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gained.” I am not surprised to find that he was displeased when any one spoke of it “as much inferior to Paradise Lost."
This poem, if inferior to “Paradise Lost” as to sublimity and originality of conception, is certainly more than equal to it for simplicity and spirituality of statement. It is, in fact, a close exposition of the inspired account of our Lord's temptation in the wilderness, into which he had been led immediately after his baptism by John the Baptist, “in the river Jordan,” to be tried by the devil, as recorded by Matthew, in the fourth chapter of his gospel. It strikes me, that the graphic descriptions which he has given of “the false glories of the world;" and of the geography of “ all the kingdoms of the earth,” as shown to the Messiah “from the pinnacle of the temple, displays most extensive and correct worldly knowledge, and religious sentiment. It is also much better suited to convey information as to real life, than the fanciful descriptions which he has drawn, in his “ Paradise Lost,” from the heathen mythology, or the highly-wrought poetical sketches of Hell of the birth of Sin and Deaththe Garden of Eden—and the war among the Angels in Heaven. The supposed replies given by our Saviour to the flatteries of Satan, are conceived in the highest degree of nature; and the easy conquest obtained by Him, who “though in all
points tempted as we are, was yet without sin," is drawn by the hand of a master. It is impossible for any one, to whom the Saviour “is precious,” and who considers his triumph as securing the victory on behalf of his people over Satan and the world, to read this admirable work, without saying, “ Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If, in reading “Paradise Lost,” he meets with much to produce deep and painful humiliation; he will, in reading “ Paradise Regained,” meet with much to excite exalted praise and thanksgiving. “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
When, in 1670, he published his “ Paradise Regained,” he added to it his “Sampson Agonistes ;” which I conjecture, from its having no allusion to his own blindness, when that of Sampson's is so touchingly described, must have been composed before he had lost his sight. Toland calls this “ an excellent tragedy, not a ridiculous mixture of gravity and farce, according to most of the modern, but after the example of the yet unequal'd antients, as they are justly called, ÆsCHYLUS, Sophocles, and EURIPIDES.” Though this was written in the dramatic form, yet, as the author expresses in the Preface, it was not designed for dramatic representation. Indeed, the correct
performance of a few such pieces as SAMPSON AGONISTES, would soon get rid of the large audiences which nightly flock to the theatres.
There cannot be a more concentrated and juster description of Milton, considered as a poet, than in the well-known words of Dryden
“ Three Poets in three distant ages born,
Mention has been made of the withdrawment of Milton at the time of the plague, in 1666, to the country. This probably led to the report that he had died of that disease. Some of his foreign friends, by whom he was still held in high estimation, wrote to enquire if this report were true. The following letter, the last of his familiar epistles, addressed to Peter Heimbach, a learned German, will show the state of his mind, deserted as he was by nearly all his ungrateful countrymen:
“To the most accomplished Peter Heimbach,
Councillor of State to the Elector of Brandenburgh.
“That in a year so pestilential and so fatal as the present, amidst the deaths of so many
of my compatriots, you should have believed me likewise, as you write me word, in consequence too of some rumour or other, to have fallen a victim, excites in me no surprise : and if that rumour owed its currency among you, as it seems to have done, to an anxiety for my welfare, I feel flattered by it, as an instance of your friendly regard. Through the providence of God, however, who had provided me with a safe retreat in the country, I still live, and am well; and would that I could add, not incompetent to any duty which it may be my future destiny to discharge.
“ But that, after so long an interval, I should have recurred to your recollection, is highly gratifying to me; though, to judge of your eloquent embellishments of the matter, when you profess your admiration of so many different virtues united in my single person, you seem to furnish some ground for suspecting I have indeed escaped from your remembrance. From such a number of unions, in fact, I should have cause to dread a progeny too numerous, were it not admitted, that in disgrace and adversity the virtues principally increase and flourish. One of them, however, has not made me any very grateful return for her, entertainment, for she whom you call the political, (though I had rather
had termed her love of country,) after seducing me with her fine name, has nearly, if I may so express myself,
deprived me of a country. The rest, indeed, harmonize more perfectly together. Our country is wherever we can live as we ought.
“ Before I conclude, I must prevail on you to impute whatever incorrectness of orthography or of punctuation in this epistle to my young amanuensis, whose total ignorance of Latin has imposed on me the disagreeable necessity of actually dictating to him every individual letter.
“ That your deserts, as a man, consistently with the high promise with which you
my expectations in your youth, should have elevated you to so eminent a station in your sovereign's favour, gives me the most sincere pleasure; and I fervently pray and trust that you may proceed and prosper. Farewell.
“ London, August, 1666."
It appears that he had, several years before this, commenced writing his History of Britain: this he had found leisure to complete, at least so far as the Norman Conquest. It was published in 1670, but not as it came out of the hands of its honest author: “For,” says Toland,“ the licensers, those sworn officers to destroy learning, liberty, and good sense, expunged several passages of it, wherein he had exposed the superstition, pride, and cunning, of the Popish monks in the Saxon times, but which were applied, by the