Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


MORE than two years have now elapsed since the Editors of the prose works of Milton favoured me with an application for the life of the author. With the diffidence, proper to my conscious mediocrity of talents, but with the alacrity, inspired by the wish of illustrating a great and an injured character, I undertook, and soon sketched the rough draught of a large portion of the work. Unacquainted with the general progress of the publication, with which my biography was to be connected, I already looked forward to its early appearance, when it pleased the Almighty to visit me with an affliction, of such overwhelming force as to oppress all my facul, ties, and, during a heavy interval of many successive months, to render me incapable of the slightest mental exertion. From this half-animated state I was, at length, roused by a sense of the duty which I owed to my engagements, and by the fear of having in

jured, with the consequences of my weakness, those interests which I had bound myself by promise to promote. On the completion, however, of my work, I discovered, and not without some satisfaction, that my life of Milton was yet to wait for its associate volumes from the press, and consequently that I had contracted no obligations for indulgence either to the editors or the public. Of all the parties, indeed, engaged in the transaction I alone seemed to have experienced any essential change of situation in the interval between the expected and the actual period of the publication. Eighteen months ago I felt an interest in the scene around me, of which I must never again hope to be sensible; and my pen, which now moves only in obedience to duty, was then quickened by the influences of fame. Eighteen months ago, like the man who visited the Rosicrusian tomb, I was surrounded with brilliant light, but one blow dissolved the charm, broke the source of the illumination, and left me in sepulchral darkness. It is only, however, in their

reference to the execution of the following work that my calamities or my weaknesses can be of consequence to the public. If any passages, then, in the present life of Milton, should be noticed by the reader for peculiar deficiency in composition or in spirit, as he pronounces their merited condemnation let him be told that they were written by a father, who with a daughter, the delight and, alas! perhaps too much, the pride of his heart, has lost the great endearment of existence; the exhilaration of his cheerful and the solace of his melancholy hour.

Candour now requires me to speak of the literary assistance of which I have availed myself. If any vanity yet lingered in my bosom, in which every animating passion is nearly extinct, I might abundantly gratify the weakness by enumerating among my friends or acquaintance some of the first scholars and geniuses of the age: but of those, whose ability, if circumstances had permitted me to solicit its co-operation, would have imparted ornament and value to my production, my

obligations for effective aid are limited to one. By the reverend FRANCIS WRANGHAM, with whose talents and various erudition the public is already acquainted, I have been favoured with translations of my author's sixth elegy, of the greater part of his ode to Rouse, of more than one of his familiar epistles, and of many portions of his controversial pieces. These translations the reader would easily discover not to be mine; but to prevent his enquiry for the superior hand, from which they came, he will find them either acknowledged in their places, or specified at the foot of the present page. Two smaller translations, also, by the same elegant pen, will be found inserted in my ap

a The second letter to Deodati. The conclusion of the "Defence of the People of England:" "Hactenùs quod initio institueram," &c.

The two letters to Leo. Philaras, with exception to the quotation in the second of them from Apollonius, for the version of which I am accountable.

The address to Cromwell from the "Second Defence:" "Tu igitur Cromuelle," &c.

The conclusion of the "Second Defence:" " Ad me quod attinet," &c.

The letter to Peter Heimbach after the plague in London.

« PreviousContinue »