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HIS DESIRE ACCOMPLISHED.
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,
Pleas'd me long choosing, and beginning late;
Wars, hitherto the only argument
Not that which justly gives heroic name
To person or to poem. Me of these
That name, unless an age too late, or cold
O why did God,
Or whom he wishes most shall seldom gain
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.
HIS DESIRE UNACCOMPLISHED.
By parents; or his happiest choice too late
To a fell adversary, his hate or shame :
He added not, and from her turn'd. But Eve,
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,
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;
Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking,
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.
RETIRES FROM ACTIVE SERVICE AS SECRETARY -RESUMES POETICAL STUDIES-DEATH.
'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.'