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thetic scene in Paradise Lost,* in which Eve addresseth herself to Adam for pardon and peace. At the intercession of his friends, who were present. after a short reluctance, he generously sacrificed all his resentment to her tears:
-Soon his heart relented
Tow'ards her, his life so late and sole delight,
And after this re-union, so far was he from retaining any unkind memory of the provocations which he had received from her ill conduct, that when the king's cause was entirely suppressed, and her father had been active in his loyalty, was exposed to sequestration, Milion received both him and his family to protection, and free entertainment, in his own house, till their affairs were accommodated by his interest in the victorious faction.
A commission to constitute him Adjutant General to Sir Wiliam Waller was promised, but soon superseded, by Waller's being iaid aside, when his masters thought it proper to new-model their army. However, the keenness of his pen had so effectually recommended him to Cromwell's esteem, that when he took the reins of government into his own hand, he advanced him to be Latin Secretary, both to himself and the Parliament; the former of these preferments he enjoyed both under the usurper and his son, the other until King Charles II. was restored. For some time he had an apartment for his family at Whitehall: but his health requiring a freer accession to air, he was obliged to remove from thence to lodgings which opened into St. James's Park. Not long after his settlement there his wife died in child bed, and much about the time of her death, a gutta serena, which had for several years been gradually increasing, totally extinguished his sight. In this melancholy condition, he was easily prevailed with to think of taking another wife, who ⚫ was Catharine the daughter of Captain Woodcock, of
Hackney; and she too, in less than a year after their marriage, died in the same unfortunate manner as the former had done; and in his twenty-third sonnet he does honour to her memory.
Being a second time a widow he employed his friend Dr. Paget to make choice of a third consort, on whose recommendation he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Mr. Minshul, a Cheshire gentleman, by whom he had no issue. Three daughters, by his first wife, were then living ; the two elder of whom are said to have been very serviceable to him in his studies: for having been instructed to pronounce not only the modern, but also the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, they read in their respective originals, whatever authors he wanted to consult, though they understood none but their mother-tongue.
We come now to take a survey of him in that point of view, in which he will be looked upon by all succeeding ages with equal delight and admiration. An interval of about twenty years had elapsed since he wrote the mask of Comus, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas, all in such an exquisite strain, that though he had left no other monuments of his genius behind him, his name had been immortal; but neither the infirmities of age and constitu-" tion, nor the vicissitudes of fortune, could depress the vigour of his mind, or divert it from executing a design he had long conceived of writing an heroic poem.* The fall of man was a subject that he had some years before fixed on for a tragedy, which he intended to form by the modcls of antiquity; and some, not without probability, say, the play opened with that speech in the fourth book of Paradise Lost, 1. 32, which is addressed by Satan to the sun.. Were it material, I believe I could produce other passages, which more plainly appear to have been originally intended for the scene: but, whatever truth there may be in this report, it is certain that he did not begin to mould his subject, in the form which it bears now, before he had concluded his controversy with Salmasius,
*Paradise Lost, IX. line 26.
and More, when he had wholly lost the use of his eyes, and was forced to employ, in the office of an amanuensis, any friend who accidentally paid him a visit. Yet, under all these discouragements, and various interruptions, in the year 1669 he published his Paradise Lost, the noblest poem (next to those of Homer and Virgil) that ever the wit of man produced in any age or nation. Need I mention any other evidence of its inestimable worth, than that the finest geniuses who have succeeded him, have ever esteemed it a merit to relish and illustrate its beauties?
And now perhaps it may pass for a fiction, what with great veracity I affirm to be fact, that Milton, after having with much difficulty prevailed to have this divine poem licensed for the press, could sell the copy for no more than fifteen pounds; the payment of which valuable consideration depended upon the sale of three numerous impressions. So unreasonable may personal prejudice affect the most excellent performances!
About two years after, he published Paradise Regain'd; bat, Oh! what a falling off was there !—of which I will say no more, than that there is scarcely a a more remarkable instance of the frailty of human reason than our author gave, in preferring this poem to Páradise Lost.
And thus having attended him to the sixty-sixth year of his age, as closely as such imperfect lights as men of letters and retirement usually leave to guide our enquiry would allow, it now only remains to be recorded, that, in the year 1674, the gout put a period to his life, at Bunhill, near London; from whence his body was conveyed to St. Gile's church, by Cripplegate, where it lies interred in the chancel; and a neat monument has lately been erected to perpetuate his memory.
In his youth he is said to have been extremely handsome; the colour of his hair was a light brown, the sym metry of his features exact, enlivened with an agreeable air, and a beautiful mixture of fair and ruddy. His stature (as we find it measured by himself) did not exceed
the middle-size neither too lean nor corpulent; his limbs well proportioned, nervous, and active, serviceable in all respects to his exercising the sword, in which he inuch delighted; and wanted neither skill nor courage to resent an affront from men of the most athletic constitutions. In his diet he was abstemious; not delicate in the choice of his dishes; and strong liquors of all kinds were his aversion. His deportment was erect, open, affable; his conversation easy, cheerful, instructive; his wit on all occasions at command, facetious, grave, or satirical, as the subject required. His judgment, when disengaged from religious and political speculations, was just and penetrating, his apprehension quick, his memory tenacious of what he read, his reading only not so extensive as his genius, for that was universal. And having treasured up such immense sture of science, perhaps the faculties of his soul grew more vigorous after he was deprived of sight; and his imagination (naturally sublime and enlarged by reading romances, of which he was much enamoured in his youth,) when it was wholly abstracted from material objects, was more at liberty to make such amazing ex. cursions into the ideal world, when in composing his di vine work he was tempted to range
Beyond the visible diurnal sphere.
With so many accomplishments, not to have had some faults and misfortunes to be laid in the balance with the fame and felicity of writing Paradise Lost, would have been too great a portion for humanity.
WHEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold, In slender book his vast design unfold; Messiah crown'd, God's reconcil'd decree, Rebelling Angels, the forbidden tree, Heav'n, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All! the argument Held me awhile misdoubting his intent; That he would ruin (for I saw him strong) The sacred truths to fable, and old song ; (So Samson grop'd the temple's post in spite) The world o'erwhelming to revenge his sight. Yet, as I read, soon growing less severe, I like'd his project, the success did fear; Through that wide field how he his way should find, O'er which lame faith leads understanding blind, Lest he perplex'd the things he would explain, And what was easy he should render vain. Or, if a work so infinite be spann'd, Jealous, I was that some less skilful hand (Such as disquiet always what is well, And by ill imitating would excel) Might hence presume the whole creation's day To change in scenes, and shew it in a play. Pardon me, mighty Poet, nor dispise My causeless, yet not impious surmise. But I am now convinc'd, and none will dare Within thy labours to pretend a share. Thou hast not miss'd one thought that could be fit, And all that was improper dost omit: So that no room is here for writers left, But to detect their ignorance, or theft.