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supplied the want of sight by a very odd expedient, of which Philips gives the following account:
Mr. Philips tells us, that though our author had daily about him one or other to read, some 'persons of man's estate, who, of their own accord, 'grecdily catched at the opportunity of being his * readers, that they might as well reap the benefit . of what they read to him, as oblige him by the • benefit of their reading; and others of younger
years were sent by their parents to the same end : * yet excusing only the eldest daughter, by reason
of her bodily infirmity, and difficult utterance of • speech, (which, to say truth, I doubt was the
principal cause of excusing her,) the other two • were condemned to the performance of reading,
and exactly pronouncing of all the languages of • whatever book he should, at one time or other, think fit to peruse, viz. the Hebrew (and I think the 'Syriac), the Greek, the Latin, the Italian, Spanish, 6 and French. All which sorts of books to be
confined to read, without understanding one word, 'must needs be a trial of patience almost beyond
endurance. Yet it was endured by both for a • long time, though the irksomeness of this employment could not be always concealed, but broke out more and more into expressions of uneasiness ; so that at length they were all, even the eldest also, sent out to learn some curious and ingenious sorts of manufacture, that are proper for women to learn; particularly embroideries in gold or silver.'
In the scene of misery which this mode of intellectual labor sets before our eyes, it is hard to determine whether the daughters or the father are most to be lamented. A language not understood can never be so read as to give pleasure, and very seldom so as to convey meaning. If few men would have had resolution to write books with such embarrassments, few likewise would have wanted ability to find some better expedient.
Three years after his Paradise Lost (1667), he published his History of England, comprising the whole fable of Geoffry of Monmouth, and continued to the Norman invasion. Why he should have given the first part, which he seems not to believe, and which is universally rejected, it is difficult to conjecture. The style is harsh; but it has something of rough vigor, which perhaps may often strike, though it cannot please.
On this history the licenser again fixed his claws, and before he could transmit it to the press tore out several parts. Some censures of the Saxon monks were taken away, lest they should be applied to the modern clergy; and a character of the Long Parliament, and Assembly of Divines, was excluded ; of which the author gave a copy to the earl of Anglesea, and which, being afterwards published, has been since inserted in its proper place.
The same year were printed Paradise Regained, and Sampson Agonistes, a tragedy written in iinitation of the Ancients, and never designed by the author for the stage. As these poems ware published by another bookseller, it has been asked, whether Simmons was discouraged from receiving them by the slow sale of the former. Why a writer changed his bookseller a hundred years ago, I am far from hoping to discover. Certainly, he who in two years sells thirteen hundred copies of a volume in quarto, bought for two payments of five pounds each, has no reason to repent his purchase.
When Milton shewed Paradise Regained to Elwood, This,' said he, is owing to you; for 'you put it in my head by the question you put ' to me at Chalfont, which otherwise I had not thought of.
His last poetical offspring was his favorite. He could not, as Elwood relates, endure to hear Paradise Lost preferred to Paradise Regained. Many causes may vitiate a writer's judgment of his own works. On that which has cost him much labor he sets a high value, because he is unwilling to think that he has been diligent in vain; what has been produced without toilsome efforts is considered with delight, as a proof of vigorous faculties and fertile invention; and the last work, whatever it be, has necessarily most of the grace of novelty. Milton, however it happened, had this prejudice, and had it to himself.
To that multiplicity of attainments, and extent of comprehension, that entitle this great author to
our veneration, may be added a kind of humble dignity, which did not disdain the meanest services to literature. The epic poet, the controvertist, the politician, having already descended to accommodate children with a book of rudiments, now, in the last years of his life, composed a book of Logic, for the initiation of students in philosophy ; and published (1672) Artis Logica plenior Institumo ad Petri Rami Methodum concinnata ; that is, • A new Scheme of Logic, according to the Me.
thod of Ramus. I know not whether, even in this book, he did not intend an act of hostility against the Universities ; for Ramus was one of the first oppugners of the old philosophy, who disturbed with innovations the quiet of the schools.
His polemical disposition again revived. He had now been safe so long, that he forgot his fears, and published a Treatise of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and the best Means to prevent the Growth of Popery.
But this little tract is modestly written, with respectful mention of the Church of England, and an appeal to the thirty-nine articles. His principle of toleration is, agreement in the sufficiency of the Scriptures; and he extends it to all who, whatever their opinions are, profess to derive them from the sacred books. The papists appeal to other testis monies, and are therefore, in his opinion, not to be permitted the liberty of either public or private worship; for, though they plead conscience, we have no warrant, he says, to regard conscience, which is not grounded in Scripture.
Those who are not convinced by his reasons, may be perhaps delighted with his wit. The term Roman Catholic is, he says, one of the Pope's bulls; it is particular universal, or catholic schismatic.
He has, however, something better. As the best preservative against Popery, he recommends the diligent perusal of the Scriptures, a duty, from which he warns the busy part of mankind not to think themselves excused.
He now reprinted his juvenile poems, with some additions.
In the last year of his life he sent to the press, seeming to take delight in publication, a collection of Familiar Epistles in Latin ; to which, being too few to make a volume, he added some academical exercises, which perhaps he perused with pleasure, as they recalled to his memory the days of youth ; but for which nothing but veneration for his name could now procure a reader.
When he had attained his sixty-sixth year, the gout, with which he had been long tormented, prevailed over the enfeebled powers of nature. He died by a quiet and silent expiration, about the tenth of November, 1674, at his house in Bunhill. fields; and was buried next his father in the chancel of St. Giles at Cripplegate.
His funeral was very splendidly and numerously attended. Upon his grave there is supposed to have been