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The theme he chose for his great Epic is 'not less but more heroic' than the Iliad, Odyssey, or the Æneid.

If answerable style I can obtain

Of my celestial patroness, who deigns

Her nightly visitation unimplor'd,
And dictates to me slumb'ring, or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated verse:
Since first this subject for heroic song

Pleas'd me long choosing, and beginning late;
Not sedulous by nature to indite

Wars, hitherto the only argument
Heroic deem'd, chief mast'ry to dissect
With long and tedious havoc, fabled knights,
In battles feign'd; the better fortitude
Of patience and heroic martyrdom
Unsung; or to describe races and games,
Or tilting furniture, emblazon'd shields,
Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds;
Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and tournament; then marshall'd feast
Served up in hall with sewers, and seneschals;
The skill of artifice or office mean,

Not that which justly gives heroic name

To person or to poem. Me of these
Nor skill'd nor studious, higher argument
Remains, sufficient of itself to raise


That name, unless an age too late, or cold
Climate, or years damp my intended wing
Deprest, and much they may, if all be mine,
Not hers who brings it nightly to my ear.1

O why did God,
Creator wise, that peopl'd highest Heav'n
With spirits masculine, create at last
This novelty on Earth, this fair defect
Of Nature, and not fill the world at once
With men as angels without feminine,
Or find some other way to generate
Mankind? this mischief had not then befall'n,
And more that shall befal, innumerable
Disturbances on Earth through female snares,
And straight conjunction with this sex: for either
He never shall find out fit mate, but such
As some misfortune brings him, or mistake; 3

Or whom he wishes most shall seldom gain
Through her perverseness, but shall see her gain'd
By a far worse; or if she love, withheld

1 Paradise Lost, ix. 20-47. This deeply interesting autobiographical passage is in fact repeated from various passages already cited. There are numerous sketches of sacred dramas on Scripture subjects projected by Milton still extant. And the long choosing and late beginning of a subject for his darling epic, may be traced from the very earliest period of his life. See Preface to my Selections from Milton's Prose Works.

Of his three wives he only found 'fit mate' in Catharine Woodcock, but lost her within the year.

• Such 'mistake' he made in choosing his first wife, Mary Powell.


By parents; or his happiest choice too late
Shall meet, already link'd and wedlock-bound


To a fell adversary, his hate or shame :
Which infinite calamity shall cause
To human life, and household peace confound.2

He added not, and from her turn'd. But Eve,
Not so repuls'd, with tears that ceas'd not flowing
And tresses all disorder'd, at his feet
Fell humble, and embracing them, besought
His peace, and thus proceeded in her plaint.
She ended weeping, and her lowly plight,
Immoveable till peace obtain'd from fault
Acknowledg'd and deplor'd, in Adam wrought
Commiseration; soon his heart relented
Towards her, his life so late and sole delight,
Now at his feet submissive in distress,

Miss Davies, upon whom he had fixed his affections when he was contemplating a divorce and writing his treatises on that subject.

2 Paradise Lost, x. 888-908. The whole passage portrays his feelings when deserted by his wife for more than two years. He probably had seen Lysander's complaint in Shakespeare's Midsummer-Night's Dream, that 'true lovers have ever been cross'd':

'Ah me! for aught that ever I could read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,

The course of true love never did run smooth:


But either it was different in blood;

Or else misgraffed in respect of years;

Or else it stood upon the choice of friends;
Or if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it.'

Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking,
His counsel whom she had displeas'd, his aid;
As one disarm'd, his anger all he lost,
And thus with peaceful words uprais'd her soon.1

1 Paradise Lost, x. 909-913, 937-946. In depicting this scene, Milton doubtless had his own reconciliation with his first wife in mind. See the scene described in Richardson's Remarks, p. 73.




A.D. 1655-1674, A. Æт. 48-66.


'You have done all I desired respecting the Atlas, of which I wished to know the lowest price. You say it is a hundred and thirty florins, which I think is enough to purchase the mountain of that name. But such is the present rage for typographical luxury, that the furniture of a library hardly costs less than that of a villa. Paintings and engravings are of little use to me. While I roll my blind eyes about the world, I fear lest I should seem to lament the privation of sight at


In his Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings out of the Church, Milton computes the charges of a minister's needful library; which, though some shame not to value at 600l., may be competently furnished for 60l. If any man for his own curiosity or delight be in books further expensive, that is not to be reckoned as necessary to his ministerial, either breeding or function.'

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