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of corruption. It sometimes might lead them to pursue unwise ends, but never to choose unwise means. They went through the world like Sir Artegale's iron man Talus with his flail, crushing and trampling down oppressors, mingling with human beings, but having neither part nor lot in human infirmities; insensible to fatigue, to pleasure, and to pain; not to be pierced by any weapon, not to be withstood by any barrier.
Such we believe to have been the character of the Puritans. We perceive the absurdity of their manners. We dislike the sullen gloom of their domestic habits. We acknowledge that the tone of their minds was often injured by straining after things too high for mortal reach. And we know that, in spite of their hatred of Popery, they too often fell into the worst vices of that bad system, intolerance and extravagant austerity-that they had their anchorites and their crusades, their Dunstans and their De Montforts, their Dominics and their Escobars. Yet when all circumstances are taken into consideration, we do not hesitate to pronounce them a brave, a wise, an honest, and a useful body.
The Puritans espoused the cause of civil Sberty, mainly because it was the cause of reigion. There was another party, by no means aumerous, but distinguished by learning and ability, which co-operated with them on very different principles. We speak of those whom Cromwell was accustomed to call the Heathens, men who were, in the phraseology of that time, doubting Thomases or careless Gallios with regard to religious subjects, but passionate worshippers of freedom. Heated by the study of ancient literature, they set up their country as their idol, and proposed to themselves the heroes of Plutarch as their examples. They seem to have borne some resemblance to the Brissotines of the French Revolution. But it is not very easy to draw the line of distinction between them and their devout associates, whose tone and manner they sometimes found it convenient to affect, and sometimes, it is probable, imperceptibly adopted.
machines for destruction dressed up in uniforms, caned into skill, intoxicated into valour, defending without love, destroying without hatred. There was a freedom in their subser viency, a nobleness in their very degradation. The sentiment of individual independence was strong within them. They were indeed misled, but by no base or selfish motive. Compassion and romantic honour, the prejudices of childhood, and the venerable names of his tory, threw over them a spell potent as that of Duessa; and, like the Red-Cross Knight, they thought that they were doing battle for an injured beauty, while they defended a false and loathsome sorceress. In truth, they scarcely entered at all into the merits of the political question. It was not for a treacherous king or an intolerant church that they fought; but for the old banner which had waved in so many battles over the heads of their fathers, and for the altars at which they had received the hands of their brides. Though nothing could be more erroneous than their political opinions, they possessed, in a far greater degree than their adversaries, those qualities which are the grace of private life. With many of the vices of the Round Table, they had also many of its virtues, courtesy, generosity, veracity, tenderness, and respect for woman. They had far more both of profound and of polite learning than the Puritans. Their manners were more engaging, their tempers more amiable, their tastes more elegant, and their households more cheerful.
Milton did not strictly belong to any of the classes which we have described. He was not a Puritan. He was not a Freethinker. He was not a Cavalier. In his character the noblest qualities of every party were combined in harmonious union. From the parliament and from the court, from the conventicle and from the Gothic cloister, from the gloomy and sepulchral circles of the Roundheads and from the Christmas revel of the hospitable Cavalier, his nature selected and drew to itself whatever was great and good, while it rejected all the base and pernicious ingredients by which those fine elements were defiled. Like the Puritans, he lived
We now come to the Royalists. We shall attempt to speak of them, as we have spoken of their antagonists, with perfect candour. We "As ever in his great Taskmaster's eye." shall not charge upon a whole party the profligacy and baseness of the horseboys, gamblers, Like them, he kept his mind continually fixed and bravoes, whom the hope of license and on an Almighty Judge and an eternal reward. plunder attracted from all the dens of White- And hence he acquired their contempt of exfriars to the standard of Charles, and who dis-ternal circumstances, their fortitude, their graced their associates by excesses which, tranquillity, their inflexible resolution. under the stricter discipline of the Parliamentary armies, were never tolerated. We will select a more favourable specimen. Thinking, as we do, that the cause of the king was the cause of bigotry and tyranny, we yet cannot refrain from looking with complacency on the character of the honest old Cavaliers. We feel a national pride in comparing them with the instruments which the despots of other countries are compelled to employ, with the mutes who throng their antechambers, and the Janissaries who mount guard at their gates. Our royalist countrymen were not heartless, dangling courtiers, bowing at every step, and simpering at every word. They were not mere VOL. I.-3
not the coolest sceptic or the most profane scoffer was more perfectly free from the contagion of their frantic delusions, their savage manners, their ludicrous jargon, their scorn of science, and their aversion to pleasure. Hating tyranny with a perfect hatred, he had nevertheless all the estimable and ornamental quali ties, which were almost entirely monopolized by the party of the tyrant. There was none who had a stronger sense of the value of lite rature, a finer relish for every elegant amusement, or a more chivalrous delicacy of honour and love. Though his opinions were democratic, his tastes and his associates were such as harmonize best with monarchy and aristo
away with disdain from their insolent triumph. He saw that they, like those whom they had vanquished, were hostile to the liberty of thought. He therefore joined the Independents, and called upon Cromwell to break the secular chain, and to save free conscience from the paw of the Presbyterian wolf. With a view to the same great object, he attacked the licensing system in that sublime treatise which
cracy. He was under the influence of all the | Presbyterians-for this he forsook them. He feelings by which the gallant cavaliers were fought their perilous battle; but he turned misled. But of those feelings he was the master and not the slave. Like the hero of Homer, he enjoyed all the pleasures of fascination; but he was not fascinated. He listened to the song of the Sirens; yet he glided by without being seduced to their fatal shore. He tasted the cup of Circe; but he bore about him a sure antidote against the effects of its bewitching sweetness. The illusions which captivated his imagination never impaired his reasoning every statesman should wear as a sign upon powers. The statesman was a proof against the splendour, the solemnity, and the romance which enchanted the poet. Any person who will contrast the sentiments expressed in his Treatises on Prelacy, with the exquisite lines on ecclesiastical architecture and music in the Penseroso, which were published about the same time, will understand our meaning. This is an inconsistency which, more than any thing else, raises his character in our estimation; because it shows how many private tastes and feelings he sacrificed, in order to do what he considered his duty to mankind. It is the very struggle of the noble Othello. His heart relents; but his hand is firm. He does naught in hate, but all in honour. He kisses the beautiful deceiver before he destroys her.
That from which the public character of Milton derives its great and peculiar splendour still remains to be mentioned. If he exerted himself to overthrow a foresworn king and a persecuting hierarchy, he exerted himself in conjunction with others. But the glory of the battle, which he fought for that species of freedom which is the most valuable, and which was then the least understood, the freedom of the human mind, is all his own. Thousands and tens of thousands among his contemporaries raised their voices against ship-money and the star-chamber. But there were few indeed who discerned the more fearful evils of moral and intellectual slavery, and the benefits which would result from the liberty of the press and the unfettered exercise of private judgment. These were the objects which Milton justly conceived to be the most important. He was desirous that the people should think for themselves as well as tax themselves, and be emancipated from the dominion of prejudice as well as from that of Charles. He knew that those who, with the best intentions, overlooked these schemes of reform, and contented themselves with pulling down the king and imprisoning the malignants, acted like the heedless brothers in his own poem, who, in their eagerness to disperse the train of the sorcerer, neglected the means of liberating the captive. They thought only of conquering when they should have thought of disenchanting.
"Oh, ye mistook! You should have snatched the wand:
And backward mutters of dissevering power,
To reverse the rod, to spell the charm backward, to break the ties which bound a stupefed people to the seat of enchantment, was the noble aim of Milton. To this all his public conduct was directed. For this he joined the
his hand, and as, frontlets between his eyes. His attacks were, in general, directed less against particular abuses than against those deeply-seated errors on which almost all abuses are founded, the servile worship of eminent men and the irrational dread of innovation.
That he might shake the foundations of these debasing sentiments more effectually, he always selected for himself the boldest literary services. He never came up to the rear when the outworks had been carried and the breach entered. He pressed into the forlorn hope. At the beginning of the changes, he wrote with incomparable energy and eloquence against the bishops. But, when his opinion seemed likely to prevail, he passed on to other subjects, and abandoned prelacy to the crowd of writers who now hastened to insult a falling party. There is no more hazardous enterprise than that of bearing the torch of truth into those dark and infected recesses in which no light has ever shone. But it was the choice and the pleasure of Milton to penetrate the noisome vapours and to brave the terrible ex plosion. Those who most disapprove of his opinions must respect the hardihood with which he maintained them. He, in general, left to others the credit of expounding and defending the popular parts of his religious and political creed. He took his own stand upon those which the great body of his countrymen reprobated as criminal, or derided as para doxical. He stood up for divorce and regicide. He ridiculed the Eikon. He attacked the prevailing systems of education. His radiant and beneficent career resembled that of the god of light and fertility,
"Nitor in adversum; nec me, qui cætera, vincit Impetus, et rapido contrarius evehor orbi."
It is to be regretted 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 he 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."
*Sonnet to Cromwell.
The Reason of Church Government urged agains Prelacy, Book II.
We had intended to look more closely at These are perhaps foolish feelings. Yet we their performances, to analyze the peculiari- cannot be ashamed of them; nor shall we be ties of their diction, to dwell at some length sorry if what we have written shall in any deon the sublime wisdom of the Areopagitica, gree excite them in other minds. We are not and the nervous rhetoric of the Iconoclast, and much in the habit of idolizing either the living to point out some of those magnificent pas- or the dead. And we think that there is no sages which occur in the Treatise of Reforma- more certain indication of a weak and ill-regu tion and the Animadversions on the Remon-lated intellect than that propensity which, for strant. But the length to which our remarks want of a better name, we will venture to have already extended renders this impossible. christen Boswellism. But there are a few chaWe must conclude. And yet we can scarce- racters which have stood the closest scrutiny ly tear ourselves away from the subject. The and the severest tests, which have been tried days immediately following the publication of in the furnace and have proved pure, which this relic of Milton appear to be peculiarly set have been weighed in the balance and have apart and consecrated to his memory. And not been found wanting, which have been dewe shall scarcely be censured if, on this his clared sterling by the general consent of manfestival, we be found lingering near his shrine, kind, and which are visibly stamped with the how worthless soever may be the offering image and superscription of the Most High. which we bring to it. While this book lies These great men we trust that we know how on our table, we seem to be contemporaries to prize; and of these was Milton. The sight of the great poet. We are transported a hun-of his books, the sound of his name, are redred and fifty years back. We can almost freshing to us. His thoughts resemble those fancy that we are visiting him in his small celestial fruits and flowers which the Virgin lodging; that we see him sitting at the old or- Martyr of Massinger sent down from the gargan beneath the faded green hangings; that dens of Paradise to the earth, distinguished we can catch the quick twinkle of his eyes, from the productions of other soils, not only rolling in vain to find the day; that we are by their superior bloom and sweetness, but by reading in the lines of his noble countenance their miraculous efficacy to invigorate and to the proud and mournful history of his glory heal. They are powerful, not only to delight, and his affliction! We image to ourselves the but to elevate and purify. Nor do we envy breathless silence in which we should listen the man who can study either the life or the to his slightest word; the passionate venera- writings of the great Poet and Patriot without tion with which we should kneel to kiss his aspiring to emulate, not indeed the sublime hand and weep upon it; the earnestness with works with which his genius has enriched our which we should endeavour to console him, if literature, but the zeal with which he laboured indeed such a spirit could need consolation, for for the public good, the fortitude with which the neglect of an age unworthy of his talents he endured every private calamity, the lofty and his virtues; the eagerness with which we disdain with which he looked down on temptashould contest with his daughters, or with his tion and dangers, the deadly hatred which he Quaker friend, Elwood, the privilege of read-bore to bigots and tyrants, and the faith which ing Homer to him, or of taking down the im- he so sternly kept with his country and with mortal accents which flowed from his lips. his fame.
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1827.]
monly described would seem to import that he was the Tempter, the Evil Principle, the discoverer of ambition and revenge, the original inventor of perjury; that, before the publication of his fatal Prince, there had never been a hypocrite, a tyrant, or a traitor, a simulated virtue or a convenient crime. One writer
THOSE who have attended to the practice of our literary tribunal are well aware that, by means of certain legal fictions similar to those of Westminster Hall, we are frequently enabled to take cognisance of cases lying beyond the sphere of our original jurisdiction. We need hardly say, therefore, that, in the present instance, M. Périer is merely a Richard Roe-gravely assures us, that Maurice of Saxony that his name is used for the sole purpose of bringing Machiavelli into court-and that he will not be mentioned in any subsequent stage of the proceedings.
We doubt whether any name in literary history be so generally odious as that of the man whose character and writings we now propose to consider. The terms in which he is com
learned all his fraudulent policy from that execrable volume. Another remarks, that since it was translated into Turkish, the Sultans have been more addicted than formerly to the custom of strangling their brothers. Our own foolish Lord Lyttleton charges the poor Floren tine with the manifold treasons of the House of Guise, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew Several authors have hinted that the Gunpow
der Plot is to be primarily attributed to his doctrines, and seem to think that his effigy
ought to be substituted for that of Guy Fawkes, in those processions by which the ingenuous youth of England annually commemorate the preservation of the Three Estates. The Church of Rome has pronounced his works accursed things. Nor have our own countrymen been backward in testifying their opinion of his merits. Out of his surname they have coined an epithet for a knave-and out of his Christian name a synonyme for the Devil.*
It is indeed scarcely possible for any person, not well acquainted with the history and literature of Italy, to read, without horror and amazement, the celebrated treatise which has brought so much obloquy on the name of Machiavelli. Such a display of wickedness, naked, yet not ashamed, such cool, judicious, scientific atrocity, seem rather to belong to a fiend than to the most depraved of men. Principles which the most hardened ruffian would scarcely hint to his most trusted accomplice, or avow, without the disguise of some palliating sophism, even to his own mind, are professed without the slightest circumlocution, and assumed as the fundamental axioms of all political science.
covered-in his Comedies, designed for the entertainment of the multitude-in his Com. ments on Livy, intended for the perusal of the most enthusiastic patriots of Florence-in his History, inscribed to one of the most amiable and estimable of the Popes-in his Public Despatches-in his private Memoranda, the same obliquity of moral principle for which the Prince is so severely censured is more or less discernible. We doubt whether it would be possible to find, in all the many volumes of his compositions, a single expression indicating that dissimulation and treachery had ever struck him as discreditable.
After this it may seem ridiculous to say, that we are acquainted with few writings which exhibit so much elevation of sentiment, so pure and warm a zeal for the public good, or so just a view of the duties and rights of citi zens, as those of Machiavelli. Yet so it is. And even from the Prince itself we could select many passages in support of this remark. To a reader of our age and country this incon sistency is, at first, perfectly bewildering. The whole man seems to be an enigma-a grotesque assemblage of incongruous qualities— It is not strange that ordinary readers should selfishness and generosity, cruelty and benevoregard the author of such a book as the most|ience, craft and simplicity, abject villany and depraved and shameless of human beings. romantic heroism. One sentence is such as a Wise men, however, have always been in-veteran diplomatist would scarcely write in clined to look with great suspicion on the angels and demons of the multitude; and in the present instance, several circumstances have led even superficial observers to question the justice of the vulgar decision. It is notorious that Machiavelli was, through life, a zealous republican. In the same year in which he composed his manual of Kingcraft, he suffered imprisonment and torture in the cause of public liberty. It seems inconceivable that the martyr of freedom should have designedly acted as the apostle of tyranny. Several eminent writers have, therefore, endeavoured to detect, in this unfortunate performance, some concealed meaning more consistent with the character and conduct of the author than that which appears at the first glance.
One hypothesis is, that Machiavelli intended to practice on the young Lorenzo de Medici a fraud, similar to that which Sunderland is said to have employed against our James the Second, that he urged his pupil to violent and perfidious measures, as the surest means of accelerating the moment of deliverance and revenge. Another supposition, which Lord Bacon seems to countenance, is, that the treatise was merely a piece of grave irony, intended to warn nations against the arts of ambitious men. It would be easy to show that neither of these solutions is consistent with many passages in the Prince itself. But the most decisive refutation is that which is furnished by the other works of Machiavelli. In all the writings which he gave to the public, and in all those which the research of editors has, in the course of three centuries, dis
cipher for the direction of his most confidential spy: the next seems to be extracted from a theme composed by an ardent schoolboy on the death of Leonidas. An act of dexterous perfidy, and an act of patriotic self-devotion, call forth the same kind and the same degree of respectful admiration. The moral sensi bility of the writer seems at once to be morbidly obtuse and morbidly acute. Two characters altogether dissimilar are united in him. They are not merely joined, but inter woven. They are the warp and the woof of his mind; and their combination, like that of the variegated threads in shot silk, gives to the whole texture a glancing and ever-changing appearance. The explanation might have been easy, if he had been a very weak or a very affected man. But he was evidently neither the one nor the other. His works prove beyond all contradiction, that his understand ing was strong, his taste pure, and his sense of the ridiculous exquisitely keen.
This is strange-and yet the strangest is behind. There is no reason whatever to think, that those amongst whom he lived saw any thing shocking or incongruous in his writings Abundant proofs remain of the high estimation in which both his works and his person were held by the most respectable among his contemporaries. Clement the Seventh patronised the publication of those very books which the council of Trent, in the following generation, pronounced unfit for the perusal of Christians. Some members of the democratical party censured the secretary for dedicating the Prince to a patron who bore the unpopular name of Medici. But to those immoral doctrines, which have since called forth such severe reprehensions no exception appears to have been taken. The cry against them was first raised beyond the Alps-and seems to have been heard with
amazement in Italy. The earliest assailant, as far as we are aware, was a countryman of our cwn, Cardinal Pole. The author of the AntiMachiavelli was a French Protestant.
been to substitute a moral for a political servi tude, to exalt the Popes at the expense of the Cæsars. Happily the public mind of Italy had long contained the seeds of free opinions, which were now rapidly developed by the genial influence of free institutions. The people of that country had observed the whole machinery of the church, its saints and its mira cles, its lofty pretensions and its splendid cere
It is, therefore, in the state of moral feeling among the Italians of those times, that we must seek for the real explanation of what seems most mysterious in the life and writings of this remarkable man. As this is a subject which suggests many interesting considera-monial, its worthless blessings and its harmless tions, both political and metaphysical, we shall make no apology for discussing it at some length.
During the gloomy and disastrous centuries which followed the downfall of the Roman Empire, Italy had preserved, in a far greater degree than any other part of Western Europe, the traces of ancient civilization. The night which descended upon her was the night of an arctic summer-the dawn began to reappear before the last reflection of the preceding sunset had faded from the horizon. It was in the time of the French Merovingians, and of the Saxon Heptarchy, that ignorance and ferocity seemed to have done their worst. Yet even then the Neapolitan provinces, recognising the authority of the Eastern Empire, preserved something of Eastern knowledge and refine ment. Rome, protected by the sacred character of its Pontiffs, enjoyed at least comparative security and repose. Even in those regions where the sanguinary Lombards had fixed their monarchy, there was incomparably more of wealth, of information, of physical comfort, and of social order, than could be found in Gaul, Britain, or Germany.
curses, too long and too closely to be duped. They stood behind the scenes on which others were gazing with childish awe and interest. They witnessed the arrangement of the pul leys, and the manufacture of the thunders. They saw the natural faces and heard the natural voices of the actors. Distant nations looked on the Pope as the vicegerent of the Almighty, the oracle of the All-wise, the umpire from whose decisions, in the disputes either of theologians or of kings, no Christian ought to appeal. The Italians were acquaint ed with all the follies of his youth, and with all the dishonest arts by which he had attained power. They knew how often he had em ployed the keys of the church to release him self from the most sacred engagements, and its wealth to pamper his mistresses and nephews. The doctrines and rites of the established religion they treated with decent reverence. But though they still called themselves Catholics, they had ceased to be Papists. Those spiritual arms which carried terror into the palaces and camps of the proudest sovereigns excited only their contempt. When Alexander commanded our Henry the Second to submit to the lash before the tomb of a rebellious subject, he was himself an exile. The Romans, apprehending that he entertained designs against their liberties, had driven him from their city; and, though he solemnly promised to confine himself for the future to his spiritual functions, they still refused to re-admit him.
That which most distinguished Italy from the neighbouring countries was the importance which the population of the towns, from a very early period, began to acquire. Some cities founded in wild and remote situations, by fugitives who had escaped from the rage of the barbarians, preserved their freedom by their obscurity, till they became able to preserve it In every other part of Europe, a large and by their power. Others seemed to have re- powerful privileged class trampled on the peotained, under all the changing dynasties of ple and defied the government. But in the invaders, under Odoacer and Theodoric, Narses most flourishing parts of Italy the feudal noand Alboin, the municipal institutions which bles were reduced to comparative insignifihad been conferred on them by the liberal cance. In some districts they took shelter policy of the Great Republic. In provinces under the protection of the powerful commonwhich the central government was too feeble wealths which they were unable to oppose, either to protect or to oppress, these institu- and gradually sunk into the mass of burghers. tions first acquired stability and vigour. The In others they possessed great influence; but citizens, defended by their walls and governed it was an influence widely different from that by their own magistrates and their own by- which was exercised by the chieftains of the laws, enjoyed a considerable share of republi- Transalpine kingdoms. They were not petcan independence. Thus a strong democratic ty princes, but eminent citizens. Instead spirit was called into action. The Carlovingian of strengthening their fastnesses among the Bovereigns were too imbecile to subdue it. mountains, they embellished their places in The generous policy of Otho encouraged it. the market-place. The state of society in the It might perhaps have been suppressed by a Neapolitan dominions, and in some parts of close coalition between the Church and the the Ecclesiastical State, more nearly resembled Empire. It was fostered and invigorated by that which existed in the great monarchies of their disputes. In the twelfth century it Europe. But the governments of Lombardy attained its full vigour, and, after a long and and Tuscany, through all their revolutions, doubtful conflict, it triumphed over the abili-preserved a different character. A people, ties and courage of the Swabian Princes.
The assistance of the ecclesiastical power had greatly contributed to the success of the Gelis. That success would, however, have ben a doubtful good, if its only effect had
when assembled in a town, is far more formi dable to its rulers than when dispersed over a wide extent of country. The most arbitrary of the Cæsars found it necessary to feed and divert the inhabitants of their unwieldy capi