Page images

an end at the Restoration. The prayer had been published as King Charles's over and over during that interval; Milton's reproach was equally and repeatedly made public. Yet this worthy Bishop suffers this prayer to be published in a collection of King Charles's works in the year 1662, without giving the least hint of the forgery, imputed afterwards to Milton and Bradshaw.

Let Dr. Johnson then make what he can of the adaptation of this prayer to the case of King Charles; but let not his splenetic prejudice against Milton associate him with such a driveling crew, such a despicable groupe of knights of the post, as would persuade the world that Milton wanted the aid of such pitiG



ful forgeries as they themselves occafionally practised to support the noblest of all employments, the defence of public liberty against tyrants and oppref fors.

The Doctor's account of Milton's dif

[ocr errors]

pute with Salınasius we shall pass by, and leave his criticisms on fome Latin expressions on either side to those who have not forgotten a trade, which, in some degree or other, is, or should be, original to every good writer, namely, the trade of a Grammarian. No man has exercised this trade with more emolument than Dr. Johnson, would he allow us to say, that in his political pamphlets “ the rights of nations and kings fink « into a laborious felicitude for the

66 choice

36 choice of words and modes of expref « fion."

Milton's answer to Salmafius was much read, and it is no disparagement to his arguments that they appeared bad to a man of Hobbes's principles, or paradoxical in Dr. Johnson's ideas *.

But, however, the Doctor thought himself obliged to account for this depravity of taste in the numerous readers of Milton's defense, which he does in

this way:

“ Paradox,” says our Biographer,"re* commended by spirit and elegance,

eafily gains attention; and he who told

every man that he was equal to his “ King, could hardly want an 66 dience."


* Life, p. 56.

G 2


The paradox then is that every man is equal to his King. But where has Milton told this? or is it to Dr. Johnson's misapprehension of Milton's state of the case, or to his propensity to calumniate, that we owe this false and rancorous insinuation ?

That every man is not equal, but su· perior, to his Tyrant, is a proposition which has been demonstrated over and over, before Milton was born; and if Milton espoused it, and made it better understood by a notorious example, he served his generation in a most material article of their social happiness. The next generation had the spirit and good sense to profit by his doctrine; and by virtue of it drove their Tyrant into an ignominious exile.


Milton's attachment to Cromwell lias been imputed to him as a blot in his character long before it was taken up by Dr.: Johnson; who, to give him his due, has made the most of it in a small compass.

Milton,” fays he,“ liaving tasted the “ honey of public employment, would “ not return to hunger and philosophy ; “ but, continuing to exercise his office “ under a manifest usurpation, betrayed to his power that liberty which he had “ defended."

It is hardly necessary to apprize a reader of Milton's prose-works that his ideas. of usurpation and public liberty were very different from those of Dr. Johnson. In the Doctor's system of

government publie liberty is the free grace of an heredi



« PreviousContinue »