and we may venture to predict that it will yet increase, till some of those great vicissitudes, to which all that is human is perpetually exposed and which all that is human must eventually experience, shall blot out our name and our language, and bury us in barbarism. But even amid the ruins of Britain, Milton will survive: Europe will preserve one portion of him; and his native strains will be cherished in the expanding bosom of the great queen of the Atlantic, when his own London may present the spectacle of Thebes, and his Thames roll a silent and solitary stream through heaps of blended desolation.

I am reminded on this occasion of a beautiful passage in the “ Essay on the dramatic character of Sir John Falstaff," written by the late Maurice Morgann, Esq. “ Yet whatever may be the neglect of some, or the censure of others, there are those who firmly believe that this wild and uncultivated * Barvarian has not obtained one half of his fame."- -When the hand of time shall have brushed off his present editors and commentators, and when the very name of Voltaire, and even the memory of the language in which he has written, shall be no more, the Apalachian mountains the banks of the Ohio and the plains of Sciola shall resound with the accents of this barbarian. In his native tongue he shall roll the genuine passions of nature: nor shall the griefs of Lear.he alleviated, or the charms and wit of Rosalind be abated by time,” p. 64.

This Essay forms a more honourable monuinent to the memory of Shakspeare than any which has been reared to him by the united labours of his commentators. The portrait, of

* Shakspeare, so called by Voltaire.

A few months before the composition of

which I have exhibited only a part, is drawn with so just so discriminating and so vivid a pencil as to be unequalled, unless it be by the celebrated delineation of the same great dra. matist by the hand of Dryden.

With the name of Maurice Morgann, who has fondled my infancy in his arms, who was the friend of my youth, who expanded the liberality of my opening heart, and first taught me to think and to judge, - with this interesting name so many sadly-pleasing recollections are associated that I cannot dismiss it without reluctance. He was my friend: but 'he was the friend also of his species. The embrace of his mind was ample; that of his benevolence was unbounded. With great rectitude of understanding, he possessed a fancy that was always creative and playful. On every subject, for on every subject he thought acutely and deeply, his ideas were original and striking. Even when he was in error he continued to be specious and to please : and he never failed of your applause, though he might sometimes of your assent. When your judgment coyly held back, your imagination yielded to his seductive addresses; and you wished him to be right when you were forced to pronounce that he was wrong. This is spoken only of those webs which his fancy perpetually spun and dipped in the rain-bow: his heart was always in the right. With a mind of too fine a texture for business, too theoretical and abstract to be executive, he discharged with honour the office of under secretary of state when the late marquis * of Lansdown was for the first time in power; and he was subsequently sent by that nobleman across the Atlantic as the intended legislator of Canada. His public and his private life were impelled by the same principles to the same object ;-by the love of liberty and virtue to the

* This able and, to decide from the consistency of his public conduct, this upright statesman died on the 7th of May 1805, and bequeathed his whig principles and virtues to his second son, Lord Henry Petty, who lately filled the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer.

his Lycidas, our author's domestic happiness

happiness of man. If his solicitous and enlightened representations had experienced attention, the temporary and the abiding evils of the American contest would not have existed; and the mother and her offspring would still have been supported and supporting with their mutual embrace. From a long intercourse with the world he acquired no suspicion, no narrowness, no hardness, no moroseness. With the simplicity and candour, he retained to the last the cheerfulness and the sensibility of childhood. The tale of distress, which he never staid to investigate, passed inimediately through his open ear into his responsive heart; and his fortune, small as his disinterestedness had suffered it to remain, was instantly communicated to relieve. His humanity comprehended the whole animated creation; and nothing could break the tenor of his temper but the spectacle of oppression or of cruelty. His failings (and the most favoured of our poor species are not without failings) were few, and untinctured with malignity. High as he was placed by nature, he was not above the littleness of vanity; and kindlily as were the elements blended in him, his manner would sometimes betray that contempt of others, which the wisest are perhaps the least prone to entertain, and which the best are the most studious to conceal. Though he courted praise, and was not nice respecting the hand which tendered it or the form in which it came, yet has he refused it in the most honourable shape, and when offered to him by the public. He has been importuned in vain to give a second edition of his Essay on Falstaff; and his repeated injunctions have impelled his execu trix to an indiscriminate destruction of his papers, some of which, in the walks of politics metaphysics and criticism, would have planted a permanent laurel on his grave.

Such were his frailties and inconsistencies, the objects only of a doubtful smile:--but his virtues and his talents made him the delight of the social, the instruction or the comfort of the solitary hour.

.. Though he had been accustomed to contemplate the awful crisis of death with more terror than belonged to his innocent

had received a shock by the death of his mother; and, with the concurrence of his father, he resolved at this time on an excursion to the continent, with a view more particularly to the classic region of Italy. He was now in his thirtieth year: his large mind was amply stored with the spoils of universal knowledge; and, from a wider conversation with the living world, his character now demanded its last accomplishment and polishthat fine softening, as it were, into life which makes the sculpture breathe, and places it among the wonders of the world. On the intimation of his design, he received a letter from the celebrated Sir Henry Wotton,' who

life or to his generally intrepid breast, he met the consummation without alarm, and expired with as much serenity as he had lived. This event happened at his house in Knightsbridge, in the seventy-seventh year of his age, on the 28th of March, 1802.

X21pe! Vale! I shall never cease to think with a sigh of the grave in which I saw your body composed, till my own shall require the same pious covering of dust, and shall solicit, with far inferior claims yet haply not altogether in vain, for the same fond charity of a tear. C.S.

n On the 3d of April, 1637, as is recorded on her monument in Horton church.

• Abeuntem vir clarissimus, Henricus Woottonus, qui ad Ve. netos orator Jacobi regis diu fuerat, et votis et præceptis, eunti peregrè sanè utilissimis eleganti epistolâ præscriptis, me amicissimè prosequutus est. Def. Sec. P. W. v. 231.-

-Wotton was a scholar and a poet, as well as a friend of poets. He wrote

had resided at Venice as ambassador from James the first and was now provost of Eton. This letter shall be inserted as evincing the reputation and consequence of Milton, while it impresses us with a favourable idea of the taste and the friendliness of its writer.


The College, April 18th, 1638.

“ It was a special favour, when you lately bestowed upon me here the first taste of your acquaintance, though no longer than to make me know, that I wanted more time to value it, and to enjoy it rightly. And in truth, if I could then have imagined your farther stay in these parts, which I understood afterward by Mr. H. I. would have been bold, in our vulgar phrase, to mend my draught, for you left me with an extreme thirst; and to have begged your conversation again, jointly with your said learned friend, at a poor meal or two, that we might have bandied together some good authors of

a tragedy called Tancredo, of which I know nothing but the name; and a few odes, which, as Mr. Warton informs me, have the merit" of some elegance. He was the friend of Donne and of Cowley.-“ Our common friend, Mr. R.” in this letter, is probably Rouse the Bod. Librarian, to whom Milton has addressed a Latin ode: and “the late Mr. R's poems,” Mr. Wartou determines to be the poems of Thomas Randolph, M. A. Fellow of Trin. Coll. Cambridge, who died March 17, 1634.

« VorigeDoorgaan »