Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

“ choice of words and inodes of expref.66 sion.”

Milton's answer to Salmafius was much read, and it is no disparagement to his arguments that they appeared bad to a man of Hobbes's principles, or paradoxical in Dr. Johnson's ideas *.

But, however, the Doctor thought himself obliged to account for this depravity of taste in the numerous readers of Milton's defense, which he docs in this way.:

“ Paradex,” says our Biographer,“re“ commended by spirit and elegance, “ easily gains attention; and he who told “ every man that he was equal to his. “ King, could hardly want an au1. dience " !

[blocks in formation]

The paradox then is that crcry man is equal to his King. But where has Milton told this? or is it to Dr. Johnson's misapprehenfion of Milton's state of the cafe, or to his propensity to calumniate, that we owe this false and rancorous in. finuation?

That every man is not equal, but superior, to his Tyrant, is a proposition which has been demonstrated over and over, before Milton was born; and if Milton espoused it, and made it better • understood by a notorious example, he

ferved his generation in a most material article of their social happiness. The next generation had the spirit and good fense:to profit by his doctrine; and by virtue of it drove their Tyrant into an ignominious exile.

Milton's

ne

Milton's attachment to Cromwell lias been imputed to him as a blot in his character long before it was taken up by Dr. Johnson; who, to give him his due, has made the most of it in a sınall compass.

“Milton,” says he,“ having tasted the “ honey of public employment, would “ not return to hunger and philosophy ;

but, continuing to exercise his office “ under a manifest usurpation, betrayed: "s to his power that. liberty which he had. 6 defended.”

It is hardly necessary to apprize a reader of Milton's prose-works that his ideas of ufurpation and public liberty were very different from those of Dr. Johnson. In the Doctor's system of government pubfic liberty is the free grace of an beredi

tary

G.3.

tary monarch, and limited it kind and degree, by his gracious will and pleafure; and consequently to controul his arbitrary acts by the interposition of good and wholesome laws is a manifest usurpa-tion upon his prerogative. Milton al-. lotted to the people a considerable ands important share in political government, founded upon original ftipulations for the rights and privileges of free subjects, and called the monarch who should in, fringe or encroach upon these, however qualified by lincal succeffion, a tyrant and an usurper, and freely consigned him to the vengeance of an injured peo. ple. Upon Johnson's plan, there can: be no such thing as public liberty. Upon Milton's, where the laws are duly exe

cuted,

can:

cated, and the people protected in the ; peaceable and legal enjoyment of their lives, properties, and municipal rights and privileges, there can be no such thing as usurpation, in whose hands foever the executive power should be lodged. From this doctrine Milton never swerved; and in that noble apostrophe to Cromwell, in his Second Defense of the people of England, he spares not to remind him, what a wretch and a villain he would be, should he invade those liberties which his valour and magnanimity had restored. If, after this, Milton's employers deviated from his idea of their duty, be it remembered, that he was neither in their secrets, nor an instrument in their arbitrary acts or encroach ...

G4 ments

« VorigeDoorgaan »