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In fact, he had been very handsome, and was so even in his age. The portrait of Adain is his own. His hair was admirable, his eyes of extraordinary clearness; no defect could be perceived in them; it would have been impossible to guess that he was blind. If we were not aware what party rage can do, could we believe that it would make it a crime for a man to be blind. But let us thank this abominable hate, we owe to it some exquisite lines. Milton first replies that he lost his sight in the defence of Liberty, then adds these passages, full of sublimity and tenderness.
“In the night that surrounds me, the light of the divine presence shines the more brightly for me. God beholds me with greater tenderness and compassion, because I can see nought but Him. The divine law ought not only to shield me from injury, but to render me more sacred; not on account of the loss of sight, but because I am under the shadow of the divine wings, which seem to produce this darkness in me. To this I attribute the affectionate assiduities of my friends, their soothing attentions, their kind visits, and their respectful behaviour.”
We see to what shifts he was reduced in writing by a passage in one of his Letters to Peter Heimbach.
“ That virtue of mine which you call my poli
tical virtue, and which I would rather you had called devotion to my country-patriotism, enchanting me with her captivating name, almost, if I may so say, expatriated me.
In finishing my letter, let me beg of you this favour, that, if you find some parts incorrectly written, you will impute the fault to the boy who writes for me; he is utterly ignorant of Latin, and I am obliged wretchedly enough to spell every word I dictate.”
The miseries of Milton were still more aggravated by domestic griefs. I have already said that he lost his first wife, Mary Powell; she died in child-birth, as, after a year's marriage, did his second, Catherine Woodcock, of Hackney. His third, Elizabeth Minshull, survived him, and had used him well. He appears not to have been beloved; his daughters, who play such poetical parts in his Life, deceived him, and secretly sold his books. He complains of this. Unfortunately, his character seems to have had the inflexibility of his genius. Johnson has said, with precision and truth, that Milton believed woman made only for obedience, and man for rebellion.
THE PUBLICATION OF PARADISE LOST.
MILTON approached his fifty-ninth year, when, in 1667, he thought of publishing “ Paradise Lost.”
He had shewn the manuscript, then divided into ten books, to Ellwood, a quaker, who has left to English literature the “ Sacred History,” and “ the Davideid.” The manuscript of “ Paradise Lost” was not in the hand-writing of the author. Milton had not the means of paying a copyist. Some of his friends took turns to write from his dictation. The censor refused his imprimatur to this second Galileo, this discoverer of new stars. He cavilled with every line; above all, high treason appeared springing from the magnificent passage, in which the obscuring of Satan's glory is compared to an eclipse, which
with fear of change Perplexes monarchs.
But how could Dr. Tomkyns help perceiving allusions to the manners of the restored dynasty, so pointed in the lines that form part of this fine invocation to conjugal love,
Not in the bought smile
Milton still more clearly depicts the court of Charles (in that of Bacchus) whose courtiers he represents as ready to tear him piece-meal, as the Bacchantes did Orpheus, on the hills of Thrace.
But drive far off the barbarous dissonance
It is probable that the ingenious servility of the censor saved "Paradise Lost.” Tomkyns dared not recognise the king and his friends in a portrait, the strong resemblance of which struck every eye.
The intimidated booksellers were not eager to possess the manuscript of a poor author, almost unknown as a poet, suspected and unpopular as a prose-writer. At last he found one bolder than the rest, who tremblingly ventured to publish this dangerous work. The contract of sale, and the manuscript, soiled by the printer, are preserved.
In Milton's agreement with Samuel Simmons, for the copy of “ Paradise Lost,” dated 27th April, 1667; it was agreed that John Milton, gentleman, should give up to Samuel Simmons, printer, as his property for ever, for the sum of five pounds sterling, to him, Milton, present payment, all the impressions, copies, and manuscripts of a poem, entitled “Paradise Lost,” or by what other title or name the said poem might be called. A singular clause, by which it may be seen that Milton, even when his poem was completed and sold, still hesitated as to the title he would give it. Samuel Simmons engaged, in consideration of possessing “Paradise Lost,” to pay a further sum of five pounds sterling, at the end of the first impression, when he should have sold 1,300 copies of the work. He moreover pledged himself to pay, to John Milton, or his heirs, at the end of a second edition, likewise after the sale of 1,300 copies, a third sum of five pounds sterling. Subjoined to this agreement are three receipts. One dated 26th April, 1669, signed John Milton, who acknowledges having received the first two sums mentioned ; the other, signed Elizabeth Milton, widow, December