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been composed upon such different principles, that a brief account of them may not be without its use. It may also gratify some of Milton's. admirers, who may not have leisure to wade through his Prose-writings, to be furnished with a list of references to the principal parts in them which relate to his personal history, feelings, and appearance. From the continual references, indeed, which some of his biographers have given to these passages, an inattentive reader may imagine them to be much more numerous than they really are; but the following are all the most interesting and most considerable of the kind. I refer to Dr. Birch's edition of the Prose Works, in 4to. 1753.
The preface to the second book of the Reason of Church Government, vol. i. p. 60—65, declares Milton's dislike of controversy, and his sense of the necessity laid upon him to engage in it; and it contains his famous promise of some great work, in English and in verse, at some future period. In the Apology for Smectymnuus, vol. i. p. 114-119, (“ Thus having “ spent-needless hearing,”) he repels the calumnies thrown out against him of having led a riotous youth, and having been expelled from the University, and gives a general account of his studies from his youth upwards, and of his early love of chastity and virtue. In these two passages traces of the author of Comus, of Samson Agonistes, of Paradise Regained, and Paradise Lost, may easily be discovered. Some lofty thoughts respecting his style and his hopes are scattered in the Preface, and in the Postscript to the Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce, vol. i. p. 236, p. 239, and p. 256, and in the Dedication prefixed to Tetrachordon, p.
Philips's notice of Milton in his Theatrum Poetarum, 1675, is extremely slight and superficial, and Langbaine's account, written in 1691, is unworthy of notice. There is said to be a copy of Langbaine with MS. notes by Oldys preserved in the British Museum, to which reference is sometimes made; these notes I have not seen, but I made some slight use of some notes by Oldys in Malone's copy of Langbaine, which is now in the Bodleian Library. But in 1694, E. Philips, the eldest of Milton's nephews, prefixed an interesting account of his uncle's life to an English translation of Milton's State Letters. It was published indeed without the name of the author, but it appeared to be written by Philips according to a note in the
which Dr. Birch made use of, and which Philips himself had given to a friend of his, and Mr. Godwin remarks that Toland ascribed it to the elder Philips whilst his brother was still living. This account of Milton's life, however, is often inaccurate, apparently from the carelessness of the writer, who was an author by profession ; and it does not afford so many particulars of Milton's private life as might have been expected from one who knew him so intimately. Bishop Newton has incorporated in his Life of Milton almost every thing that is most valuable in Philips, and usually in the very words of the author. Toland, in 1698, published Milton's Prose Works with a Life of the author, in which he attempted to do more ample justice to his subject than it had hitherto received. He professed to derive his information from Milton's own writings, from a person who had been his amanuensis, from his daughter, and a letter written by his widow, from the papers of one
who thinks for himself, as Milton assuredly did, by no means remain the same for sixty years, and must not be determined in a general way from the language even of his prose writings at some particular period. The interest, for example, of his System of Divinity, which Mr. Sumner is about to present to the world, will greatly depend upon the period of Milton's life to which it is to be assigned. (See note a, p. Ixxxii.)
Of the relative value and authority of the various Lives of Milton some idea may be formed from the following account; and it is given in a chronological order down to the period when any accession of original information concerning him ceased to be probable.
A. Wood, in 1691, laid the foundation of all the Lives of Milton in his Fasti Oxonienses for the year 1635; (fol. 880. ed. 1691. or part i. fol. 480. ed. Bliss, 1815.) Wood was evidently strongly prejudiced against Milton, but he gives a pretty accurate outline of his history, partly drawn, as it should seem, from the Defensio Secunda, partly from some sources of which I am not aware, and in part from the notes of his friend Aubrey, who derived his account from Milton's brother and nephew, and from his own personal acquaintance with the Poet. Aubrey's notes have lately been printed, from the original preserved in the Ashmolean collection, in the second volume of the Letters from the Bodleian, and in the Appendix to Godwin's Lives of E, and J. Philips. They will still be read as a literary curiosity; and they even supplied me with one or two additional particulars for this edition, but nearly every thing deserving of notice had been extracted from them before. I call Wood's the earliest Life of Milton ; for E.
quotations from Milton's Prose Works. Toland for
of his nephews, and conversation with the other, and with such of Milton's acquaintance as could then be discovered. Toland was the first who endeavoured to illustrate Milton's character and sentiments by extracts from his Prose Works. His own dislike of the Church and the Clergy, indeed, led him to select some passages against them and against the Liturgy, full of sophistry, coarseness, and spleen ; but upon the whole Toland's Life was calculated to give a more just idea of Milton than had hitherto been published. And both this publication and that of Philips were rendered more valuable in the first instance by the insertion of some of Milton's Sonnets not before published. Toland's Life was reprinted separately in 1699 ; and again, by the care of Mr. T. Hollis, in 1761. Bayle in the first edition of his Historical and Critical Dictionary published a short, and caustic, but very inaccurate account of Milton's life; but this was enlarged in the second edition with a supplement and various notes taken professedly from Toland's Life of Milton, though there are a few satirical touches from the pen of Bayle himself. There was also an abstract of Milton's life in the journal of M. de Beauval for Feb. 1699, but this I have not seen. Elijah Fenton, in 1725, published his well-known and elegant sketch of Milton's Life; it is clear, sensible, and candid, but is chiefly founded upon Toland, and adds little or nothing to the stock of information concerning Milton. In 1734, the elder Richardson pubfished some interesting Remarks on the Life of Milton, passing rapidly over the facts, but dwelling minutely upon his character and manners, which he illustrated by all the anecdotes he could collect, and by numerous