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werd and Italy it is accompanied with so many
striking and fascinating beauties as to be possessed of irresistible attraction. We are not therefore surprised when we see it in the classic page displayed with so much delightful imagery, and find its vivifying efficacy extended from the vegetable and the animal races to the intellectual and imperial dynasty of man.
By man, indeed, subsisting in an absolute state of nature, if we can imagine him in such a state, its influence would, probably, be very sensibly felt; and the same genial virtue, which awakens the music of the woods and kindles the desires of the field, would excite, as it is likely, the torpid instincts and faculties of the human savage. On artificial man, however, withdrawn, as he is, from nature by institution and by habit, we do not believe that the seasons, otherwise than as they may incidentally affect the health, can be productive of the slightest consequence. With respect to his body, we are not sensible of any change which they effect, and it is inconceivable that they can come into contact with the mind through any other medium than that of his corporeal organs. The complete independence of the human intellect on the vicissitude of the seasons, and the varying aspect of the external world
with Milton soi tinguished by
under the impi
mot only as cr proceeding a ably suppose
beats of sumn
under the opp
seems to be fully established by the expe the fancy this ha rience of mankind, which has assured us that and, without t the imagination has taken her loftiest flights, Richardson
, we and has painted her most brilliant scenery in the close retirement of the writer's study when substituted light and heat have supplied the
great poet wou absence or the deficiency of the sun.
We are satisfied, therefore, that the infor spiration. Thi mation, which Toland followed, was erroneous, and we have only to consider with what limitation we shall receive the account given by Milton himself, as it is communicated to us by his biographer and kinsman, Philips.
That Milton's poetic power was subject to those inequalities of flow, to which the human fancy, in its strongest or its weakest existence, is inevitably liable, cannot for an instant be doubted. Like every man, who has ever solicited this faculty of the mind, the author of Paradise Lost would find it sometimes disobedient to his call, and sometimes preventing it. Labour would often be ineffectual to obtain what often, would be gratuitously offered to him; and his imagination, which, at one instant, would refuse a flower to his moststrenuous cultivation,would, at another, shoot up into spontaneous and abundant vegetation. In the intercourse with
city, these lur more rarely a
Of the sun he was so selo influences of speak as of a
dowed happil that, for the w and the autu poetic compo work absolute were inert, action; and
could be hap be revolved
the fancy this has been uniformly experienced; and, without the information supplied by Richardson, we should have concluded that with Milton some days would elapse undistinguished by a verse, while on others the great poet would dictate thirty or forty lines under the impulse, as it were, of instant inspiration. This must be admitted therefore not only as credible, but as certain; and, proceeding a step further, we may reasonably suppose that, during the augmented heats of summer, in the close streets and under the oppressive atmosphere of a large city, these luminous moments would occur more rarely and would glow with less efficient splendour.
Of the summer season then, during which he was so seldom sensible of the sparkling influences of fancy, he might be allowed to speak as of a period in which “his vein never flowed happily:" though we cannot believe that, for the whole interval beween the vernal and the autumnal equinox, his power of poetic composition was suspended and his work absolutely at rest. Even if his fancy were inert, his judgment would still be in action; and when no part of the finishing could be happily executed, the subject might be revolved and the plan digested. In the
, in these fell
least brilliant instant the canvass might be prepared to receive the future births of the pencil.
Richardson, who records, with affectionate reverence, the minutest circumstance, which he could discover respecting the object of his biography, relates, that the author of the Paradise Lost, when he composed and dictated in the day, was accustomed “ to sit, leaning backward, in an easy chair, with his leg flung over the elbow of it;" that he frequently composed in the night," when his unpremeditated verse would sometimes flow with a certain“ impetus and aestrum”—some
nation, his aman his daughter, was arrest the verses them to the secul
During the sy public to the mer been represented dignity of worth; tion, from the inj to the impartial magnanimity of
ascertained on a not, as we are co under this specie however, its exer the fortune of hi serve him from t
b The account given by his widow (see note p. 444) agrees with this of Richardson's, respecting the circumstance of Milton's composing in the night, and dictating a number of lines in continuity.
Observing on what is here related by Richardson, Dr. Johnson says,
~ That in this intellectual hour Milton called for his daughter to secure what came, niay be questioned; for unluckily it happens to be known that his daughters were never taught to write."
It is unfortunate for Dr. J-- that we have Aubrey's authority in opposition to his. · Aubrey, who possessed every mean of the most authentic information, expressly tells us that Milton's youngest daughter was his amanuensis. This Dr. Ja must have known: but, though truth was dear to him, the depreciation of Milton was still dearer. When he passed without notice the information given, in this instance, by Aubrey, the Doctor availed himself of the very doubtful testimony of Mrs. Fuster.
if not to gratify h 18. The appla ment he most sufficiently warn him that he had ject; and might Maudit which ca
We are ignor the celebrated ten; but the er
unaccountable impulse of poetical fury; and that, in these felicitous moments of imagination, his amanuensis, who was generally his daughter, was summoned, by the bell, to arrest the verses as they came and commit them to the security of writing.
During the supposed inattention of the or public to the merits of his poem, Milton has 29.0" been represented as reposing in the conscious
dignity of worth; and appealing without emo15! tion, from the injustice of his contemporaries
to the impartial award of posterity. The magnanimity of Milton, which had been ascertained on a variety of occasions, would not, as we are confident, have deserted him under this species of trial. In this instance, however, its exertion was not demanded; for the fortune of his work was such as to preserve him from the shock of disappointment, if not to gratify him with the splendour of success. The applauses of the few, whose judgment he most valued, seem to have been sufficiently warm and unanimous to assure him that he had fully accomplished his object; and might patiently await that louder plaudit which could not finally be withheld.
We are ignorant of the precise time when the celebrated epigram of Dryden was written; but the encomiastic verses of Andrew