Page images
PDF
EPUB

French, and Spanish. His skill in the Latin was so consummale, as to place him in the most eminent station, either as critic or writer; and his Italian poetry abundantly proves that he had studied that language, in particular, with the greatest assiduity. Of all the ancient authors, he was most delighted with Homer; a bard so congenial with himself, that, from frequent reading, he could repeat the greatest part of his works.

Of the English poets he preferred Spencer, Shakspeare, and Cowley; and to shew that the greatest of men have their prejudicies, we add, from the authority of Dr. Johnson, that his character of Dryden, who sometimes visited him, was, that he was a good rhymist, but no poet. This prejudice we suppose lo have arisen from a difference in political principles.

His theological opinions, in the early part of life, were Calvinistical; but when his judgment became more ripened, and moderation superseded zeal, they tended towards Arminianism. In his theological writings he evinces the greatest dislike to Popery and Prelacy, considering the latter as an appendage to the former; but in the advanced part of life, he was not attached to any particular denomination, judging mankind not by their opi nions, but their actions.

We shall state his political opinions as given by Dr. Johason, in terms of equal point and significance.

« His political notions, » say the Doctor, « were those of an acrimonious and surly republican, for which it is not known that he gave any better reason than that a popular government was the most frugal; for the trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth. It is surely very shallow policy that supposes money to be the chief good; and even this, without considering that the support and expenses of a court is, for the

il francese e lo spagnuolo. La sua perizia nel latino fu si finita, da locarlo nel più eminente grado ossia di crilico ossia di scrittore ; e la sua poesia italiana prova appieno che ei studiò in quella lingua con speciale cura e con grandissima assiduità. Tra tutti gli antori antichi ei più dilettavasi di Omero, poeta si a lui simpatico , che dal frequente leggerlo , potea ripeterne in massima parte le sue opere.

De' poeti inglesi ei preferiva Spencer, Shakspeare e Cowley ; e a mostrare che i più grandi uomini hanno i loro pregiudizi , aggiugniamo sull'autorità del D. Johnson, che il suo gindizio su Dryden fu che egli era buon rimatore, ma non poeta. Questo pregiudizio noi lo crediamo nato da differenza di principi politici.

Giovine egli ebbe opinioni calvinistiche in teologia; ma quando, ebbe maturo il giudizio, e moderazione temperò lo zelo, e piegò verso l'arminianismo. Ne' suoi scritti teologici fa vedere grandissima avversione al Papato e alla Prelatura, considerando la seconda come appendice al primo; ma negli anni ultimi di vita ei non aderì ad alcuna setta particolare, giudicando gli uomini non dalle loro opinioni ma si veramente dai loro fatti.

Noi stabiliremo le sue opinioni quali ce le diede il Dr. Johnson, nei termini suoi medesimi.

« Le sue idee politiche » dice il Dottore, « erano di fiero e rabbioso repubblicano, per le quali non si sa che egli desse altra miglior ragione di quella che un governo popolare era il più frugale ; perchè il treno di una monarchia basterebbe a fondare una ordinaria republica, Ma è veramente meschina politica quella che mette la . pecunia pel primo bene ; e ciò sempre senza considerare che il mantenimento e le

most part, only a particular kind of traffic, for which money is circulated, without any national impoverishment.

« Milton's republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an envious hatred of greatness, and a sullen desire of independence; in petulance impatient of control, and in pride disdainful of superiority. He hated monarchis in the state, and prelates in the church; for he hated all whom he was required to obey. It is to be suspected, that his predominant desire was to destroy rather than to establish; and that he felt not so much the love of liberty, as repugnance to authority.

« It has been observed, that they who most loudly clamour for liberty, do not most liberally gránt it. What we know of Milton's character in domestic relations is, that he was severe and arbitrary. His family consisted of women; and there appears in his books something like a Turkish contempt of females, as subordinate and inferior beings. He thought woman made only for obedience, and man only for rebelliont. »

Thus is Milton's political character pourtrayed by Dr. Johnson, who, in his remarks on our great author, evinces his own prejudice in favour of political opinions diametrically opposite, and appears to have been as great an enthusiast in the cause of monarchy and hierarchy, as Milton was in that of republicanism and ecclesiastical equality; from which we may infer, that nothing lends so powerfully to bias even the most enlightened mind, and warp the most correct judgment, as intemperate zeal for political or religious opinions, which have been the basis of the greatest evils that have annoyed human society.

But the sublime genius and profound erudition of this great man are now universally admired by all parties:

spese di una corte sono per la massima parte solamente un peculiare genere di traffico pel quale il danaro circola senza alcun impoverimento della nazione.

« Il républicanismo di Milton fondossi , io temo , in odio invidioso di grandezza, ed ostinato desio d' indipendenza , in petulanza impaziente di freno ed in orgoglio sdegnoso di supremazia. Egli odio moparchi in istato , e prelati in chiesa ; poichè egli odiò tutto che richiedeva obbedienza. È da sospettare che la sua predominante passione fu piuttosto di distruggere che di stabilire ; e che ei senti non tanto amore a libertà , quanto ripugñanza ad autorità.

« È stato osservato, che chi più altamente gridava libertà, non era poi il più generoso a concederla. Quel che noi sappiamo dell'indole di Milton nelle domestiche relazioni è che ei fu severo e dispotico. La sua famiglia consisteva in donne; e talvolta appare ne' suoi libri un quasi turco disprezzo alle femmine, come esseri subordinati ed inferiori. Egli stimò la donna fatta per l'obbedienza, e l'uomo per la ribellione. »

Tal è il ritratto politico di Milton pernellegiatoci dal Dr. Johnson, il quale nelle sue annotazioni al nostro grande autore manifesta i suoi pregiudizi in prò di politiche opinioni diametralmente opposte , e mostra di essere stato un grande entusiasta nella causa della monarchia e gerarchia, come lo fu Milton in quella della república e della ecclesiastica egualità; dal che argomentiamo che nulla tende sì potentemente ad inclinare lo spirito più illominato e piegare il più correlto giudizio, che lo stemperato zelo per le opinioni politiche o religiose, che sono state la radice de' mali supremi che travagliarono la umana società.

Ma il sublime genio e la profonda erudizione di cotesto grand' uomo sonó omai generalmente ammirate

the politician is lost in the poet; and enlightened men, of cvery persuasion, acknowledge him to have been an honour to his country in particular, and an ornament to mankind in general. Much respect was paid to his descendants after his decease. Mr. Addison, when Secretary of State, made one of his daughters a handsome present; recommended her to the notice of Queen Caroline, consort of Georges II. and promised her a comfortable establishment, but died soon after.

In 1750 Comus was performed for the benefit of the same daughter, who was patronized in the undertaking by Dr. Newton, Bishop of Bristol, a prelate whose learning and humanity did honour to his profession; and Dr. Johnson, liberally divesting himself of his prejudices, wrote a prologue on the occasion; which, at the conclusion of the life of our immortal bard, the Doctor aknowledges he had the honour of contributing. His words are, « This was the greatest benefaction that « Paradise Lost ever procured the author's descendant; and to this, he, who has now, attempted to relate his life, had the honour of contributing a prologue.

The writers of the life of Milton have in general declined entering into a critical examination of his works, contenting themselves with subscribing to the universal opinion of his excellence in the sublime, and that he stands without competition as an English epic poet, his « Paradise Lost , being infinitely superior to any production of the kind ever attempted in our language. Mr. Addison has written some excellent notes on « Paradise Lost; , but Dr. Johnson has left us copious animadversions on his works in general, which, as they indicate a profound judgment, though occasionally tinctured with his usual asperity, will form the basis of our remarks.

This great critic commences his examination of Mil

»

« PreviousContinue »