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The dedication prefixed to my Life of Milton in 1796, is retained not only from regard to the departed amiable critic of Winchester, but because it contains literary sentiments, that had the approbation of our beloved Cowper. My ambition is to render this book, which will be endeared to us by bearing the name of Cowper's Milton, a proof of our affectionate attention to his wishes. May it prove a lasting and honorable record of that inexhaustible tenderness and zeal, with which you, his favorite kinsman, were used to serve him as a kind secretary in his season of mental activity, and as an inestimable attendant, and guardian, in his days of calamitous depression. You will be prosperous and happy indeed, if your prosperity and happiness are proportioned to the care and kindness, with which
you watched over the most interesting of sufferers.
At all events, we shall ever sympathise, in a tender veneration for his memory; and I hope we may both exclaim, in
the words of the younger Pliny, and with the honest fervency of indelible affection,
“ Sunt qui defunctorum amicos agunt."
Believe me ever, my dear friend,
Most faithfully yours,
Felpham, March 31, 1810.
IN prefixing your name to this volume, I feel and confess the double influence of an affectionate and of an ambitious desire to honor you and myself. Our lost and lamented friend Gibbon has told us, I think very truly, in dedicating a juvenile work to his father, that there are but two kinds of dedications, which can do honor either to the patron or the author--the first arising from literary esteem, the second from personal affection. If either of these two characteristics may be sufficient to give propriety to a dedication, I have little to apprehend for the present, which has certainly the advantage of uniting the two.
The kind and friendly manner in which you commended the first edition of this Life might alone have induced me to inscribe a more ample copy of it to that literary veteran, whose applause is so justly dear to me. I have additional inducements in recollecting your animated and enlightened regard for the glory of Milton. It is pleasing to address a sympathetic friend on a subject that interests the fancy and the heart. I remember, with peculiar gratification, the liberality and frankness, with which you lamented to me the extreme severity of the late Mr. Warton, in describing the controversial writings of Milton. I honor the rare integrity of your mind, my candid friend, which took the part of injured genius and probity against the prejudices of a brother, eminent as a scholar, and entitled also, in many points of view, to your love and admiration, I sympathize with you most cordially in regretting the severity to which I allude, so little to be expected from the general temper of the critic, and from that affectionate spirit, with which he had vindicated the poetry of Milton from the misre
presentations of cold and callous austerity. But Mr. Warton had fallen into a mistake, which has betrayed other well-disposed minds into an unreasonable abhorrence of Milton's prose; I mean the mistake of regarding it as having a tendency to subvert our existing government. Can any man justly think it has such a tendency, who recollects that no government, similar to that which the Revolution established for England, existed when Milton wrote? His impassioned yet disinterested ardour for reformation was excited by those gross abuses of power, which that new settlement of the state very happily corrected.
Your learned and good-natured brother, my dear friend, was not the only man of learning and good-nature, who indulged a prejudice, that to us appears very extravagant, to give it the gentlest appellation. A literary Paladine (if I may borrow from romance a title of distinction to honor a very powerful historian) even Gibbon himself, whom we both admired and loved for his literary and for his social accomplishments, surpassed, I think, on this topic, the severity of Mr. Warton,