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PERHAPS the chapter of English history fullest of romantic interest is that contaiñing the life of Thomas à Becket. In fact, the great struggle between Becket and Henry II.,-between individual genius and sovereign power, between a subject and his king, between religion and the sword, between the Church and the State, is scarcely equaled in the annals of the world. And nowhere do we find a parallel to the strange story of Becket's life, beginning in Oriental legend, ending in heroic tragedy. By an accident of position, he questioned with the terrible power of genius the divine right of kings, and the grateful people of England, a hundred thousand at a time, flocked as pilgrims to his tomb.
The biography here presented has been taken from Dean Milman's great history of Latin Christianity. The style is at once dignified, terse, and eloquent. The learning of Milman is abundant and accurate, his judgment singularly sound and free from prejudice. One of the gems of his history is this life of Becket. A biography of the biographer is part of our plan, and we gladly transfer to our pages, from the English Cyclopedia, a sketch of Milman's life.
The Rev. HENRY HART MILMAN, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, was born February 10th, 1791, in London. He is the youngest son of Sir Francis Milman, first baronet, who was physician to George III., and is brother to Sir William George Milman. He was educated at Dr. Burney's academy at Greenwich, at Eton College, and at Brazenose College, Oxford, where he took his degrees of B. A. and M. A., and of which he was elected a Fel
low. In 1812 he received the Newdegate prize for his English poem on the Apollo Belvidere. In 1815 he published “Fazio, a Tragedy," which was performed with success at Covent Garden Theatre, at a period when theatrical managers seized upon a published play, and produced it without an author's consent. Mr. Milman could not even enforce the proper pronunciation of the name of “Fazio.” He took holy orders in 1817, and was appointed vicar of St. Mary's, Reading. In the early part of 1818 he published “Samor, Lord of the Bright City, an Heroic Poem,” of which a second edition was called for in the course of the same year. The hero of this poem is a personage of the legendary history of Britain in the early part of the Saxon invasions of England. The fullest account of his exploits is given in Dugdale's “Baronage,” under his title of Earl of Gloucester. Harrison, in the “Description of Britain,” prefixed to Holinshed's “ Chronicle,” calls him Eldulph de
Samor. The Bright City is Gloucester, (Caer Glow in British.) In 1820 Mr Milman published "The Fall of Jerusalem," a dramatic poem founded on Josephus's narrative of the siege of the sacred city. This, in some respects his most beautiful poem, established his reputation. In 1821, he was elected Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford, and published three other dramatic poems, “The Martyr of Antioch,” “Balshazzar,” and “Anne Boleyn.” In 1827 he published sermons at
Bampton Lecture," 8vo., and in 1829, without his name, “The History of the Jews,” 3 vols. 18mo. A collected edition of his “Poetical Works," was published in 1840, which, besides the works above mentioned, and his smaller poems, contains the “Nala and Damayanti," translated from the Sanskrit, In the same year he published his “History of Christianity from the Birth of Christ, to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire,” 3 vols. 8vo., in which he pro
fesses to view Christianity as a historian, in its moral, social, and political influences, referring to its doctrines no further than is necessary for explaining the general effect of the system. It is the work of an accomplished and liberal-minded scholar. At the commencement of 1849 appeared “ The Works of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, illustrated chiefly from the Remains of Ancient Art, with a Life by the Rev. H. H. Milman,” 8vo., a beautiful and luxurious edition. Mr. Milman's Life of Horace, and critical remarks on the merits of the Roman poet, are written with much elegance of style, and are very interesting.
In November 1849, Mr. Milman, who had for some years been Rector of St. Margaret's, Westminster, and a Canon of Westminster, was made Dean of St. Paul's. Dean Milman's latest publication is a “History of Latin Christianity, including that of the Popes to the Pontificate of Nicholas V.," 3 vols. 8vo. 1854. This work is a continuation of the author's “ History of