« AnteriorContinua »
bed; and much about the time of her death gutta ferena, which had for several years been gradually increasing, totally extinguished his fight *. In this melancholic condition he was easily prevailed with to think of taking another wife, who was Catharine the daughter of Captain Woodcock of Hackney; and the too, in less than a year after their marriage, died in the fame unfortunate manner as the former had done; to whofe memory he does honour in one of his Sonnets. These private calamities were much heightened by the different figure he was likely to make in the An. Æt. 52. new scene of affairs which was going to be actedin the
• It was the light of his left eye that he loft first; and it was at the desire of his friend Leonard Philaras, the Duke of Parma's minister at Paris, that he fent him a particular account of his case, and of the manner of his growing blind, for him to consult Thevenot the physician, who was recka oned famons in cases of the eyes. The letter is the fifteenth of his Familiar Epiftles. is dater September 28, 1654, and is thus trandated by Mr. Richardfon:
" Since you advise me not to fling away all hopes of re" covering my sight, for that you have a friend at Paris, "Thevenot the physician, particularly famous for the eyes, " wliom you offer to consult in my behalf, if you receive " from me an account by wbich he may judge of the causes " and symptoms of my disease, I will do what you advise "me to that I may not seem to refure any assistance that " is offered, perhaps, from God.
“I think 'tis about ten years, more or less, since I began " to perceive that my eye-fight grew weak and dinn, and " at the same time my fpleen and bowels to be opprest and "troubled with natus'; and in the morning when ! began "to read, according to custom, my eyes grew painful inime"diately, and to refuse reading, but were refreshed after a " moderate exercise of the body. A certain iris began to sur. "round the light of the candle if I looked at it; foun af"ter which, on the left part of the left eye (for that was Volume I.
State: for all things now conspiring to promote the King's restoration, he was too conscious of his own activity during the usurpation to expect any favour from the Crown; and therefore he prudently absconded 'till the act of Oblivion was published; by which he was only rendered incapable of bearing any office in the nation. Many had a very just esteem of his admirable parts and learning who detested his principles, by whose intercession his pardon pasled the seals : and I wish the laws of Civil history could have extended the benefit of that oblivion to the memory of his guilt, which was indulged to his person; Ne tanti facinoris immanitas aut extitiffe, aut non vindicata fuise, videatur.
Having thus gained a full protection from the go«r fome years fooner clouded) a milt arose which hid every “ thing on that side; and looking forward, if I shut my “ right eye objects appeared fmaller. My other eye allo, " for these last three years, failing by degrees, fome months « before light was abolished, ihings which I look
upon “ seemed to iwim to the right and left; certain inveterate “ vapours seem to posless my forehead and temples, which “afier meat, especially quite to evening, generally urge “ and depress my eyes with a sleepy lieaviness : nor would “ Tomit, that whilft there was as yet some remainder of light, “ I no sooner lay down in my bed, and turned on my lide, “ but a copious light dazzled out of my shut eyes; and as “ my light diminished every day, colours gradually more “ obscure flashed our with vehemence; but now that the “ lucid is in a manner wholly extinct, a direct black nels, “ or else spotted, and, as it were, woven with a sh-colour, “ is used to pour itself in. Nevertheless, the constant and “ fettled darkness that is before me. as well by night as “ by day, secmis nearer to the whitish than the blackish; and
the eye rolling itself a little, seems to admit I know " not what little smallness of light as through a chink.”
vernment, (which was in truth more than he could have reasonably hoped) he appeared as much in public as he formerly used to do; and employing his friend Dr. Paget to make choice of a third confort, on his recommendation he married Elizabeth the daughter of Mr. Minshul, a Cheshire gentleman, by whom he had no issue. Three daughters by his first wife were then living, two of whom are said to have been very serviceable to him in his studies : for, having been instructed to pronounce not only the modern, but also the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, they read in their respective originals whatever authors he wanted to consult, though they understood none but their mother-tongue. This employment, however, was too unpleasant to be continued for any long process of time; and therefore he dismissed them, to receive an education more agreeable to their sex and temper.
We come now to take a survey of him in that point of view in which he will be looked on by all succeeding ages with equal delight and admiration. An interval of above twenty years, had elapsed since he wrote the Mask of Comus *, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidast; all in such an exquisite strain, that though he had left no other monuments of his genius behind him, his name had been immortal. But neither the infirmities of age and constitution, nor the vicissitudes of fortune, could
• 26. An. Æt.
depress the vigour of his mind, or divert it from executing a design he had long conceived of writing an heroic poem *. The Fall of Man was a subject which he had some years before fixed on for a tragedy, which he intended to form by the models of Antiquity; and some, not without probability, fay the play opened with that speech in the Fourth Book of Paradise Loft, ver. 32. which is addressed by Satan to the Sun. Were it material, I believe I could produce other pasfagts which more plainly appear to have been originally intended for the scene. But whatever truth there may be in this report, 'tis certain that he did not bea gin to mold his subject in the form which it bears now before he had concluded his controversy with Salmaa fius and More; when he had wholly lost the use of his eyes, and was forced to employ in the office of an amanuensis any friend who accidentally paid him a visit. Yet, under all these discouragements and vas An. Æt. 61. rious interruptions, in the year 1669 he published his Paradise Loftt; the noblest Poem, next to those of Homer and Virgil, that ever the wit of man produced in any age or nation. Need I mention any other evidence of its inestimable worth, than that the finest geniuses who have succeeded him have ever esteemed it a merit to relish and illustrate its beau. ties? whilst the critic who gazed, with fo much
* Paradise Lott, B. IX, Y, 26
† Milton's contract with pris bookseller, S. Simmons, for the copy, bears date April 27, 1667.
wanton malice, on the nakedness of Shakespeare when
Non ita certandi cupidus, quam propter amorem