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tur 14, 1945
Srof. Poger. B. Pariman
THE very general and high commendation, bestowed by the press and the community upon the American edition of Macaulay's Miscellaneous Writings, has induced the publishers to issue a new and cheap edition embracing the remainder of the articles in the Edinburgh Review, and several articles written and published while the author was at college.
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1825.]
TOWARDS the close of the year 1823, Mr. Le- | antiquity, no scrupulous purity, none of the mon, Deputy Keeper of the State Papers, in the ceremonial cleanness which characterize: he course of his researches among the presses of diction of our academical Pharisees. He does his office, met with a large Latin manuscript. not attempt to polish and brighten his composiWith it were found corrected copies of the tion into the Ciceronian gloss and brilliancy. foreign despatches written by Milton, while he He does not, in short, sacrifice sense and spirit filled the office of Secretary, and several papers to pedantic refinements. The nature of his relating to the Popish Trials and the Rye-house subject compelled him to use many words Plot. The whole was wrapped up in an envelope, superscribed “To Mr. Skinner, Merchant." On examination, the large manuscript proved to be the long lost Essay on the Doctrines of Christianity, which, according to Wood and Toland, Milton finished after the Restoration, and deposited with Cyriac Skinner. Skinner, it is well known, held the same political opirions with his illustrious friend. It is therefore probable, as Mr. Lemon conjectures, that he may have fallen under the suspicions of the government during that persecution of the Whigs which followed the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, and that, in consequence of a general seizure of his papers, this work may have been brought to the office in which it had been found. But whatever the adventures of the manuscript may have been, no doubt can exist, that it is a genuine relic of the great poet.
Mr. Sumner, who was commanded by his majesty to edit and translate the treatise, has acquitted himself of this task in a manner honourable to his talents and to his character. His version is not indeed very easy or elegant; but it is entitled to the praise of clearness and fidelity. His notes abound with interesting quotations, and have the rare merit of really ucidating the text. The preface is evidently the work of a sensible and candid man, firm in nis own religious opinions, and tolerant towards those of others.
The book itself will not add much to the fame of Milton. It is, like all his Latin works, well written-though not exactly in the style of the Prize Essays of Oxford and Cambridge. There is no elaborate imitation of classical
♦Joannis Miltoni, Angli, de Doctrina Christiana libri dno posthumi. A Treatise on Christian Doctrine, compiled from the Holy Scriptures alone. By JOHN MILTON, translated from the original by Charles R. Sumner, M. A.. &c &c. 1525 VOL. I.-1
"That would have made Quintilian stare and gasp" But he writes with as much ease and freedora as if Latin were his mother tongue; and where he is least happy, his failure seems to arise from the carelessness of a native, not from the ignorance of a foreigner. What Denham with great felicity says of Cowley, may be applied to him. He wears the garb, but not the clothes, of the ancients.
Throughout the volume are discernible the traces of a powerful and independent mind, emancipated from the influence of authority, and devoted to the search of truth. He professes to form his system from the Bible alone; and his digest of Scriptural texts is certainly among the best that have appeared. But he is not always so happy in his inferences as in his citations.
Some of the heterodox opinions which he avows seem to have excited considerable amazement: particularly his Arianism, and his notions on the subject of polygamy. Yet we can scarcely conceive that any person could have read the Paradise Lost without suspecting him of the former, nor do we think that any reader, acquainted with the history of his life, ought to be much startled at the latter. The opinions which he has expressed respecting the nature of the Deity, the eternity of maiter, and the observation of the Sabbath, might, we think, have caused more just surprise.
But we will not go into the discussion of these points. The book, were it far more orthodox, or far more heretical than it is, would not much edify or corrupt the present genera tion. The men of our time are not to be cou verted or perverted by quartos. A few mor days, and this Essay will follow the Defens Populi to the dust and silence of the upper shelf. The name of its author, and the re markable circumstances attending its publie