Imágenes de páginas

Paradise Lost was connected with a remark, which, on its admission, would at once lay the lofty edifice of praise in the dust, and by proving that this glorious epic was destitute of the first great requisite of poetry, the power of pleasing, would demonstrate it, with all its imputed excellences, to be an indifferent poem:-let us recollect all this, and then let the most candid among us seriously deterinine whether the critic be superior to the suspicion of wishing for an opportunity to blast the laurels of Milton. In Johnson's defence it is idle to adduce the elevated terms in which he has occasionally mentioned our epic bard: Lauder himself has extolled him with panegyric equally lofty;" and the result of

i If we are desirous of positive and precise testimony respecting the existence, at the period in question, of malevolence to the fame of Milton in the breast of Johnson, we have only to turn to the 276th page of Sir John Hawkins's life of this author. " While the book” [Lauder's Essay) was in the press, the proof sheets," says this biographer, “ were submitted to the inspection of our club by a member of it who had an interest in its publication, and I could all along perceive that Johnson seemed to approve not only of the design, but of the argument, and seemed to exult in a persuasion that the reputation of Milton was likely to suffer by this discovery.”—To this assertion made by a person immediately conversant with the fact, and not interested to misrepresent it-by a person, who was the intimate of Johnson throughout his life, and was appointed one of his executors by his will, nothing has been or can be opiposed but the futile evidence of that praise with which Johnson, as a critic, has occasionally spoken of the poetry of Milton.

* For the proof of this assertion I will not ransack Lauder's

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

strong censure, or even of cold praise, would have been more injurious to the critic than to the poet. The Paradise Lost was unquestionably a noble poem: but if it could have been shown to be the produce of theft, the first papers in the Gentleman's Magazine, where it might be found, but will transcribe his epitaph on the author of Paradise Lost.

Virorum maximus, JOHANNES MILTONUS, Poeta celeberrimus ;- non Angliæ modo, soli natalis, verùm generis humani ornamentum:- cujus eximius liber, Anglicanis versibus conscriptus, vulgo PARADISUS Amissus, immortalis illud ingenii monumentum, cum ipsâ ferè æternitate perennaturum est opus ! Hujus memoriam Angiorum primus, post tantum, proh dolor! ab tanti excessu poetæ intervallum, statua eleganti in loco cele. berrimo, coenobio Westmonasteriensi, positâ, regum, principum, antistitum, illustriumque Angliæ virorum cæmeterio, vir ornatissimus Gulielmus Benson prosecutus est.

The remarks, which Lauder makes on this evidence of his veneration for Milton, are worthy also of our notice. A character as high and honourable as ever was bestowed upon him by the most sanguine of his admirers! and as this was my cool and sincere opinion of that wonderful man formerly, so I declare it to be the same still, and ever will be, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, occasioned merely by passion and resentment; which appear however by the “ Postscript" to the Essay, to be so far from extending to the posterity of Milton, that I recommend his only remaining descendant in the warmest terms to the public.”

Here are panegyric and benevolence, of which Milton and his granddaughter are the objects, of as high and ardent a nature as any which have been expressed by Dr. Johnson. In diction and imagery the Scotch schoolmaster is evidently inferior to the English critic and moralist:- but in admiration of the deceased poet, and in charity toward the survivor of the poet's family, the notorious Lauder refuses to be outdone by the celebrated Johnson.

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

fabricator's proud name would have been annihilated, and the purposes of his enemy accomplished. The hostile attempt was certainly made; and its failure could not have been witnessed without painful disappointment by the writer of that Life of Milton, which was unhappily sent into the world under the sanction of the booksellers of London. Of the radical and pervading malignity of this work no doubt can for an instant be entertained by any dispassionate reader, and it may justly be questioned whether, as the writer of the Rambler and of the Life of Milton, Dr. Johnson has evinced more friendliness or more enmity to the cause of truth, has effected more good or offered more injury to the great interests of his species. By a party among my contemporaries I am aware that this doubt will be strongly, and perhaps acrimoniously resented: but, if a page like mine may hope to survive to a distant age, I feel assured that, by the judgment of a generation remote from the prejudices of the present, I shall be absolved from the charge of wounding truth to gratify passion, even though I should assert that the delinquency of the libellous biographer is ill compensated by the merit of the monotonous and heavygaited morality of the gloomy and dogmatic essayist.

POSTSCRIPT. I had pleased myself with the hope of producing this edition of my Life of Milton in a state of complete typographical correctness: but, with the general fate of human hopes, mine has been disappointed. Having been called into a distant part of the island, while the sheets were passing through the press, some of my corrected proofs never came to the Printer's hand; and a little inaccuracy has been the inevitable consequence of their miscarriage. A few trifling errors have also escaped my own eye, which is not always minutely correct when exercised in the literal revision of my own compositions; and I have not been in a situation to avail myself of the assistance of a friend. In p. 60 in the first line of the note a superfluous,“ a, has accidentally fallen between, “ nocenda," and " numina." In 1. 5 from the bottom of . p. 62, “ Calorum,” is printed for “ Carolum.” In the note at p. 114, the scholar will find “ évéo tabe" divided into two words. In l. 15 of

p. 121 instead of, “ in only,” it should be, as it was in the first edition, only in.” Of page 216 the last word in the note) should be " three" and not two.” In the 15th l. of p. 219 “ Concialitory” is printed for “ Con

ciliatory.” In 1. 5 from the bottom of p. 367 augustum” is substituted for “

angustum.” In the note of p. 407, “ Du Tarn should properly be the Tarn.” At p. 428 in the note, the last word of Sarrau's first distich is printed, êoles, instead of “ coles:" and in the line preceding this distich, “ least,” ought to be “most.” I will beg that for, “ reciprocality,” in the 511th page, may be read “ reciprocation :” and in the note of p. 535, that la Harpe may be written instead of “ Le Harpe." If the learned reader should observe that the nice accentuation of the Greek is not always very punctiliously executed, he is desired to forgive it, from the almost insuperable difficulty of having so delicate a business accurately conducted without the immediate and constant superintendence of the author's eye in the very office of the Printer. I must now acknowledge and correct errors in which the Printer has no participation. In the last line of page 149, for, “ without any other reference than to that of metre” I would write, “ with reference only to metre:” and in the 22d line of page 154, I am desirous of substituting, “ the sisters," for, “ the fathers of the Druid line,” as a change which is required by the conclusion of the paragraph. Chorea is a ring or set of dancers without any res

« AnteriorContinuar »