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see Windsor Castle, the only difference between what it looked then and what appears now being the altered height of the Round Tower, then more squat, and the trees which fringe these north-easterly slopes ; for the Georgian pointing and the hideous Portland we are fortunately too far off to distinguish. And the fields; they must have been a little more trackless and irregular, more bosky and tumbled, retaining a little more hill and dale, an irregularity which generation after generation of ploughing has nearly counteracted; with copses and old field roads, if we can trust the dim Constables and Gainsboroughs, and with a general sense of less being required from them: a feeling, distressing to the economist but beloved by the poet, that landlords did not try to work the earth quite so hard, to get all they could out of her, but let her have her way in patches and corners, and make a little pastime of her own in nooks and dingles, so long as she served them well in the open ground ; perhaps the reason why she seems to be in revolt just now.
But here let our amateur researches have an end. We will not dive into parish registers and title-deeds; we need not inquire whether the old scrivener held his lease from the Bulstrodes of Bulstrode or the Earl of Bridgewater. We have merely come to Horton to try and realise a page in a biography—to try and read a great figure into a landscape where it was once at home.
A solitary scholar living in the country—a picture with little variety of outline but an indefinable charm. It was not till Charles the Second that the "fascinating pleasure of sauntering” was devised, developed, and dignified, but we may be quite sure that Milton knew of it. Tired a little of the inconveniences of Buck inghamshire, the frequency of visits to London necessary for books and music, he speaks of taking chambers at an Inn of Court,—and why? To get “a
pleasant and shady walk," as he writes to Deodati, where he might loiter and dream. For it must be confessed that the beauty of which he was enamoured was not the beauty of Nature. Milton was not one of those who in times of stress and dissatisfaction can crouch back to the bosom of the great mother and be at rest there : no ! it was rather of the beauty of thought ; of high ideals; of conceptions dim and sublime. Nature was no necessity to Milton. In later life he became a settled Londoner, and not a regretful one; he did not fly back into the country as to his true home. He was not the sort of poet who can lie on his back and watch the willowleaves and the water hour after hour. What he wanted in a country place was quiet, absence of distracting impressions, free play for his mind, and for such sombre fancies as ranged them. selves within it.
We may amuse ourselves by conjecturing how his day was spent. In summer, we may imagine, he rose with the dawn to turn over Latin and Greek authors, in no casual dilettante spirit, but jotting down facts, hard facts, and little else, as his extractbooks show, or impulsively turning a psalm into Greek Homerics, as he writes to Deodati, or pursuing his great scheme of History, laboriously advancing Greeks and Romans through year after year, for “insight into all generous and seemly acts and affairs," as he says; and then books, books all day, excepting a dreamy stroll, and books again, bringing to them as he did the keen lustre of a mind sharpened by perpetual temperance, and emasculated by no self-indulgence, dimmed by no ungentle retrospects. Like Hippolytus in the Ion he brings with him a gush of morning air and voices of birds; comely with his soft brown curling locks and “exhaling the penetrating fragrance of youth.”
Undoubtedly to settle down for year after year to a life of deliberate aloofness from career or worldly interests shows either a drifting habit like Hawthorne's, which may, as in the
latter's case, bloom into a fantastic but in the first and only) letter of the unpruned luxuriance, or a stern devo- elder to the younger man, are not tion to self-education-a plan for in- merely complimentary, they are affectentional culture which few would tionate. have the power to devise, very few to But Milton was a bad correspondent. carry out. The instinct, the necessity He speaks of the obstinacy of his for solitude, characterising either the silences, confesses that he was by brutish or the divine nature, was upon nature slow and reluctant to write. him imperiously ; he seems (as far as The letters of the Horton period are we can judge) to have had no reproach few, though we cannot argue the same ful reveries, no haunting sadness, too unexpansiveness from a small correoften the result of such a choice ; for spondence then as we can nowadays. the sonnet on his twenty-third birth. But the law is the same ifor Milton, day, if read rightly, does not contain a we can see, as for most men—the hint of self-blame; it gazes with a fewer obvious duties a man has, the more momentary melancholy upon the ra- perfunctorily they will be performed. pacity of time, and its inadequacy for Milton, with his long contemplative the combination of a practical ideal spaces, his complete freedom from but there is nothing more.
business or prescribed action, selfSolitary we may be sure he was; imposed as they were, was probably not till he was on the point of his no exception to the rule. continental tour did he put himself T here is one delightful thing which in communication even with Henry we glean from scattered hints, notably Wotton, the retired diplomatist and from Andrew Marvel's description of courtier, then Provost of Eton, and the arrangement of his ordinary day residing within a four-mile walk; and in later life, and from the sonnet then it was only for the sake of con. to Henry Lawrence. Milton was venience in travel and superior intro one of those home-bred natures that ductions. Yet Henry Wotton, with literally loved monotony; the sonnet bis love for tobacco, and his zealous is a delightful description in the fishing expeditions, with his bottle of strictest Horatian manner of how to Eton ale, was pre-eminently a sociable spend a wet day satisfactorily in the person-an ideal for Milton in the country—a light lunch, followed by graceful touch with which he brought music or singing. to bear modern ideas and a cosmopoli
“He who of such delights can judge, and spare tan ease on a taste naturally delicate
To interpose them oft, is not unwise." and artificially refined. And Wotton, too, as we can absolutely augur from a delightful confession. Such enjoythe delightful letter which he writes ment only belongs to the lives of those to him, took the kind of affectionate who cling to home and regular hours, fancy for Milton which an older and and a small circle of very habitual accomplished scholar, who has sucked friends. the honey of life and found, not its He was evidently one of those sweetness, but only his own powers of natures who learnt very early by a enjoyment fail, will sometimes take to kind of fastidious instinct the high a young and fascinating soul, already pleasures of abstinence; not by tamfar upon the same path with himself, pering with indulgence and finding his like the lauradndópos of Sparta, a fit mistake, a course which may lower successor to whom to hand on the the succeeding temperance from the lighted brand. “Your friend, as much realm of pleasure to that of a disat command as any of longer date, tasteful and curative necessity. He Henry Wotton!” “The fomentation had evidently discovered that spare of our friendship too soon interrupted in diet, short slumbers, rigorous restraint, the cradle ;' these phrases, occurring leave, when the first tremors and
cravings of the discontented body are over, the mind pure and free and vigorous with great spring and plenitude of animal spirits, and not dulled or clouded by any of the fumes and humours that haunt the brain of the full-blooded, easy liver. On the other hand, he, no doubt, suffered from the vague and delicious melancholy common to austere souls and eremitic frames; it is a common mistake to speak of music as solacing or charming away such melancholy—it is not so; music is potent to lift the black clouds, the gloomy horrors of morbid melancholy, resulting on mental exhaustion or physical prostration; but the dreamy, pensive mood, a condition of high and exalted delight, needs no curing; it is fed by music, strenuously bruising the sweetness out of it, the harmony and the rhythm working up the soul to a purified ecstasy far different from the blind and animal rapture induced on merely sensuous natures.
Now, the reason why we look with a regretful longing at such an exile, such a sojourn on Patmos as Milton's was, is twofold. We are genuinely charmed by the beauty as well as the rightness and simplicity of a life lived within so secluded a pale; and then there comes another feeling ; we admire it because it would be so impossible for ourselves, so intolerable ; not because we could not, if we would, step aside from career and place and the struggling world, but because we know we dare not; because such a life is too arduous, too exacting for us. A life apart, if spent in indolence is so inglorious a thingand we feel that we should so easily slip into that; and thus jaded by the stress of circumstances we peer into such a remote region as this, and wish we had strength and courage to share it too. We know what we would fain pursue ; but public feeling, and the lower and apparently simpler issue of staying where we are rushes over us, and we are drawn away again.
Yet if it has been a dream, it has
been a sweet one, to see the young scholar trudging home through the summer twilight, watching the stars come out above the orchards, and the bats flap noiselessly about the warm dusk, while the pleasant country sounds fall fainter and fainter over the fields and running water, till at last there is nothing to be heard but the gurgle of the brimming stream in its pools, and under its long grasses ; the sigh of the elms in the fragrant air, and the sound of distant wheels, louder and fainter alternately, speeding some belated traveller home. “What God has resolved concerning me I know not, but this at least; He has instilled into me, at all events, a vehement love of the beautiful. Not with so much labour, as the fables have it, is Ceres said to have sought her daughter Proserpine, as I am wont day and night to seek for the idea of the beautiful (hanc toû kaloù idéav) through all the forms or faces of things (for many are the shapes of things divine).” So wrote Milton on a June evening from Horton, stung, it may have been, into speech by the tormenting beauty of the summer twilight.
And we who pursue her too, though faintly and with less heart, where could we find her better than in the picture of the life that imaged this constant thought? We seem to be very near her; almost to clutch the fringe of her garments and comprehend the vanishing form.
But our reverie too must have an end. A clock peals its summons from a red Colnbrook roof, undistinguishably grey in the evening colouring; the setting sun is doing his best to atone for the Vandalism of the wind by gilding the ragged cloud-terraces an angry red. It seems as if a mighty spirit had been abroad, drawing all who were attuned in mood and will into consonance with him. Let us creep home in silence, for he has passed over and gone by.
LEFT were the busy quays, the street, The alleys where the lindens meet, The lilies on the convent pond, The convent vanes that soared beyond. High up the towering hill we stand, Round us the hush of fairy land; Sheer down beneath our feet outlay The town, the cape, the crescent bay ; The sombre haze of Baden's wood, The brimming lake's broad gleaming flood, Bavaria's long low purple line, The gentle inflow of the Rhine ; And bosky Austrian headlands steep That pushed into the rippling deep; While southward far swelled high o'er all The Vorarlberg's grey battered wall. Then on we panted, keen to gain The goal that crowns the climber's pain; An opening in the pines, and lo! The Sentis, with its cone of snow! Across deep leagues of limpid air, How close it looked ! how ghostly fair ! A silent vision to bring tears Of rapture through the ebbing years. The pink flush fades as back we go, And cold winds from the glaciers blow. We parted : I passed on in haste, ’Neath roaring fall and frozen waste, Through valleys bleached with apple bloom, By Thusis, and the gorge of gloom, Swept sledge-borne o'er the Splugen wild To lake-sides where the myrtle smiled; And breathed at last in gales of balm Where by the blue wave dreams the palm, And sighted, sixty miles away, Peter's white peak in Corsica. Yet ever with me, snow-besprent, The phantom of the mountain went, Lofty and sad, a giant lone, Spell-bound upon his stony throne. I see it (as I saw it then), Here by the burn in Sannox glen; Scarce sharper showed it that clear morn, 'Mid the weird realm of alp and horn.
“I HAVE neither space, nor wish," echoes sinks to a rustic murmur. “His writes Mr. Ruskin in his autobio- coat, his waistcoat, his shoes and graphy, “to extend my proposed stockings, his trousers, his hat, his account of things that have been by wit and humour, his pathos and his records of correspondence; it is too umbrella, all come before me like much the habit of modern biographers visions of my youth.” That is the to confuse epistolary talk with vital way of half our modern biographies. fact.” It is a long while since Mr. Mr. Sampson Brass failed as a lawyer; Ruskin has written anything so entirely but had he lived on to our time he to the purpose. In too much, perhaps, of might have made his fortune as a all modern writing the vital fact is apt biographer. A cunning artist may to get a little confused and lost sight indeed contrive to give these dry bones of; in biography it is certainly so. some semblance of life ; but cunning How could it be otherwise ? Half of artists do not just at present seem our latter-day biographies were worth inclined to labour in the field of biowriting in no circumstances; con- graphy. Too often the work has not siderably more than one half of the even the saving virtue of Justice remainder have too obviously been Shallow's estate : “Barren, barren, written in circumstances that could barren; marry, good air;" but we not but be fatal to the best bio- miss even the good air. grapher who ever set himself to paint And in those rare cases where the a man “in his habit as he lived." tale of the finished life is one we That Gyas and Cloanthus were brave would willingly hear, still some mamen no one doubts; and all would lignant spirit is so apt to intervene. So cordially allow them the merit of fast the world moves now, so strenhaving been most charming in their uously must we all pant after it, that family circles. But when the story of unless the page comes hot from the their lives comes to be writ large in press to supplement the funeral serblack and white, how apt the charm is vice, it is, we say, or seem to say, too to fade. In the garish light of print late. The moment passes with the the ways, the looks, the arts that man. It is, indeed, a wonder we do seemed so winning and so wonderful not improve on the French fashion, to those who saw and felt them in their and deliver our biographies impromptu freshness, are apt to show such little over the open grave. They could not things. The wit and the learning well be more perfunctory; and they that set the affectionate critics of the could not but be shorter. fireside in a roar, or lulled them into Small wonder then that our current mute admiring, but make the stony biographical literature is such as it so public stare. Those ethereal eyes that frequently is; so confused, so barren flashed such heavenly gleams beneath and yet so wordy, so wanting in the bar of Michael Angelo, fade to the selection, arrangement, proportion ; common light of every day. The great that so rarely the right man seems wave that was to fill the world with its to have been chosen, or to have
chosen himself, for the work. He who 1 The Life of Henry Wadsworth Long. can work fastest is the man for fellow, with Extracts from his Journals and Correspondence.' Edited by Samuel Long
our money; and where angels fear to fellow. Two volumes. London, 1886.
tread who knows not what manner of 2. Præterita,'ch. vii.
man rushes in ?