« VorigeDoorgaan »
ceeded in particular exigences. In one word, he determined to write his Life.
There are no men so excellent who have not some personal or casual defect in their bodily frame, fome aukward peculiarity in their manners or conversation, some fcandalous calumny tacked to their private history, or some of those natural failings which distinguish human from angelic beings.
On the other hand, few men are so totally abandoned and depraved as to have no remnants of grace and goodness, no intervals of sobriety, no touches of regret for departed innocence, no sense of those generous passions which animate the wise and good to praise-worthy actions, or no natural or acquired abilities to abate C4
the resentment of the reputable public, and to atone, in some degree, for their immoralities.
A man of genius, who has words and will to depress or raise such characters respectively, will consider little in his operations upon them, but the motives and occasions which call for his present interference; and the world who know the artificer will make it no wonder that the encomiaft and apologist of the profligate Richard Savage should employ his pen to satyrize and calumniate the virtuous John Milton.
- The Life of Milton,” says Dr.Johnfon, “has been already written in so “ many forms, with such minute enqui“ ry, that I might perhaps more pro
.perly have contented myself with the ( addition of a few notes to Mr. Fen“ton's elegant Abridgement; but that a “ new narrative was thought necessary to “the uniformity of this edition *.”
The uniformity of editions is commonly the bookseller's care, and the neceflity of such uniformity generally arises from the taste of the public; of which, among the number of names exhibited in the title-pages of these volumes, there must be many competent judges. It would be a pity however that a conformity to this taste should engage Dr.Johnson in writing this Life, to go beyond what would more properly have contented -himself; the least intimation from the * Life of Milton, pai.
Biographer of the impropriety of a netu narrative would, we are perfuaded, have made the undertakers of the edition contented with the Doctor's plan.
He might not indeed have found the means to introduce certain particulars, which embellish his new narrative, into his notes on Mr. Fenton's abridgement, in which there is a vein of candor that does the writer more honour than the ingenuity of his performance; not to mention the different judgment, from that of Dr. Johnson, formed by Mr. Fenton, on fome of Milton's poetical pieces.
We therefore believe this new narra. itive was calculated rather for Dr. Johnfon's private contentment than the necesfities of the edition,
A few instances will serve to shew the ;probability of this surmise.
All the writers of Milton's Life before Dr. Johnson speak of the esteem with which Milton was honoured by his fellow-members of Christ's College at Cambridge. Milton values himself upon it at a time when the under-workers of the royalists, who sent different accounts to the defenders of Salmasius abroad, might have effectually confuted him. Let us now.observe the.contrast.
66 Of the exercises which the rules of " the university required, some were ; “ published by him in his maturer .“ years. They had been undoubtedly “ applauded, for they were such as few 76 can perform ; yet there is reason to