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virulence of his own age. We have seen a new Salmasius, unimpelled by those motives which actuạted the hireling of Charles, revive in Johnson; and have beheld the virtuous and the amiable, the firm and the consistent Milton, who appears to have acted, from the opening to the close of lris life,
“ As ever in his great Taskmaster's eye,”
exhibited in the disguise of a morose and a malevolent being ;-of a man impatient himself of the social subordination, yet oppressive to those within his power; of a wretch, in short, who from pride, austerity, and prudence, was at once a rebel, a tyrant, and a sycophant. This atrocious libel has long since reflected discredit on no one but its author; and its falsehood has been so clearly demonstrated by many
and particularly by those of Blackburne and of Hayley,' that a new biographer of Milton might well be excused from honouring it with his notice. But a regard to the cause of morals, and the best interests of man, seems to justify that indignation, which would brand, again and again,
• Francis Blackburne, Archdeacon of Cleveland, author of the Confessional. He published, without bis name, in 1790, some very able and acute remarks on Johnson's Life of Milton,
Hayley's Life of Milton.'
the hand lifted in violation of the illustrious dead. The dead, indeed, are at rest from their labours, and, far from the reach of human malice, are in possession of their reward; but it is discouraging to the weakness of the living, and is consequently calculated to diminish the incentives to virtuous exertion, when it is perceived that no endowments of nature, no accumulations of knowledge, no just and sacred appropriation of talents can secure the distinguished mortal from those insults of posthumous calumny, which may bring him from the eminence that he has gained, and may level him with the vulgar of the earth.
Though few, if any, immediate references will be made in the following work to the modern biographers of Milton, to many of them the author must necessarily have contracted important obligations; of some of which he is conscious, though of others he may be ignorant. He takes therefore this opportunity of making a general acknowledgment to those who have preceded him on his subject, and particularly to the accurate Dr. Birch, and the liberal Mr. Hayley. More solicitous to avoid the charge of
Toland's Life of Milton is an able and spirited work. What. cver may be the demerits of this author in some essential re
deficiency, than that of obligation, he has freely availed himself of assistance from whatever quarter it could be obtained; and if his circumstantial or imperfect detail should neither fatigue attention, nor disappoint curiosity, his end will be accomplished, and his wishes, of course, completely satisfied. His anxiety has been solely to display truth; and, not professing himself to be exempt from those prejudices, which cling to every human being, he has been studious to prevent them from disturbing the rectitude of his line, or from throwing their false tints
The lineage and ancestry of a great man are apt to engage enquiry; as we are desirous of knowing whether the virtue or the intellect, which we are contemplating, he a spring, gushing immediately from the bosom of the earth, or a reservoir, (if the allusion
be permitted,) formed and supported by a long continued stream. Of the family of Milton nothing more is known than that it was respectable and antient; long resident at
spects, his merit as the biographer of our great Poet is certainly considerable, and entitles him to an honourable station among the asserters of historic truth. The admirers of Milton are under great obligations to him.
Milton," in Oxfordshire; and possessed of property, which it lost in the wars between the rival houses of York and Lancaster. The fortune alone of a female, who had married into it, preserved it at this crisis from indigence. The first individual of the family, of whom any thing is mentioned, is John Milton, the grandfather of our author; and of him we are told nothing more than that he was under-ranger of the forest of Shotover, in Oxfordshire; that he was a zealous catholic, and that he disinherited his son, whose name was also John, our author's father, for becoming a convert to the protestant faith. To whom the family property was bequeathed from the right heir, we are not informed; but we know that the son, on this disappointment of fortune, left his station at Christ Church in Oxford, where he was prosecuting his studies, and sought the means of subsistence in London, from the profession of a scrivener; a profession which, in those days, united the two businesses of the law, and the money-agent.
That he was not an ordinary man is evident from many circumstances. Under the constant pressure of an occupation, peculi
Near Halton and Thame.
arly unfavourable to the cultivation of liberal knowledge or the elegant arts, his classical acquirements seem to have been considerable, and such was his proficiency in the science of music, that it entitled him to honourable rank among the composers of his age.
We are not informed of the precise time of his marriage; and there has even been a question respecting the maiden name and family of his wife. His grandson, Philips, who seems on this occasion to be the preferable authority, affirms that she was a Caston, of a family originally from Wales. We are assured that she was an exemplary 'woman; and was particularly distinguished by her numerous charities. From this union sprang John (our author), Christopher and Anne. Of the two latter, Christopher, applying himself to the study of the law, became a bencher of the Inner Temple, and, at a very advanced period of his life, was knighted, and raised by James the second, first to be a baron of the Exchequer, and, subsequently, one of the judges of the Common Pleas. During the
e Burney's Hist, of Music, vol. iii. p. 134, 1 Londini sum natus, genere honesto, patre viro integerrimo, matre probatissimå et eleemosynis per viciniam potissimum nota,
Def. Sec, P, W. vol. y. p. 230.