarded as throwing a shade over his character, which the most affectionate of his biographers have rather hoped to extenuate than been ambitious to remove.
To the sagacious and unprejudiced eye, which contemplates the constitution of England, as it was established at the Revolution in 1689,--to the eye, which can command this admirable system of liberty in all its beautiful complexity; which sees it diffusing through the whole subordination of its community more equal freedom than has ever yet resulted from any other plan of political institution; which observes it extending the controll of law to its highest subject and the protection of law to its lowest; which views it
every where jealously checking and balancing its trust of power; which beholds it opening all its emoluments and honours, with exception to one unattainable dignity, to the exertions of ability and virtue, and thus uniting the animation of a commonwealth with the tranquillity and the executiveness of a monarchy;--which surveys it, in short, as it efficiently combines democratic
with hereditary power in its legislature, and de
the common mature vigo
origin to be
fered its eq innocent: a cumstances chine, and seventeenth ruin and a the Tudor consequeno tions of Yd
át. Ez a mocratic feeling with legal wisdom on its triemiers
bunals,—to such an eye, a republic, in all its mulir bei
visionary perfection, can present only relative deformity, and can suggest nothing more than
an occasion of envy or of glory in the fortuCadetega leta
nate inheritance of Englishmen.
But in Milton's days the political prospect was far less alluring; and, from the
spectacle before him, a wise and a good man might very justifiably surrender himself to the impulse of different impressions,
Some of the great component parts of the British constitution, (for the liberties of England are not the creatures of yesterday,) had, long before, been in existence: the Parliament, with all its pre-eminences of power, could boast, in fact, of its Saxon pedigree; the common law of England subsisted in its mature vigour; and the trial by jury, with an -origin to be traced to the remotest times, offered its equal justice to the criminal and the innocent: a concurrence of unfortunate circumstances had, however, disordered the ma, chine, and reduced it, in the middle of the seventeenth century, to little more than a ruin and a name. The impetuous power of the Tudors, springing from the disastrous consequences of the wars between the factions of York and Lancaster, had overleaped
?P, and the 102 med
current s, in shares
In the id ciated with th he pursued t siasm of bel
rious duty. of power, wl erer party it or the state,
ter, he felt
every barrier of the constitution; and the ambition of the Stuarts, at a period less favourable to the exertion of lawless prerogative, had diligently followed in the track of their insolent and tyrannical predecessors. On whatever side he looked, Milton saw nothing but insulted parliaments, arbitrary taxation, illegal and sanguinary tribunals, corrupted and mercenary law, bigotted and desolating persecution. With that ardent love of liberty, therefore, which always burns brightest in the most expanded and elevated bosoms; and fresh from the schools of Greece and Rome, which had educated the masterspirits of the world, it was natural for him to turn, with delight, from the scene, in which he was engaged, to those specious forms of government, the splendid effects of which were obvious, while the defects were withdrawn, in a great measure, by the deception of distance from the sight. He preferred a republic, (and who can blame him?) to that unascertained and unprotected constitution, which on every quarter was open to successful invasion, which gave the promise of liberty only, as it were, to excite the pain of disappointment, and which told men that they had a right to be free in the very instant in which it abandoned them to oppression.
fidence or t he conceive that he was he acted as foreign sta nimous ad some of hi his acute fe pointment state of th