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September, 1653; and Milton believed himself, and was ready to make others believe, that he died of the Defensio Populi.* But we learn from Mr. Godwin, who has no doubt of all this, that Salmasius was 'confined to his bed during almost the whole of his residence' in Sweden:† it is certain, that he was at the Spa, for his health; at the time of his death; and, according to his biographer, Clementius, he died of that same gout, which, at last, brought Milton himself to the grave.‡
The Defence of Milton was answered by an Apologia pro Rege et Populo Anglicano, contra Johannis Polypragmatici (alias Miltoni Angli) Defensionem Destructivam Regis et Populi. It came out anonymously; but Bishop Bramhall was supposed to be the author; and, being an ignoble book, a reply appeared, in 1652, under the name of John Phillips, the younger nephew of Milton. 'Non poteram,' says he, quin hujus ineptissimi nebulonis petulantiam retundendam mihi, ne rogatus quidem, susciperem.' How 'unasked,' will appear from the account of his brother, Edward. Milton 'committed the task,' says he, 'to the youngest of his nephews; but with such exact emendations before it went to press, that it might very well pass for his.'§ A Supplement to the Apology was published in 1653; and, as the original work had been attributed to an eminent bishop, the real author was now willing to give his own signature, and ready to reclaim his own property. He turned out to be John Rowland,
* Defensio Secunda.
+ Godw. Ph. p. 15.
Vit. et Epist. Cl. Salmasii, ab Ant. Clementio. 1656. Tod. vol. i. p. 81.
Ph. ap. Godw. p. 347. Perhaps the language of John Phillips was purposely left ambiguous. We have followed the interpreta. tion of Mr. Godwin, who translates it, I could not prevail upon myself not to attempt, thus voluntarily and uninvited, to repress his insolence.' P. 18. note. It may be rendered, I could not have forborne, even had I been uninvited, to undertake the confutation of this petulant and silly antagonist."
an English divine.* The Defensio Populi was answered by other publications, both abroad and at home. Salmasius himself had partly finished a reply; and the imperfect production was afterwards given to the world by his son. Milton's Defence procured him compliments even from Athens; but it is not probable, that the praises of modern Greece could much inflate his vanity; and, in the answer to his friend's letter, on the subject, he seems to think, that the only benefit he shall derive from that quarter, will be, a specific for the disorder of his eyes.†
As every thing about Milton must be extraordinary, the loss of his eyesight has been converted into a wonder. We are told how late he bent over his books at night; what headachs he underwent; what warnings he received from the physicians; and how nobly he slighted their advice;--how much disinterestedness there was in 'preferring his duty to his eyes; and what magnanimity he displayed, in studying himself blind for the good of the human race. His enemies, on the other hand, were little inclined to give him so much praise for his diligence; and, for their own parts, they said, there was no doubt, that the loss of his sight was a judgment from heaven, for his attempt at impugning the regal doctrines of Salmasius. One of these accounts is as likely as the other. The truth seems to be, that Milton's eyes were constitutionally weak; and that the intenseness of his application only accelerated
* Todd, vol. i. p. 82, note. It was the fashion of the times to play upon names; and Rowland thus analyses that of Phillips :
Phy nota factoris Lippus malus omnibus horis,
+ Epistle to Leonard Philaras.
He seems himself to have been persuaded, that he
Lost them overply'd
an event, which must inevitably have taken place at an early period of his life. He tells us himself, that ad naturalem debilitatem occulorum accesserant et crebri capitis dolores."* The history he gives of his symptoms to Philaras, is utterly inconsistent with the supposition of a disease induced by study;† and the well known circumstance, that one eye began to fail, and became extinct, some years before the
ther, is wholly at variance, we beli with the usual course of occular disorders, arising from a cause, which must operate equally, and at once, upon both eyes. But a fact, communicated by Aubrey, seems to place the matter beyond controversy. 'His father,' we are told, read without spectacles at eighty-four;' but his mother had very weak eies, and used spectacles presently after she was thirty years old.'s That Milton was his mother's child, there can be little doubt. His enemies often reproached him with effeminacy: he had no beard at twenty-three; and his complexion was so remarkably fair, that his fellow students nicknamed him the Lady of Christ's College.' If he re
* Def. Sec.
+ Epist, ut sup.
Dr. Anderson tells us, that his disorder was a gutta serena. Sir William Adams says, that it is sometimes 'exceedingly difficult to determine between the first approaches of gutta serena, and of cataract;' and he thus describes the symptoms, which attend the latter: The disease generally commences at first in one eye, and, by the time it has made any considerable progress, the other eye becomes affected.' Essay on Cataract, Lond. 1817.
Aub. ap. Godw. p. 346. Phillips says, in a loose way, that his eyes began to decay about a dozen years before' he became actually blind. Ap. Godw. p. 375. He was about forty-five at that time; and above a dozen years,' taken from this, will leave us about thirty.
There can be no other meaning to the ode on himself, on coming twenty-three years old :
My hastening days fly on in full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th,
press his wonder, that only one man in England could write Latin, and that man blind.'
We know not upon what authority this anecdote is related; and, even if it be true, we are at a loss to see how it proves Milton's agency to have been 'considered as of great importance.' The same men, who could artfully suspend' a treaty, would not lack art to justify the suspension by a public falsehood. That Milton was considered as a person of little consequence in the administration, is abundantly evident, not only from his own testimony,— but from that of his biographers and cotemporary historians. A young friend had solicited his intercession for the secretaryship in the embassy to Holland. I am grieved,' answered Milton, Dec. 18, 1657, 'that it is not in my power to serve you in this point, inasmuch as I have very few familiarities with the gratiosi of the court, who keep myself almost wholly at home, and am willing to do so.' 'He does not appear,' says one of his earliest biographers, 'to have been in the confiden of Cromwell during the whole government, there being no trace of his activity in all the vast collection of Secretary Thurloe's papers." .** Again, even during the prevalence of Milton's party,' says Hume, he seems never to have been much regarded; and Whitlocke talks of one Milton, as he calls him, a blind man, who was employed in translating a treaty with Sweden into Latin.' The expression of Whitlocke is the more remarkable, because his history is professedly confined to an account of what passed from the beginning of the reign of Charles I. to the restoration of Charles II.' But the restored king himself, in the proclamation against Milton's books, calls the author an 'obscure' personage; and it is somewhat singular, that, in a work of so much detail as the Crom
Tol. p. 97, note.
Hist. Eng. ch. lxii, sub fin.
welliana, the name of Milton should not once occur. Indeed, it was chiefly by strangers that he was caressed and visited;* and we are told, upon what seems to be good authority, that he was allowed a weekly table for the entertainment of foreign ministers, and persons of learning.'t
The latter fact will, in part, enable us to account for the inconsistency of Milton, in continuing to act as Latin secretary to the new government, after Cromwell had swerved from all his republican principles, and become a despot under the name of protector. Having now tasted the honey of public employment,' says Dr. Johnson, he would not return to hunger and philosophy; but, continuing to exercise his office under a manifest usurpation, betrayed to Cromwell's power the liberty which he had defended.' Mr. Godwin, on the contrary, cannot bear to think, that the author of Paradise Lost,which book is his standing topic of argument,-should ever have acted from so mean a motive; and we are accordingly told, that Milton only submitted to the load of despotism for the good of his country, magnanimously repressing his own indignation at present abuses, and patiently expecting the advent of better times.+ C Officially,' too, says the apologist, he had no concern but with the foreign politics of Cromwell; and his foreign politics he for the most part approved.'s This wretched shift is followed with an allusion to the noble and courageous advice' which was given to Cromwell in the Defensio Secunda. Mr. Godwin is willing to forget, that, for one line of courageous advice,' there were two of servile flattery; and that he has himself re
*Aub, ap. Godw. p. 338. He was much more admired abroad than at home."
+Tol. p. 110, note.
Godw. Phh. p. 31. § Ibid. p. 30.
'Deserimur, Cromuelle, tu solus superes, ad te summa nostro rum rerum rediit, in te solo consistit, insuperabili tuæ virtuti cedimus cuncti,' etc. He is 'civis maximus et gloriosissimus, dux pub lici consilli, exercitum fortissimorum imperator, pater patriæ.' / Dr.