Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

" the

value of that confirmation of this tale which Mr. Warton, with dry positiveness, and Dr. Johnson, with the insult of affected concern, have pretended to discover in that expression of the last cited verses, Cæteraque, &c. “ and other things," I shall leave to the reader to determine; suggesting only that Dr. Johnson, for the purpose of concealing the weakness of his inference, has intimated a false translation of the passage, or rather has drawn a conclusion not warranted by his premises. He says that Milton declares himself

weary

of enduring threats of a rigorous master, and something else, which a temper like his cannot undergo.” Here indeed he translates with sufficient correctness; but in the following sentence this something else is changed into something more, and we are told that what was more than threat was evidently punishment!!! The story then of the corporal correction, which has been raised into so much false importance, seems to rest on too airy a foundation to be worthy of our regard.

Of its admission however, as true, we cannot perceive that any injury to the reputation of our author would be the necessary result. While the rod continued to be an

instrument of punishment at our Universities for the boys who then frequented them, its infliction would be followed by no more disgrace than it is at present in our schools; and, in either place, it must be the offence and not the chastisement which can properly be considered as the occasion of dishonour. With respect to Milton, we may be confident that no immorality could be the cause of his punishment. Religion, as we know, took early possession of his bosom; and he, who with weak eyes and an aching head could consecrate one half of the night to study, cannot be suspected of stealing the other half from repose for the purpose of confounding it with excess or of polluting it with debauch. A mind indeed, like his, exulting in the exercise of its higher powers and intent on the pursuit of knowledge, could not, without a violation of its nature, submit to licentious indulgencies. The cultivation of intellect not only diverts the attention from sensual pleasure, but inspires “a pride

* Even Mr. Warton, averse as he is from any favourable mention of Milton as a man, is forced to say on the subject of the punishment, that he will not suppose that it was for any immoral irregularity. See note on Eleg. i. v. 12. in the ed. of Milton's Juvenile Poems.

* Milton talks in the same strain: he from feeling and I from observation. “ These reasonings, together with a certain nice

which subdues its fascination; and while the spectacle of the world exhibits innumerable instances of men of genius hurrying into excessive gratification, it scarcely presents us with one, under the influence of the same unfortunate error, among the assiduous votaries of knowledge.

But if Milton, the religious and the studious Milton were not censurable for his immoral irregularities, by what means, it may be asked, could he become obnoxious to the governours of his college? We may answer without difficulty, that he might offend their prejudices by the bold avowal of his puritan opinions: or he might wound their pride by his exposure of their negligent or injudicious discharge of duty: or, lastly, he might excite their displeasure by his haughty inattention to their rules, and by his refusing perhaps to quit the banquet of his intellect or his imagination, on the page of Plato or of Homer, for the barren fatigue of translating a sermon or of throwing on his memory some ness of nature, an honest haughtiness and self-esteem either of s what I was or what I might be, (which let envy call pride), " and lastly, a becoming modesty, all 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."

Apol, for Smect. P. W. 1, 224,

cumbrous pages of scholastic divinity. He had already, as we may fairly infer, imbibed from his presbyterian tutor, Young, a dislike to the discipline of our church; and we are assured, by more than one passage in his own works, that he looked with no friendly eye either on the plan of education * observed in the University, or on the learning' and the conduct" of its members. We may conceive therefore that he might be excluded from the favour of his superiors in the college, and even be exposed to their censures without incurring the slightest loss of character, or sustaining the most trifling dimimution of our esteem. In his “Second Defence,” published twelve years after the “Apology for Smectymnuus,” he again asserts the purity of his college life; and affirms, in opposition to his adversary's calumnies, that he passed seven years at the University, pure from every blemish and in possession of the esteem of the good, till he took with applause his degree of master of arts; that he then retired to his father's house, and left behind him a memory which was cherished with affection and respect by the greater part of the fellows

* Treatise on Ed. to Hartlib. * Epist. Alex. Gillio, Jul. 2, 1628, * Apology for Smectymnuus.

of his college, who had always been assiduous in cultivating his regard."

Here therefore we must finally rest; and, throwing from our fancies every idea which can suggest our author as the object of positive punishment, (of any thing more, we mean, than of those impositions, perhaps, which are injoined for trivial omissions and trespasses against the college forms,) we must decide that his morals at the University conciliated the general esteem, while his learning and his talents excited the general applause. Of his learning and his talents indeed he had exhibited, during this period, such decisive and brilliant proofs as to place above question his uncommon acquisitions and powers, and undoubtedly to draw on him the gaze and admiration of all who knew and were capable of appreciating his possessions.

In the seven years of his academical life, however he might complain of “ the rushy marshes and the naked banks of the Cam" as unfriendly to the Muses, he discovered that

h “ Illic (Cantabrigiâ) disciplinis atq; artibus tradi solitis septennium studui; procul omni fagitio, bonis omnibus probatus tasquedum magistri, quem vocant, gradum cum laude etiam adeptus, non Italiam, quod impurus ille comminiscitur, profugi, sed sponte meâ, domum me contuli, meiq; etiam desiderium apud collegii plerosq; socios, a quibus eram haud mediocriter cultus, reliqui." Defen. secun. P. W. v. 230.

« AnteriorContinuar »