Page images
PDF
EPUB

of solemnity, and debars them from the admission of all lighter or gayer ornaments. In this it is that the style of an Epitaph necessarily differs from that of an elegy. The custom of burying our dead either in or near our churches, perhaps originally founded on a rational design of fitting the mind for religious exercises, by laying before it the most affecting proof of the uncertainty of life, makes it proper to exclude from our Epitaphs all such allusions as are contrary to the doctrines for the propagation of which the churches are erected, and to the end for which those who peruse the monuments must be supposed to come thither. Nothing is, therefore, more ridiculous than to copy the Roman inscriptions which were engraven on stones by the highway, and composed by those who generally reflected on mortality only to excite in themselves and others a quicker relish of pleasure, and a more luxurious enjoyment of life, and whose regard for the dead extended no farther than a wish that the earth might be light upon them.

All allusions to the heathen mythology are therefore absurd, and all regard for the senseless remains of a dead man impertinent and superstitious. One of the first distinctions of the primitive christians, was their neglect of bestowing garlands on the dead, in which they are very rationally defended by their apologist in Minutius Felix. "We lavish no flowers nor odours on the dead," says he, "because they have no sense of fragrance or of beauty." We profess to reverence the dead, not for their sake, but for our own. It is therefore always with indignation or contempt that I read the epitaph on Cowley, a man whose learning and poetry were his lowest merits.

to battle, or Cupids sporting round a virgin. The pope who defaced the statues of the deities at the tomb of Sannazarius, is, in my opinion, more easily to be defended, than he that erected them.

It is for the same reason improper to address the Epitaph to the passenger, a custom which an injudicious veneration for antiquity introduced again at the revival of letters, and which, among many others, Passeratius suffered to mislead him in his Epitaph upon the heart of Henry king of France, who was stabbed by Clement the monk; which yet deserves to be inserted, for the sake of showing how beautiful even improprieties may become in the hands of a good writer.

Adsta, viator, et dole regum vices.
Cer Regis isto conditur sub marmore,
Qui jura Gailis, jura Sarmatis dedit."
Tectus cucullo hunc sustulit sicarius.
Abi, viator, et dole regum vices.

In the monkish ages, however ignorant and unpolished, the Epitaphs were drawn up with far greater propriety than can be shown in those which more enlightened times have produced.

Orate pro Anima-miserrimi Peccatoris, was an address to the last degree striking and solemn, as it flowed naturally from the religion then believed, and awakened in the reader sentiments of benevolence for the deceased, and of concern for his own happiness. There was nothing trifling or ludicrous, nothing that did not tend to the noblest end, the propagation of piety and the increase of devotion.

It may seem very superfluous to lay it down as the first rule for writing Epitaphs, that the

name of the deceased is not to be omitted; nor should I have thought such a precept necessary, had not the practice of the greatest writers shown that it has not been sufficiently regarded. In most of the poetical Epitaphs, the names for whom they were composed, may be sought to no purpose, being only prefixed on the monument. To expose the absurdity of this omission, it is only necessary to ask how the Epitaphs, which have outlived the stones on which they were inscribed, would have contributed to the information of posterity, had they wanted the names of those whom they celebrated.

Aurea dum late volitant tua scripta per orbem, Et fama eternum vivis, divine Po ta, Hic placida jaceas requie, custodiat urnam Cana Fides vigilentque perenni lampade Musæ ! Sit sacer ille locus, nec quis temerarius ausit Sacrilega turbare manu venerabile bustum. Intacti maneant, maneant per sæcula dulces Cowleii cineres, serventque immobile saxum. To pray that the ashes of a friend may lie undisturbed, and that the divinities that favoured him in his life, may watch for ever round him, to preserve his tomb from violation, and drive sacrilege away, is only rational in him who believes the soul interested in the repose of the In drawing the character of the deceased, body, and the powers which he invokes for its there are no rules to be observed which do not protection able to preserve it. To censure such equally relate to other compositions. The praise expressions as contrary to religion, or as remains ought not to be general, because the mind is lost of heathen superstition, would be too great a be affected with what it cannot comprehend. in the extent of any indefinite idea, and cannot degree of severity. I condemn them only as uninstructive and unaffecting, as too ludicrous When we hear only of a good or great man, we for reverence or grief, for christianity and a know not in what class to place him, nor have temple. any notion of his character, distinct from that That the designs and decorations of monu-effect upon our conduct, as we have nothing reof a thousand others; his example can have no ments ought likewise to be formed with the same regard to the solemnity of the place, cannot be denied; it is an established principle, that all ornaments owe their beauty to their propriety. The same glitter of dress that adds graces to gayety and youth, would make age and dignity contemptible. Charon with his boat is far from heightening the awful grandeur of the universal judgment, though drawn by Angelo himself; nor is it easy to imagine a greater absurdity than that of gracing the walls of a christian temple with the figure of Mars leading a hero

markable or eminent to propose to our imitation. The Epitaph composed by Ennius for his own tomb, has both the faults last mentioned.

Nemo me decoret lacrumis, nec funera, fletu Faxit. Cur? volito vivu' per ora virum. The reader of this Epitaph receives scarce any idea from it; he neither conceives any veneration for the man to whom it belongs, nor is instructed by what methods this boasted reputation is to be obtained.

Though a sepulchral inscription is professedly

PREFACE TO AN ESSAY ON PARADISE LOST.

a panegyric, and, therefore, not confined to historical impartiality, yet it ought always to be written with regard to truth. No man ought to be commended for virtues which he never possessed, but whoever is curious to know his faults must inquire after them in other places; the monuments of the dead are not intended to perpetuate the memory of crimes, but to exhibit patterns of virtue. On the tomb of Mecenas his luxury is not to be mentioned with his munificence, nor is the proscription to find a place on the monument of Augustus.

The best subject for Epitaphs is private virtue; virtue exerted in the same circumstances in which the bulk of mankind are placed, and which, therefore, may admit of many imitators. He that has delivered his country from oppression, or freed the world from ignorance and error, can excite the emulation of a very small number; but he that has repelled the temptations of poverty, and disdained to free himself from distress at the expense of his virtue, may animate multitudes, by his example, to the same firmness of heart and

steadiness of resolution.

Of this kind I cannot forbear the mention of two Greek inscriptions; one upon a man whose writings are well known, the other upon a person whose memory is preserved only in her Epitaph, who both lived in slavery, the most calamitous estate in human life:

Ζωσιμη ἡ πριν εουσα μονῳ τῳ σωματι δουλη,
Και τῳ σωματι νῦν εὗρεν ελευθερίην.
Zosima, que solo fuit olim corpore serva,
Corpore nunc etiam libera facta fuit.

519

"Zosima, who in her life could only have her body en
slaved, now finds her body likewise set at liberty."
It is impossible to read this Epitaph without
being animated to bear the evils of life with con-
stancy, and to support the dignity of human na-
ture under the most pressing afflictions, both by
the example of the heroine, whose grave we be-
hold, and the prospect of that state in which, to
use the language of the inspired writers, “The
poor cease from their labours, and the weary be
at rest."

The other is upon Epictetus, the stoic philosopher:

Δουλος Επίκτητος γενομην, και σωμ' αναπηρος, Και πενίην Ιρος, και Ψιλος Αθανάτοις. Servus Epictetus, mutilatus corpore, viri Pauperieque Irus, curaque prima Deum. "Epictetus, who lies here, was a slave and a cripple, poor as the beggar in the proverb, and the favourite of Heaven."

may

In this distich is comprised the noblest paneSyric, and the most important instruction. We learn from it that virtue is impracticable in himself to the regard of Heaven, amidst the no condition, since Epictetus could recommend temptations of poverty and slavery; slavery, which has always been found so destructive to virtue, that in many languages a slave and a thief are expressed by the same word. And we may be likewise admonished by it, not to lay any stress on a man's outward circumstances, in making an estimate of his real value, since Epictetus, the beggar, the cripple, and the slave, was the favourite of Heaven."

PREFACE*

TO AN ESSAY ON MILTON'S USE AND IMITATION OF THE MODERNS IN

HIS PARADISE LOST.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR 1750.

Ir is now more than half a century since the [tion. There seems to have arisen a contest, "Paradise Lost," having broke through the among men of genius and literature, who should cloud with which the unpopularity of the au- most advance its honour, or best distinguish its thor, for a time, obscured it, has attracted the beauties. Some have revised editions, others general admiration of mankind; who have en-have published commentaries, and all have endeavoured to compensate the error of their first deavoured to make their particular studies, in neglect, by lavish praises and boundless venera-some degree, subservient to this general emulation.

"It is to be hoped, nay, it is expected, that the ele- Among the inquiries, to which this ardour of gant and nervous writer, whose judicious sentiments, criticism has naturally given occasion, none is and inimitable style, points out the author of Lauder's Preface and Posstcript, will no longer allow one to plume more obscure in itself, or more worthy of rational himself with his feathers, who appears so little to have curiosity, than a retrospection of the progress of deserved his assistance; an assistance which I am per- this mighty genius, in the construction of his suaded would never have been communicated, had there work; a view of the fabric gradually rising, been the least suspicion of those facts which I have been the instrument of conveying to the world in these sheets." perhaps from small beginnings, till its foundation -Milton vindicated from the charge of plagiarism rests in the centre, and its turrets sparkle in the brought against him by Mr. Lauder, and Lauder him-skies; to trace back the structure, through all self convicted of several forgeries and gross impositions on the public. By John Douglas, M. A. Rector of its varieties, to the simplicity of its first plan; to Eaton Constantine, Salop. 8vo. 1751, p. 77. find what was first projected, whence the scheme

PREFACE TO AN ESSAY ON PARADISE LOST.

520

was taken, how it was improved, by what assistance it was executed, and from what stores the materials were collected, whether its founder dug them from the quarries of nature, or demolished other buildings to embellish his own.

This inquiry has been, indeed, not wholly neglected, nor, perhaps, prosecuted with the care and diligence that it deserves. Several critics have offered their conjectures; but none have much endeavoured to enforce or ascertain them. Mr. Voltaire tells us without proof, that the first hint of "Paradise Lost" was taken from a farce called Adamo, written by a player; Dr. Pearce, that it was derived from an Italian tragedy, called Il Paradiso Perso; and* Mr. Peck, that it was borrowed from a wild romance. Any of these conjectures may possibly be true, but, as they stand without sufficient proof, it must be granted, likewise, that they may all possibly be false; at least they cannot preclude any other opinion, which without argument has the same claim to credit, and may perhaps be shown, by resistless evidence, to be better founded.

It is related, by steady and uncontroverted tradition, that the "Paradise Lost" was at first a Tragedy, and therefore, among tragedies, the first hint is properly to be sought. In a manuscript, published from Milton's own hand, among a great number of subjects for tragedy, is, "Adam unparadised," or "Adam in Exile;" and this, therefore, may be justly supposed the embryo of this great poem. As it is observable that all these subjects had been treated by others, the manuscript can be supposed nothing more than a memorial or catalogue of plays, which, for some reason, the writer thought worthy of his attention. When, therefore, I had observed that "Adam in Exile" was named amongst them, I doubted not but, in finding the original of that tragedy, I should disclose the genuine source of "Paradise Lost." Nor was my expectation disappointed; for, having procured the Adamus Exul of Grotius, Í found, or imagined myself to find, the first draught, the prima stamina of this wonderful poem.

Having thus traced the original of this work, I was naturally induced to continue my search to the collateral relations, which it might be supposed to have contracted, in its progress to maturity: and having, at least, persuaded my own judgment that the search has not been entirely ineffectual, I now lay the result of my labours before the public; with full conviction, that in questions of this kind, the world cannot be mistaken, at least cannot long continue in error.

I cannot avoid acknowledging the candour of the author of that excellent monthly book, the "Gentleman's Magazine," in giving admission to the specimens in favour of this argument; and his impartiality in as freely inserting the several answers. I shall here subjoin some extracts from the xviith volume of this work, which I think suitable to my purpose. To which I have added, in order to obviate every pretence for cavil, a list of the authors quoted in the following Essay, with their respective dates, in comparison with the date of "Paradise Lost."

POSTSCRIPT.

When this essay was almost finished, the splendid Edition of "Paradise Lost," so long promised by the Rev. Dr. Newton, fell into my hands; of which I had, however, so little use, that as it would be injustice to censure, it would be flattery to commend it: and I should have totally forborne the mention of a book that I have not read, had not one passage at the conclusion of the life of Milton, excited in me too much pity and indignation to be suppressed in silence.

[ocr errors]

"Deborah, Milton's youngest daughter," says the Editor, "was married to Mr. Abraham Clarke, a weaver, in Spitalfields, and died in August, 1727, in the 76th year of her age. She had ten children. Elizabeth, the youngest, was married to Mr. Thomas Foster, a weaver in Spitalfields, and had seven children, who are all dead; and she herself is aged about sixty, and weak and infirm. She seemeth to be a good, plain, sensible woman, and has confirmed several particulars related above, and informed me of some others, which she had often heard from her mother." These the doctor enumerates, and then adds, "In all probability, Milton's whole family will be extinct with her, and he can live only in his writings. And such is the caprice of fortune, this grand-daughter of a man, who will be an everlasting glory to the nation, has now, for some years, with her husband, kept a little chandler's or grocer's shop, for their subsistence, lately at the lower Holloway, in the road between Highgate and London, and at present in Cock Lane, not far from Shoreditch Church."

That this relation is true, cannot be questioned: but, surely, the honour of letters, the dignity of sacred poetry, the spirit of the English nation, and the glory of human nature, require

that it should be true no longer.-In an age in which statues are erected to the honour of this great writer, in which his effigy has been diffused on medals, and his works propagated by translations, and illustrated by commentaries; in an age, which amidst all its vices, and all its follies, has not become infamous for want of charity;it may be, surely, allowed to hope, that the living remains of Milton will be no longer suffered to languish in distress. It is yet in the power of a great people, to reward the poet whose name they boast, and from their alliance to whose genius, they claim some kind of superiority to every other nation of the earth; that poet, whose works may possibly be read when every other monument of British greatness shall be obliterated; to reward him—not with pictures, or with medals, which if he sees, he sees with contempt, but-with tokens of gratitude, which he, perhaps, may even now consider as not unworthy the regard of an immortal spirit. And, surely, to those who refuse their names to no other scheme of expense, it will not be unwelcome, that a subscription is proposed, for relieving, in the languor of age, the pains of disease, and the contempt of poverty, the grand-daughter of the author of "Paradise Lost." Nor can it be questioned, that if I, who have been marked out as the Zoilus of Milton, think this regard due to his posterity, the design will be warmly seconded by those,

* New Memoirs of Mr. John Milton. By Francis whose lives have been employed in discovering his excellences, and extending his reputation.

Peck. 4to. 1740, p. 52.

Mr. Dodsley, in Pall Mall;

Messrs. Cox & Collings, under the Royal Ex-
change;

Mr. Cave, at St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell; and
Messrs. Payne & Bouquet, in Paternoster Row.

Subscriptions
For the Relief of
Mrs. ELIZABETH FOSTER,
Grand-daughter to JOHN MILTON,
are taken in by

A LETTER TO THE REV. MR. DOUGLAS,

OCCASIONED BY HIS

VINDICATION OF MILTON.

TO WHICH ARE SUBJOINED, SEVERAL CURIOUS ORIGINAL LETTERS, FROM THE AUTHORS OF THE
UNIVERSAL HISTORY, MR. AINSWORTH, MR. MACLAURIN, &C. BY WILLIAM LAUDER, A.M.

Quem pœnitet peccasse pane est innocens.-SENECA
Corpora magnanimo satis est prostrasse Leoni.
Pugna suum finem, quum jacet hostis, habet.-OVID.
-Prætuli clementium
Juris rigori.-GROTII Adamus Exsul.

FIRST PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1751.

TO THE REV. MR. DOUGLAS.

SIR, CANDOUR and tenderness are in any tion, and on all occasions, eminently amiable; but when they are found in an adversary, and found so prevalent, as to overpower that zeal which his cause excites, and that heat which naturally increases in the prosecution of argument; and which may be in a great measure justified by the love of truth, they certainly appear with particular advantages; and it is impossible not to envy those who possess the friendship of him, whom it is even some degree of good fortune to have known as an enemy.

I will not so far dissemble my weakness, or my fault, as not to confess that my wish was to have passed undetected; but since it has been my fortune to fail in my original design, to have the supposititious passages which I have inserted in my quotations made known to the world, and the shade which began to gather on the splendour of Milton totally dispersed, I cannot but count it an alleviation of my pain, that I have been defeated by a man who knows how to use advantages with so much moderation, and can enjoy the honour of conquest without the insolence of triumph.

It was one of the maxims of the Spartans, not to press upon a flying army, and therefore their enemies were always ready to quit the field, because they knew the danger was only in ing. The civility with which you have thought opposproper to treat me, when you had incontestible superiority, has inclined me to make your victory complete, without any further struggle, and not only publicly to acknowledge the truth of the charge which you have hitherto advanced, racters.

521

but to confess, without the least dissimulation, rela-lation I have made in those authors, which you subterfuge, or concealment, every other interpohave not yet had opportunity to examine.

fession I am willing to depend for all the future On the sincerity and punctuality of this conhopes, that they whom my offence has alienated regard of mankind, and cannot but indulge some from me, may by this instance of ingenuity and repentance, be propitiated and reconciled. Whatthat can be done in reparation of my former inever be the event, I shall at least have done all juries to Milton, to truth, and to mankind, and will examine their own hearts, whether they intreat that those who shall continue implacable, have not committed equal crimes without equal proofs of sorrow, or equal acts of atonement.*

PASSAGES

INTERPOLATED IN MASENIUS. of Book I. Essay, page 10. The word Pandæmonium in the marginal notes

CITATION VI. Essay, page 38.

Adnuit ipsa dolo, malumque (heu! longa dolendi
Materies! et triste nefas!) vesana momordit
Tanti ignari mali. Mora nulla, solutus Avernus
Exspuit infandas acies; fractumque remugit
Divulso compage solum. Nabathæa receptum
Regna dedere sonum, Pharioque in littore

Nerens

Territus erubuit: simul adgemuere dolentes
Hesperiæ valles, Libyæque calentis arenæ

The interpolations are distinguished by Italic cha

[blocks in formation]

CITATION IV. Essay, p. 61, the whole passage.
Innominata quæque nominibus suis,
Libel vocare propriis vocabulis.

CITATION V. Essay, page 63. Terrestris orbis rector! et princeps freti! Cali solique soboles; ætherium genus! Adame! dextram liceat amplecti tuam!

CITATION VI. Essay, ibid.

Quod illud animal, tramite obliquo means,
Ad me volutum flexili serpet viâ?
Sibila retorquet ora setosum caput
Trifidamque linguam vibrat: oculi ardent duo,
Carbunculorum luce certantes rubrâ.

CITATION VII. Essay, p. 65, the whole passage.
-Nata deo! atque homine sata !
Regina mundi! eademque interitus inscia !
Cunctis colenda!-

CITATION VIII. Essay, p. 66, the whole passage.
Rationis etenim omnino paritas exigil,
Ego bruta quando bestia evasi loquens ;
Ex homine, qualis ante, te fieri Deam.
CITATION IX. Essay, ibid.

Per sancta thalami sacra, per jus nominis
Quodcumque nostri: sive me natam vocas,
Ex te creatam; sive communi patre
Ortam, sororem; sive potius conjugem:
Cassam, oro, dulci luminis jubare tui
Ne me relinquas: nunc tuo auxilio est opus.
Cum versa sors est. Unicum lapsæ mihi
Firmamen, unam spem gravi adflictæ malo,
Te mihi reserva, dum licet: mortalium
Ne tota soboles pereat unius nece:
Tibi nam relicta, quò petam? aut ævum exigam ?
CITATION X. Essay, p. 67, the whole passage.
Minus es nocivus; ast ego nocentior,
Tu namque soli numini contrarius,
(Adeoque misera magis, quippe miseriæ comes
Origoque scelus est, lurida mater mali!)
Deumque læsi scelere, teque, vir! simul.
CITATION XI. Essay, p. 68, the whole
Quod comedo, poto, gigno, diris subjacet.

INTERPOLATION IN RAMSAY.

CITATION VI. Essay, page 88.

O judex! nova me facies inopinaque terret;
Me maculæ turpes, nudæque in corpore sordes,
Et cruciant duris exercita pectora pœnis:
Me ferus horror agit. Mihi non vernantia prata,
Non vitrei fontes, cœli non aurea templa,
Nec sunt grata mihi sub utroque jacentia sole:
Judicis ora Dei sic terrent, lancinat ægrum
Sic pectus mihi noxa. O si mî abrumpere vitam,
Et detur pœnam quovis evadere letho!
Ipsa parens utinam mihi tellus ima dehiscat!
Ad piceas trudarque umbras, atque infera regna!
Pallentes umbras Erebi, noctemque profundam!
Montibus aut premar injectis, cœlique ruinâ!
Ante tuos vultus, tua quam flammantiaque ora
Suspiciam, caput objectem et cœlestibus armis!

passage.

INTERPOLATIONS IN STAPHORSTIUS

CITATION III. Essay, page 104. Foedus in humanis fragili quod sanctius ævo! Firmius et melius, quod magnificentius, ac quam

« EelmineJätka »