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Might call it Pretty dear, and Honey,
But nurse (as all have done before)
To let them in, on--SPECULATION.'The fame chastised pleasantry and ease, the fame dry humour and classical elegance and allufion, which bave in general diftinguished Mr. Anttey's performances, are conspicuous in the prelent: and if, perhaps, it had been less diffufive and more attentively finished, it might have been no way inferior to the hap, piest production of his exquisite pen.
Art. XII. Remarks on Johnson's Life of Milton. To which are
added, Milton's Tractate on Education. Small 8vo. 2 s. 6 d. fewed. Dilly. 1780.
Prefatory Advertisement to this publication informs us,
A are part
Jacely given to the Public, wherein occasion is incidentally taken to exhibit some instances of the manner in which Milton's character has been treated by some of his former biographers and others., About the time that specimen was closed, Dr. Johnson's New Narralive was thrown in the way of the editors, and could not be overlooked without leaving some of the more candid and capable judges of Milton's prose-writings to suffer by the illiberal reflections of cere tain (perhaps well-meaning) men, who may be led to think that truth, judgment, and impartiality are small matters, when contrafted with what Dr. Johnson's admirers have thought fit to call, an inimitable elegance of file and compofition. Our countrymen are certainly interested, that wrong representations of the character of fo capital a writer as John Milton should be corrected, and properly censured ; and therefore as the work from which the following Remarks are extracted may fall into the hands of very few of the nomerous readers of Dr. Johnson's Prefaces, we hope the public will approve of our republishing these ttrictures on the Doctor's account of Milton, in a form to which may be had an easier and more general access.'
The acrimony with which Dr. Jobnfon has permitted himself to treat the character of Milton is well known. Those parts of his Narrative which seemed to be more particularly ob
Memoirs of Thomas Hollis, Esq; 2 vol. 410, of which an account will speedily be given in this Review.
noxious were pointed out, so far at least as the nature of our wask, and the limits affigned to each individual article would admit of, in the Review for August 1779. The present Writer takes a-larger field. He enters into a minute and ample vindication of the injured bard; not without recrimination on his learned historian. If, perhaps, be may be less acrimonious, bis Remarks are not without a due portion of asperity: he has certainly given his antagoniít a Rowland for his Oliver.
He enters into the details of Dr. Johofon's particular malevolence to Milton, from its firft appearance to its consummation in the history of his life. ' It first appeared, 'as this Writer tells us, in his connexion with Lauder, the mean calumniator of Allton's poetical fame. What share Dr. Johnson had in that dirty bukness, will at this distance of time be perhaps difficult to difcorer, Charity, however, inclines us to hope that his share was not to great as this Remarker seems willing to attribute
That part of Milton's conduct, on which Dr. Johnson lays considerable ftress, and which some of his warmest admirers have thought reprehenfible, is his attachment to Cromwell. What is advanced on this subject by the present Writer seems to be a reafonable justification of him.
Milan's attachment to Cromwell has been imputed to him as a blot in his charadies long before it was taken up by Dr. Johnson; who, to give bim his due, bas made the most of it in a small compass.
Milton,” says he, having tafted the honey of public employ* ment, would not return to hunger and philosophy, but, continu. "ing to exercise his office under a manifest usurpation, betrayed to “ his power that liberty which he had defended." 14. In is hardly neceffary to apprize a reader of Milton's prose-works that his ideas of furpation and public liberty were very different from those of Dr. Johoron. In the Doctor's sylem of government, public
liberty is the free grace of an hereditary monarch, and limited in - kind and degree by, his gracious will and pleafure; and coplequently to controul his arbitrary acts by the interpofition of good and wholesome laws, is a manifesi ufurpation upon his prerogative. Milton allotted to the people a considerable and important share in political governmeni, founded upon original ftipulations for the rights and privileges of free subje&s, and called the monarch who fould infringe or encroach upon these, however qualified by lineal fucceflion, a vyrant and an usurper, and freely conligned him to the vengeance of an injured people. "Upon Johnson's plan, there can be no fuch shing as public liberty. Upon Milton's, where the laws are duly executed, and the people protected in the peaceable and legal enjoyment of their lives, properties, and municipal rights and privileges, there can be no such thing as ufurpation, in whöfe hands loerer. the executive power should be lodged. From this doctrine Milon never swerved ; and in that noble a postrophe to Cromwell, ia his Second Defense of the People of England, he spares not to
remind him, what a wretch and á villain be would be, thoold he invade those liberties which his valour and magnanimity had reftored. If, after this, Milon's employers deviated from bij idea of their duty, be it remembered, that he was neither in their secrers, por an inftrument in their' arbitrary aâs or encroachments on the legal rights of the subject; many (perhaps the most) of which were to be justified by the necessity of the times, and the imalignant attempts of those who laboured to rellore that wicked race of defporic rulers,' the individuals of which had uniformly professed an etter enmity to the claims of a free people, and had acted accordingly, in perfect conformity to Dr Johnson's political creed. On another hand, be it observed, that in those State-letters, latinized by Milion, which remain, and in those particularly written in the name of the Pro tector Oliver, the fricteft attention is paid to the dignity and importance of the British nation, to the protection of trade, and the Proteftant religion, by spirited expoftulations with foreign powers on any infraction of former treaties, in a style of steady determination, of which there have been few examples in fubfequeat times. Acero tain sign in what eleem the British goveroment was held at that period by all the other powers of Europe. And as this was the only province in which Milton acted under that government which Dr. Johnson calls an usurpation, let his services be compared wilh those performed by Dr. Johnson for his present patrons ; and let the conititutional subject of the British empire judge which of them better deserves the appellation. of a traitor to public liberty, or have more righteously earned the honey of a penfion.
• The real ufurper is the wicked ruler over a poor people, by whatever means the power falls into his hands. And wbenever it happens that the imperium ad optimum quemque a minus boxo transfertur, the fubject is or Mould be too much interefted in the fact to contider any character of the rejected ruler but his vicious ambition, the violence and injuftice of his counsels, and the flagitious acts by which they were executed.
These petulant reflections of the Doctor on Milton, might, macy of them, eally be answered by recrimination ; we have ofeco WORdered, in running over this new narrative, that the consciousness of the historian's heart did not disable his haud for recording feveral things to the reproach of Milion, wbich rebopnd with double force on his own notorious conduct. Has he always believed that the go. vernment of the House of Hanover was less an ufurpation than that of Oliver Cromwell ? Having tafted the boney of a peotion for writing minifterial pamphlers, would be feel no segret in returning once more to hunger and philosophy!
'The Doctor perhaps will tell us, that he is io po danger of farve ing, even though his penfion fhould be fuspended 20 mortow. Be it fo; and by what kind of proof will be hew that Milton bad na means of carning his bread but bis political employment!
• Milton however made the experiment, which happily Dr. Johnson has not ; and that too after the Reftoration; and refifted the icmptu. tions of court favour, and the solicitations of his wife to accept of ico" with a magnanimity which would do biæ bonour with any man be the author of the new narra:ive. : Rev. Juae, 1780.
: Miltop's reason for rejecting this offer was, that "his with was
to live and die an honest man,” Bui, says the Doctor, “If he "confidered the Latin Secretary as exercising any of the powers of "government, be that had shared authority, either with the parlia.
ment or Cromwell, might have for born to talk very loudly of his " honesty," P. 91:
The venom of this remark happens to be too weak to do any mischief. Cafuifts of all feets and complexions have done juftice to the bonefly of men who adhered to their principles and persuasions, though they might judge wrong in the choice of them.
• He goes on, “ And if he thought the office minišerial only, he
certainly might have honestly retained it under the King." Not quite so certainly. But Milton's and Dr. Johnson's notions of bomely are so widely different, that we cannot admit the Doctor to esimate Milion's honctly by his own scale. In the end, however, he queitions the fact,
“ But this tale has too little evidence to deferve a diiquisition : large offers and sturdy rejections are among the most common 10pics of falsehood.", That is, in plain onaffected English, “No man could ever rejed a large cffer, though on conditions ever so
repugnant to his profesed principles.” But the Doctor is but an individual, and his experience from his own particular case will not be admitted as the fandard of other men's integrity; and yet this is the only reason he gives for rejecting this anecdote, so honourable to Milton.
• Milton's attachment to Cromwell was evidently foonded on different considerations. The narrowness of the Prefbyterians in their notions of Liberty, and particularly of religious liberty, had appeared upon many occasions. He more than hints, in his Areopa. gitica, their inclination to govern by the episcopal and opprefive maxims of the Stuart race. He saw and abhorred their attempts to thackle the faith of Protestants and Christians in the bonds of fyftems, confessions, tests, and subscriptions.'
The lamentable influence of party prejudices cannot more forcibly be illustrated than by comparing, with our ingenious Author, the different treatment that Dryden and Milton have experienced at the hands of the same Biographer.
i The Doctor, in speculating upon Dryden's perversion to Popery, and (as one of the Reviewers of his prefaces expresses ii) “ attempt ing ** ingeniously to extendate it,” concludes that, Enquiries into the beart are not for man,
• No truly, not when Dryden's apostacy is to be extenuated; but when poor Milton's fins are to be ingeniously aggravated, no Spanish Inquisitor more tharp-lighted to discern the devil playing his pranks in ihe heart of the poor culprit, or more ready to conduct him to an auto de ige.
• In Dryden's case, the prefumption is, that " a comprehensive is " likewise an elevared fout, and that whoever is wise, is likewise
honeft." But if it is natural to hope this, why not hope it of Milton as well as of Dryden. Where is the competent impartial judge who will admit, that Milton's foul was less comprehenlive or less elevated than the soul of Dryden?
• Bat what occafion for all this grimace in accounting for Dryden's transition from what he did or did not profess to the church of Rome? Dr. Johnson ought to have been satisfied with Dryden's own account in his tale of the Hind and the Pancher; the father, as he there seems to have verified by experience Dr. Johnson's maxim, that “ he that is of no church can have no religion." He frankly confesses, that having no steady principle of religion in his youth, or even in bis maturer years, he finally set up his rest in the charch of Rome : and indeed if the essentials of religion consist in the trappings of a church, he could not have made a better choice *.
Dryden was reprehensible even to infamy for his own vices, and the licentious encouragement he gave in his writings to those of others. But he wrote an anti-republican poem called Abfalom and Acbitophel; and Dr. Johnson, a man of high pretensions to moral character, calls him a wise and an honest man. Milton was a of the chaltest manners, both in his conversation and his writings. But he wrote Iconoclastes, and in the fame Dr. Johnson's efteem was both a knave and a tool.
• The church of Rome substitutes orthodoxy for every virtue under heaven. And loyaliy among the high Royalists canonizes every rafcal and profligate with a full and plenary ablolacion, Thefe are, it is true, amongst the vileft and meaneft partialities of the despotic
" ments, should blut, and be humbled, to be found in the list of such
O merit in other departmiserables.'
From the specimens exhibited it will be no difficult matter to form an idea of the nature and spirit of the performance under confideration. The Writer seems actuated by a generous cancern for the reputation of an injured individual, and; by a truly patriotic regard for the general liberties of mankind; which he thinks, and perhaps not without reason, have been insidioufly attacked by a marked battery directed at the moral character of Milton, one of Liberty's most zealous and respectable advocates,
These Remarks, so far as they immediately relate to Dr. Johnson, are closed with a Dissertation on his motives for composing the speech delivered by the late unhappy Dr. Dodd, when he was about to hear the sentence of the law pronounced upon him, in consequence of an indictment for forgery. Though this, certainly, is a subject which will naturally excite much curious speculation, yet its introduction here does not appear süf. ficiently authorized by propriety, as it seems to bear not the remotest relation to the point in debate.
* Bp. Burnet speaking of D:yden's conversion, says. " If his grace and his wit improve both proportionably, we shall hardly find that he hath gained much by the change he has made from having no religion to chuse one of the wordt." Reply ng Mi, Varillas, p. 139.
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