Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

than hints, in his Areopagitica, their inclination to govern by the episcopal and oppreffive maxims of the Stuart race. He saw and abhorred their attempts to Thackle the faith of Protestants and Christians in the bonds of fystems, con

feffions, tests, and subscriptions. 1 Cromwell's plan was of a more gene, rous complexion; and Milton's Sonnet *, addressed to him, was evidently a compliment founded on the expectation that he would lay the ground-work of a free tòleration in matters of religion, without which he faw (what Dr. Johnson never will see) that civil liberty can never be established upon its proper 'basis. Milton's adherence to Cromwell, therefore, was founded on the most liberal views; and while there was a prospect of realizing the idea, was certainly irreprehenfible.

* To O. CROMWELL. CROMWELL, our Chief of Men, that through a Not of war only, but distractions rude, fcrowd, (Guided by Faith and matchless Fortitude) To Peace and Truth thy glorious way hast plow'd, And fought God's battles, and his works pursu'd, 'While Darwent streams with blood of Scots imAnd Dunbar field resound thy praises loud, bru'd, And Worcester's laureat wreath. Yet much reTo conquer still.: Peace has her victories [mains No less than those of War. New foes arise, Threatning to bind our Souls in fecular chains : Help us to fave free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.

addressed

MWELL.

Dr. Johnson however, in spite of every presumption to the contrary, will have Milton's agency in political matters to have been confidered as of great importance.

-66 When

“When a treaty," says the Doctor, “ with Sweden was artfully suspended, 66.the delay was publicly imputed to Mr. “ Milton's indisposition; and the Swedish ss agent was provoked to express his « wonder, that only one man in Eng“ land could write Latin, and that man '“ blind *."

But Whitelock, who was a principal hand in negotiating this treaty, instead of pleading Milton's indisposition for the delay, only says, “the employment of “ Mr. Milton” (to translate the treaty] “ was excused to him” [the Swedish ambaffador] “ because several other servants

“ of the council, fit for that employ." ment, were then absent." Here then

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

220,

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 grows darker at bis frown; borrowing, to make his abuse inore 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

A ready and easy way to establish a free Commonwealth,He was 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 so peremptorily censures; yet the vehicle is pleasing, and the reputation he has gained by his labours of more general. H 2

urility

« VorigeDoorgaan »