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used with notice of their vanity; but they con- impressed. But the passions are moved only on tribute variety to the narration, and produce one occasion; sublimity is the general and proan alternate exercise of the memory and the vailing quality of this poem; sublimity variously fancy. modified, sometimes descriptive, sometimes ar}
His similes are less numerous, and more vari-gumentative. ous, than those of his predecessors. But he does not confine himself within the limits of rigorous comparison: his great excellence is amplitude; and he expands the adventitious image beyond the dimensions which the occasion required. Thus, comparing the shield of Satan to the orb of the moon, he crowds the imagination with the discovery of the telescope, and all the wonders which the telescope discovers.
Of his moral sentiments it is hardly praise to affirm that they excel those of all other poets; for this superiority he was indebted to his acquaintance with the sacred writings. The ancient epic poets, wanting the light of Revelation, were very unskilful teachers of virtue; their principal characters may be great, but they are not amiable. The reader may rise from their works with a greater degree of active or passive fortitude, and sometimes of prudence; but he will be able to carry away few precepts of justice, and none of mercy.
The defects and faults of "Paradise Lost," for faults and defects every work of man must have, it is the business of impartial criticism to discover. As, in displaying the excellence of Milton, I have not made long quotations, because of selecting beauties there had been no end, I shall in the same general manner mention that which seems to deserve censure; for what Englishman can take delight in transcribing passages, which, if they lessen the reputation of Milton, diminish in some degree the honour of our country?
The generality of my scheme does not admit the frequent notice of verbal inaccuracies: which Bentley, perhaps better skilled in grammar than in poetry, has often found, though he sometimes made them, and which he imputed to the obtrusions of a reviser, whom the Author's blindness obliged him to employ; a supposition rash and groundless, if he thought it true; and vile and pernicious, if, as is said, he in private allowed it to be false.
From the Italian writers it appears, that the advantages of even christian knowledge may be The plan of "Paradise Lost" has this inconpossessed in vain. Ariosto's pravity is gene-venience, that it comprises neither human actions rally known; and, though the Deliverance of nor human manners. The man and woman Jerusalem may be considered as a sacred sub-who act and suffer are in a state which no other ject, the poet has been very sparing of moral in
In Milton every line breathes sanctity of thought and purity of manners, except when the train of the narration requires the introduction of the rebellious spirits; and even they are compelled to acknowledge their subjection to God, in such a manner as excites reverence and confirms piety.
man or woman can ever know. The reader finds no transaction in which he can be engaged; beholds no condition in which he can by any effort of imagination place himself; he has, therefore, little natural curiosity or sympathy.
We all, indeed, feel the effects of Adam's dis obedience; we all sin like Adam, and like him must all bewail our offences; we have restless and insidious enemies in the fallen angels; and in the blessed spirits we have guardians and friends; in the redemption of mankind we hope to be included; and in the description of heaven and hell we are surely interested, as we are all to reside hereafter either in the regions of horror
Of human beings there are but two; but those two are the parents of mankind, venerable before their fall for dignity and innocence, and amiable after it for their repentance and submission. In the first state their affection is tender without weakness, and their piety sublime without pre-or of bliss. sumption. When they have sinned, they show how discord begins in mutual frailty, and how it ought to cease in mutual forbearance; how confidence of the Divine favour is forfeited by sin, and how hope of pardon may be obtained by penitence and prayer. A state of innocence we can only conceive, if indeed, in our present misery, it be possible to conceive it; but the sentiments and worship proper to a fallen and offending being, we have all to learn, as we have all to practise.
The Poet, whatever be done, is always great. Our progenitors, in their first estate, conversed with angels; even when folly and sin had degraIded them, they had not in their humiliation the port of mean suitors; and they rise again to reverential regard, when we find that their prayers were heard.
But these truths are too important to be new; they have been taught to our infancy; they have mingled with our solitary thoughts and familiar conversations, and are habitually interwoven with the whole texture of life. Being therefore not new, they raise no unaccustomed emotion in the mind; what we knew before, we cannot learn; what is not unexpected, cannot surprise.
Of the ideas suggested by these awful scenes, from some we recede with reverence, except when stated hours require their association; and from others we shrink with horror, or admit them only as salutary inflictions, as counterpoises to our interests and passions. Such images rather obstruct the career of fancy than incite it.
Pleasure and terror are, indeed, the genuine sources of poetry; but poetical pleasure must be such as human imagination can at least conceive; and poetical terror such as human strength and fortitude may combat. The good and evil of eternity are too ponderous for the wings of
As human passions did not enter the world before the fall, there is in the "Paradise Lost" little opportunity for the pathetic; but what little there is has not been lost. That passion which is peculiar to rational nature, the anguish arising from the consciousness of transgression, and the horrors attending the sense of the Divine displeasure, are very justly described and forcibly to
But, says Dr. Warton, it has throughout s reference human life and actions.---C.
wit; the mind sinks under them with passive helplessness, content with calm belief and humble adoration.
Known truths, however, may take a different appearance, and be conveyed to the mind by a new train of intermediate images. This Milton has undertaken, and performed with pregnancy and vigour of mind peculiar to himself. Whoever considers the few radical positions which the Scriptures afforded him, will wonder by what energetic operation he expanded them to such extent, and ramified them to so much variety, restrained as he was by religious reverence from licentiousness of fiction.
Here is a full display of the united force of study and genius; of a great accumulation of materials, with judgment to digest, and fancy to combine them: Milton was able to select from nature, or from story, from ancient fable, or from modern science, whatever could illustrate or adorn his thoughts. An accumulation of knowledge impregnated his mind, fermented by study, and exalted by imagination.
It has been therefore said, without an indecent hyperbole, by one of his encomiasts, that in reading "Paradise Lost," we read a book of universal knowledge.
But original deficience cannot be supplied. The want of human interest is always felt. "Paradise Lost" is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retire harrassed and overburthened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and 1 seek for companions.
for contraction and remove are images of matter, but if they could have escaped without their armour, they might have escaped from it, and left only the empty cover to be battered. Uriel, when he rides on a sunbeam, is material; Satan is material, when he is afraid of the prowess of Adam.
The confusion of spirit and matter which pervades the whole narration of the war of heaven, fills it with incongruity; and the book in which it is related is, I believe, the favourite of children, and gradually neglected as knowledge is in creased.
After the operation of immaterial agents which cannot be explained, may be considered that of allegorical persons which have no real existence. To exalt causes into agents, to invest abstract ideas with form, and animate them with activity, has always been the right of poetry. But such airy beings are, for the most part, suffered only to do their natural office, and retire. Thus Fame tells a tale, and Victory hovers over a general, or perches on a standard; but Fame and Victory can do no more. To give them any real employment, or ascribe to them any material agency, is to make them allegorical no longer, but to shock the mind by ascribing effects to nonentity. In the “Prometheus” of Eschylus, we see Violence and Strength, and in the "Alcestis" of Euripides, we see Death, brought upon the stage, all as active persons of the drama; but no precedents can justify absurdity.
Milton's allegory of Sin and Death, is undoubtedly faulty. Sin is indeed the mother of Death, and may be allowed to be the portress of hell; but when they stop the journey of Satan, a journey described as real, and when Death offers Another inconvenience of Milton's design is, him battle, the allegory is broken. That Sin and that it requires the description of what cannot be Death should have shown the way to hell, might described, the agency of spirits. He saw that have been allowed; but they cannot facilitate the immateriality supplied no images, and that he passage by building a bridge, because the difficould not show angels acting but by instruments culty of Satan's passage is described as real and of action: he therefore invest d them with form sensible, and the bridge ought to be only figuraand matter. This, being necessary, was there- tive. The hell assigned to the rebellious spirits is fore defensible; and he should have secured the described as not less local than the residence of consistency of his system, by keeping immate- | man. It is placed in some distant part of space, riality out of sight, and enticing his reader to drop separated from the regions of harmony and order, it from his thoughts. But he has unhappily per- but Sin and Death worked up a mole of aggravated by a chaotic waste and an unoccupied vacuity; plexed his poetry with his philosophy. fernal and celestial powers are sometimes pure soil, cemented with asphaltus; a work too bulky spirit, and sometimes animated body. When for ideal architects. Satan walks with his lance upon the burning This unskilful allegory appears to me one of marl, he has a body; when, in his passage be- the greatest faults of the poem; and to this there tween hell and the new world, he is in danger of was no temptation but the Author's opinion of its sinking in the vacuity, and is supported by a gustbeauty. of rising vapours, he has a body; when he ani- To the conduct of the narrative some objections mates the toad, he seems to be mere spirit, that can penetrate matter at pleasure; when he starts up in his own shape, he has at least a determined form; and when he is brought before Gabriel, he has a spear and a shield, which he had the power of hiding in the toad, though the arms of the contending angels are evidently material.
The vulgar inhabitants of Pandemonium, being incorporeal spirits, are at large, though without number, in a limited space; yet in the battle, when they were overwhelmed by mountains, their armour hurt them, crushed in upon their substance, now grown gross by sinning. This likewise happened to the uncorrupted angels, who were overthrown the sooner for their arms, for unarmed they might easily as spirits have evaded by contraction or reEven as spirits they are hardly spiritual;
may be made. Satan is with great expectation brought before Gabriel in paradise, and is suffered to go away unmolested. The creation of man is represented as the consequence of the vacuity left in heaven by the expulsion of the rebels; yet Satan mentions it as a report rise in heaven before his departure.
To find sentiments for the state of innocence was very difficult; and something of anticipation, perhaps, is now and then discovered. Adam's discourse of dreams seems not to be the speculation of a new-created being. I know not whether his answer to the angel's reproof for curiosity does not want something of propriety; it is the speech of a man acquainted with many other men. Some philosophical notions, especially when the philosophy is false, might have been better omitted.
The angel, in a comparison, speaks of timorous
Milton, being well versed in the Italian poets, appears to have borrowed often from them; and, as every man catches something from his companions, his desire of imitating Ariosto's levity has disgraced his work with the "Paradise of Fools;" a fiction not in itself ill-imagined, but too Judicrous for its place.
His play on words, in which he delights too often; his equivocations, which Beatley endea vours to defend by the example of the ancients; his unnecessary and ungraceful use of terms of art, it is not necessary to mention, because they are easily remarked, and generally censured; and at last bear so little proportion to the whole, that they scarcely dese ve the attention of a critic. Such are the faults of that wonderful performance, "Paradise Lost;" which he who can put in balance with its beauties must be considered not as nice but as dull, as less to be censured for want of candour, than pitied for want of sensibility.
Of "Paradise Regained," the general judgment seems now to be right, that it is in many parts elegant, and every where instructive. It was not to be supposed that the writer of "Paradise Lost," could ever write without great effusions of fancy, and exalted precepts of wisdom. The basis of "Paradis Regained," is narrow; a dialogue without action can never please like a union of the narrative and dramatic powers, Had this poem been written not by Milton, but by some imitator, it would have claimed and received universal praise.
If Paradise Regained" has been too much depreciated, "Samson Agonistes" has in requital been too much admired. It could only be by long preju lice, and the bigotry of learning, that Milton could prefer the ancient tragedies, with their encumbrance of a chorus, to the exhibitions of the French and English stages; and it is only by a blind confidence in the reputation of Milton, that a drama can be praised in which the intermediate parts have neither cause nor consequence, neither hasten nor retard the catastrophe.
In this tragedy are, however, many particular beauties, many just sentiments, and striking lines; but it wants that power of attracting the attention which a well-connected plan produces.
Milton would not have excelled in dramatic writing; he knew human nature only in the gross, and had never studied the shades of character, nor the combinations of concurring, or the perplexity of contending, passions. He had read much, and knew what books could teach; but had mingled little in the world, and was deficient in the knowledge which experience must confer.
Through all his greater works there prevails a uniform peculiarity of diction, a mode and cast of expression which bears little resemblance to that of any former writer; and which is so far removed from common use, that an unlearned reader, when he first opens his book, finds himself surprised by a new language.
This novelty has been, by those who can find nothing wrong in Milton, imputed to his laborious endeavours after words suitable to the grandeur of his ideas. "Our language," says Addison "sunk under him." But the truth is, that, both in prose and verse, he had formed his style by a perverse and pedantic principle. He was desirous to use English words with a foreign idiom. This in all his prose is discovered and condemned; for there judgment operates freely, neither softened by the beauty, nor awed by the dignity, of his thoughts; but such is the power of his poetry, that his call is obeyed without resistance, the reader feels himself in captivity to a higher and a nobler inind, and criticism sinks in admiration.
Milton's style was not modified by his subject; what is shown with greater extent in "Paradise Lost," may be found in "Comus." One source of his peculiarity was his familiarity with the Tuscan poets; the disposition of his words, is, I think, frequently Italian; perhaps sometimes combined with other tongues.
Of him, at last, may be said what Jonson says of Spenser, that "he wrote no language," but has formed what Butler calls a "Babylonish dialect," in itself harsh and barbarous, but made by exalted genius and extensive learning the vehicle of so much instruction and so much pleasure, that, like other lovers, we find grace in its deformity.
Whatever be the faults of his diction, he can not want the praise of copiousness and variety : he was master of his language in its full extent; and has selected the melodious words with such diligence, that from his book alone the art of English poetry might be learned.
After his diction, something must be said of his rersification. "The measure," he says, "is the English heroic verse without rhyme." Of this mode he had many examples among the Italians, and some in his own country. The Earl of Surrey is said to have translated one of Virgil's books without rhyme; and, beside our tragedies, a few short poems had appeared in blank verse, particularly one tending to reconcile the nation to Raleigh's wild attempt upon Guiana, and probably written by Raleigh himself. These petty performances cannot be supposed to have much influenced Milton, who more probably took his hint from Trissino's Italia Liberata; and, finding blank verse easier than rhyme, was desirous of persuading himself that it is better.
"Rhyme," he says, and says truly, "is no necessary adjunct of true poetry." But, perhaps, of poetry, as a mental operation, metre or music is no necessary adjunct: it is however by the music of metre that poetry has been discriminated in all languages; and, in languages melodiously constructed with a due proportion of long and short syllables, metre is sufficient. But one language cannot communicate its rules to another; where metre is scanty and imperfect, some help is necessary. The music of the En
The Earl of Surrey translated two books of Virgi without rhyme the second and the fourth-J. B.
glish heroic lines strikes the ear so faintly, that it is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every line co-operate together; this co-operation can be only obtained by the preservation of every verse unmingled with another as a distinct system of sounds; and this distinctness is obtained and preserved by the artifice of rhyme. The variety of pauses, so much boasted by the lovers of blank verse, changes the measures of an English poet to the periods of a declaimer; and there are only a few skilful and happy readers of Milton, who enable their audience to perceive where the lines end or begin. "Blank verse," said an ingenious critic, "seems to be verse only to the eye." Poetry may subsist without rhymne, but English poetry will not often please; nor can rhyme ever be safely spared but where the subject is able to support itself. Blank verse makes some approach to that which is called the lapidary style; has neither the easiness of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and therefore tires by long continuance. Of the Italian writers without rhyme, whom Milton alleges as precedents, not one is popular; what reason could urge in its defence has been confuted by the ear.
But, whatever be the advantages of rhyme, I cannot prevail on myself to wish that Milton had been a rhymer; for I cannot wish his work to be other than it is; yet, like other heroes, he
is to be admired rather than imitated. He that thinks himself capable of astonishing may write blank verse: but those that hope only to please must condescend to rhyme.
The highest praise of genius is original invention. Milton cannot be said to have contrived the structure of an epic poem, and therefore owes reverence to that vigour and amplitude of mind to which all generations must be indebted for the art of poetical narration, for the texture of the fable, the variation of incidents, the interposition of dialogue, and all the stratagems that surprise and enchain attention. But, of all the borrowers from Homer, Milton is perhaps the least indebted. He was naturally a thinker for himself, confident of his own abilities, and disdainful of help or hinderance: he did not refuse admission to the thoughts or images of his predecessors, but he did not seek them. From his contemporaries he neither courted nor received support; there is in his writings nothing by which the pride of other authors might be gratified, or favour gained, no exchange of praise, nor solicitation of support. His great works were performed under discountenance, and in blindness; but difficulties vanished at his touch; he was born for whatever is arduous; and his work is not the greatest of heroic poems, only because it is not the first.
Or the great Author of "Hudibras," there is a life prefixed to the later editions of his poem, by an unknown writer, and therefore of disputable authority; and some account is incidentally given by Wood, who confesses the uncertainty of his own narrative: more however than they knew cannot now be learned, and nothing remains but to compare and copy them.
moved for a short time to Cambridge; but, for want of money, was never made a member of any college. Wood leaves us rather doubtful whether he went to Cambridge or Oxford; but at last makes him pass six or seven years at Cambridge, without knowing in what hall or college; yet it can hardly be imagined that he lived so long in either university but as belonging to one SAMUEL BUTLER was born in the parish of house or another; and it is still less likely that Strensham, in Worcestershire, according to his he could have so long inhabited a place of learnbiographer, in 1612. This account Dr. Nashing with so little distinction as to leave his resifinds confirmed by the register. He was chris-dence uncertain. Dr. Nash has discovered that tened February 14. his father was owner of a house and a little land, worth about eight pounds a year, still called Butler's tenement.
His father's condition is variously represented. Wood mentions him as competently wealthy; but Mr. Longueville, the son of Butler's princi- Wood has his information from his brother, pal friend, says he was an honest farmer with whose narrative placed him at Cambridge, in opsome small estate, who made a shift to educate position to that of his neighbours, which sent his son at the grammar-school of Worcester, un-him to Oxford. The brother seems the best der Mr. Henry Bright,* from whose care he re-authority, till, by confessing his inability to tell
* These are the words of the author of the short ac- that he was a conveyancing lawyer, and a bencher of the count of Butler prefixed to "Hudibras," which Dr. Inner Temple, and had raised himself from a low beginJohnson, notwithstanding what he says above, seems to ning to very great eminence in that profession; that he have supposed was written by Mr. Longueville, the fa-was eloquent and learned, of spotless integrity; that he ther; but the contrary is to be inferred from a subsequent supported an aged father who had ruined his fortunes by passage, wherein the author laments that he had neither extravagance, and by his industry and application re-edisuch an acquaintance nor interest with Mr. Longueville, fied a ruined family; that he supported Butler, who, but as to procure for him the golden remains of Butler there for him, must literally have starved; and received from inentioned. He was probably led into the mistake by a him, as a recompense, the papers called his "Remains,” note in the Biog. Brit. p. 1077, signifying that the son of Life of the Lord-keeper Guilford, p. 289.-These have this gentleman was living in 1736. since been given to the public by Mr. Thyer, of Manchester; and the originals are now in the hands of the Rev. Dr. Farmer, master of Emanuel College, Can ¡bridge.-H.
Of this friend and generous patron of Butler, Mr. William Longueville, I find an account, written by a person who was well acquainted with him. o this effect; viz.
his hall or college, he gives reason to suspect that he was resolved to bestow on him an academ cal education; but durst not name a college, for fear of detection.
Wood relates that he was secretary to Villiers, duke of Buckingham, when he was chancellor of Cambridge; this is doubted by the other writer, who yet allows the Duke to have been his frequent benefactor. That both these accounts are false there is reason to suspect, from a story told by Packe, in his account of the Life of Wycherley; and from some verses which Mr. Thyer has published in the Author's Remains.
He was, for some time, according to the author of his life, clerk to Mr. Jefferys, of Earl's Croomb, in Worcestershire, an eminent justice of the peace. In his service he had not only leisure for study, but for recreation; his amusements were music and painting: and the reward "Mr. Wycherley," says Packe, “had always of his pencil was the friendship of the celebrated laid hold of any opportunity which offered of reCooper. Some pictures, said to be his, were presenting to the Duke of Buckingham how well shown to Dr. Nash, at Earl's Croomb; but, Mr. Butler had deserved of the royal family, by when he inquired for them some years after-writing his inimitable Hudibras ;' and that it wards, he found them destroyed, to stop win-was a reproach to the court, that a person of his dows, and owns that they hardly deserved a better fate.
He was afterwards admitted into the family of the Countess of Kent, where he had the use of a library; and so much recommended himself to Selden, that he was often employed by him in literary business. Selden, as is well known, was steward to the Countess, and is supposed to have gained much of his wealth by managing her
In what character Butler was admitted into that lady's service, how long he continued in it, and why he left it, is, like the other incidents of his life, utterly unknown.
The vicissitudes of his condition placed him afterwards in the family of Sir Samuel Luke, one of Cromwell's officers. Here he observed so much of the character of the sectaries, that ne is said to have written or begun his poem at this time; and it is likely that such a design would be formed in a place where he saw the principles and practices of the rebels, audacious and undisguised in the confidence of success.
At length the King returned, and the time came in which loyalty hoped for its reward. Butler, however, was only made secretary to the Earl of Carbury, president of the principality of Wales; who conferred on him the stewardship of Ludlow Castle, when the Court of the Marches was revived.
In this part of his life, he married Mrs. Herbert, a gentlewoman of a good family, and lived, says Wood, upon her fortune, having studied the common law, but never practised it. A fortune she had, says his biographer, but it was lost by bad securities.
loyalty and wit should suffer in obscurity, and under the wants he did. The Duke always seemed to hearken to him with attention enough; and after some time undertook to recommend his pretensions to his majesty. Mr. Wycherley, in hopes to keep him steady to his word, obtained of his Grace to name a day, when he might introduce that modest and unfortunate poet to his new patron. At last an appointment was made, and the place of meeting was agreed to be the Roebuck. Mr. Butler and his friend attended accordingly; the Duke joined them; but, as the devil would have it, the door of the room where they sat was open, and his Grace, who had seated himself near it, observing a pimp of his acquaintance (the creature too was à knight) trip by with a brace of ladies, immediately quitted his engagement to follow another kind of business, at which he was more ready than in doing good offices to men of desert, though no one was better qualified than he, both in regard to his fortune and understanding, to protect them; and from that time to the day of his death, poor Butler never found the least effect of his promise!"
Such is the story. The verses are written with a degree of acrimony, such as neglect and disappointment might naturally excite; and such. as it would be hard to imagine Butler capable of expressing against a man who had any claim to his gratitude.
Notwithstanding this discouragement and neglect, he still prosecuted his design; and in 1678, published a third part, which still leaves the poem imperfect and abrupt. How much more he originally intended, or with what events In 1663 was published the first part, contain- the action was to be concluded, it is vain to con ing three cantos, of the poem of “Hudibras," jecture. Nor can it be thought strange that he which, as Prior relates, was made known at should stop here, however unexpectedly. To court, by the taste and influence of the Earl of write without reward is sufficiently unpleasing. Dorset. When it was known, it was necessa- He had now arrived at an age when he might rily admired: the King quoted, the courtiers think it proper to be in jest no longer, and perstudied, and the whole party of the royalists ap-haps his health might now begin to fail. plauded it. Every eye watched for the golden shower which was to fall upon the Author, who certainly was not without his part in the general expectation.
He died in 1680: and Mr. Longueville, hav ing unsuccessfully solicited a subscription for his interment in Westminister Abbey, buried him at his own cost in the churchyard of Coventgarden.* Dr. Simon Patrick read the service.
Granger was informed by Dr. Pearce, who named for his authority Mr. Lowndes of the Treasury, that Butler had a yearly pension of a
In 1664 the second part appeared; the curiosity of the nation was rekindled, and the writer was again praised and elated. But praise was his whole reward. "Clarendon," says Wood, "gave him reason to hope for places and employments of value and credit;" but no In a note in the "Biographia Britannica," p, 175. such advantages did he ever obtain. It is re- he is said, on the authority of the younger Mr. Longue ported that the King once gave him three hun-ville, to have lived for some years in Rose-street, Co dred guineas; but of this temporary bounty I find no proof.
Tent-garden, and also that he died there; the latter of these particulars is rendered highly probable, by his being interred in the cemetery of that parish.-H