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FOUR TREATISES ON CIVIL LIBERTY.
I, ICONOCLASTES (One selection from this Work)
APPENDIX (Analysis of Lord Lytton's Poem on Milton)
THE EDITOR'S PREFACE.
the mottoes which appear on our title-page we
have at once the reason and the plan of this labour of love in which we are about to engage. Here we find such a man as Keble, highly educated and well read in our older and better writers, a double First-Classman of Oxford, confessing his ignorance of the
prose works of our great national poet, and in the same breath declaring that, when he did turn his attention to them, he there often discovered sentences of such transcendent excellence that they appeared 'written as if an angel had held the pen.' We believe that angels do guide the pen of those who, however encompassed with human infirmity, stand forth, in the dark and evil days of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy, the champions of God's eternal truth. Such a one was Milton ;-and surely it is well worth while to rescue from oblivion, and “not willingly let die,” any such magnificent passage which has fallen from the pen of so great a man, though it may lie buried beneath a mass of rubbish. To search after
these in a reverential and loving spirit, and to hold them forth to the admiring gaze of others, rejecting all that seems written in the style of Cobbett, by whose side we can hardly conceive an angel to have sat, save to weep, is the plan of the following work ; and the reason which has induced us to undertake it is the notorious prevailing ignorance, even amongst literary men, of the prose works of John Milton.
The fact is indisputable, that, while everybody is familiar with his poetry, nobody, except here and there an individual, reads or appreciates his prose. We appeal to the experience of any one who may chance to have taken this volume into his hands. It is more than probable that he will have to confess with Keble, 'I am ashamed to say I was, and am, grossly ignorant of Milton's
works.' The volumes are found in few small libraries, and where they are found, they lie unopened by the owners, and are consigned to the dust and silence of the upper shelf.' No one is louder in deploring this fact than Lord Macaulay, in his celebrated Essay on Milton. ' It is to be regretted,' he says, “that the prose writings of Milton should, in our time, be so little read. As compositions, they deserve the attention of every man who wishes to become acquainted with the full power of the English language. They abound with passages compared with which the finest declamations of Burke sink into insignificance. They are a perfect field of cloth of gold. The style is stiff with gorgeous embroidery. Not even in the earlier books of the Paradise Lost has the great poet ever risen higher than in those parts of his controversial works in which his feelings, excited by conflict, find a vent in bursts of devotional and lyric rapture. It is, to borrow his own majestic language, “a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies.”! He then goes on to say—'We had intended to look more closely at these performances, to analyse the peculiarities of the diction, to dwell at some length on the sublime wisdom of the Areopagitica, and the nervous rhetoric of the Iconoclast, and to point out some of those magnificent passages which occur in the Treatise of Reformation and the Aniinadversions on the Remonstrant.' Yet Macaulay took care never to do this; he never resumed the subject, and, therefore, we are compelled to regard this expression of his intention as a mere rhetorical flourish. We heartily wish he had fulfilled his half-implied promise, especially as ourselves have failed to discover the nervous rhetoric of the Iconoclast, though we fully appreciate the sublime wisdom of the Areopagiticahave failed to detect the magnificent passages of the Animadversions on the Remonstrant, though we are enchanted with those which occur in the Treatise of Reformation. Here, then, we fancy that we have found an at