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phical arena, armed with genius, and the subtlest spirit of sophistry, and prepared, in defiance of all who might oppose, to support the wildest and most dangerous paradoxes. Harrington, Algernon Sidney, Andrew Marvel, Clarendon, and many others destined to obtain a name in history, laboured contemporaneously with Milton; and their ideas failed not to exercise a certain influence over the public mind, though, whether considered with reference to their own or to future ages, this influence was much less powerful than that of the great epic poet.
50. Hitherto, however, Milton has been, since his own times, chiefly influential as a poet; his prose works having, as I observed above, been from that time to this comparatively neglected. Several of the accidental causes of this neglect have already been glanced at: they must now be more fully explained. By some ingenious writers the circumstance has been sought to be accounted for by alleging the elevated character of the works themselves. But this is unsatisfactory, for which of them is more lofty than Paradise Lost ? Besides, were this the true cause, all attempts at recommending them to the public must prove fruitless, since their tone can never be lowered, nor can the intellect of the generality ever be raised to the relish of compositions, which, according to this supposition, are to be considered above the mental reach even of literary men. Indeed, the theory of this writer would, if true, wholly exculpate us as a nation from all blame for laying them aside, and
betaking ourselves to writers more on a level with our capacities; for, by what rule are we compelled to purchase and study the works of any man, if they be above our comprehension ?
51. If there be any culpability, it must, under this supposition, rest with the author, who, if he desired to be read, and promote the cause of religion and virtue,-as most assuredly he did,-should have reflected that it was his first duty not so to clothe his thoughts in the splendour and brightness of eloquence, as to render them, like the sun, too painful to be gazed on by any not gifted with the eyes
of eagles. No one knew better than he that the greatest men have by art contrived to indue their most bidden thoughts with a transparent dress. He was familiar with those dialogues in which the abstrusest doctrines of ontology, the highest speculations on God and nature, and the spiritual essence of the mind, to which man's intellect has ever soared, are rendered not merely comprehensible, but absolute matter of amusement. He would have been aware, therefore, that though his ideas rise far indeed above the pitch of ordinary contemplation, they yet strayed not beyond the reach of such understandings as God has bestowed upon Englishmen.
52. Another fancy of the same writers is, that Milton having been a teacher, and the world, like a mitching schoolboy, not delighting to be taught, his fit audience must always be few. I hope better things of the world. For whoever is desirous
of learning what is truth,—and the number actuated by this holy desire is not small,—is fit to be the auditor of him who teaches truth. And, to speak honestly, I have not yet learned to think so meanly of my countrymen, as not to believe that this island contains many myriads to whom truth, both in politics and religion, is precious as life itself. Let them only know in what secret or remote shrine it may
be found, and the road thither, I am persuaded, will be immediately trodden by the feet of innumerable pilgrims, full of hope, of courage to dare, of fortitude to suffer, of perseverance to obtain. Englishmen are still Englishmen. The love of freedom—which is based on truth-is ever their ruling passion; and if, as in the case of Milton, they sometimes wholly or in part neglect their benefactors, and those who best would serve them, it is error, not ingratitude, or a sullen aversion to be taught whatever is for their good.
53. Every man who ably and honestly advocates the cause of freedom and good government is popular in England. For, naturally and of necessity the people's sympathies are linked to those who prove themselves their friends, who labour to diminish their burdens, and diffuse among them a just and wholesome relish for knowledge; to provide civil and religious instruction for their children, and raise them to that mental condition in which they may, with safety to themselves and to the state, exercise all the rights of freemen. For services of this kind the present generation is indebted to many distinguished commoners and lords, who daily, in the senate or at popular assemblies, urge forward the work of reformation.
54. But, among those who most honourably distinguish themselves in the service of the people, advocating the cause which Milton advocated, and diffusing far and wide the principles that inflamed his mind, and rendered him eloquent above all who have written in English, the gentlemen who conduct the better part of the public press deserve most of the country. What the pulpit is in religion, that is the press in civil affairs. It is the weapon by the use of which Liberty must ultimately stand or fall, with which she must hew down those stubborn prejudices that, at every step, obstruct her movements; and, by inspiring a salutary terror in her opponents, command the leisure necessary for building up that vast edifice of political wisdom, within which she may for the future entrench herself.
55. And, in spite of much hostility and many untoward circumstances, how powerful is the influence of the press, and how all but complete the freedom we even now enjoy in England! Here only, within the limits of the Old World, is it lawful to express an honest opinion, or to arraign, when truth requires it, the impolicy, or improvidence, or lukewarmness of our rulers. Here only, when oppressed or persecuted at home, can the liberal and virtuous of other nations find a secure refuge. This is the place where, as at Athens in old times, men of all countries, of all parties, of all religions,
take sanctuary when they need it. And the glory of England, which, in Milton's days, was thought to be enhanced by the crowding hither of strangers from distant countries, to be instructed in our learning and theological arts, is rendered doubly bright now, by the pilgrimage which all free and noble spirits, that spurn the universal yoke of the Continent, make daily to this favoured land.
56. And what but our freedom-though still far from perfectand the virtues which grow out of it, causes the English name to be everywhere held in honour, and renders it a passport and a safeguard, as I have myself experienced, even among savages in rebellion against their native prince ? To be associated as far as known—and where is it not ?—with highmindedness, generosity, and the pride that scorns whatever is mean and ungentlemanly ? In every land whither Providence has led me, I have enjoyed the inexpressible satisfaction of hearing the name of my country pronounced with respect; of finding that, though excelled, perhaps, by one country in this, by another in that, England was universally supposed to surpass all in freedom, public virtue, religion, and those advantages of political strength and grandeur unrelinquishably possessed by the inheritors of those virtues.
57. To return, however, whence I have thus insensibly digressed, to the causes which have hitherto obstructed the popularity of Milton's prose works: it may be proper briefly to notice the reason assigned by D'Israeli; namely, that having been writ