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We do not know how far our readers may share the feeling, but we confess to an occasional sense of irritation at that necessity which we seem to be under, in these latter times, of perpetually naming and referring to some five or six dead men, the acknowledged glories of the literature of the past. Shakspeare, Milton, Dante, Burns, Goethe–shall we never be able to pass an agreeable intellectual evening without calling one or another of these names to our aid, never be able to indite a paper of thirty pages without requiring the printer to put one or another of these names more than once into type 2 Are subjects for thought and talk so scarce round about us that we must for ever weave our best conversations out of the matter of these suggestive memories; or are we such timid sailors on the great sea of innumerable things as not to know how to quit the neighborhood of these familiar bays and shores? The evil, if it be such, daily increases. Not only do we never have done with naming and alluding to those well-remembered few ; but we shall never have done, it would appear, with

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writing and reading express commentations on their lives and works. Perpetually, on opening a new number of a Review, we find a new essay on Goethe or on Byron; perpetually, on glancing at a new sheet of advertisements, we see announced some new volume of literary portraits, done by a cisatlantic or a transatlantic pen. Is this but a passing phase of our literary activity, a fashion recommended by the example of one or two eminent contemporary writers that one could name, and destined to run its course and cease? We do not know; we only note the fact, and confess again that the observation of it sometimes tempts us to the wish that there could be a decree of society forbidding, for some time, all reference to Shakspeare and his companions, and compelling us, both in our conversation and in our authorship, back to that miscellaneous world of substances, passions, and events, whence Shakspeare himself, the greatest niggard known of allusions to preceding writers, drew the materials for a not deficient literature. That we do not exaggerate this view of the case, ought to be evident from the fact that, in the present paper, we deliberately perpe28

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trate an offence against it. Milton is one of the writers that have been most frequently, most variously, and, we may add, most splendidly written about; and yet here we venture upon a new essay on Milton. It is needless, therefore, to say that we have sympathies also with the other view of the case, and that we hold that there is something right, beautiful, and full of use in this practice of visiting again and again the same ancestral tombs, this tendency of writer after writer to scan for himself those characters which tradition has bound him to revere, and to attempt such new portraitures of them as may present, if not the whole men, at least some of their lineaments, more vividly to the world. How we can reconcile this belief with the sentiment before expressed, we shall not stop to inquire. The Duke of Wellington's mode of proceeding in such cases is as good as any that we know. When he wishes to reconcile two apparently contradictory propositions, he simply asserts them both as strongly as he can. Content to adopt this plan, we shall leave the matter in question to the consideration of our readers, and go on, without farther preface, to the task which we have apointed to ourselves, of saying something about Milton and his writings which, whether new or not, may be appropriate to the temper and circumstances of these grave times. Never surely did a youth leave the academic halls of England more full of fair promise than Milton, when, at the age of twenty-three, he quitted Cambridge to reside at his father's house amid the quiet beauties of a rural neighborhood some twenty miles distant from London. Fair in person, with a clear fresh complexion, light brown hair which parted in the middle and fell in curls to his shoulders, clear gray eyes, and a well-knit frame of moderate proportions—there could not have been found a finer picture of pure and ingenuous English youth. And that health and beauty which distinguished his outward appearance, and the effect of which was increased by a voice surpassingly sweet and musical, indicated with perfect truth the qualities of the mind within. Seriousness, studiousness, fondness for flowers and music, fondness also for manly exercises in the open air, courage and resolution of character, combined with the most maiden purity and innocence of life—these were the traits conspicuous in Milton in his early years. Of his accomplishments it is hardly necessary to take particular note. Whatever of learning, of science, or of discipline in logic or philosophy the University at that time could give, he had

duly and in the largest measure acquired. No better Greek or Latin scholar probably had the University in that age sent forth; he was proficient in the Hebrew tongue, and in all the other customary aids to a biblical theology; and he could speak and write well in French, Italian, and Spanish. His acquaintance, obtained by independent reading, with the history and with the whole body of the literature of ancient and modern nations, was extensive and various. And, as nature had endowed him in no ordinary degree with that most exquisite of her gifts, the ear and the passion for harmony, The had studied music as an art, and had taught himself not only to sing in the society of others, but also to touch the keys for his solitary pleasure. The instruments which Milton preferred as a musician were, his biographers tell us, the organ and the bass-viol. This fact seems to us to be not without its significance. Were we to define in one word our impres: sion of the prevailing tone, the characteristic mood and disposition of Milton's mind, even in his early youth, we should say that it consisted in a deep and habitual seriousness, We use the word in none of those special and restricted senses that are sometimes given to it. We do not mean that Milton, at the period of his early youth with which we are now concerned, was, or accounted himself as being, a confessed member of that noble party of English Puritans with which he afterwards became allied, and to which he rendered such vast services. True, he him: self tells us, in his account of his education, that “care had ever been had of him, with his earliest capacity, not to be negligently trained in the precepts of the Christian reli gion;” and in the fact that his first tutor, selected for him by his father, was one “Thomas Young, a Puritan of Essex who cut his hair short,” there is enough to proo that the formation of his character in youth was aided expressly and purposely by Puri. tanical influences. But Milton, if ever, in a denominational sense, he could be called " Puritan, (he always wore his hair long, and in other respects did not conform to the usages of the Puritan party,) could hardly, with any propriety, be designated as a Pro tan in this sense, at the time when he left college. There is evidence that at this time he had not given so much attention, on. his own personal account, to matters of religious doctrine, as he afterwards bestowed. Thai seriousness of which we speak was, ther: fore, rather a constitutional seriousness, rath fied and nourished by rational reflection,

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than the assumed temper of a sect. “A certain reservedness of natural disposition, and a moral discipline learnt out of the noblest philosophy”—such, in Milton's own words, were the causes which, apart from his Christian training, would have always kept him, as he believed, above the vices that debase youth. And herein the example of Milton contradicts much that is commonly advanced by way of a theory of the poetical character. Poets and artists generally, it is held, are and ought to be distinguished by a predominance of sensibility over principle, an excess of what Coleridge called the spiritual over what he called the moral part of man. A nature built on quicksands, an organization of nerve languid or tempestuous with occasion, a soul falling and soaring, now subject to ecstasies and now to remorses— such, it is supposed, and on no small induction of actual instances, is the appropriate constitution of the poet. Mobility, absolute and entire destitution of principle properly so called, capacity for varying the mood indefinitely rather than for retaining and keeping up one moral gesture or resolution through all moods—this, say the theorists, is the essential thing in the structure of the artist. Against the truth of this, however, as a maxim of universal application, the character of Milton, as well as that of Wordsworth after him, is a remarkable protest. Were it possible to place before the theorists all the materials which exist for judging of Milton's personal disposition as a young man, without exhibiting to them at the same time the actual and early proofs of his poetical genius, their conclusion, were they true to their theory, would necessarily be, that the basis of his nature was too solid and immovable, the platform of personal aims and aspirations over which his thoughts moved and had footing too fixed and firm, to permit that he should have been a poet. Nay, whosoever, even appreciating Milton as a poet, shall come to the investigation of his writings, armed with that preconception of the poetical character which is sure to be derived from an intimacy with the character of Shakspeare, will hardly escape some feeling of the same kind. Seriousness, we repeat, a solemn and even austere demeanor of mind, was the characteristic of Milton even in his youth. And the outward manifestation of this was a life of pure and devout observance. This is a point that ought not to be avoided or dismissed in mere general language; for he who does not lay stress on this, knows not and loves not Milton. Ac

cept, then, by way of more particular statement, his own remarkable words in justifying himself against an inuendo of one of his adversaries in later life, reflecting on the tenor of his juvenile pursuits and behavior. “A certain niceness of nature,” he says, “an honest haughtiness and self-esteem either of what I was, or what I might be, (which let envy call pride,) and lastly that modesty whereof, though not in the title-page, yet here I may be excused to make some beseeming profession; all these, uniting the supply of their natural aid together, kept me still above those low descents of mind, beneath which he must deject and plunge himself that can agree to saleable and unlawful prostitutions.” Fancy, ye to whom the moral frailty of genius is a consolation, or to whom the association of virtue with youth and Cambridge is a jest—fancy Milton, as this passage from his own pen describes him at the age of twenty-three, returning to his father's house from the University, full of its accomplishments and its honors, an auburnhaired youth beautiful as the Apollo of a northern clime, and that beautiful body the temple of a soul pure and unsoiled! Truly, a son for a mother to take to her arms with joy and pride! Connected with this austerity of character, discernible in Milton even in his youth, may be noted also, as indeed it is noted in the passage just cited, a haughty yet modest self-esteem, and consciousness of his own powers. Throughout all Milton's works there may be discerned a vein of this noble egotism, this unbashful self-assertion. Frequently, in arguing with an opponent, or in setting forth his own views on any subject of discussion, he passes, by a very slight topical connection, into an account of himself, his education, his designs, and his relations to the matter in question; and this sometimes so elaborately and at such length, that the impression is as if he said to his readers, Besides all my other arguments, take this also as the chief and conclusive argument, that it is I, a man of such and such antecedents, and with such and such powers to perform far higher work than you see me now engaged in, who affirm and maintain this. In his later years Milton evidently believed himself to be, if not the greatest man in England, at least the greatest writer, and one whose egomet diri was entitled to as much force in the intellectual Commonwealth as the decree of a civil magistrate is invested with in the order of civil life. All that he said or wrote was backed in his own consciousness by a sense of the independent importance of the fact, that it was he, Milton, who said or wrote it; and often, after arguing a point for some time on a footing of ostensible equality with his readers, he seems suddenly to stop, retire to the vantageground of his own, thoughts, and bid his readers follow him thither, if they would see the whole of that authority which his words had failed to express. Such, we say, is Milton's habit in his later writings; in his early life, of course, the feeling which it shows existed rather as an undefined consciousness of superior power, a tendency silently and with satisfaction to compare his own intellectual measure with that of others, a resolute ambition to be and to do something great. And what was that special mode of activity to which Milton, still in the bloom and seed-time of his years, had chosen to dedicate the powers of which he was so conscious? He had been destined by his parents for the Church; but this opening into life he had definitively and deliberately abandoned. With equal decision he renounced the profession of the law; and it does not seem to have been long after the conclusion of his career at the University, when he renounced the prospects of professional life altogether. His reasons for this, which are to be gathered from various passages of his writings, seem to have all resolved themselves into a jealous concern for his own absolute intellectual freedom. He had determined, as he says, “to lay up, as the best treasure and solace of a good old age, the honest liberty of free speech from his youth :'' and neither the Church nor the Bar of England, at the time when he formed that resolution, was a place where he could hope to keep it. For a man so situated, the alternative, then as now, was the practice or profession of literature. To this, therefore, as soon as he was able to come to a decision on the subject, Milton had implicitly, if not avowedly, dedicated himself. To become a great writer, and, above all, a great poet; to teach the English language a new strain and modulation; to elaborate and surrender over to the English nation works that would make it more potent and wise in the age that was passing, and more memorable and lordly in the ages to come—such was the form which Milton's ambition had assumed when, laying aside his student's garb, he went to reside under his father's roof. , Nor was this merely a choice of necessity, the reluctant determination of a young soul, “Churchouted by

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the prelates,” and disgusted with the chances of the law. Milton, in the Church, would certainly have been such an archbishop, mitred or unmitred, as England has never seen ; and the very passage of such a man across the sacred floor would have trampled into timely extinction all that has since sprung up among us as Puseyism and what not, and would have modelled the ecclesiasticism of England into a shape that the world might have gazed at, with no truant glance backward to the splendors of the Seven Hills, And, doubtless, even amid the traditions of the law, such a man would have performed the feats of a Samson, albeit of a Samson in chains. An inward prompting, therefore, a love secretly plighted to the Muse, and a sweet comfort and delight in her sole society, which no other allurement, whether of profit or pastime, could equal or diminish-this, less formally perhaps, but as really as care for his intellectual liberty, or distaste for the established professions of his time, deter mined Milton's early resolution as to his future way of life. On this point it will be best to quote his own words. “After I had." he says, “for my first years, by the ceaseless diligence and care of my father, (whom God recompense () been exercised to the tongues and some sciences, as my age would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers both at home and at the schools, it was found that, whether aught was imposed upon me by them that had the overlooking, or betaken to of mine own choice, in English or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly this latter, the style, by certain vital signs it had, was likely to live.” The meaning of which sell. tence, to a biographer of Milton, is, that Mil. ton, before his three-and-twentieth year, knew himself to be a poet. He knew this, he says, by “certain viol signs,” discernible in what he had already written. What were these “vital signs, these proofs indubitable to Milton that ho had the art and faculty of a poet? We need but refer the reader for the answer to those smaller poetical compositions of Milton, both in English and in Latin, which survive as specimens of his earliest muse. Of these some three or four which happen to be spe: cially dated—such as the Elegy on the Death of a Fair Infant, written in 1624, or in the author's seventeenth year; the well-known Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativith written in 1629, when the author was just twenty-one; and the often quoted Sonnet on Shakspeare, written not much later—moy be cited as convenient materials from which

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