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Milton and with Vane, is shown by several passages in his writings. It appears that he even exchanged literary offices with Milton; for on his return to Rhode Island, in giving his friend Governor Winthrop of Connecticut an account of his employments while abroad, he uses this language: “It pleased the Lord to call me for some time and with some persons to practise the Hebrew, the Greek, Latin, French, and Dutch; the Secretary of the Council, Mr. Milton, for my Dutch I read him, read me many more languages.'*
Is it possible to overestimate the influence of an intimate association of two or three years with such master-minds as those of John Milton and Sir Henry Vane upon so congenial a spirit as that of Roger Williams? May not many of those broad, tolerant, and self-sacrificing principles which distinguished Roger Williams' career, have owed their origin to the close intimacy and the friendly chat of these 'three illustrious men in the vigorous days of the English Commonwealth ?
* See Appleton's “Cyclopædia ;” also various biographical sketches of Roger Williams.
On the second of May, 1652, Milton's family was increased by the birth of a fourth child, Deborah; whose advent into the world, however, cost the life of her mother. Milton seems ever after their reconciliation to have lived very happily with his wife, and she died regretted and mourned by him. “He was thus," says Dr. Symmons, “left with three orphan daughters in domestic solitude, and in a state rapidly advancing to blindness. As we have seen, his physicians predicted loss of sight as the inevitable result of his persistence in the compilation of the “Defence." Their prophetic declarations were fatally verified : his sight, naturally weak, and impaired by long years of ceaseless devotion to study and neglect of all precautions, had been for many months sensibly declining; and completely overtasked by the labor of this last work, he became, probably some time in 1653, totally blind.
Leonard Philarus, an Athenian scholar who had been enthusiastically attached to Milton by the perusal of his “ Defence of the English People," and who had even visited England for the purpose of making the per
sonal acquaintance of the immortal Englishman, upon learning Milton's misfortune, wrote him from Paris, urging him to forward a detailed account of his blindness, which he promised to submit to the consideration of M. Thevenot, then an eminent oculist. In response to this request, Milton communicated the following facts, peculiarly interesting and sad :
“It is now about ten years I think since I first perceived my sight to grow weak and dim, and at the same time my spleen and other viscera heavy and flatulent. When I sate down to read as usual of the morning, my eyes gave me considerable pain, and refused their office till fortified by moderate exercise of body. If I looked at a candle, it appeared surrounded with an iris. In a little time a darkness, covering the left side of the left eye, which was partially clouded some years before the other, intercepted the view of all things in that direction. Objects also in front seemed to dwindle in size whenever I closed my right eye. This eye too for three years gradually failing, a few months previous to my total blindness, while I was perfectly stationary, every thing seemed to swim backward and forward; and now thick vapors appear to settle on my forehead and temples, which weigh down my lids with an oppressive sense of drowsiness, especially in the interval between dinner and the evening, so as frequently to remind me of Phineas the Salmydessian, in the Argonautics :
“'In darkness swam his brain, and where he stood,
The steadfast earth seemed rolling as a flood.
He sank, and languished into torpid rest.' “I ought not however to omit mentioning, that, before I wholly lost my sight, as soon as I lay down in my bed and turned upon either side, brilliant flashes of light used to issue from my closed eyes; and afterwards, upon the gradual failure of my powers of vision, colors, proportionably dim and faint, seemed to rush out with a degree of vehemence, and a kind of inward noise. These have now faded into uniform blackness, such as issues on the extinction of a candle; or blackness varied only and intermingled with a dunnish grey. The constant darkness however in which I live day and night inclines more to a whitish than to a blackish tinge, and the eye, in turning itself
round, admits, as through a narrow chink, a very small portion of light. But this, though it may perhaps offer a similar glimpse of hope to the physician, does not prevent me from making up my mind to my case, as one evidently beyond the reach of cure; and I often reflect that, as many days of darkness, according to the wise man, Eccles. 11:8, are allotted to us all, mine, which, by the singular favor of the Deity, are divided between leisure and study, are recreated by the conversation and intercourse of my friends, and are far more agreeable than those deadly shades of which Solomon is speaking.
“But if, as it is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,' Matt. 4:4, why should not each of us likewise acquiesce in the reflection that he derives the benefits of sight not from his eyes alone, but from the guidance and proviųence of the same supreme Being. While He looks out and provides for me as he does, and leads me about, as it were, with his hand through the paths of life, I willingly surrender my own faculty of vision in