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the narrative is absolutely new, both with respect to the importance of Milton's agency, and the reason given of the delay.
It is remarkable, that, in depreciating such of Milton's writings as thwart Dr. Johnson's political notions, the censure is always accompanied with some evil imputation upon the writer's head or his heart. He observes of his serious tracts in general, that Hell grow's darker at his frown; borrowing, to make his abuse more tasty, an expression from Milton himself. In his treatises of civil power in ecclefiaftical cases, and of the means of removing birelings out of the church, “He “ gratified his malevolence to the cler“gy.” In writing his pamphlet called,
A ready and easy way to esablish a free commonwealth,“ Hewas fantastical enough “ to think, that the nation, agitated as “ it was, might be settled by it;” and his notes upon a sermon of Dr. Griffiths, “ were foolish, and the effect of kicking 66 when he could not strike." • If controversial fame were thus to be purchased, Dr. Johnson might be esteemed the first of writers in that province, for no man ever expressed his abuse in a more inimitable style of abuse. And though he may sometimes create suspicions that he has either never read, or does not understand the writings he fo peremptorily censures; yet the vehicle is pleasing, and the reputation he has gained by his labours of more general H 2
utility precludes all examination, and he expects his scandalous chronicle should be licensed and received upon his own bare word.
“ For Milton to complain of evil “ tongues,” says the Doctor, “required “ impudence at least equal to his other “ powers; Milton, whose warmest ad“ vocates must allow, that he never “ spared any asperity of reproach, or bru“ tality of infolence.”
Milton wrote in a public contest for public liberty: and he generally in that contest was upon the defensiver The afperity of his reproaches seldom exceeded the asperity of the wickedness upon which those reproaches were bestowed.
101 ] Brutality is a word of an ill sound, and required some instances to justify the imputation of it. When these are given, we will readily join issue in the trial, whether Milton or his adversaries were the more brutal or more insolent. They who would reduce mankind to a brutal flavery, under the despotism of a lawless tyrant, forfeit all claim to the rationality of human beings; and no tongue can be called evil for giving them their proper appellation.
Neither Dr. Johnson nor we can pretend, at this distance of time, to assign the precise causes of Milton's complaint. Evil tongues are common in all times; our histories inform us, that the times of Charles II. were not good. Milton per
102] haps is not unhappy in being out of the reach of the present times; but whether he is, even in the present times, out of the reach of evil tongues, let the readers of the new narrative candidly judge.
Impudence is an attribute with which our Biographer hath qualified Milton more than once; and it seems to have fhocked the modesty of Dr. Johnson that a blemish of that kind should deformn the character of his hero.
Parcius ifta, good Doctor! Novimus et qui te- But Churchill and Kenrick are no more, and the Doctor may easily annihilate their authority by writing new narratives of what they were.
There is however, it seems, one of Milton's prose-tracts, in which the Doc