Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

stedfast, as if I were a Lynceus, I bid you, my Philaras, farewel!

Westminster, Sept. 28, 1654.

Amidst the thunder of applause, with which the “ Defence of the People of England” was gratulated, it cannot be supposed that Milton's immediate employers, the Council of State, would suffer their approbation to be silent. The donation however of a thousand pounds, with which they are said by Toland to have testified their sense of the service, is exposed to some doubt by the following passage in the author's “ Second Defence.” “ Tuque scito illas” “ opimitates” atque “ opes," quas mihi exprobras, non attigisse, neque eo nomine, quo maximè accusas, obolo factum ditiorem., “ Be assured that I have not attained to that affluence of good things, and to that wealth with which you upbraid me; and that, on that particular account, which forms the principal subject of your accusation, I have not been made one penny the richer.” But the munificence of the Council might have been posterior to the date of this writing; or the testimony of the passage may be regarded as not sufficiently explicit to be admitted against the positive

y P. W. v. 221.

assertion of Toland, coinciding with the general character of the republican government.

But Milton experienced a reward of much higher value in his estimation than any pecuniary remuneration. While his opponent's production lingered on the vender's shelves or crept languidly through a very confined circulation, his own passed rapidly through a variety of impressions, and occupied a large space in the public mind. It made its author, says Bayle, the subject of conversation over the world ; and the distinction, with which it was branded at Paris and Toulouse, in which cities it was burnt by the common hangman, contributed to increase rather than to lessen the extent of its fame.

Proportioned to the triumph of Milton were the humiliation and chagrin of his

z In a letter from Leyden, dated on the 8th of May 1651, to his friend J. Vossius, then at Stockholm, N. Heinsius says that of Milton's work five editions had been already published-that it had been translated into Dutch, and was then translating, as he heard, into French. Virulentum Miltoni librum jamdudum ad vos perlatum confido. Ejus editiones quinque jam hîc vidimus : Belgicam etiam versionem, Gallicam nunc adornari ferunt. Burm. Syll. iii. 600. The Defensio Regia, it is true, was not without its readers; and, favoured by a numerous and strong party, it passed more than once and in more than one form through the press : but, with reference to the sale and the circulation of the “ Defence of the People of England,” those of the “ Royal Defence" were certainly very languid and confined.

adversary. Elated and inflamed by habitual superiority, his arrogant and assuming spirit was ill formed to acquiesce in defeat; and in defeat by a man with whose name, till the moment of the encounter, he was probably unacquainted. The result indeed of this unfortunate contest was peculiarly afflicting to the feelings, and unpropitious to the interests of Salmasius." The numerous enemies, whom his want of moderation had excited, now exulted on his fall: his work was suppressed in Holland by an order of the States General, and Christina, the capricious sovereign of Sweden, who had previously entertained him with the most honoura able distinction and in whose court he was residing when Milton's reply reached Stockholm, now. averted her countenance and treated him with studied neglect. She had almost compelled his visit by the importunity of her invitations; and her attentions to him had been of so marked and peculiar a nature as to awaken, according to common report, the jealousies of Madame de Saumaise. On the discovery however of his inferiority as a writer to his English antagonist, the Queen is stated, in some of the newspapers of that day, to have “ cashiered him her favour as a pernicious parasite and a promoter of tyranny.” She certainly inortified him by her liberal praises of Milton's composition, and discovered in her manner a degree of coldness of which he was acutely sensible. It has been asserted that the various aflictions of his pride on this occasion proved eventually fatal to his life; and it cannot surely be regarded as improbable that the pains arising from such a cause should, in their intensity, be injurious to health and accelerate the crisis of dissolution. Let this, however, be decided according to the reader's fancy:-Salmasius retired from the court of

* May it be noticed as remarkable that in his “ Eloge funebre," which I have already mentioned, (p. 350 in the note,) the Dutch professor, Vorstius, studiously avoids every allusion to this memorable controversy? By no process of art or strain of ingenuity could it be forced to yield any materials adapted to his friendly purposes. To convert the basest mineral into gold would be as easy an exploit as to form the dirty substance of the “ Defensio Regia," and the posthumous “ Responsio" into wreath of glory for the brow of their author.

When he was indisposed, or confined to his room by the cold of the climate, the Queen would visit him in his chamber, and, locking the door, would light his fire, make his breakfast, and stay with him for some hours. This was the report of the day, and if it be true, we cannot reasonably be surprised at his wife's jealousy.

© The expressions, which I have copied, are from Nedham's " Mercurius Politicus.” But Nedbam was a great cro as Wood tells us, of Milton's, and might therefore be suspected of exaggerating the fact in question.

Stockholm in September 1651, and died at Spa in Germany, in the following September, when he had just completed a most virulent reply to sting if he could not mortally wound his successful adversary. But this last product of the mind of the great Salmasius, which was published with happy malignity in the year

of the Restoration, and dedicated by his son tó Charles II, was of a character to hurt only the memory of its author. On the devoted head of Milton, it accumulated every crime which can debase our poor nature, and every opprobrious epithet which from the most copious vocabulary the most curious and zealous ran

d Of the gout, to which he had been subject, as his biographer Clement assures us : but few complaints are more exasperated by the disorders of the mind than the gout.

The violent agitation of his spirits, in consequence of the power of Milton's reply to him, is attested by all the contemporary scholars who had access to him at the time; and the conAict of so much strong and bad passion was more than sufficient to overthrow a frame, not naturally vigorous and then enfeebled by disease. An idle story, of his ghost's appearing to terrify his widow, was in popular circulation. N. Heinsius alludes to it very jocularly, in a letter to his friend, Gronovius. De spectro res faceta est. Conjux vivum exagitarat, nunc ille conjugem mortuus. [Burm, Syil. iii. 329.]

It is certain that at the crisis of this controversy the mind of Salmasius was so strongly affected as to induce the paroxysm of a fever. The fact is ascertained in another letter from N. Heiusius to Gronovius. Interim ne nihil agat, (speaking of Salmasius, Hein. sius says,) ex febriculâ decumbit, quam illi studium illud ardens conciliasse visum, sic ultimi ferebant nuncii The latter is dated on the 4th of June, 1651. [Ibid. 270.]

« VorigeDoorgaan »