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individuality and to make a thought fresh again and their own by the addition of this indefinable supplement. This constitutes literary originality, and this Walton had. Whatever entered his mind or memory came forth again plus Izaak Walton. We have borrowed of the Latin mythology the word “genius” to express certain intellectual powers or aptitudes which we are puzzled to define, so elusive are they. I have already admitted that this term in its ordinary acceptation cannot be applied to Walton. This would imply larger “draughts of intellectual day” than his ever were or could be. For we ordinarily confine it to a single species of power, which seems sometimes (as in Villon, Marlowe, and Poe) wholly dissociated from the rest of the man, and continues to haunt the ruins of him with its superior presence as if it were rather a genius loci than the natale comes qui temperat astrum. In Walton's case, since a Daimon or a Genius would be too lofty for the business, might we not take the Brownie of our own Northern mythology for the type of such superior endowment as he clearly had? We can fancy him ministered to by such a homely and helpful creature, — not a genius exactly, but answering the purpose sufficiently well, and marking a certain natural distinction in those it singles out for its innocent and sportful companionship. And it brings a blessing also to those who treat it kindly, as Walton did.
Fortunate senex, ergo tua rura manebunt.
DURING the hurly-burly of the English Civil War, which made the bee in every man's bonnet buzz all the more persistently to be let forth, whoever would now write to his newspaper was driven, for want of that safety-valve, to indite a pamphlet, and, as he believed that the fate of what for the moment was deemed the Universe hung on his opinion, was eager to make it public ere the opportune moment should be gone by forever. Every one of these enthusiasts felt as Robert Owen did when he said to Wilberforce, “What, Sir, would you put off the happiness of Mankind till the next session of Parliament?” Every crotchet and whimsey, too, became the nucleus of a sect, and, as if Old England could not furnish enough otherwisemindedness of her own, New England sent over Rogers and Gorton to help in the confusion of tongues. All these sects, since each singly was in a helpless and often hateful minority, were united in the assertion of their right to freedom of opinion and to the uncurtailed utterance of whatever they fancied that opinion to be. Many of them, it should seem, could hardly fail in their mental vagabondage to stumble upon the principle of universal
toleration, but none discovered anything more novel than that Liberty of Prophesying is good for Me and very bad for Thee. It is remarkable how beautiful the countenance of Toleration always looks in this partial view of it, but it is conceivable that any one of these heterodoxies, once in power and therefore orthodox, would have buckled round all dissenters the strait-waistcoat yet warm from the constraint of more precious limbs. Indeed, this inconsistency, so concise a proof of the consistency of human nature, was illustrated when the General Court of Massachusetts suppressed the first attempt at a newspaper in 1690, and forbade the printing of anything “without licence first obtained from those appointed by the Government to grant the same.” Williams, as was natural in one of his amiable temper, was more generous than the rest, but even he lived long enough to learn that there were politico-theological bores in Rhode Island so sedulous and so irritating that they made him doubt the efficacy of his own nostrum, just as the activity of certain domestic insects might make a Brahmin waver as to the sacredness of life in some of its lower organisms.
The prevailing Party had also its jangling minorities whose criticisms and arguments and complaints it was convenient to suppress, and accordingly Parliament, in June, 1643, passed an Ordinance to restrain unlicensed printing. They had so little learned how to use their newly acquired freedom as to be certain that they could compel other men to the right use of theirs. This is not
to be wondered at, for even democracies are a great while in finding out that everything may be left to the instincts of a free people save those instincts themselves, and that these, docile if guided gently, grow mutinous under unskilful driving. Parliament was trying no new experiment, for the press, as if it were an animal likely to run mad and bite somebody at any moment, had been muzzled since Queen Mary's day, but they were trying over again, as men are wont, an experiment that had always failed, and in the nature of things always must fail.
Unwise repression made evasion only the more actively ingenious, and gave it that color of righteousness which is the most dangerous consequence of ill-considered legislation. Counsel was darkened by a swarm of pamphlets surreptitiously brooded in cellars and cocklofts. Fancy sees their authors fluttering round the New Light on dingy quarto wings and learning that Truth incautiously approached can singe as well as shine. Every doctrine inconceivable by instructed men was preached, and the ghost of every dead and buried heresy did squeak and gibber in the London streets. The right of private misjudgment had been exercised so fantastically on the Scriptures that thoughtful persons were beginning to surmise whether there were not enough explosive material between their covers to shatter any system of government or of society that ever was or will be contrived by man. All this was the natural result of circumstances wholly novel, of a universal ferment of thought or
of its many plausible substitutes, enthusiasm, fanaticism, monomania, and every form of mental and moral bewilderment suddenly loosed from the unconscious restraints of traditional order. Those who watched the strange intellectual and ethicopolitical upheaval in New England fifty years ago will be at no loss for parallels to these phenomena. It was a state of things that should have been left to subside, as it had arisen, through natural causes; but the powers that be always think themselves wiser than the laws of Nature or the axioms of experience.
Two formalities were necessary for the lawful publication of any printed sheet. These were the long-established entry at Stationers' Hall and the license required by the new Ordinance. Men in a hurry to save the world before night, dissident as they might be in other respects, were agreed in resenting these impediments and delays, and this the more, doubtless, because of the fees they exacted. Milton, who had nothing in common with such men except the belief in a divine mission, had in publishing his controversial tracts quietly ignored both the rights of the Stationers and the injunctions of the Ordinance. As respects the Stationers' Company, he should have complied with the law, since entry in their register was the only security for copyright, and he believed, as he tells us in his “Iconoclastes,” that “every author should have the property in his work reserved to him after death as well as living.” It was the infringement of their copyrights by piratical printers during the