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ten for the times in which the author lived, they naturally went, with the times, out of date. By the same reasoning, and with much greater probability, the contemporaries of Demosthenes or Cicero might have concluded that the speeches of those great orators would sink with the succeeding age into oblivion; yet we find, after the lapse, in one case, of more than two thousand years, mankind still taking a lively interest in those compositions, while those who desire to exercise in their own day a similar influence, dwell on their polished and irresistible logic with rapture. This reason, therefore, unless we admit extraordinary inferiority in Milton, is still more unsatisfactory than either of the former. Other causes must be sought, and history is at hand to supply them.
58. It has been shown that, in all his works, Milton stands forth the advocate of popular principles of government; and these principles having, at the Restoration, been abandoned both by the people and the aristocracy, who returned like animals devoid of reason to their old servitude under the Stuarts, no one felt disposed to take up books every sentence of which must have awakened pangs of conscience, by contrasting their actual servility with the manly condition from which they had fallen. It is, in fact, natural to shun whatever engenders a sense of humiliation; and, to justify their conduct in so doing, men will discover reasons, good or bad, that, if they cannot stand well in their own eyes, they may at least seem to other to be under the influence of some rational principles of action. Hence the lettered slaves who sprang up under the fostering patronage of Charles II., and his most dissolute and despicable court, whose principal aim it was to depose the Almighty from his throne in the hearts of their countrymen, laboured with all the earnestness of hirelings to dim the glory of Milton, and those other holy and magnanimous men, who, with high and honest views, had sought to command for themselves and their brethren the full enjoyment of liberty, religious and civil.
59. By this horde of unprincipled sophists the defender of the people of England was maliciously confounded with that host of nameless fanatics that, during the troubles of the commonwealth, had issued forth from the crannies and dark places of society, filling the land, like locusts, with the unceasing murmur of their bigotry. The slanders of Salmasius, Morus, Dumoulin, and others of that stamp, were re-minted, and issued by royal authority. Every art which malice could suggest, or baseness invent, was put in practice to cover the memory of the commonwealth with obloquy; and Milton, as its most formidable defender,-though, by the interference of powerful friends, he escaped the king's axe, which was sharpened to deprive England of the Paradise Lost, yet could not fail, both during life and afterwards, to be held up as an object of abhorrence by all whom the re-establishment of servitude supplied with dishonourable bread. Even Hobbes, himself a persecuted man, and one whom the consciousness of genius should have inspired with nobler thoughts, could not resist the promptings of his slavish temper, to inflict a paltry wound on the MAN OF THE COMMONWEALTH.
60. Such, it appears to me, is the true cause why the prose works of Milton have so long been condemned to dust and cobwebs. For when once the spawn of the Restoration had heaped upon them, as on a brood of Titans, whole mountains of contumely and falsehood, and thus almost wholly concealed their existence from the public, a taste for a very different order of books was formed throughout the land; for books filled, like Rochester's, Sedley's, Wycherly's, with unspeakable coarseness and obscenity, with impiety, irreligion, and the most ignoble adulation; and it is easy to imagine that, among the admirers of bacchanals so gross and godless, an author such as Milton, in port and majesty like a prophet, and with garments scented by the sacred incense of the altar, must have proved an unwelcome guest. Vice rapidly relaxes and enervates the mind; and the public, growing daily more and more familiar with grovelling sentiments, and the licentious passions which, during Charles the Second's reign, constituted the breath of literary inspiration, soon became entirely incapable of deriving pleasure from compositions such as Milton's, where profligacy receives no countenance. Their religious character, therefore, once their passport to popularity, now stood in their way; for to quote a verse of Scripture seemed to smell of republicanism. And, although Sir Robert Filmer, and some few others, endeavoured to combat the advocates of democracy with their own weapons, by forcing certain mangled texts into the service of absolute power, it was upon the whole thought dangerous, at court, to make
reference to the great storehouse and armoury of the Roundheads.
61. Cast, by these means, into temporary oblivion, they were long suffered to remain in it. For most literary men are too intent on advancing their own reputation, to turn aside, with some risk of endangering it, to rescue from undeserved neglect the orphan remains of genius. They fear, at least in the service of the dead, to rouse the serpent guardians of prejudice; and with a worldly prudence, for which, according to their characters, men will blame or commend them, relinquish to others, bolder or less wise, the task of doing justice to those who can no longer actively vindicate themselves. 62. But this policy, however laudable it may
be considered by others, I can neither admire nor adopt. In the common intercourse of life we are grateful to whomsoever instructs or amuses us, much more to him who begets in our minds a love of the good and beautiful; and if, in our presence, his character be misprized, or evil-spoken of by others, we would generously, in consideration of what we owe him, hazard something to vindicate his good name. The same course we should, I think, pursue when he who affords us instruction or delight is dead, and therefore no longer able to explain, develope, or defend his opinions, by the
misinterpreting, perhaps, of which he suffers in the estimation of mankind. It seems to be our duty to labour with an earnestness proportioned to the benefits he may have conferred on us, to obtain for him, as far as our influence extends, a hearing. It signifies nothing to plead our inability. Love is fertile in expedients; and he who, with honest enthusiasm, undertakes to serve the greatest man, when suffering from injustice, will find, like the mouse in the fable, that even the most distinguished for strength may be indebted to his weak
And who can describe the delight with which the student bends over the page of Milton ? with which he witnesses the kindling of that impetuous spirit, when rousing all his energies to contend for his own glory, or the glory of his country? Who but must love him—who but must, in spirit, embrace him with tears of pleasure, when soaring, in the fervour of his eloquence, to a height of grandeur never surpassed by man, he pours forth his noblest sentiments in defence of freedom ? And who now, at this distance of time, can listen to those bursts of enthusiasm, so frequent in his works, even though lisped by the lips of a child, without the most tumultuous emotions of mingled rapture and wonder ?
63. All these things considered, it appears to be matter of astonishment, notwithstanding the causes we have enumerated,—that men should so generally have abstained from the perusal of works $0 palpably excellent. Yet Addison, who, in the Spectator, endeavoured to do justice to Paradise