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he felt not so much the love of liberty as repugnance to authority.” Such a suspi. cion may indeed be harboured by political rancor, but it must be in direct opposition to justice and truth ; for of all men who have written or acted in the service of liberty, there is no individual, who has proved more completely, both by his language and his life, that he made a perfect distinction between liberty and licentious
No human spirit could be more sincerely a lover of just and beneficent authority ; for no man has written more eloquently in their praise, or given sublimer proofs of his own personal attachment to them by the regulation of his own personal attachment to them by the regulation of his own orderly and peaceful studies. If he hated power (as Johnson asserts) in every established form, he hated not its salutary influence, but its pernicious exertions. Vehement as he occasionally was against kings and prelates, he spoke of the sectaries with equal indignation and abhorrence,when they also became the agents of persecution; and
as he had fully seen, and has forcibly exposed, the gross fáilings of republican reformers, had his life been extended long enough to witness the Revolution, which he might have beheld without suffering the decrepitude or imbecility of extreme old age, he would probably have exulted as warmly as the sincerest friend of our present constitution can exult, in that temperate and happy reformation of monarchical enor, mities.
Johnson also intimates, that he was a shallow politician, who supposed money to be the chief good, though with singular inconsistency, he at the same time confesses, “ that money seems not to have had much of his care."
Money, in fact, had so little influence over the elevated mind of Milton, that from his want of attention to it, he sustained such losses, as, according to his nephew's expression, “ might have ruined a man less temperate than he was.” Two thousand pounds he is said to have lost by entrusting
it to government, and as much in a private loan, without sufficient security.
“ Towards the latter part of his time,” says one of his early biographers, he contracted his library, both because the heirs he left could not make a right use of it, and that he thought he might sell it more to their advantage than they could be able to do themselves. His enemies reported, that poverty constrained him thus to part with his books; and were this true, it would be a great disgrace, not to him (for persons of the highest merits have been often reduced to that condition) but to any country that should have no more regard to probity or learning. This story, however, is so false, that he died worth fifteen hundred pounds, besides all his goods.”
Such are the remarks of Tóland on the pecuniary circumstances of the poet; they shew with becoming spirit, that he was not reduced by absolute indigence to the sale of his library ; yet every reader, whose literary feelings are acute, must regret, that the old age of Milton was not guarded and enlivened
by such affluence as might have saved him from a measure, in which those who have a passion for books must suppose him to have suffered some degree of mortification.
The necessities into which many deserving men of letters, have fallen towards the close of life, and in various countries, may be regarded as an universal disgrace to civilized society, which the improving refinement and liberality of mankind, ought effectually to remove. Literature, which is so eminently beneficial to a nation, is frequently ruinous to worthy individuals most fervently attached to it; and it should be regarded as a duty, therefore, by every polished people, to provide a public fund, which might afford a becoming competence to the advanced life of those illustrious scholars,whose public labors entitle them to that honorable distinction. Such meritorious veterans in literature, as Milton and his late aged biographer should have been preserved, in their declining days, from every shadow of indigence, by the public gratitude of the ration, to whom they had devoted their in
tellectual service. What friend to letters and to genius, could fail to wish affluent comfort to the closing life of such authors, however he might condemn the excesses of republican severity in the one, or those of servile and censorial bigotry in the other ?
There can hardly be any contemplation more painful, than to dwell on the virulent excesses of eminent and good men ; yet the utility of such contemplation may be equal to its pain. What mildness and candor should it not instil into ordinary mortals to observe, that even genius and virtue weaken their title to respect, in proportion as they recede from that evangelical charity, which should influence every man in his judgment of another.
The strength and the acuteness of sensation, which partly constitute genius, have a great tendency to produce virulence, if the mind is not perpetually on its guard against that subtle, insinuating, and corrosive passion, hatred against all, whose opinions are opposite to our own. Johnson professed, in one of his letters, to love a good hater ;