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died in child-birth, as, after a year's marriage, did his second, Catharine Woodcock, of Hackney. His third, Elizabeth Minshell, survived him, and had used him well. He appears not to have been beloved; his daughters, who played 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."
“Milton, in his last days, was forced to sell his library. He drew near his end. Dr. Wrighi, going to see him, found him confined to the first floor of his small house, in a very small room, to which the visiter ascended by a staircase, carpeted, extempore, with green baize, to deaden the noise of footsteps, and to procure silence for the man who was advancing towards everlasting silence. The author of Paradise Lost,' attired in a black doublet, reclined in an elbow-chair. His head was uncovered, its silver locks fell on his shoulders, his blind but fine dark eyes sparkled amidst the paleness of his countenance.
“On the 10th of November, 1674, that God who had discoursed with him by night came to fetch him; and reunited him in Eden with the angels, amid whom he had lived, and whom he knew by their names, their offices, and their beauty.
"Milton expired so gently that no one perceived the moment when, at the age of sixty-six years (within one month), he rendered back to God one of the mightiest spirits that ever animated human clay. This temporal life, though neither long nor short, served as a foundation for life eternal. The great man had dragged on a sufficient number of days on earth to feel their weariness; but not sufficient to exhaust his genius, which remained entire, even to his latest breath.” Vol. II. pp. 99—109.
There is, as we before remarked, so little of literary criticism in this work, that our extracts have been necessarily somewhat different from what our readers may have expected. The only portion of the book in which our author has kept in view the real object of his sketches, is that in which he descants upon Paradise Lost. He enters into a description of the plan of the work, and offers his opinions at some length upon its execution. We shall therefore copy a portion of his description which gives, in our judgment, a beautiful view of the whole poem. To the author it is the most creditable section of his book.
“What can I say of 'Paradise Lost' that has not been said already ? A thousand times have its sublime traits been cited; its conversations, its combats, the fall of its angels, and that hell which
would have fled Affrighted, but strict fate had cast too deep
Her dark foundations.' "I shall chiefly dwell, therefore, upon the general composition of the work, to point out the art with which the whole is conducted.
“Satan awakes in the midst of the fiery lake (and what a waking !) He calls together the council of the punished legions, reminds his companions of their failure and disobedience, of an ancient oracle which foretold the birth of a new world, the creation of a new race, formed with a design to fill the places of the fallen angels. Dreadful idea! It is in hell that the name of man is first pronounced.
“Satan proposes to seek this unknown world, to destroy or to corrupt it. He deparis, explores hell, encounters sin and death; he induces sin to open the portals of the abyss, traverses chaos, discovers the creation, descends from the sun, and arrives on earth ; sees our first parents in Eden; is moved by their beauty, their innocence, and, by his remorseful tenderness, gives an ineffable idea of their nature and iheir happiness. God beholds Satan from heaven, and predicts the weakness of man, his utter ruin, upless some one presents himself to be his surety, and die for him. The heavenly choir stand mute with amazement. In the silence of heaven, the Son alone replies, and offers himself as a sacrifice. The victim is accepted, and man redeemed, even before he falls.
“The Almighty sends Raphael to warn our first parents of their enemy's arrival and intent. The celestial messenger relates to Adam the revolt of the angels, which took place at the moment when the Father, from the summit of the holy hill, proclaims that he has begotten the Son, and endowed him with full power. The pride and jealousy of Satan, inflamed by this declaration, excite him to combat; vanquished with his legions, he is thrown into hell
. Milton had no data for assigning a motive for Satan's rebellion; he was obliged to draw every thing from his own genius. Thus, with the art of a great master, he makes known what had befallen before the opening of the poem. Raphael then relates to Adam the work of the six days. Adam, in his turn, describes his own creation. The angel returns to heaven. Eve suffers herself to be tempted, tastes the forbidden fruit, and involves Adam in her fall.
"In the tenth book all the personages reappear; they are about to meet their fate. In the eleventh and twelfth books, Adam sees the results of his faults, in all that is to happen till the incarnation of Christ. The Son must sacrifice himself to ransom man. The Son is one of the characters of the poem. By means of a vision, he remains the last and alone on the stage, in order to fulfil, in the soliloquy of the cross, the definitive action. Consummatum est.
“Such is the work in its simplicity; the incidents and the narrations spring the one from the other. We travel through hell, chaos, heaven, earth, eternity, and time, amid blasphemies and hymns, tortures and delights; we rove through these immensities with ease, unconsciously, insensible of moving; we think not of the efforts it must have cost to bear us thus high, on eagle's wings, or to create such a universe.
“The observation touching the last appearance of the Son, shows, contrary to the opinion of certain critics, that Milton would have been wrong in suppressing the last two books. These books, considered, I know not why, as the weakest part of the poem, are, in my opinion, quite as beautiful as the others; nay, they have a human interest which the earlier ones possess not. From the greatest of poets, as he was, the author becomes the greatest of historians, without ceasing to be a poet. Michael informs our first parents that they must quit Paradise. Eve weeps; grieved at leaving her garden, she says,
Oh, flowers !
From the first opening bud, and gave ye names.' “A charming trait of character, which has been supposed to be the idea of a modern German poet, but is only one of the beauties with which the works of Milton abound. Adam, too, cumplains, but it is that
he must abandon the scenes where God had deigned to honour him with his presence. He says,
"Here I would frequent
and to my sons relate
I heard, here with him at this fountain talked.' "This idea of God, with which man is impressed throughout the Paradise Lost, is one of extraordinary sublimity. Eve, in waking to life, is occupied but with her own beauty, and sees God in man. Adam, as soon as he is created, guessing that he could not have made himself, instantly seeks and calls upon his Maker.
“ Eve remains sleeping at the foot of the hill. Michael, from its summit, shows Adam, in a vision, his whole race. Thus the Bible is unfolded. First comes the story of Cain and Abel. When Adam sees Abel fall, he exclaims to the angel,
Oh, teacher !
way I must return to native dust ?' “Observe that, in the scriptures, nothing is said of Adam after his fall; silence spreads over the nine hundred and thirty years between his sin and his death. It would seem that the human race, his hapless posterity, durst not speak of him. Even Saint Paul names him not among the patriarchs who lived by faith. The apostle commences his list with Abel. Adam passes for the chief of the dead, because in him all mankind died; and yet for nine centuries he saw his sons traveling towards the grave, of which he was the inventor, and which he had opened for them.
“After the murder of Abel, the angel shows Adam a 'lazar house,' and every different form of death; this picture is full of power, in the style of Tintoretto.
The poet says,
Adam could not but weep, Tho' not of woman born.' “A pathetic reflection, inspired by that passage in Job-'Man that is I born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.'
“The history of the giants of the mountain, who seduce the females of the plain, is marvellously told. The deluge offers another vast scene. In this eleventh book, Milton imitates Dante in the form of speechMaster,' used in the dialogue. Dante would have invited Milion as a brother to enter with him the group of great poets.
“The twelfth book is no longer a vision, but a narrative. The Tower of Babel, the call of Abraham, the advent of Christ, his incarnation, his resurrection, are replete with beauties of every kind. This book concludes with the banishment of Adam and Eve, and with lines so sad, that every body knows them by heart.
“In these last two books, the poet's melancholy is increased; he seems more than ever to feel the weight of misfortune and age. He attributes to Michael these words:
'So may'st thou live, till like ripe fruit thou drop
This is old age; but then thou must outlive
The balm of life.' "A commentator, speaking of Milton's genius, in these two last books of 'Paradise Lost,' says, 'It is the same ocean, but at the ebb of tide; the same sun, but at the moment of its setting.' 66 Be it so.
The sea appears most lovely to my eye when it permits me to wander over its deserted strand, while il retreats towards the horizon with the setting sun.” Vol. II. pp. 119–125. Upon the remainder of the book we have little to say.
As a history of the literary men of England who succeeded Milton, it is scarcely more than a parade of names. Any one ignorant of the subject would receive but little light from the perusal of what follows the sketch of Milton's writings. We shall, therefore, merely glean a few passages before quitting the work.
A comparison which he institutes between the English and French revolutions, enables him to present sketches of distinguished individuals, a species of writing in which he excels. His picture of Mirabeau is fine.
“In fact, the actors in that revolution never came up to the mark of those of the French revolution, measured as the latter was upon a much larger scale, and carried on by a nation much more closely connected with the general destinies of the world. Is it to Ludlow or Hampden that we can compare Mirabeau ? His superiors in a moral point of view, they were greatly inferior to him in genius.
“Connected by the excesses and accidents of his life with the most remarkable events, and with the existence of felons, ravishers, and adventurers, Mirabeau, the tribune of aristocracy, the deputy of democracy, partook of the characters of Gracchus and Don Juan, of Catiline and Guzman d'Alfarache, of Cardinal de Richelieu and Cardinal de Retz, of the profligate of the regency and the savage of the revolution ; there, moreover, flowed his veins the blood of the Mirabeaus; an exiled Florentine family, which retained somewhat of those armed palaces and those great factions illustrated by Dante; a French naturalized family, in which the republican spirit of Italy, during the middle age, and the feudal spirit of our own middle age, were found combined in a succession of extraordinary men.
“The ugliness of Mirabeau, laid upon a ground of beauty, for which his race was distinguished, produced an image of one of the powerful figures in the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo, the compatriot of Arrighetti. The marks left by the small-pox on the orator's face rather bore the appearance of scars occasioned by fire. Nature seemed to have moulded his head for empire or the gibbet; to have shaped his arms for the purpose of curbing a nation or carrying off a woman.
When he shook his mane, with his eyes fixed upon the mob, he suddenly checked their progress; when he raised his foot and showed his claws, they ran VOL. XXI.-NO. 41.
furiously. Amidst the most frightful riot of a sitting, I have seen him in the tribune, dark, hideous, and motionless; he reminded me of the Chaos of Milton, impassible and shapeless—the centre of his own confusion.
“Twice did I meet Mirabeau at an entertainment; on one occasion at the house of Voltaire's niece, the Marchioness de Villette ; on another, at the Palais Royal, with deputies of the opposition, with whom Chapelain had made me acquainted. Chapelain was conveyed to the scaffold on the same tumbrel with M. de Malesherbes and my own brother.
“Our discussion after dinner turned upon the subject of Mirabeau's enemies; I happened to be next to him; and, with the timidity of a young man, unknown to all, had not uttered a word. He looked me full in the face with his eyes of wickedness and genius, and, laying his broad hand upon my shoulder, said, “They will never forgive me my superiority.? Methinks I still feel the impression of that hand, as if Satan had touched me with his fiery claw.
“ Too soon for his own sake, too late for that of the court, Mirabeau sold himself to the latter, and the court bought him over. He hazarded the stake of his fame for the prospect of a pension and an embassy; Cromwell was at the point of exchanging his future prospects for a title and the order of the garter. Notwithstanding his pride, he did not set a sufficient value upon himself; the superabundance of money and of places has since raised ihe price of men's consciences.
“ Death released Mirabeau from his promises, and rescued him from dangers which he would probably have been unable to overcome: bis life would have demonstrated his incapacity for good; by his death he was left in the height of his power for evil." ' Vol. II. pp. 158–161.
A portrait of a Vendean is equally striking.
“Whilst residing in London in 1798, I once met, at the residence of the chargé d'affaires of the French princes, a crowd of dealers in counterrevolutions. There stood in the corner a man, who appeared to be from thirty to thirty-five years of age, unnoticed by alt, and whose whole attention was fixed upon an engraving of the death of General Wolfe. Struck with his appearance, I enquired who he was. One of my neighbours replied, 'He is nobody-a Vendean peasant; the bearer of a letter from his chiefs.'
“This man, who was nobody, had witnessed the death of Cathelineau, the first general of La Vendée, and a peasant like himself; of Bonchamp, in whom Bayard seemed to have revived; of Lescure, armed with a hair-cloth, which was not proof against a ball; of Elbée, shot in an armchair, his wounds preventing him from encountering death standing; of La Rochejaquelin, whose dead body was ordered by the patriots to be verified, with a view to tranquillize the convention in the midst of its victories over Europe. This man, who was nobody, had assisted at the two hundred captures and recaptures of towns, villages, and redoubts; at the seven hundred partial actions and the seventeen general engagements; he had taken part in the struggles against three hundred thousand regulars, and six or seven hundred thousand forced levies and national guards; had helped to carry off five hundred pieces of cannon, and a hundred and fifty thousand muskets; had forced his way through the infernal columns, companies of incendiaries headed by conventionalists; had found himself in the midst of the ocean of fire, which thrice rolled its waves over the woods of La Vendée ; lastly, he had witnessed the destruction of three hundred thousand Hercules of the plough, companions of his labours, and had seen a hundred square leagues of country converted into a wilderness of ashes.