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shall now attend with such a homily, as shall lay before ye, first, the inventors of it to be those whom ye will be loath to own; next, what is to be thought in general of reading, whatever sort the books be; and that this order avails nothing to the suppressing of scandalous, seditious, and libellous books, which were mainly intended to be suppressed. (12) Last, that it will be primely to the discouragement of all learning, and the stop of truth, not only by disexercising and blunting our abilities, in what we know already, but by hindering and cropping the discovery that might be yet further made, both in religious and civil wisdom.
6. I deny not, but that it is of greatest concern
(Walton's Life of Hooker, 209, ed. of 1807,) as she called Archbishop Whitgift. During the interregnum, marriages were, by an ordinance of Parliament, solemnized before a civil magistrate, and without a licence. I copy the form of a certificate on the occasion from the original now before me :-“Sussex.—These are to certify those whom it may concern, that Thomas Holt of Petersfield, in the county of Louth, clerk, and Charity Shirley of Kirdford, in the county of Sussex, spinster, were married at Plaistow, in the parish of Kirdford, on the one and twentieth of May, by Richard Knowles, Esq. one of the Commissioners for the Peace in the said county of Sussex.
(L.S.) “RICHARD KNOWLES.” “ In the presence of
“ Wm. MILLWOOD,
“ John BEATON.” Milton's allusion must have been to this practice. - Holt White.
(12) See in proof of this, Note 53, at the conclusion of this speech, where we find, by the testimony of Mabbot, himself a licenser, how easily men devised means of eluding the ridiculous severity of the law, and of converting what was intended to be a curb, into a screen and protection from punishment.
ment in the church and commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves, as well as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors; for books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. (13) And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book : who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious lifeblood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. It is true, no age can restore a life, whereof, perhaps, there is no great loss; and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse. We should be wary, therefore, what persecution we raise against the living labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man, preserved and stored
(13) This magnificent metaphor furnishes an additional proof of the infinite skill with which Milton converts his reading, whether common or uncommon, into a means of enriching and enlivening his style.
up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom; and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at the ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself; slays an immortality rather than a life. But lest I should be condemned of introducing licence, while I oppose licensing, I refuse not the pains to be so much historical, as will serve to show what hath been done by ancient and famous commonwealths, against this disorder, till the very time that this project of licensing crept out of the inquisition, was catched up by our prelates, and hath caught some of our presbyters.
7. In Athens, where books and wits were ever busier than in any other part of Greece, I find but only two sorts of writings which the magistrate cared to take notice of; those either blasphemous and atheistical, or libellous. Thus the books of Protagoras (14) were, by the judges of Areopagus, com
(14) Protagoras, in Plato's dialogue which bears his name, boasts of the boldness with which he had always professed himself a sophist; and yet he reached extreme old age before the impiety of his doctrines incurred the displeasure of the court of Areopagus. Other sophists disguised their real characters in va. rious ways, some travelling about as teachers of music, some as architects, or physicians. With respect to the Old Comedy, no one can feel surprised that the magistrates should at length have interfered with its licentiousness; for we know, from the example of Aristophanes, that neither the loftiest genius, nor the purest virtue, could escape its audacious slanders. Mr. Holt White, who deserves much praise for his laborious endeavours to throw light on this work of Milton, observes, after Velleius Pa
manded to be burnt, and himself banished the territory for a discourse, begun with his confessing not to know “ whether there were gods, or whether not.” And against defaming, it was agreed that none should be traduced by name, as was the manner of Vetus Comedia, whereby we may guess how they censured libelling; and this course was quick enough, as Cicero writes, to quell both the desperate wits of other atheists, and the open way of defaming, as the event showed. Of other sects and opinions, though tending to voluptuousness, and the denying of divine Providence, they took no heed. Therefore we do not read that either Epicurus, or that libertine school of Cyrene, or what the Cynic impudence uttered, was ever questioned by the laws. Neither is it recorded, that the writings of those old comedians were suppressed, though the acting of them were forbid; and that Plato commended the reading of Aristophanes, the loosest of them all, to his royal scholar, Dionysius, is commonly known, and may be excused, if holy Chrysostom, (15) as is reported, nightly studied so much the same author, and had the art to cleanse a scurrilous vehemence into the style of a rousing sermon.
terculus, that Pindar was the only Greek writer of eminence who was not a native of Attica. But this is an extraordinary mistake: Aristotle was a native of Macedonian Thrace, Hippocrates of Cos, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, Lucian of Samosata, Polybius of Megalopolis, Plutarch of Chæronea in Boeotia, &c. and these are “ writers of eminence.”
(15) He is said by Aldus Manutius, but I know not his authority, to have commonly slept with the comedies of this writer under his pillow; and traces of his comic reading are said to be still visible in his homilies. The critics “ unanimously attribute to the Christian orator," says Gibbon, “ the free command of an
8. That other leading city of Greece, Lacedæmon, considering that Lycurgus their lawgiver was so addicted to elegant learning, as to have been the first that brought out of Ionia the scattered works of Homer, and sent the poet Thales (10) from Crete, to prepare and mollify the Spartan surliness with his smooth songs and odes, the better to plant among them law and civility; it is to be wondered how museless and unbookish they were,
elegant and copious language; the judgment to conceal the advantages he derived from the knowledge of rhetoric and philosophy; an inexhaustible fund of metaphors and similitudes, of ideas and images, to vary and illustrate the most familiar topics ; the happy art of engaging the passions in the service of virtue; and of exposing the folly, as well as the turpitude, of vice, almost with the truth and spirit of a dramatic representation." (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, V. 400, 401.)
(16) This is an error, probably typographical. The poet here intended was named not Thales but Thaletas. He was a native of Elyrus in Crete, and is said to have purified Sparta with music when attacked by the plague.-(Plutarch, de Music. 42.) Thaletas flourished about 620, B. C. several ages after Lycurgus, and was the first who brought the Cretic or Pæonian metre into general use. (Müller, “ History and Antiquities of the Doric Race,” i. 363, 372.) This learned writer observes, (ii. 14.) that chronology forbids our giving credit to those authors who pretend that Thaletas was the instructor of Lycurgus, since, according to undoubted testimony, he belongs to a later period. Plutarch, he adds, dates the second epoch of Spartan music from Thaletas the Elyrian,-whose skill was derived from the ancient sacred minstrels of the neighbouring town of Tarrha,—and from Xenodamus of Cythera, and Xenocrates the Locrian, &c. (ii. 334.)