Page images
PDF
EPUB

vernment, he never thinks that he can recede far enough from popery, or prelacy; but what Baudius says of Erasmus seems applicable to him, magis habuit, quod fugeret, quam quod sequeretur. He had determined rather what to condemn, than what to approve. He has not affociated himself with any denomination of Protestants : we know rather what he was not, than what he was. He was not of the church of Rome; he was not of the church of England.

To be of no church, is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by Faith and Hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind, unless it be invigorated and reimpreffed by external ordinances, by stated calls to worihip, and the fabatary influence of example. Milton, who

appears to have had full conviction of the truth of Christianity, and to have regarded the Holy Scriptures with the profoundest veneration, to have been untainted by an heretical peculiarity of opinion, and to have lived in a confirmed belief of the immediate and occasional agency of Providence, yet grew old without any visible worVOL. I

Р

ship

ship. In the distribution of his hours, there was no hour of prayer, either folitary, or with his household; omitting publick prayers, he omitted all.

Of this omission the reason has been sought, upon a supposition which ought never to be made, that men live with their own approbation, and justify their conduct to themselves. Prayer certainly was not thought superfluous by him, who represents our first parents as praying acceptably in the state of innocence, and efficaciously after their fall. That he lived without prayer can hardly be affirmed; his studies and meditations were an habitual prayer. The neglect of it in his family was probably a fault for which he condemned himself, and which he intended to correct, but that death, as too often happens, intercepted his reformation.

His political notions were those of an acrimonious and surly republican, for which it is not known that he gave any better reason thàn that a popular government was the most frugal; for the trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth. It is surely

very shallow policy, that supposes money to be the chief good; and even this, without considering that the support and expence of a Court is, for the most part, only a particular kind of traffick, by which money is circulated, without any national impoverish

ment.

}

Milton's republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an envious hatred of greatness, and a sullen desire of independence ; in petulance impatient of controul, and pride difo dainful of superiority. He hated monarchs in the state, and prelates in the church ; for he hated all whom he was required to obey. It is to be suspected, that his predominant defire was to destroy rather than establish, and that he felt not so much the love of liberty as repugnance to authority.

It has been observed, that they who most loudly clamour for liberty do not most liberally grant it. What we know of Milton's character, in domestick relations, is, that he was severe and arbitrary. His family consisted of women; and there appears in his books something like a Turkish contempt of

females,

P a

females, as subordinate and inferior beings. That his own daughters might not break the ranks, he suffered them to be depreffed by a mean and penurious education. He thought woman made only for obedience, and man only for rebellion.

Of his family some account may be expected. His sister, first married to Mr. Philips, afterwards married Mr. Agar, a friend of her first husband, who succeeded him in the Crown-office. She had by her first hufband Edward and John, the two nephews whom Milton educated; and by her second, two daughters.

His brother, Şir Christopher, had two daughters, Mary and Catherine, and a fon Thomas, who succeeded Agar in the Crownoffice, and left a daughter living in 1749 in Grosvenor-street.

Milton had children only by his fuft wife ; Anne, Mary, and Deborah. Anne, though deformed, married a master-builder, and died of her first child. Mary died smgle. Deborah married Abraham Clark, a weaver in Spital

fields,

fields, and lived seventy-six years, tó August 1727. This is the daughter of whom pubdick mention has been made. She could repeat the first lines of Homer, the Metamorphoses, and fome of Euripides, by having often read them. Yet here incredulity is ready to make a stand, i. Many repetitions are necessary to fix in the memory lines not understood ; and why should Milton wilh or want to hear them so often! Thefe lines were at the beginning of the

poeras. Of a book written in a language not understood, the beginning raisés no more attention than the end ; and as those that understand it know commonly the beginning beft, its rehearsal will seldom be necessary. It is not likely that Milton required any passage to be so much repeated as that his daughter could learn it ; nor likely that he desired the initial lines to be read at all : nor that the daughter, weary of the drudgery of pronouncing unideal sounds, would voluntarily commit them to memory.

To this gentlewoman Addison made a present, and promised fome establishment; but died soon after. Queen Caroline sent her

P 3

fifty

« PreviousContinue »