zenktar_4.pdf - 2/5/2021 Harvard Classics Volume 28-Essays...

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2/5/2021Harvard Classics Volume 28--Essays English and American91/237practiced a sort of professional study of life. No man could rank more highly the importance toa poet of an intellectual insight into all-important pursuits and "seemly arts." But it is not bythe mere intellect that we can take in the daily occupations of mankind: we must sympathizewith them, and see them in their human relations. A chimney-sweeper,quâchimney-sweeper,is not very sentimental: it is in himself that he is so interesting.Milton's austere character is in some sort the more evident because he possessed in largemeasure a certain relieving element, in which those who are eminent in that character are verydeficient. Generally such persons have but obtuse senses: we are prone to attribute the purityof their conduct to the dullness of their sensations. Milton had no such obtuseness: he hadevery opportunity for knowing the "world of eye and ear";[12] you cannot open his workswithout seeing how much he did know of it. The austerity of his nature was not caused by thedeficiency of his senses, but by an excess of the warning instinct. Even when he professed todelineate the world of sensuous delight, this instinct shows itself. Dr. Johnson thought he coulddiscern melancholy in "L'Allegro";[13] if he had said "solitariness," it would have beencorrect.The peculiar nature of Milton's character is very conspicuous in the events of his domesticlife, and in the views which he took of the great public revolutions of his age. We can spareonly a very brief space for the examination of either of these; but we will endeavor to say afew words upon each of them.The circumstances of Milton's first marriage are as singular as any in the strange series ofthe loves of the poets. The scene opens with an affair of business. Milton's father, as is wellknown, was a scrivener,—a kind of professional money-lender, then well known in London;and having been early connected with the vicinity of Oxford, continued afterwards to havepecuniary transactions of a certain nature with country gentlemen of that neighborhood. In thecourse of these he advanced L500 to a certain Mr. Richard Powell, a squire of fair landedestate, residing at Forest Hill, which is about four miles from the city of Oxford. The moneywas lent on the 11th of June, 1627; and a few months afterwards Mr. Milton the elder gaveL312 of it to his son the poet, who was then a youth at college, and made a formalmemorandum of the same in the form then usual, which still exists. The debt was never whollydischarged; "for in 1650-1 we find Milton asserting on oath that he had received only aboutL180, 'in part satisfaction of my said just and principal debt, with damages for the same, andmy costs of suit.'" Mr. Keightley supposes him to have taken "many a ride over to Forest Hill"after he left Cambridge and was living at Horton, which is not very far distant; but of coursethis is only conjecture. We only know that about 1643 "he took," as his nephew relates, "a

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Term
Fall
Professor
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Tags
Charles I of England, Mrs Milton

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