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splendid compositions called the First and Second Defences. In the former Milton does not enter into personal details. But in the latter he is driven by the malice of his enemies to take a retrospect of the events of his life, to explain and justify the motives of his conduct, and to sit, as it were, in judgment on some of the most illustrious of his contemporaries.

For this reason the Second Defence may be regarded as among the most interesting of Milton's Prose Works. Tainted it no doubt is in parts by fierce personalities, and by outbreaks of implacable resentment against the enemies of the Commonwealth and his own. But these bursts of passion, much less out of place than those which disfigure the First Defence, serve as a sort of seasoning to give zest to the political declamation. Nothing is more agreeable than to hear a great man speak of himself. Some, rendered fastidious by their own sensitive vanity, often affect to blame writers for being communicative respecting themselves, their feelings, their opinions, and the events of their lives. But no man is worthy of these confidences who does not know how to appreciate them. We are all vain, whether we reveal it to the world or not, and the vainest perhaps are those who put the thickest mask upon their feelings. Milton had far too much self-reliance, and was too buoyant and expansive to mumble anathemas to himself, and refuse to make the world a witness of the anger he felt at being aspersed and calumniated. Proud of his own genius, and of the celebrity it had acquired him, he speaks frankly of himself and of his glory, dilates with extraordinary delight on the mighty audience, consisting of the whole civilized world, which he had the honour to address, and commemorates the tumultuous applause with which his eloquence was greeted by mankind. In the course of his work, he finds it necessary for his purpose to delineate the characters of the principal regicides and patriots of the Commonwealth, Cromwell, Bradshaw, Fleetwood, and others. I have elsewhere remarked on the extraordinary felicity he displays in this part of the undertaking; with what wit he opens to you the intellectual peculiarities of the men; how he exalts their virtues; how he investigates their claims to admiration, and throws out their moral grandeur into stronger relief. Clarendon, it is well known, in what may be termed the introduction to his History, draws elaborate characters of those who are to figure in the course of it; and there is undoubtedly no part of his narrative which we read with so much pleasure. Yet, in my opinion, Milton succeeds in describing the internal organization of men much better than he. That this is not the received notion, I am aware; but it is easy, without suspecting Milton of inferiority, to explain the reason why he has produced an inferior effect upon the public mind. Clarendon, after the Restoration, belonged to the dominant party, among whom there existed the most bitter prejudices, for indulging which, they had many reasons against Milton, and the Puritans generally. Besides, history in itself is always more popular than oratory, and English more popular than Latin. While it became therefore the fashion to read and laud Clarendon, it became equally the fashion to neglect and disparage Milton. At present, the tables may be said to be turned, since, at least, ten thousand are now familiar with the works of the poet, for one who toils through the lumbering pages of the historian; and the probability is, that even the Prose Works of Milton will acquire popularity as liberalism increases, and tyrannical doctrines are despised and thrust into the background.




A GRATEFUL recollection of the divine goodness is the first of human obligations; and extraordinary favours demand more solemn and devout acknowledgments: with such acknowledgments I feel it my duty to begin this work. First, because I was born at a time when the virtue of my fellowcitizens, far exceeding that of their progenitors in greatness of soul and vigour of enterprise, having invoked Heaven to witness the justice of their cause, and been clearly governed by its directions, has succeeded in delivering the commonwealth from the most grievous tyranny, and religion from the most ignominious degradation. And next, because when there suddenly arose many who, as is usual with the vulgar, basely calumniated the most illustrious achievements, and when one eminent above the rest, inflated with literary pride, and the zealous applauses of his partisans, had in a scandalous publication, which was particularly levelled against me, nefariously undertaken to plead the cause of despotism, I, who was neither deemed unequal to so renowned an adversary, nor to so great a subject, was particularly selected by the deliverers of our country, and by the general suffrage of the public, openly to vindicate the rights of the English nation, and consequently of liberty itself. Lastly, because in a matter of so much moment, and which excited such ardent expectations, I did not disappoint the hopes nor the opinions of my fellow-citizens; while men of learning and eminence abroad honoured me with unmingled approbation; while I obtained such a victory over my opponent, that notwithstanding his unparalleled assurance, he was obliged to quit the field with his courage broken and his reputation lost; and for the three years which he lived afterwards, much as he menaced and furiously as he raved, he gave me no further trouble, except that he procured the paltry aid of some despicable hirelings, and suborned some of his silly and extravagant admirers, to support him under the weight

of the unexpected and recent disgrace which he had experienced. This will immediately appear. Such are the signal favours which I ascribe to the divine beneficence, and which I thought it right devoutly to commemorate, not only that I might discharge a debt of gratitude, but particularly because they seem auspicious to the success of my present undertaking. For who is there, who does not identify the honour of his country with his own? And what can conduce more to the beauty or glory of one's country, than the recovery, not only of its civil but its religious liberty? And what nation or state ever obtained both, by more successful or more valorous exertion? For fortitude is seen resplendent, not only in the field of battle and amid the clash of arms, but displays its energy under every difficulty and against every assailant. Those Greeks and Romans, who are the objects of our admiration, employed hardly any other virtue in the extirpation of tyrants, than that love of liberty which made them prompt in seizing the sword, and gave them strength to use it. With facility they accomplished. the undertaking, amid the general shout of praise and joy; nor did they engage in the attempt so much as an enterprise of perilous and doubtful issue, as in a contest the most glorious in which virtue could be signalized; which infallibly led to present recompence; which bound their brows with wreaths of laurel, and consigned their memories to immortal fame. For as yet, tyrants were not beheld with a superstitious reverence; as yet they were not regarded with tenderness and complacency, as the vicegerents or deputies of Christ, as they have suddenly professed to be; as yet the vulgar, stupified by the subtle casuistry of the priest, had not degenerated into a state of barbarism, more gross than that which disgraces the most senseless natives of Hindostan. For these make mischievous demons, whose malice they cannot resist, the objects of their religious adoration: while those elevate impotent tyrants, in order to shield them from destruction, into the rank of gods; and, to their own cost, consecrate the pests of the human race. But against


* I have somewhere else, I believe, in the course of these notes, referred to

the famous lines of Pope

"Who first taught souls enslaved and realms undone

The enorinous faith of many made for one?

this dark array of long-received opinions, superstitions, obloquy, and fears, which some dread even more than the enemy himself, the English had to contend; and all this, under the light of better information, and favoured by an impulse from above, they overcame with such singular enthusiasm and bravery, that, great as were the numbers engaged in the contest, the grandeur of conception, and loftiness of spirit which were universally displayed, merited for each individual more than a mediocrity of fame; and Britain, which was formerly styled the hot-bed of tyranny, will hereafter deserve to be celebrated for endless ages, as a soil most genial to the growth of liberty. During the mighty struggle, no anarchy, no licentiousness was seen; no illusions of glory, no extravagant emulation of the ancients inflamed them with a thirst for ideal liberty; but the rectitude of their lives, and the sobriety of their habits, taught them the only true and safe road to real liberty; and they took up arms only to defend the sanctity of the laws and the rights of conscience. Relying on the divine assistance, they used every honourable exertion to break the yoke of slavery; of the praise of which, though I claim no share to myself, yet I can easily repel any charge which may be adduced against me, either of want of courage, or want of zeal. For though I did not participate in the toils or dangers of the war, yet I was at the same time engaged in a

"T was superstition lent the tyrant aid,

And gods of conquerors, slaves of subjects made."

At all periods of the world's history, superstition and despotism have afflicted mankind in company. And the reason is plain. The same weakness of mind which leads to the adoration of false gods or idols, and subjects men to the empire of impostors in religion, induces them to submit to tyrants, and even to glory in their own baseness and humiliation; thus, throughout the civilized world, we constantly behold large classes of individuals who imagine they acquire some small share of dignity by servilely upholding the claims of an oligarchy which oppresses and scorns them. In Milton's eyes,

there was not a more despicable creature upon earth than the person who worships rank and titles, and conceives there is some merit in being an undoubting slave. But the race of believers in the virtue of birth will never be extinct, as they consist of all that numerous class who have neither intellect, nor knowledge, nor understanding, nor refinement to recommend them, but entirely depend for distinction on their accidental relation to men of property or family pretensions, though on what their families achieved history is completely silent.-ED.

service not less hazardous to myself and more beneficial to my fellow-citizens; nor, in the adverse turns of our affairs, did I ever betray any symptoms of pusillanimity and dejection; or show myself more afraid than became me of malice or of death: For since from my youth I was devoted to the pursuits of literature, and my mind had always been stronger than my body, I did not court the labours of a camp, in which any common person would have been of more service than myself, but resorted to that employment in which my exertions were likely to be of most avail. Thus, with the better part of my frame I contributed as much as possible to the good of my country, and to the success of the glorious cause in which we were engaged; and I thought that if God willed the success of such glorious achievements, it was equally agreeable to his will that there should be others by whom those achievements should be recorded with dignity and elegance; and that the truth, which had been defended by arms, should also be defended by reason; which is the best and only legitimate means of defending it. Hence, while I applaud those who were victorious in the field, I will not complain of the province which was assigned me; but rather congratulate myself upon it, and thank the Author of all good for having placed me in a station, which may be an object of envy to others rather than of regret to myself. I am far from wishing to make any vain or arrogant comparisons, or to speak ostentatiously of myself; but, in a cause so great and glorious, and particularly on an occasion when I am called by the general suffrage to defend the very defenders of that cause, I can hardly refrain from assuming a more lofty and swelling tone. than the simplicity of an exordium may seem to justify and much as I may be surpassed in the powers of eloquence and copiousness of diction, by the illustrious orators of antiquity, yet the subject of which I treat was never surpassed in any age, in dignity, or in interest. It has excited such general and such ardent expectation, that I imagine myself not in the forum or on the rostra, surrounded only by the people of Athens or of Rome, but about to address in this, as I did in my former Defence, the whole collective body of people, cities, states, and councils of the wise and eminent, through the wide expanse of anxious and listening Europe. I seem to survey,

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