Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Having made these discoveries, Dr. Douglas communicated them to the world in a pamphlet intitled, • Milton vindicated from the charge of plagiarism,

brought against him by Mr. Lauder, &c. 8vo.

1750. Upon the publication thereof his booksellers called on Lauder for a justification of themselves, and a confirmation of the charge; but he, with a degree of impudence not to be exceeded, acknowledged the interpolation of the books by him cited, and seemed to wonder at the folly of mankind in • making such a rout about eighteen or twenty lines.' However, being a short time after convinced by Johnson and others, that it would be more for his interest to make an ample confession of his guilt, than to set mankind at defiance, and stigmatize them with folly; he did so in a letter addressed to Mr. Douglas, published in quarto, 1751, beginning thus :

· Candour and tenderness are in any relation, and on all occasions, eminently amiable ; but when they

are found in an adversary, and found so prevalent • as to overpower that zeal which his cause excites, ,

and that heat which naturally increases in the prosescution of argument, and which may be in a great ' measure justified by the love of truth, they certainly

appear with particular advantages; and it is impossible not to envy those who possess the friendship of him, whom it is even some degree of good fortune to have known as an enemy.

• I will not so far diffemble my weakness, or my e fault, as not to confess, that my wish was to have passed undetected; but since it has been

my

fortune * to fail in my original design, to have the suppositious

passages

T 3

me, when

passages which I have inserted in my quotations • made known to the world, and the shade which

began to gather on the splendour of Milton totally dispersed, I cannot but count it an allevation of my pain, that I have been defeated by a man who knows how to use advantages with so much moderation, and can enjoy the honour of conquest without the infolence of triumph.

" It was one of the maxims of the Spartans, not to ' press upon a Aying army, and therefore their enemies

were always ready to quit the field, because they • knew the danger was only in opposing. The civility with which you have thought proper to treat

you had incontestable superiority, has in<clined me to make your victory complete, without any.

further struggie, and not only publicly to acknowledge

the truth of the charge which you have hitherto ad(vanced, but to confess, without the least diffimula• tion, subterfuge, or concealment, every other inter

polation I have made in those authors, which you • have not yet had opportunity to examine:

« On the sincerity and punctuality of this confesion, • I am willing to depend for all the future regard of ' mankind, and cannot but indulge some hopes, that

they whom my offence has alienated from me, may, by this instance of ingenuity and repentance, be pro

pitiated and reconciled. Whatever be the event, I « shall at least have done all that can be done in re

paration of my former injuries to Milton, to truth, cand to mankind, and entreat that those who shall

continue implacable, will examine their own hearts, • whether they have not committed equal crimes withroutequal proofs of sorrow, or equal acts of atonement.'

Then

attempt to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Then follow the citations, some of which appear to be gratuitous, that is to say, such as had escaped the detection of the author's adversary. He then proceeds to align the motive for his

subvert the reputation of Milton, in these words:

· About ten years ago, I published an edition of · Dr. Johnston's Translation of the Psalms, and having "procured from the general assembly of the church of Scotland, a recommendation of its use to the ' lower classes of grammar-schools, into which I had: 'begun to introduce it, though not without much

controversy and opposition, I thought it likely that · I should, by annual publications, improve my little

fortune, and be enabled to support myself in free• dom from the miseries of indigence. But Mr. Pope,

in his malevolence to Mr. Benfon, who had diftin

guished himself by his fondness for the same ver'fion, destroyed all my hopes by a distich*, in which

he places Johnston in a contemptuous comparison { with the author of Paradise Lost.

From this time, all my praises of Johnston be'came ridiculous, and I was censured with great

freedom, for forcing upon the schools an author, ' whom Mr. Pope had mentioned only as a foil to a

poet. On this occasion, it was natural not to 'be' pleased, and my resentment seeking to discharge • itself somewhere, was unhappily directed against

better

. On two unequal crutches propt, he [Benson) came,
Milton's on this, on that one Johnston's name.

Dunciad, book iv. line 109.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Milton. I resolved to attack his fame, and found fome passages in cursory reading, which gave me

hopes of stigmatizing him as a plagiary. The far<ther I carried my search, the more eager I grew for:

the discovery, and the more my hypothesis was opposed, the more I was heated with rage. The con

sequence of my blind passion, I need not relate; ' it has, by your detection, become apparent to man' kind. Nor do I mention this provocation as

adequate to the fury which I have shewn, but ' as a cause of anger less shameful and reproachful

than fractious malice, personal envy, of national jealousy.'

The concluding paragraph of this confession carries in it such an appearance of contrition, that few who red it at the time could withhold that forgiveness which it implores; these are the words of it:

" For the violation of truth, I offer no excuse, be• cause I well know, that nothing can excuse it. Nor ' will I aggrayate my crime, by disingenuous pallia

tions. I confess it, I repent it, and resolve, that my • first offence shall be my last. More I cannot per

form, and more therefore cannot be required. I - intreat the pardon of all men, whom I have by any

means induced to support, to countenance, or patronize any frauds, of which I think myself obliged

to declare, that not one of my friends was conscious. • I hope to deserve by better conduct and more

useful undertakings, that patronage which I have ( obtained from the most illustrious and venerable • names by misrepresentation and delusion, and to appear hereafter in such a character, as shall give

you

you no reason to regret, that your name is frequently ! mentioned with that of,

« Reverend Sir,
! Your most humble feryant,

! WILLIAM LAUDER.' Notwithstanding this humiliating and abject confession, which, though it was penned by Johnson*, was fubfcribed by himself, Lauder had the impudence, in a postscript thereto, in effect to retract it, by pretending that the design of his effay was only to try how deeply the prepossession in favour of Milton was rooted in the minds of his admirers; and that the stratagem, as he calls it, was intended to impose only on a few obstinate persons; and, whether that was fo criminal as it has been represented, he leaves the impartial mind to determine.

After the publication of this letter, the perusers of it rested in a conviction of the villainy of its author, strengthened by the inconsistency between the reasons assigned in that and those in the postscript. Nevertheless, in the year 1754, resolving to attack Milton in another quarter, Lauder published a pamphlet intided, · King Charles I. vindicated from the charge of

plagiarism brought against him by Milton, and

Milton himself convicted of forgery and a gross 'imposition on the public. The design of this pamphlet was, to ingratiate himself with the friends to the memory of Charles by shewing, that the prayer of Pamela, in Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, was, by an artifice of Milton, inserted in an edition of the Eikon Basilike, with a view to fix on the king a charge of impiety. • Vide infra, the account of a subsequent publication of Lauder's.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »