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It is believed that in the last lines he alludes to the execution of the second Sir Henry Vane.
Samson, brought to the feast of Gaza for the amusement of his guests, prays to God to restore his strength, and drags down the pillars of the banquet-hall, expiring amid the noble ruins beneath which he crushes the Philistines, as Milton, in death buried his enemies in his glory.
Milton, in his last days, was forced to sell his library. He drew near his end.
Dr. Wright, going to see him, found him confined to the first floor of his small house, in a very small room, to which the visiter ascended by a staircase, carpeted, extempore, with green baize*, to deaden the noise of footsteps, and to procure silence for the man who was advancing towards everlasting silence. The author of " Paradise Lost," attired in a black doublet, reclined in an elbow-chair. His head was uncovered, its silver locks fell on his shoulders, his blind but fine dark eyes sparkled amidst the paleness of his countenance.
On the 10th of November, 1674, that God who had discoursed with him by night came to fetch him; and reunited him in Eden with the angels,
* This is evidently a mistake of the author's. The English biographers of Milton relate, on the testimony of Antony Wood, that he was found sitting in a small chamber, hung with rusty green.--- TRANSLATOR.
amid whom he had lived, and whom he knew by their names, their offices, and their beauty.
Milton expired so gently that no one perceived the moment when, at the age of sixty-six years (within one month), he rendered back to God one of the mightiest spirits that ever animated human clay. This temporal life, though neither long nor short, served as a foundation for life eternal. The great man had dragged on a sufficient number of days on earth to feel their weariness; but not sufficient to exhaust his genius, which remained entire, even to his latest breath. Bossuet, like Milton, was fifty-nine when he composed the master-piece of his eloquence; with what youthful fire does he speak of his grey hair! Thus the author of “ Paradise Lost” complains of being frozen by age, while depicting the love of Adam and Eve. The Bishop of Meaux pronounced the funeral oration of the Queen of England in 1669, the same year that Milton gave his receipt for the second five pounds paid for his poem.
These in comparable geniuses, who both, in opposite parties, drew portraits of Cromwell, bad perhaps never heard each other's names. The eagles which are seen by all the world live apart and lonely on their mountains.
Milton died just half way between the two revolutions; fourteen years after the Restoration of Charles II. and fourteen years before the coming of William III. He was buried beside his father, in the choir of St. Giles's church. Long afterwards, the curious went to see a little stone, the inscription on which was no longer visible; that stone covered the abandoned ashes of Milton; it is not known whether the name of the author of • Paradise Lost” had been marked on it; if so, it was effaced.
The poet's family was soon plunged into obscurity. Thirty years had elapsed after Milton's death, when Deborah, seeing, for the first time, a portrait of the poet, then become celebrated, exclaimed, “Oh, my father ! my dear father!"
Deborah had married Abrahain Clarke, a Spitalfields weaver. She died, aged seventy-two, in the month of August, 1727. One of his granddaughters married Thomas Foster, also a weaver. Reduced to penury, a critic proposed a subscription in her favour; he said, “ This proposal ought to be well received, as it is made by me. I may be regarded as the Zoilus of the English Homer.” Zoilus, however, had not the gratification of supporting the grandchild of Homer, by means of the abuse which he had lavished on the father of biblical epic poetry. The English theatre became the guardian of the orphan. The “ Mask of Comus” was performed for her benefit, and Johnson, though otherwise so severe cn Milton, wrote the prologue to it.
Deborah was known to Professor Ward, and to Richardson, to whom we are indebted for a life of Milton. Addison also patronised and obtained fifty guineas for her, from Queen Caroline.
A son of Deborah's, Caleb Clarke, went to India, in the beginning of the eighteenth century. We learn from Sir James Mackintosh that this grandson of Milton's was parish clerk at Madras. Caleb had three children, by his wife Mary : Abraham, Mary (who died in 1706), and Isaac. Abraham, great-grandson of Milton, married in September, 1725, Anna Clarke, and had by her a daughter, Mary, whose birth was registered at Madras, April 2nd, 1727. There disappears all trace of Milton's family. We know not what became of Abraham and Isaac, who did not die at Madras, and whose deaths, to this day, have not been found on the Registers of Calcutta or Bombay. If they had returned to England they could not have escaped the admirers and biographers of Milton. They are lost in the vast regions of India, in the cradle of the world sung by their ancestor. Perhaps some unconscious drops of his free blood now animate the breast of a slave; perhaps they flow in the veins of a priest of Buddha, or in those of some Indian shepherd, who, retired under the shade of a fig tree,
Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds
Paradise Lost, B. ix.
Nothing is more natural than the curiosity which leads us to inquire after the families of illustrious men. That of Bonaparte has not perished, for he left behind him the kings and queens made by his sword. I have elsewhere endeavoured to trace what has become of Cromwell's descendants; his name is inseparably united in glory with that of Milton.
“ It is possible,” I have said, in The Four Stuarts,' “ that a lineal heir of Oliver Cromwell's by Henry, may now be an unknown Irish peasant, perhaps a catholic, living on potatoes, among the turf bogs of Ulster; attacking Orangemen by night, and combating the atrocious laws of the Protector. It is even possible that an unknown descendant of Cromwell's may have been a Franklin or a Washington in America.”