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is certain from his own relation, but of his escape there is no account.”
This passage of the critical biographer affords a striking proof, that he is sometimes as inaccurate in narration as he is defective in sentiment. Impressed as I am with the clearest conviction of his repeated endeavours to depreciate the character of Milton, I will not suppose that Johnson could designedly suppress an evidence of the poet's generosity, which, while he is speaking of it in terms of admiration, he still endeavours to render problematical ; yet certain it is, that of Milton's protection of Davenant a very obvious evidence exists in Anthony Wood, who says, under the article Davepant, “ he was carried prisoner to the Isle of Wight, anno 1650, and afterwards to the Tower of London, in order to be tried for his life in the High Court of Justice, anno 1651 ; but upon the mediation of John Milton and others, especially two godly aldermen of York (to whom he had shewn great civility when they had been taken pri
soners in the north, by some of the forces under William Marquis of Newcastle) he was saved, and had liberty allowed him as a prisoner at large.”
Thus far the pleasing story is sufficiently proved to the honor of Milton. That Davenant endeavoured to return the favor is highly probable, from the amiable tenderness and benevolent activity of his character. Perhaps this probability may seem a little strengthened by the following verses of Davenant, in a poem addressed to the king on his happy return.
Your clemency has taught us to believe
If Davenant was in any degree instrumental to the security of Milton, it is probable that he served him rather from gratitude than affection, as no two writers of the time
were more different from each other in their religious and political opinions. That the poet-laureat of Charles was utterly unconscious of those inestimable poetic powers, which the blind secretary of the republic was providentially reserved to display, we may infer from a very remarkable couplet, towards the close of a second poem, addressed by Davenant to the King, he ventures to assert, that
Heav'n never made but one, who, being blind,
It is however very possible that Davenant might doubly conduce to the production of Paradise Lost; first, as one of those who exerted their interest to secure the author from molestation ; and secondly, as affording by his Gondibert an incentive to the genius of Milton to shew how infinitely he could surpass a poem which Hobbs (whose opinions he despised) had extravagantly extolled as the most exquisite production of the epic muse. In Aubrey's manuscript Anecdotes of Milton it is said, that he be
gan his Paradise Lost about two years before the return of the king, and finished it about three years after that event; the account appears the more probable, as the following lines in the commencement of the seventh book pathetically allude to his present situation.
More safe I sing with mortal voice unchang’d
How peculiarly affecting are these beautiful verses, when the history of the
poet suggests that he probably wrote them while he was concealed in an obscure cor. ņer of the city, that reşounded with the tri. umphant roar of his intoxicated enemies, az mong whom drunkenness arose to such ex: travagance, that even the festive royalists found it necessary to issue a proclamation, which forbade the drinking of healths. How poignant at this time must have been the personal and patriotic feelings of Milton, who had passed his life in animating himself and his country to habits of temperance, truth, and public virtue, yet had the mortification of finding that country, so dear to him, now doubly disgraced; first, by the hy. pocrisy and treacherous ambition of republi. cans, to whose pretended virtues he had given too easy credit; and now by the mean licentious servility of royalists, whose more open but not more dangerous vices his upright and high-toned spirit had ever held in abhorrence. For his country had every thing to apprehend from the blind infatuațion with which the parliament had rejected the patriotic suggestion of Hale (afterwards