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ungraceful ornament. The blemishes which have been removed were, for the most part, blemishes caused by unavoidable haste. The author has sometimes, like other contributors to periodical works, been under the necessity of writing at a distance from all books and from all advisers; of trusting to his memory for facts, dates, and quotations; and of sending manuscripts to the post without reading them over. What ho lids composed thus rapidly has often been as rapidly printed. His object has been that every Essay should now appear as it probably would have appeared when it was first published, if he had then been allowed an additional day or two to revise the proof-sheets. with the assistance of a good library.
CRITICAL AND HISTORICAL ESSAYS
THE EDINBURGH REVIEW,
MILTON. (AUGUST, 1825.)
in which it has been found. But what
ever the adventures of manuscript Joannis Miltoni, Angli, de Doctrinâ Chris may have been, no doubt can exist that tianâ libri duo posthumi. A Treatise on it is a genuine relic of the great poet. Christian Doctrine, compiled from the Holy Scriptures alcne. By JOHN MILTON, Mr. Sumner, who was commanded translated from the Original by Charles by his Majesty to edite and translate R. Sumner, M.A. &c. &c. 1825.
the treatise, has acquitted himself of TOWARDS the close of the year 1823, his task in a manner honourable to his Mr. Lemon, deputy keeper of the state talents and to his character. His verpapers, in the course of his researches sion is not indeed very easy or elegant; among the presses of his office, met but it is entitled to the praise of clear. with a large Latin manuscript. With ness and fidelity. His notes abound it were found corrected copies of the with interesting quotations, and have foreign despatches written by Milton the rare merit of really elucidating the while he filled the office of Secretary, text. The preface is evidently the and several papers relating to the Po- work of a sensible and candid man, firm pish Trials and the Rye-house Plot. in his own religious opinions, and toleThe whole was wrapped up in an en- rant towards those of others. velope, superscribed To Mr. Skinner, The book itself will not add much Merchant. On examination, the large to the fame of Milton. It is, like all manuscript proved to be the long lost his Latin works, well written, though Essay on the Doctrines of Christianity, not exactly in the style of the prize which, according to Wood and Toland, essays of Oxford and Cambridge. Milton finished after the Restoration, There is no elaborate imitation of and deposited with Cyriac Skinner. classical antiquity, no scrupulous purity, Skinner, it is well known, held the none of the ceremonial cleanness which same political opinions with his illus- characterises the diction of our acatrious friend. It is therefore probable, demical Pharisees. The author does as Mr. Lemon conjectures, that he not attempt to polish and brighten his may have fallen under the suspicions composition into the Ciceronian gloss of the government during that perse- and brilliancy. He does not in short cution of the Whigs which followed sacrifice sense and spirit to pedantic the dissolution of the Oxford parlia- refinements. The nature of his subject ment, and that, in consequence of a coinpelled him to use many words general seizure of his papers, this work « That would have made Quintilian stare may have been brought to the office
B VOL. I.
But he writes with as much ease and of the interest, transient as it may be, freedom as if Latin were his mother which this work has excited. The tongue ; and, where he is least happy, dexterous Capuchins never choose to his failure seems to arise from the care- preach on the life and miracles of a lessness of a native, not from the igno- saint, until they have awakened the derance of a foreigner. We may apply votional feelings of their auditors by to him what Denham with great felicity exhibiting some relic of him, a thread says of Cowley. He wears the garb, of his garment, a lock of his hair, or a but not the clothes of the ancients. drop of his blood. On the same prin
Throughout the volume are discern- ciple, we intend to take advantage of ible the traces of a powerful and inde- the late interesting discovery, and, pendent mind, emancipated from the while this memorial of a great and good influence of authority, and devoted to man is still in the hands of all, to say the search of truth. Milton professes something of his moral and intellectual to form his system from the Bible alone; qualities. Nor, we are convinced, will and his digest of scriptural texts is cer- the severest of our readers blame us tainly among the best that have ap- if, on an occasion like the present, we peared. But he is not always so happy turn for a short time from the topics in his inferences as in his citations. of the day, to commemorate, in all
Some of the heterodox doctrines love and reverence, the genius and virwhich he avows seemed to have ex- tues of John Milton, the poet, the cited considerable amazement, parti- statesman, the philosopher, the glory of cularly his Arianism, and his theory English literature, the champion and on the subject of polygamy. Yet we the martyr of English liberty. can scarcely conceive that any person It is by his poetry that Milton is best could have read the Paradise Lost with- known; and it is of his poetry that we out suspecting him of the former; nor wish first to speak. By the general do we think that any reader, acquainted suffrage of the civilised world, his place with the history of his life, ought to be has been assigned among the greatest much startled at the latter. The opi- masters of the art. His detractors, hownions which he has expressed respect- ever, though outvoted, have not been ing the nature of the Deity, the eternity silenced. There are many critics, and of matter, and the observation of the some of great name, who contrive in Sabbath, might, we think, have caused the same breath to extol the poems and more just surprise.
to decry the poet. The works they acBut we will not go into the discus- knowledge, considered in themselves, sion of these points. The book, were may be classed among the noblest proit far more orthodox or far more here- ductions of the human mind. But they tical than it is, would not much edify will not allow the author to rank with or corrupt the present generation. The those great men who, born in the inmen of our time are not to be con- fancy of civilisation, supplied, by their verted or perverted by quartos. A few own powers, the want of instruction, more days, and this essay will follow and, though destitute of models themthe Defensio Populi to the dust and selves, bequeathed to posterity models silence of the upper shelf. The name which defy imitation. Milton, it is said, of its author, and the remarkable cir- inherited what his predecessors created; cumstances attending its publication, he lived in an enlightened age ; he rewill secure to it a certain degree of ceived a finished education, and we must attention. For a month or two it will therefore, if we would form a just estioccupy a few minutes of chat in every mate of his powers,make large deductions drawing-room, and a few columns in in consideration of these advantages. every magazine; and it will then, to We venture to say, on the contrary, borrow the elegant language of the paradoxical as the remark may appear, play-bills, be withdrawn to make room that no poet has ever had to struggle for the forthcoming novelties.
with more unfavourable circumstances We wish however to avail ourselves than Milton. He doubted, as he has