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[Footnote 2: Act ii. sc. 3.]


Born at Salisbury, 1584.–Died, 1640.

With regard to Massinger, observe,

1. The vein of satire on the times; but this is not as in Shakspeare, where the natures evolve themselves according to their incidental disproportions, from excess, deficiency, or mislocation, of one or more of the component elements; but is merely satire on what is attributed to them by others.

2. His excellent metre–a better model for dramatists in general to imitate than Shakspeare’s,–even if a dramatic taste existed in the frequenters of the stage, and could be gratified in the present size and management, or rather mismanagement, of the two patent theatres. I do not mean that Massinger’s verse is superior to Shakspeare’s or equal to it. Far from it; but it is much more easily constructed and may be more successfully adopted by writers in the present day. It is the nearest approach to the language of real life at all compatible with a fixed metre. In Massinger, as in all our poets before Dryden, in order to make harmonious verse in the reading, it is absolutely necessary that the meaning should be understood;–when the meaning is once seen, then the harmony is perfect. Whereas in Pope and in most of the writers who followed in his school, it is the mechanical metre which determines the sense.

3. The impropriety, and indecorum of demeanour in his favourite characters, as in Bertoldo in the Maid of Honour, who is a swaggerer, talking to his sovereign what no sovereign could endure, and to gentlemen what no gentleman would answer without pulling his nose.

4. Shakspeare’s Ague-cheek, Osric, &c. are displayed through others, in the course of social intercourse, by the mode of their performing some office in which they are employed; but Massinger’s ‘Sylli’ come forward to declare themselves fools ‘ad arbitrium auctoris,’ and so the diction always needs the ‘subintelligitur’ (‘the man looks as if he thought so and so,’) expressed in the language of the satirist, and not in that of the man himself:–

‘Sylli.’ You may, madam,
Perhaps, believe that I in this use art To make you dote upon me, by exposing
My more than most rare features to your view; But I, as I have ever done, deal simply, A mark of sweet simplicity, ever noted
In the family of the Syllis. Therefore, lady, Look not with too much contemplation on me; If you do, you are in the suds.

‘Maid of Honour’, act i. sc. 2.

The author mixes his own feelings and judgments concerning the presumed fool; but the man himself, till mad, fights up against them, and betrays, by his attempts to modify them, that he is no fool at all, but one gifted with activity and copiousness of thought, image and expression, which belong not to a fool, but to a man of wit making himself merry with his own character.

5. There is an utter want of preparation in the decisive acts of Massinger’s characters, as in Camiola and Aurelia in the Maid of Honour. Why? Because the ‘dramatis personae’ were all planned each by itself. Whereas in Shakspeare, the play is ‘syngenesia;’ each character has, indeed, a life of its own, and is an ‘individuum’ of itself, but yet an organ of the whole, as the heart in the human body. Shakspeare was a great comparative anatomist.

Hence Massinger and all, indeed, but Shakspeare, take a dislike to their own characters, and spite themselves upon them by making them talk like fools or monsters; as Fulgentio in his visit to Camiola, (Act ii. sc. 2.) Hence too, in Massinger, the continued flings at kings, courtiers, and all the favourites of fortune, like one who had enough of intellect to see injustice in his own inferiority in the share of the good things of life, but not genius enough to rise above it, and forget himself. Beaumont and Fletcher have the same vice in the opposite pole, a servility of sentiment and a spirit of partizanship with the monarchical faction.

6. From the want of a guiding point in Massinger’s characters, you never know what they are about. In fact they have no character.

7. Note the faultiness of his soliloquies, with connectives and arrangements, that have no other motive but the fear lest the audience should not understand him.

8. A play of Massinger’s produces no one single effect, whether arising from the spirit of the whole, as in the As You Like It; or from any one indisputably prominent character as Hamlet. It is just “which you like best, gentlemen!”

9. The unnaturally irrational passions and strange whims of feeling which Massinger delights to draw, deprive the reader of all sound interest in the characters;–as in Mathias in the Picture, and in other instances.

10. The comic scenes in Massinger not only do not harmonize with the tragic, not only interrupt the feeling, but degrade the characters that are to form any part in the action of the piece, so as to render them unfit for any tragic interest. At least, they do not concern, or act upon, or modify, the principal characters. As when a gentleman is insulted by a mere blackguard,–it is the same as if any other accident of nature had occurred, a pig run under his legs, or his horse thrown him. There is no dramatic interest in it.

I like Massinger’s comedies better than his tragedies, although where the situation requires it, he often rises into the truly tragic and pathetic. He excells in narration, and for the most part displays his mere story with skill. But he is not a poet of high imagination; he is like a Flemish painter, in whose delineations objects appear as they do in nature, have the same force and truth, and produce the same effect upon the spectator. But Shakspeare is beyond this;–he always by metaphors and figures involves in the thing considered a universe of past and possible experiences; he mingles earth, sea and air, gives a soul to every thing, and at the same time that he inspires human feelings, adds a dignity in his images to human nature itself:–

Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye; Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchymy, &c.

(33rd Sonnet.)

‘Note.’–Have I not over-rated Gifford’s edition of Massinger?–Not,–if I have, as but just is, main reference to the restitution of the text; but yes, perhaps, if I were talking of the notes. These are more often wrong than right. In the Maid of Honour, Act i. sc. 5. Astutio describes Fulgentio as “A gentleman, yet no lord.” Gifford supposes a transposition of the press for “No gentleman, yet a lord.” But this would have no connection with what follows; and we have only to recollect that “lord” means a lord of lands, to see that the after lines are explanatory. He is a man of high birth, but no landed property;–as to the former, he is a distant branch of the blood royal;–as to the latter, his whole rent lies in a narrow compass, the king’s ear! In the same scene the text stands:

‘Bert’. No! they are useful
For your ‘imitation;’–I remember you, &c.;–

and Gifford condemns Mason’s conjecture of ‘initiation’ as void of meaning and harmony. Now my ear deceives me if ‘initiation’ be not the right word. In fact,’imitation’ is utterly impertinent to all that follows. Bertoldo tells Antonio that he had been initiated in the manners suited to the court by two or three sacred beauties, and that a similar experience would be equally useful for his initiation into the camp. Not a word of his imitation. Besides, I say the rhythm requires ‘initiation,’ and is lame as the verse now stands.




Born at Madrid, 1547;-Shakspeare, 1564; both put off mortality on the same day, the 23rd of April, 1616,–the one in the sixty-ninth, the other in the fifty-second, year of his life. The resemblance in their physiognomies is striking, but with a predominance of acuteness in Cervantes, and of reflection in Shakspeare, which is the specific difference between the Spanish and English characters of mind.

I. The nature and eminence of Symbolical writing;–

II. Madness, and its different sorts, (considered without pretension to medical science);–

To each of these, or at least to my own notions respecting them, I must devote a few words of explanation, in order to render the after critique on Don Quixote, the master work of Cervantes’ and his country’s genius easily and throughout intelligible. This is not the least valuable, though it may most often be felt by us both as the heaviest and least entertaining portion of these critical disquisitions: for without it, I must have foregone one at least of the two appropriate objects of a Lecture, that of interesting you during its delivery, and of leaving behind in your minds the germs of after-thought, and the materials for future enjoyment. To have been assured by several of my intelligent auditors that they have reperused Hamlet or Othello with increased satisfaction in consequence of the new points of view in which I had placed those characters–is the highest compliment I could receive or desire; and should the address of this evening open out a new source of pleasure, or enlarge the former in your perusal of Don Quixote, it will compensate for the failure of any personal or temporary object.

I. The Symbolical cannot, perhaps, be better defined in distinction from the Allegorical, than that it is always itself a part of that, of the whole of which it is the representative.–“Here comes a sail,”–(that is, a ship) is a symbolical expression. “Behold our lion!” when we speak of some gallant soldier, is allegorical. Of most importance to our present subject is this point, that the latter (the allegory) cannot be other than spoken consciously;–whereas in the former (the symbol) it is very possible that the general truth represented may be working unconsciously in the writer’s mind during the construction of the symbol;–and it proves itself by being produced out of his own mind,–as the Don Quixote out of the perfectly sane mind of Cervantes, and not by outward observation, or historically. The advantage of symbolical writing over allegory is, that it presumes no disjunction of faculties, but simple predominance.

II. Madness may be divided as–

1. hypochondriasis; or, the man is out of his senses.

2. derangement of the understanding; or, the man is out of his wits.

3. loss of reason.

4. frenzy, or derangement of the sensations.

Cervantes’s own preface to Don Quixote is a perfect model of the gentle, every where intelligible, irony in the best essays of the Tatler and the Spectator. Equally natural and easy, Cervantes is more spirited than Addison; whilst he blends with the terseness of Swift, an exquisite flow and music of style, and above all, contrasts with the latter by the sweet temper of a superior mind, which saw the follies of mankind, and was even at the moment suffering severely under hard mistreatment;[1] and yet seems every where to have but one thought as the undersong– “Brethren! with all your faults I love you still!”–or as a mother that chides the child she loves, with one hand holds up the rod, and with the other wipes off each tear as it drops!

Don Quixote was neither fettered to the earth by want, nor holden in its embraces by wealth;–of which, with the temperance natural to his country, as a Spaniard, he had both far too little, and somewhat too much, to be under any necessity of thinking about it. His age too, fifty, may be well supposed to prevent his mind from being tempted out of itself by any of the lower passions;–while his habits, as a very early riser and a keen sportsman, were such as kept his spare body in serviceable subjection to his will, and yet by the play of hope that accompanies pursuit, not only permitted, but assisted, his fancy in shaping what it would. Nor must we omit his meagerness and entire featureliness, face and frame, which Cervantes gives us at once: “It is said that his surname was ‘Quixada’ or ‘Quesada,'” &c.–even in this trifle showing an exquisite judgment;–just once insinuating the association of ‘lantern-jaws’ into the reader’s mind, yet not retaining it obtrusively like the names in old farces and in the Pilgrim’s Progress,–but taking for the regular appellative one which had the no meaning of a proper name in real life, and which yet was capable of recalling a number of very different, but all pertinent, recollections, as old armour, the precious metals hidden in the ore, &c. Don Quixote’s leanness and featureliness are happy exponents of the excess of the formative or imaginative in him, contrasted with Sancho’s plump rotundity, and recipiency of external impression.

He has no knowledge of the sciences or scientific arts which give to the meanest portions of matter an intellectual interest, and which enable the mind to decypher in the world of the senses the invisible agency–that alone, of which the world’s phenomena are the effects and manifestations,–and thus, as in a mirror, to contemplate its own reflex, its life in the powers, its imagination in the symbolic forms, its moral instincts in the final causes, and its reason in the laws of material nature: but–estranged from all the motives to observation from self-interest–the persons that surround him too few and too familiar to enter into any connection with his thoughts, or to require any adaptation of his conduct to their particular characters or relations to himself–his judgment lies fallow, with nothing to excite, nothing to employ it. Yet,–and here is the point, where genius even of the most perfect kind, allotted but to few in the course of many ages, does not preclude the necessity in part, and in part counterbalance the craving by sanity of judgment, without which genius either cannot be, or cannot at least manifest itself,–the dependency of our nature asks for some confirmation from without, though it be only from the shadows of other men’s fictions.

Too uninformed, and with too narrow a sphere of power and opportunity to rise into the scientific artist, or to be himself a patron of art, and with too deep a principle and too much innocence to become a mere projector, Don Quixote has recourse to romances:–

His curiosity and extravagant fondness herein arrived at that pitch, that he sold many acres of arable land to purchase books of knight-errantry, and carried home all he could lay hands on of that kind! (C.I.)

The more remote these romances were from the language of common life, the more akin on that very account were they to the shapeless dreams and strivings of his own mind;–a mind, which possessed not the highest order of genius which lives in an atmosphere of power over mankind, but that minor kind which, in its restlessness, seeks for a vivid representative of its own wishes, and substitutes the movements of that objective puppet for an exercise of actual power in and by itself. The more wild and improbable these romances were, the more were they akin to his will, which had been in the habit of acting as an unlimited monarch over the creations of his fancy! Hence observe how the startling of the remaining common sense, like a glimmering before its death, in the notice of the impossible-improbable of Don Belianis, is dismissed by Don Quixote as impertinent:–

‘He had some doubt’ [2] as to the dreadful wounds which Don Belianis gave and received: for he imagined, that notwithstanding the most expert surgeons had cured him, his face and whole body must still be full of seams and scars. ‘Nevertheless’ [3] he commended in his author the concluding his book with a promise of that unfinishable adventure! C. 1.

Hence also his first intention to turn author; but who, with such a restless struggle within him, could content himself with writing in a remote village among apathists and ignorants? During his colloquies with the village priest and the barber surgeon, in which the fervour of critical controversy feeds the passion and gives reality to its object–what more natural than that the mental striving should become an eddy?–madness may perhaps be denned as the circling in a stream which should be progressive and adaptive: Don Quixote grows at length to be a man out of his wits; his understanding is deranged; and hence without the least deviation from the truth of nature, without losing the least trait of personal individuality, he becomes a substantial living allegory, or personification of the reason and the moral sense, divested of the judgment and the understanding. Sancho is the converse. He is the common sense without reason or imagination; and Cervantes not only shows the excellence and power of reason in, Don Quixote, but in both him and Sancho the mischiefs resulting from a severance of the two main constituents of sound intellectual and moral action. Put him and his master together, and they form a perfect intellect; but they are separated and without cement; and hence each having a need of the other for its own completeness, each has at times a mastery over the other. For the common sense, although it may see the practical inapplicability of the dictates of the imagination or abstract reason, yet cannot help submitting to them. These two characters possess the world, alternately and interchangeably the cheater and the cheated. To impersonate them, and to combine the permanent with the individual, is one of the highest creations of genius, and has been achieved by Cervantes and Shakspeare, almost alone.

Observations on particular passages,

(B. I. c. 1.)
But not altogether approving of his having broken it to pieces with so much ease, to secure himself from the like danger for the future, he made it over again, fencing it with small bars of iron within, in such a manner, ‘that he rested satisfied of its strength; and without caring to make a fresh experiment on it, he approved and looked upon it as a most excellent helmet.’

His not trying his improved scull-cap is an exquisite trait of human character, founded on the oppugnancy of the soul in such a state to any disturbance by doubt of its own broodings. Even the long deliberation about his horse’s name is full of meaning;–for in these day-dreams the greater part of the history passes and is carried on in words, which look forward to other words as what will be said of them.

Near the place where he lived, there dwelt a very comely country lass, with whom he had formerly been in love; though, as it is supposed, she never knew it, nor troubled herself about it.

The nascent love for the country lass, but without any attempt at utterance, or an opportunity of knowing her, except as the hint–the [Greek (transliterated): oti esti]–of the inward imagination, is happily conceived in both parts;–first, as confirmative of the shrinking back of the mind on itself, and its dread of having a cherished image destroyed by its own judgment; and secondly, as showing how necessarily love is the passion of novels. Novels are to love as fairy tales to dreams. I never knew but two men of taste and feeling who could not understand why I was delighted with the Arabian Nights’ Tales, and they were likewise the only persons in my knowledge who scarcely remembered having ever dreamed. Magic and war–itself a magic–are the day-dreams of childhood; love is the day-dream of youth and early manhood.

(C. 2.)
“Scarcely had ruddy Phoebus spread the golden tresses of his beauteous hair over the face of the wide and spacious earth; and scarcely had the little painted birds, with the sweet and mellifluous harmony of their forked tongues, saluted the approach of rosy Aurora, who, quitting the soft couch of her jealous husband, disclosed herself to mortals through the gates of the Mauchegan horizon; when the renowned Don Quixote,” &c.

How happily already is the abstraction from the senses, from observation, and the consequent confusion of the judgment, marked in this description! The knight is describing objects immediate to his senses and sensations without borrowing a single trait from either. Would it be difficult to find parallel descriptions in Dryden’s plays and in those of his successors?

(C. 3.)
The host is here happily conceived as one who from his past life as a sharper, was capable of entering into and humouring the knight, and so perfectly in character, that he precludes a considerable source of improbability in the future narrative, by enforcing upon Don Quixote the necessity of taking money with him.

(C. 3.)
“Ho, there, whoever thou art, rash knight, that approachest to touch the arms of the most valorous adventurer that ever girded sword,” &c.

Don Quixote’s high eulogiums on himself–“the most valorous adventurer!”–but it is not himself that he has before him, but the idol of his imagination, the imaginary being whom he is acting. And this, that it is entirely a third person, excuses his heart from the otherwise inevitable charge of selfish vanity; and so by madness itself he preserves our esteem, and renders those actions natural by which he, the first person, deserves it.

(C. 4.)
Andres and his master. The manner in which Don Quixote redressed this wrong, is a picture of the true revolutionary passion in its first honest state, while it is yet only a bewilderment of the understanding. You have a benevolence limitless in its prayers, which are in fact aspirations towards omnipotence; but between it and beneficence the bridge of judgment–that is, of measurement of personal power–intervenes, and must be passed. Otherwise you will be bruised by the leap into the chasm, or be drowned in the revolutionary river, and drag others with you to the same fate.

(C. 4.)
Merchants of Toledo.

When they were come so near as to be seen and heard, Don Quixote raised his voice, and with arrogant air cried out: “Let the whole world stand; if the whole world does not confess that there is not in the whole world a damsel more beautiful than,” &c.

Now mark the presumption which follows the self-complacency of the last act! That was an honest attempt to redress a real wrong; this is an arbitrary determination to enforce a Brissotine or Rousseau’s ideal on all his fellow creatures.

Let the whole world stand!

‘If there had been any experience in proof of the excellence of our code, where would be our superiority in this enlightened age?’

“No! the business is that without seeing her, you believe, confess, affirm, swear, and maintain it; _and if not, I challenge you all to battle_.” [4]

Next see the persecution and fury excited by opposition however moderate! The only words listened to are those, that without their context and their conditionals, and transformed into positive assertions, might give some shadow of excuse for the violence shown! This rich story ends, to the compassion of the men in their senses, in a sound rib-roasting of the idealist by the muleteer, the mob. And happy for thee, poor knight! that the mob were against thee! For had they been with thee, by the change of the moon and of them, thy head would have been off.

(C. 5.) first part–The idealist recollects the causes that had been accessary to the reverse and attempts to remove them–too late. He is beaten and disgraced.

(C. 6.) This chapter on Don Quixote’s library proves that the author did not wish to destroy the romances, but to cause them to be read as romances–that is, for their merits as poetry.

(C. 7.)
Among other things, Don Quixote told him, he should dispose himself to go with him willingly;–for some time or other such an adventure might present, that an island might be won, in the turn of a hand, and he be left governor thereof.

At length the promises of the imaginative reason begin to act on the plump, sensual, honest common sense accomplice,–but unhappily not in the same person, and without the ‘copula’ of the judgment,–in hopes of the substantial good things, of which the former contemplated only the glory and the colours.

(C. 7.)
Sancho Panza went riding upon his ass, like any patriarch, with his wallet and leathern bottle, and with a vehement desire to find himself governor of the island which his master had promised him.

The first relief from regular labour is so pleasant to poor Sancho!

(C. 8.)
“I no gentleman! I swear by the great God, thou liest, as I am a Christian. Biscainer by land, gentleman by sea, gentleman for the devil, and thou liest: look then if thou hast any thing else to say.”

This Biscainer is an excellent image of the prejudices and bigotry provoked by the idealism of a speculator. This story happily detects the trick which our imagination plays in the description of single combats: only change the preconception of the magnificence of the combatants, and all is gone.

(B. II. c. 2.)
“Be pleased, my lord Don Quixote, to bestow upon me the government of that island,” &c.

Sancho’s eagerness for his government, the nascent lust of actual democracy, or isocracy!

(C. 2.)
“But tell me, on your life, have you ever seen a more valorous knight than I, upon the whole face of the known earth? Have you read in story of any other, who has, or ever had, more bravery in assailing, more breath in holding out, more dexterity in wounding, or more address in giving a fall?”–“The truth is,” answered Sancho, “that I never read any history at all; for I can neither read nor write; but what I dare affirm is, that I never served a bolder master,” &c.

This appeal to Sancho, and Sancho’s answer are exquisitely humorous. It is impossible not to think of the French bulletins and proclamations. Remark the necessity under which we are of being sympathized with, fly as high into abstraction as we may, and how constantly the imagination is recalled to the ground of our common humanity! And note a little further on, the knight’s easy vaunting of his balsam, and his quietly deferring the making and application of it.

(C. 3.) The speech before the goatherds:

“Happy times and happy ages,” &c. [5]

Note the rhythm of this, and the admirable beauty and wisdom of the thoughts in themselves, but the total want of judgment in Don Quixote’s addressing them to such an audience.

(B. III. c. 3.) Don Quixote’s balsam, and the vomiting and consequent relief; an excellent hit at ‘panacea nostrums’, which cure the patient by his being himself cured of the medicine by revolting nature.

(C. 4.)
“Peace! and have patience; the day will come,” &c.

The perpetual promises of the imagination!

“Your Worship,” said Sancho, “would make a better preacher than knight errant!”

Exactly so. This is the true moral.

(C. 6.)
The uncommon beauty of the description in the commencement of this chapter. In truth, the whole of it seems to put all nature in its heights and its humiliations, before us.

(Ib.) Sancho’s story of the goats:

“Make account, he carried them all over,” said Don Quixote, “and do not be going and coming in this manner; for at this rate, you will not have done carrying them over in a twelvemonth.” “How many are passed already?” said Sancho, &c.

Observe the happy contrast between the all-generalizing mind of the mad knight, and Sancho’s all-particularizing memory. How admirable a symbol of the dependence of all ‘copula’ on the higher powers of the mind, with the single exception of the succession in time and the accidental relations of space. Men of mere common sense have no theory or means of making one fact more important or prominent than the rest; if they lose one link, all is lost. Compare Mrs. Quickly and the Tapster. [6] And note also Sancho’s good heart, when his master is about to leave him. Don Quixote’s conduct upon discovering the fulling-hammers, proves he was meant to be in his senses. Nothing can be better conceived than his fit of passion at Sancho’s laughing, and his sophism of self-justification by the courage he had shown.

Sancho is by this time cured, through experience, as far as his own errors are concerned; yet still is he lured on by the unconquerable awe of his master’s superiority, even when he is cheating him.

(C. 8.)
The adventure of the Galley-slaves. I think this is the only passage of moment in which Cervantes slips the mask of his hero, and speaks for himself.

(C. 9.)
Don Quixote desired to have it, and bade him take the money, and keep it for himself. Sancho kissed his hands for the favour, &c.

Observe Sancho’s eagerness to avail himself of the permission of his master, who, in the war sports of knight-errantry, had, without any selfish dishonesty, overlooked the ‘meum’ and ‘tuum.’ Sancho’s selfishness is modified by his involuntary goodness of heart, and Don Quixote’s flighty goodness is debased by the involuntary or unconscious selfishness of his vanity and self-applause.

(C. 10.)
Cardenio is the madman of passion, who meets and easily overthrows for the moment the madman of imagination. And note the contagion of madness of any kind, upon Don Quixote’s interruption of Cardenio’s story.

(C. 11.)
Perhaps the best specimen of Sancho’s proverbializing is this:

“And I (Don Q.) say again, they lie, and will lie two hundred times more, all who say, or think her so.” “I neither say, nor think so,” answered Sancho: “let those who say it, eat the lie, and swallow it with their bread: whether they were guilty or no, they have given an account to God before now: I come from my vineyard, I know nothing; I am no friend to inquiring into other men’s lives; ‘for’ he that buys and lies shall find the lie left in his purse behind; ‘besides,’ naked was I born, and naked I remain; I neither win nor lose; if they were guilty, what is that to me? Many think to find bacon, where there is not so much as a pin to hang it on: ‘but’ who can hedge in the cuckoo? ‘Especially,’ do they spare God himself?”

“And it is no great matter, if it be in another hand; for by what I remember, Dulcinea can neither write nor read,” &c.

The wonderful twilight of the mind! and mark Cervantes’s courage in daring to present it, and trust to a distant posterity for an appreciation of its truth to nature.

(P. II. B. III. c. 9.)
Sancho’s account of what he had seen on Clavileno is a counterpart in his style to Don Quixote’s adventures in the cave of Montesinos. This last is the only impeachment of the knight’s moral character; Cervantes just gives one instance of the veracity failing before the strong cravings of the imagination for something real and external; the picture would not have been complete without this; and yet it is so well managed, that the reader has no unpleasant sense of Don Quixote having told a lie. It is evident that he hardly knows whether it was a dream or not; and goes to the enchanter to inquire the real nature of the adventure.

[Footnote 1: ‘Bien como quien se engendro en una carcel, donde toda incomodidad tiene su assiento, y todo triste ruido hace su habitacion.’ Like one you may suppose born in a prison, where every inconvenience keeps its residence, and every dismal sound its habitation. Pref. Jarvis’s Tr. Ed.]

[Footnote 2: ‘No estaba muy bien con’. Ed.]

[Footnote 3: Pero con todo. Ed.]

[Footnote 4: ‘Donde no, conmigo sois en batalla, gente descomunal!’ Ed.]

[Footnote 5: ‘Dichosa edad y siglos dichosos aquellos, &c.’ Ed.]

[Footnote 6: See the ‘Friend’, vol. iii. p. 138. Ed.]


A Castilian of refined manners; a gentleman, true to religion, and true to honour.

A scholar and a soldier, and fought under the banners of Don John of Austria, at Lepanto, lost his arm and was captured.

Endured slavery not only with fortitude, but with mirth; and by the superiority of nature, mastered and overawed his barbarian owner.

Finally ransomed, he resumed his native destiny, the awful task of achieving fame; and for that reason died poor and a prisoner, while nobles and kings over their goblets of gold gave relish to their pleasures by the charms of his divine genius. He was the inventor of novels for the Spaniards, and in his Persilis and Sigismunda, the English may find the germ of their Robinson Crusoe.

The world was a drama to him. His own thoughts, in spite of poverty and sickness, perpetuated for him the feelings of youth. He painted only what he knew and had looked into, but he knew and had looked into much indeed; and his imagination was ever at hand to adapt and modify the world of his experience. Of delicious love he fabled, yet with stainless virtue.




I. Perhaps the most important of our intellectual operations are those of detecting the difference in similar, and the identity in dissimilar, things. Out of the latter operation it is that wit arises; and it, generically regarded, consists in presenting thoughts or images in an unusual connection with each other, for the purpose of exciting pleasure by the surprise. This connection may be real; and there is in fact a scientific wit; though where the object, consciously entertained, is truth, and not amusement, we commonly give it some higher name. But in wit popularly understood, the connection may be, and for the most part is, apparent only, and transitory; and this connection may be by thoughts, or by words, or by images. The first is our Butler’s especial eminence; the second, Voltaire’s; the third, which we oftener call fancy, constitutes the larger and more peculiar part of the wit of Shakspeare. You can scarcely turn to a single speech of Falstaff’s without finding instances of it. Nor does wit always cease to deserve the name by being transient, or incapable of analysis. I may add that the wit of thoughts belongs eminently to the Italians, that of words to the French, and that of images to the English.

II. Where the laughable is its own end, and neither inference, nor moral is intended, or where at least the writer would wish it so to appear, there arises what we call drollery. The pure, unmixed, ludicrous or laughable belongs exclusively to the understanding, and must be presented under the form of the senses; it lies within the spheres of the eye and the ear, and hence is allied to the fancy. It does not appertain to the reason or the moral sense, and accordingly is alien to the imagination. I think Aristotle has already excellently defined the laughable,[Greek (transliterated): tho geloion], as consisting of, or depending on, what is out of its proper time and place, yet without danger or pain. Here th’impropriety’–[Greek (transliterated): tho ahtopon]–is the positive qualification; the ‘dangerlessness’–[Greek (transliterated): tho akindunon]–the negative. Neither the understanding without an object of the senses, as for example, a mere notional error, or idiocy;–nor any external object, unless attributed to the understanding, can produce the poetically laughable. Nay, even in ridiculous positions of the body laughed at by the vulgar, there is a subtle personification always going on, which acts on the, perhaps, unconscious mind of the spectator as a symbol of intellectual character. And hence arises the imperfect and awkward effect of comic stories of animals; because although the understanding is satisfied in them, the senses are not. Hence too, it is, that the true ludicrous is its own end. When serious satire commences, or satire that is felt as serious, however comically drest, free and genuine laughter ceases; it becomes sardonic. This you experience in reading Young, and also not unfrequently in Butler. The true comic is the blossom of the nettle.

III. When words or images are placed in unusual juxta-position rather than connection, and are so placed merely because the juxta-position is unusual–we have the odd or the grotesque; the occasional use of which in the minor ornaments of architecture, is an interesting problem for a student in the psychology of the Fine Arts.

IV. In the simply laughable there is a mere disproportion between a definite act and a definite purpose or end, or a disproportion of the end itself to the rank or circumstances of the definite person; but humour is of more difficult description. I must try to define it in the first place by its points of diversity from the former species. Humour does not, like the different kinds of wit, which is impersonal, consist wholly in the understanding and the senses. No combination of thoughts, words, or images will of itself constitute humour, unless some peculiarity of individual temperament and character be indicated thereby, as the cause of the same. Compare the comedies of Congreve with the Falstaff in Henry IV. or with Sterne’s Corporal Trim, Uncle Toby, and Mr. Shandy, or with some of Steele’s charming papers in the Tatler, and you will feel the difference better than I can express it. Thus again, (to take an instance from the different works of the same writer), in Smollett’s Strap, his Lieutenant Bowling, his Morgan the honest Welshman, and his Matthew Bramble, we have exquisite humour,–while in his Peregrine Pickle we find an abundance of drollery, which too often degenerates into mere oddity; in short, we feel that a number of things are put together to counterfeit humour, but that there is no growth from within. And this indeed is the origin of the word, derived from the humoral pathology, and excellently described by Ben Jonson:

So in every human body,
The choler, melancholy, phlegm, and blood, By reason that they flow continually
In some one part, and are not continent, Receive the name of humours. Now thus far It may, by metaphor, apply itself
Unto the general disposition:
As when some one peculiar quality
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw All his effects, his spirits, and his powers, In their confluctions, all to run one way, This may be truly said to be a humour. [1]

Hence we may explain the congeniality of humour with pathos, so exquisite in Sterne and Smollett, and hence also the tender feeling which we always have for, and associate with, the humours or hobby-horses of a man. First, we respect a humourist, because absence of interested motive is the ground-work of the character, although the imagination of an interest may exist in the individual himself, as if a remarkably simple-hearted man should pride himself on his knowledge of the world, and how well he can manage it:–and secondly, there always is in a genuine humour an acknowledgement of the hollowness and farce of the world, and its disproportion to the godlike within us. And it follows immediately from this, that whenever particular acts have reference to particular selfish motives, the humourous bursts into the indignant and abhorring; whilst all follies not selfish are pardoned or palliated. The danger of this habit, in respect of pure morality, is strongly exemplified in Sterne.

This would be enough, and indeed less than this has passed, for a sufficient account of humour, if we did not recollect that not every predominance of character, even where not precluded by the moral sense, as in criminal dispositions, constitutes what we mean by a humourist, or the presentation of its produce, humour. What then is it? Is it manifold? Or is there some one humorific point common to all that can be called humourous?–I am not prepared to answer this fully, even if my time permitted; but I think there is;–and that it consists in a certain reference to the general and the universal, by which the finite great is brought into identity with the little, or the little with the finite great, so as to make both nothing in comparison with the infinite. The little is made great, and the great little, in order to destroy both; because all is equal in contrast with the infinite. “It is not without reason, brother Toby, that learned men write dialogues on long noses.”[2] I would suggest, therefore, that whenever a finite is contemplated in reference to the infinite, whether consciously or unconsciously, humour essentially arises. In the highest humour, at least, there is always a reference to, and a connection with, some general power not finite, in the form of some finite ridiculously disproportionate in our feelings to that of which it is, nevertheless, the representative, or by which it is to be displayed. Humourous writers, therefore, as Sterne in particular, delight, after much preparation, to end in nothing, or in a direct contradiction.

That there is some truth in this definition, or origination of humour, is evident; for you cannot conceive a humourous man who does not give some disproportionate generality, or even a universality to his hobby-horse, as is the case with Mr. Shandy; or at least there is an absence of any interest but what arises from the humour itself, as in my Uncle Toby, and it is the idea of the soul, of its undefined capacity and dignity, that gives the sting to any absorption of it by any one pursuit, and this not in respect of the humourist as a mere member of society for a particular, however mistaken, interest, but as a man.

The English humour is the most thoughtful, the Spanish the most etherial–the most ideal–of modern literature. Amongst the classic ancients there was little or no humour in the foregoing sense of the term. Socrates, or Plato under his name, gives some notion of humour in the Banquet, when he argues that tragedy and comedy rest upon the same ground. But humour properly took its rise in the middle ages; and the Devil, the Vice of the mysteries, incorporates the modern humour in its elements. It is a spirit measured by disproportionate finites. The Devil is not, indeed, perfectly humourous; but that is only because he is the extreme of all humour.

[Footnote 1: Every Man Out Of His Humour. Prologue.]

[Footnote 2: Trist. Sh. Vol. iii. c. 37.]


Born at Chinon, 1483-4.–Died 1553.

One cannot help regretting that no friend of Rabelais, (and surely friends he must have had), has left an authentic account of him. His buffoonery was not merely Brutus’ rough stick, which contained a rod of gold; it was necessary as an amulet against the monks and bigots. Beyond a doubt, he was among the deepest as well as boldest thinkers of his age. Never was a more plausible, and seldom, I am persuaded, a less appropriate line than the thousand times quoted,

Rabelais laughing in his easy chair–

of Mr. Pope. The caricature of his filth and zanyism proves how fully he both knew and felt the danger in which he stood. I could write a treatise in proof and praise of the morality and moral elevation of Rabelais’ work which would make the church stare and the conventicle groan, and yet should be the truth and nothing but the truth. I class Rabelais with the creative minds of the world, Shakspeare, Dante, Cervantes, &c.

All Rabelais’ personages are phantasmagoric allegories, but Panurge above all. He is throughout the [Greek (transliterated): panourgia],–the wisdom, that is, the cunning of the human animal,–the understanding, as the faculty of means to purposes without ultimate ends, in the most comprehensive sense, and including art, sensuous fancy, and all the passions of the understanding. It is impossible to read Rabelais without an admiration mixed with wonder at the depth and extent of his learning, his multifarious knowledge, and original observation beyond what books could in that age have supplied him with.

(B. III. c. 9.)
How Panurge asketh counsel of Pantagruel, whether he should marry, yea or no.

Note this incomparable chapter. Pantagruel stands for the reason as contradistinguished from the understanding and choice, that is, from Panurge; and the humour consists in the latter asking advice of the former on a subject in which the reason can only give the inevitable conclusion, the syllogistic ‘ergo’, from the premisses provided by the understanding itself, which puts each case so as of necessity to predetermine the verdict thereon. This chapter, independently of the allegory, is an exquisite satire on the spirit in which people commonly ask advice.

[Footnote 1: No note remains of that part of this Lecture which treated of Rabelais. This seems, therefore, a convenient place for the reception of some remarks written by Mr. C. in Mr. Gillman’s copy of Rabelais, about the year 1825. See Table Talk, vol. i. p. 177. Ed.]

SWIFT. [1]

Born in Dublin, 1667.–Died 1745.

In Swift’s writings there is a false misanthropy grounded upon an exclusive contemplation of the vices and follies of mankind, and this misanthropic tone is also disfigured or brutalized by his obtrusion of physical dirt and coarseness. I think Gulliver’s Travels the great work of Swift. In the voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag he displays the littleness and moral contemptibility of human nature; in that to the Houyhnhnms he represents the disgusting spectacle of man with the understanding only, without the reason or the moral feeling, and in his horse he gives the misanthropic ideal of man–that is, a being virtuous from rule and duty, but untouched by the principle of love.

[Footnote 1: From Mr. Green’s note. Ed.]


Born at Clonmel, 1713.–Died 1768.

With regard to Sterne, and the charge of licentiousness which presses so seriously upon his character as a writer, I would remark that there is a sort of knowingness, the wit of which depends–1st, on the modesty it gives pain to; or, 2dly, on the innocence and innocent ignorance over which it triumphs; or, 3dly, on a certain oscillation in the individual’s own mind between the remaining good and the encroaching evil of his nature–a sort of dallying with the devil–a fluxionary act of combining courage and cowardice, as when a man snuffs a candle with his fingers for the first time, or better still, perhaps, like that trembling daring with which a child touches a hot tea urn, because it has been forbidden; so that the mind has in its own white and black angel the same or similar amusement, as may be supposed to take place between an old debauchee and a prude,–she feeling resentment, on the one hand, from a prudential anxiety to preserve appearances and have a character, and, on the other, an inward sympathy with the enemy. We have only to suppose society innocent, and then nine-tenths of this sort of wit would be like a stone that falls in snow, making no sound because exciting no resistance; the remainder rests on its being an offence against the good manners of human nature itself.

This source, unworthy as it is, may doubtless be combined with wit, drollery, fancy, and even humour, and we have only to regret the misalliance; but that the latter are quite distinct from the former, may be made evident by abstracting in our imagination the morality of the characters of Mr. Shandy, my Uncle Toby, and Trim, which are all antagonists to this spurious sort of wit, from the rest of Tristram Shandy, and by supposing, instead of them, the presence of two or three callous debauchees. The result will be pure disgust. Sterne cannot be too severely censured for thus using the best dispositions of our nature as the panders and condiments for the basest.

The excellencies of Sterne consist–

1. In bringing forward into distinct consciousness those minutiae of thought and feeling which appear trifles, yet have an importance for the moment, and which almost every man feels in one way or other. Thus is produced the novelty of an individual peculiarity, together with the interest of a something that belongs to our common nature. In short, Sterne seizes happily on those points, in which every man is more or less a humourist. And, indeed, to be a little more subtle, the propensity to notice these things does itself constitute the humourist, and the superadded power of so presenting them to men in general gives us the man of humour. Hence the difference of the man of humour, the effect of whose portraits does not depend on the felt presence of himself, as a humourist, as in the instances of Cervantes and Shakspeare–nay, of Rabelais too; and of the humourist, the effect of whose works does very much depend on the sense of his own oddity, as in Sterne’s case, and perhaps Swift’s; though Swift again would require a separate classification.

2. In the traits of human nature, which so easily assume a particular cast and colour from individual character. Hence this excellence and the pathos connected with it quickly pass into humour, and form the ground of it. See particularly the beautiful passage, so well known, of Uncle Toby’s catching and liberating the fly:

“Go,”–says he, one day at dinner, to an overgrown one which had buzzed about his nose, and tormented him cruelly all dinner-time, and which, after infinite attempts, he had caught at last, as it flew by him;–“I’ll not hurt thee,” says my Uncle Toby, rising from his chair, and going across the room, with the fly in his hand,–“I’ll not hurt a hair of thy head:–Go,” says he, lifting up the sash, and opening his hand as he spoke, to let it escape;–“go, poor devil, get thee gone, why should I hurt thee? This world is surely wide enough to hold both thee and me.” (Vol. ii. ch. 12.)

Observe in this incident how individual character may be given by the mere delicacy of presentation and elevation in degree of a common good quality, humanity, which in itself would not be characteristic at all.

3. In Mr. Shandy’s character,–the essence of which is a craving for sympathy in exact proportion to the oddity and unsympathizability of what he proposes;–this coupled with an instinctive desire to be at least disputed with, or rather both in one, to dispute and yet to agree–and holding as worst of all–to acquiesce without either resistance or sympathy. This is charmingly, indeed, profoundly conceived, and is psychologically and ethically true of all Mr. Shandies. Note, too, how the contrasts of character, which are always either balanced or remedied, increase the love between the brothers.

4. No writer is so happy as Sterne in the unexaggerated and truly natural representation of that species of slander, which consists in gossiping about our neighbours, as whetstones of our moral discrimination; as if they were conscience-blocks which we used in our apprenticeship, in order not to waste such precious materials as our own consciences in the trimming and shaping of ourselves by self-examination:–

Alas o’day!–had Mrs. Shandy (poor gentlewoman!) had but her wish in going up to town just to lie in and come down again; which, they say, she begged and prayed for upon her bare knees, and which, in my opinion, considering the fortune which Mr. Shandy got with her, was no such mighty matter to have complied with, the lady and her babe might both of them have been alive at this hour. (Vol. i. c. 18.)

5. When you have secured a man’s likings and prejudices in your favour, you may then safely appeal to his impartial judgment. In the following passage not only is acute sense shrouded in wit, but a life and a character are added which exalt the whole into the dramatic:–

“I see plainly, Sir, by your looks” (or as the case happened) my father would say–“that you do not heartily subscribe to this opinion of mine–which, to those,” he would add, “who have not carefully sifted it to the bottom,–I own has an air more of fancy than of solid reasoning in it; and yet, my dear Sir, if I may presume to know your character, I am morally assured, I should hazard little in stating a case to you, not as a party in the dispute, but as a judge, and trusting my appeal upon it to your good sense and candid disquisition in this matter; you are a person free from as many narrow prejudices of education as most men; and, if I may presume to penetrate farther into you, of a liberality of genius above bearing down an opinion, merely because it wants friends. Your son,–your dear son,–from whose sweet and open temper you have so much to expect,–your Billy, Sir!– would you, for the world, have called him JUDAS? Would you, my dear Sir,” he would say, laying his hand upon your breast, with the genteelest address,–and in that soft and irresistible ‘piano’ of voice which the nature of the ‘argumentum ad hominem’ absolutely requires,–“Would you, Sir, if a ‘Jew’ of a godfather had proposed the name for your child, and offered you his purse along with it, would you have consented to such a desecration of him? O my God!” he would say, looking up, “if I know your temper rightly, Sir, you are incapable of it;–you would have trampled upon the offer;–you would have thrown the temptation at the tempter’s head with abhorrence. Your greatness of mind in this action, which I admire, with that generous contempt of money, which you show me in the whole transaction, is really noble;–and what renders it more so, is the principle of it;–the workings of a parent’s love upon the truth and conviction of this very hypothesis, namely, that were your son called Judas,–the sordid and treacherous idea, so inseparable from the name, would have accompanied him through life like his shadow, and in the end made a miser and a rascal of him, in spite, Sir, of your example.” (Vol. i. c. 19.)

6. There is great physiognomic tact in Sterne. See it particularly displayed in his description of Dr. Slop, accompanied with all that happiest use of drapery and attitude, which at once give reality by individualizing and vividness by unusual, yet probable, combinations:–

Imagine to yourself a little squat, uncourtly figure of a Doctor Slop, of about four feet and a half perpendicular height, with a breadth of back, and a sesquipedality of belly, which might have done honour to a serjeant in the horseguards. … Imagine such a one;–for such I say, were the outlines of Dr. Slop’s figure, coming slowly along, foot by foot, waddling through the dirt upon the ‘vertebrae’ of a little diminutive pony, of a pretty colour–but of strength,–alack! scarce able to have made an amble of it, under such a fardel, had the roads been in an ambling condition;–they were not. Imagine to yourself Obadiah mounted upon a strong monster of a coach-horse, pricked into a full gallop, and making all practicable speed the adverse way. (Vol. ii. c. 9.)

7. I think there is more humour in the single remark, which I have quoted before–“Learned men, brother Toby, don’t write dialogues upon long noses for nothing!”–than in the whole Slawkenburghian tale that follows, which is mere oddity interspersed with drollery.

8. Note Sterne’s assertion of, and faith in, a moral good in the characters of Trim, Toby, &c. as contrasted with the cold scepticism of motives which is the stamp of the Jacobin spirit. Vol. v. c. 9.

9. You must bear in mind, in order to do justice to Rabelais and Sterne, that by right of humoristic universality each part is essentially a whole in itself. Hence the digressive spirit is not mere wantonness, but in fact the very form and vehicle of their genius. The connection, such as was needed, is given by the continuity of the characters.

Instances of different forms of wit, taken largely:

1. “Why are you reading romances at your age?”–“Why, I used to be fond of history, but I have given it up,–it was so grossly improbable.”

2. “Pray, sir, do it!–although you have promised me.”

3. The Spartan mother’s–

“Return with, or on, thy shield.”

“My sword is too short!”–“Take a step forwarder.”

4. The Gasconade:–

“I believe you, Sir! but you will excuse my repeating it on account of my provincial accent.”

5. Pasquil on Pope Urban, who had employed a committee to rip up the old errors of his predecessors.

Some one placed a pair of spurs on the heels of the statue of St. Peter, and a label from the opposite statue of St. Paul, on the same bridge;–

‘St. Paul.’ “Whither then are you bound?”

‘St. Peter.’ “I apprehend danger here;-they’ll soon call me in question for denying my Master.”

‘St. Paul.’ “Nay, then, I had better be off too; for they’ll question me for having persecuted the Christians, before my conversion.”

6. Speaking of the small German potentates, I dictated the phrase,–‘officious for equivalents.’ This my amanuensis wrote,–‘fishing for elephants;’–which, as I observed at the time, was a sort of Noah’s angling, that could hardly have occurred, except at the commencement of the Deluge.




Born in London, 1573.–Died, 1631.


With Donne, whose muse on dromedary trots, Wreathe iron pokers into true-love knots; Rhyme’s sturdy cripple, fancy’s maze and clue, Wit’s forge and fire-blast, meaning’s press and screw.


See lewdness and theology combin’d,– A cynic and a sycophantic mind;
A fancy shar’d party per pale between Death’s heads and skeletons and Aretine!– Not his peculiar defect or crime,
But the true current mintage of the time. Such were the establish’d signs and tokens given To mark a loyal churchman, sound and even, Free from papistic and fanatic leaven.

The wit of Donne, the wit of Butler, the wit of Pope, the wit of Congreve, the wit of Sheridan–how many disparate things are here expressed by one and the same word, Wit!–Wonder-exciting vigour, intenseness and peculiarity of thought, using at will the almost boundless stores of a capacious memory, and exercised on subjects, where we have no right to expect it–this is the wit of Donne! The four others I am just in the mood to describe and inter-distinguish;–what a pity that the marginal space will not let me!

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we–find two fitter hemispheres Without sharp north, without declining west?

‘Good-Morrow’, v. 15, &c.

The sense is;–Our mutual loves may in many respects be fitly compared to corresponding hemispheres; but as no simile squares (‘nihil simile est idem’), so here the simile fails, for there is nothing in our loves that corresponds to the cold north, or the declining west, which in two hemispheres must necessarily be supposed. But an ellipse of such length will scarcely rescue the line from the charge of nonsense or a bull. ‘January,’ 1829.

Woman’s constancy.

A misnomer. The title ought to be–

Mutual Inconstancy.

Whether both th’ Indias of spice and ‘mine’, &c.

‘Sun Rising’, v. 17.

And see at night thy western land of ‘mine’, &c.

‘Progress of the Soul’, 1 Song, 2. st.

This use of the word mine specifically for mines of gold, silver, or precious stones, is, I believe, peculiar to Donne.

[Footnote 1: Nothing remains of what was said on Donne in this Lecture. Here, therefore, as in previous like instances, the gap is filled up with some notes written by Mr. Coleridge in a volume of Chalmers’s ‘Poets’, belonging to Mr. Gillman. Ed.]

[Footnote 2: The verses were added in pencil to the collection of commendatory lines; No. I. is Mr. C.’s; the publication of No. II. I trust the all-accomplished author will, under the circumstances, pardon. Numerous and elaborate notes by Mr. Coleridge on Donne’s Sermons are in existence, and will be published hereafter. Ed.]


Born at Florence, 1265.–Died, 1321.

As I remarked in a former Lecture on a different subject (for subjects the most diverse in literature have still their tangents), the Gothic character, and its good and evil fruits, appeared less in Italy than in any other part of European Christendom. There was accordingly much less romance, as that word is commonly understood; or, perhaps, more truly stated, there was romance instead of chivalry. In Italy, an earlier imitation of, and a more evident and intentional blending with, the Latin literature took place than elsewhere. The operation of the feudal system, too, was incalculably weaker, of that singular chain of independent interdependents, the principle of which was a confederacy for the preservation of individual, consistently with general, freedom. In short, Italy, in the time of Dante, was an afterbirth of eldest Greece, a renewal or a reflex of the old Italy under its kings and first Roman consuls, a net-work of free little republics, with the same domestic feuds, civil wars, and party spirit,–the same vices and virtues produced on a similarly narrow theatre,–the existing state of things being, as in all small democracies, under the working and direction of certain individuals, to whose will even the laws were swayed;–whilst at the same time the singular spectacle was exhibited amidst all this confusion of the flourishing of commerce, and the protection and encouragement of letters and arts. Never was the commercial spirit so well reconciled to the nobler principles of social polity as in Florence. It tended there to union and permanence and elevation,–not as the overbalance of it in England is now doing, to dislocation, change and moral degradation. The intensest patriotism reigned in these communities, but confined and attached exclusively to the small locality of the patriot’s birth and residence; whereas in the true Gothic feudalism, country was nothing but the preservation of personal independence. But then, on the other hand, as a counterbalance to these disuniting elements, there was in Dante’s Italy, as in Greece, a much greater uniformity of religion common to all than amongst the northern nations.

Upon these hints the history of the republican aeras of ancient Greece and modern Italy ought to be written. There are three kinds or stages of historic narrative: 1. that of the annalist or chronicler, who deals merely in facts and events arranged in order of time, having no principle of selection, no plan of arrangement, and whose work properly constitutes a supplement to the poetical writings of romance or heroic legends: 2. that of the writer who takes his stand on some moral point, and selects a series of events for the express purpose of illustrating it, and in whose hands the narrative of the selected events is modified by the principle of selection;–as Thucydides, whose object was to describe the evils of democratic and aristocratic partizanships;–or Polybius, whose design was to show the social benefits resulting from the triumph and grandeur of Rome, in public institutions and military discipline;–or Tacitus, whose secret aim was to exhibit the pressure and corruptions of despotism;–in all which writers and others like them, the ground-object of the historian colours with artificial lights the facts which he relates: 3. and which in idea is the grandest-the most truly, founded in philosophy–there is the Herodotean history, which is not composed with reference to any particular causes, but attempts to describe human nature itself on a great scale as a portion of the drama of providence, the free will of man resisting the destiny of events,–for the individuals often succeeding against it, but for the race always yielding to it, and in the resistance itself invariably affording means towards the completion of the ultimate result. Mitford’s history is a good and useful work; but in his zeal against democratic government, Mitford forgot, or never saw, that ancient Greece was not, nor ought ever to be considered, a permanent thing, but that it existed, in the disposition of providence, as a proclaimer of ideal truths, and that everlasting proclamation being made, that its functions were naturally at an end.

However, in the height of such a state of society in Italy, Dante was born and flourished; and was himself eminently a picture of the age in which he lived. But of more importance even than this, to a right understanding of Dante, is the consideration that the scholastic philosophy was then at its acme even in itself; but more especially in Italy, where it never prevailed so exclusively as northward of the Alps. It is impossible to understand the genius of Dante, and difficult to understand his poem, without some knowledge of the characters, studies, and writings of the schoolmen of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. For Dante was the living link between religion and philosophy; he philosophized the religion and christianized the philosophy of Italy; and, in this poetic union of religion and philosophy, he became the ground of transition into the mixed Platonism and Aristotelianism of the Schools, under which, by numerous minute articles of faith and ceremony, Christianity became a craft of hair-splitting, and was ultimately degraded into a complete ‘fetisch’ worship, divorced from philosophy, and made up of a faith without thought, and a credulity directed by passion. Afterwards, indeed, philosophy revived under condition of defending this very superstition; and, in so doing, it necessarily led the way to its subversion, and that in exact proportion to the influence of the philosophic schools. Hence it did its work most completely in Germany, then in England, next in France, then in Spain, least of all in Italy. We must, therefore, take the poetry of Dante as christianized, but without the further Gothic accession of proper chivalry. It was at a somewhat later period, that the importations from the East, through the Venetian commerce and the crusading armaments, exercised a peculiarly strong influence on Italy.

In studying Dante, therefore, we must consider carefully the differences produced, first, by allegory being substituted for polytheism; and secondly and mainly, by the opposition of Christianity to the spirit of pagan Greece, which receiving the very names of its gods from Egypt, soon deprived them of all that was universal. The Greeks changed the ideas into finites, and these finites into ‘anthropomorphi,’ or forms of men. Hence their religion, their poetry, nay, their very pictures, became statuesque. With them the form was the end. The reverse of this was the natural effect of Christianity; in which finites, even the human form, must, in order to satisfy the mind, be brought into connexion with, and be in fact symbolical of, the infinite; and must be considered in some enduring, however shadowy and indistinct, point of view, as the vehicle or representative of moral truth.

Hence resulted two great effects; a combination of poetry with doctrine, and, by turning the mind inward on its own essence instead of letting it act only on its outward circumstances and communities, a combination of poetry with sentiment. And it is this inwardness or subjectivity, which principally and most fundamentally distinguishes all the classic from all the modern poetry. Compare the passage in the ‘Iliad’ (Z. vi. 119-236.) in which Diomed and Glaucus change arms,–

[Greek (transliterated): Cheiras t’allilon labetin kai pistosanto]

They took each other by the hand, and pledged friendship–

with the scene in ‘Ariosto’ (Orlando Furioso, c. i. st. 20-22.), where Rinaldo and Ferrauto fight and afterwards make it up:–

Al Pagan la proposta non dispiacque: Cosi fu differita la tenzone;
E tal tregua tra lor subito nacque, Si l’ odio e l’ ira va in oblivione,
Che ‘l Pagano al partir dalle fresche acque Non lascio a piede il buon figliuol d’ Amone: Con preghi invita, e al fin lo toglie in groppa, E per l’ orme d’ Angelica galoppa.

Here Homer would have left it. But the Christian poet has his own feelings to express, and goes on:–

Oh gran bonta de’ cavalieri antiqui! Eran rivali, eran di fe diversi,
E si sentian degli aspri colpi iniqui Per tutta la persona anco dolersi;
E pur per selve oscure e calli obbliqui Insieme van senza sospetto aversi!

And here you will observe, that the reaction of Ariosto’s own feelings on the image or act is more fore-grounded (to use a painter’s phrase) than the image or act itself.

The two different modes in which the imagination is acted on by the ancient and modern poetry, may be illustrated by the parallel effects caused by the contemplation of the Greek or Roman-Greek architecture, compared with the Gothic. In the Pantheon, the whole is perceived in a perceived harmony with the parts which compose it; and generally you will remember that where the parts preserve any distinct individuality, there simple beauty, or beauty simply, arises; but where the parts melt undistinguished into the whole, there majestic beauty, or majesty, is the result. In York Minster, the parts, the grotesques, are in themselves very sharply distinct and separate, and this distinction and separation of the parts is counterbalanced only by the multitude and variety of those parts, by which the attention is bewildered;–whilst the whole, or that there is a whole produced, is altogether a feeling in which the several thousand distinct impressions lose themselves as in a universal solvent. Hence in a Gothic cathedral, as in a prospect from a mountain’s top, there is, indeed, a unity, an awful oneness;–but it is, because all distinction evades the eye. And just such is the distinction between the ‘Antigone’ of Sophocles and the ‘Hamlet’ of Shakespeare.

The ‘Divina Commedia’ is a system of moral, political, and theological truths, with arbitrary personal exemplifications, which are not, in my opinion, allegorical. I do not even feel convinced that the punishments in the Inferno are strictly allegorical. I rather take them to have been in Dante’s mind ‘quasi’-allegorical, or conceived in analogy to pure allegory.

I have said, that a combination of poetry with doctrines, is one of the characteristics of the Christian muse; but I think Dante has not succeeded in effecting this combination nearly so well as Milton.

This comparative failure of Dante, as also some other peculiarities of his mind, in ‘malam partem’, must be immediately attributed to the state of North Italy in his time, which is vividly represented in Dante’s life; a state of intense democratical partizanship, in which an exaggerated importance was attached to individuals, and which whilst it afforded a vast field for the intellect, opened also a boundless arena for the passions, and in which envy, jealousy, hatred, and other malignant feelings, could and did assume the form of patriotism, even to the individual’s own conscience.

All this common, and, as it were, natural partizanship, was aggravated arid coloured by the Guelf and Ghibelline factions; and, in part explanation of Dante’s adherence to the latter, you must particularly remark, that the Pope had recently territorialized his authority to a great extent, and that this increase of territorial power in the church, was by no means the same beneficial movement for the citizens of free republics, as the parallel advance in other countries was for those who groaned as vassals under the oppression of the circumjacent baronial castles. [1]

By way of preparation to a satisfactory perusal of the ‘Divina Commedia’, I will now proceed to state what I consider to be Dante’s chief excellences as a poet. And I begin with:

I. Style–the vividness, logical connexion, strength and energy of which cannot be surpassed. In this I think Dante superior to Milton; and his style is accordingly more imitable than Milton’s, and does to this day exercise a greater influence on the literature of his country. You cannot read Dante without feeling a gush of manliness of thought within you. Dante was very sensible of his own excellence in this particular, and speaks of poets as guardians of the vast armory of language, which is the intermediate something between matter and spirit:–

Or se’ tu quel Virgilio, e quella fonte, Che spande di parlar si largo fiume?
Risposi lui con vergognosa fronte. O degli altri poeti onore e lume,
Vagliami ‘l lungo studio e ‘l grande amore, Che m’ han fatto cercar lo tuo volume.
Tu se’ lo mio maestro, e ‘l mio autore: _Tu se’ solo colui, da cu’ io tolsi
Lo bello stile, che m’ ha fatto onore._

(‘Inf’. c. 1. v. 79.)

“And art thou then that Virgil, that well-spring, From which such copious floods of eloquence Have issued?” I, with front abash’d, replied: “Glory and light of all the tuneful train! May it avail me, that I long with zeal
Have sought thy volume, and with love immense Have conn’d it o’er. My master, thou, and guide! ‘Thou he from whom I have alone deriv’d That style, which for its beauty into fame Exalts me.'”

(Cary. [his translation–text Ed.])

Indeed there was a passion and a miracle of words in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, after the long slumber of language in barbarism, which gave an almost romantic character, a virtuous quality and power, to what was read in a book, independently of the thoughts or images contained in it. This feeling is very often perceptible in Dante.

II. The Images in Dante are not only taken from obvious nature, and are all intelligible to all, but are ever conjoined with the universal feeling received from nature, and therefore affect the general feelings of all men. And in this respect, Dante’s excellence is very great, and may be contrasted with the idiosyncracies of some meritorious modern poets, who attempt an eruditeness, the result of particular feelings. Consider the simplicity, I may say plainness, of the following simile, and how differently we should in all probability deal with it at the present day:

Quale i fioretti dal notturno gelo
Chinati e chiusi, poi che ‘l sol gl’ imbianca, Si drizzan tutti aperti in loro stelo,– Fal mi fec’ io di mia virtute stanca;

(‘Inf.’ c. 2. v. 127.)

As florets, by the frosty air of night Bent down and clos’d, when day has blanch’d their leaves, Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems,– So was my fainting vigour new restor’d.

(Cary. [2])

III. Consider the wonderful profoundness of the whole third canto of the ‘Inferno’; and especially of the inscription over Hell gate:

Per me si va, &c.–

which can only be explained by a meditation on the true nature of religion; that is,–reason ‘plus’ the understanding. I say profoundness rather than sublimity; for Dante does not so much elevate your thoughts as send them down deeper. In this canto all the images are distinct, and even vividly distinct; but there is a total impression of infinity; the wholeness is not in vision or conception, but in an inner feeling of totality, and absolute being.

IV. In picturesqueness, Dante is beyond all other poets, modern or ancient, and more in the stern style of Pindar, than of any other. Michel Angelo is said to have made a design for every page of the ‘Divina Commedia’. As superexcellent in this respect, I would note the conclusion of the third canto of the ‘Inferno’:

Ed ecco verso noi venir per nave
Un vecchio bianco per antico pelo
Gridando: guai a voi anime prave: &c. …

(Ver. 82. &c.)

And lo! toward us in a bark
Comes on an old man, hoary white with eld, Crying, “Woe to you wicked spirits!” …


Caron dimonio con occhi di bragia
Loro accennando, tutte le raccoglie: Batte col remo qualunque s’ adagia.
Come d’ autunno si levan le foglie L’ una appresso dell altra, infin che ‘l ramo Rende alia terra tutte le sue spoglie;
Similemente il mal seme d’ Adamo,
Gittansi di quel lito ad una ad una Per cenni, com’ augel per suo richiamo.

(Ver. 100, &c.)

–Charon, demoniac form,
With eyes of burning coal, collects them all, Beck’ning, and each that lingers, with his oar Strikes. As fall off the light autumnal leaves, One still another following, till the bough Strews all its honours on the earth beneath;– E’en in like manner Adam’s evil brood
Cast themselves one by one down from the shore Each at a beck, as falcon at his call.


And this passage, which I think admirably picturesque:

Ma poco valse, che l’ ale al sospetto Non potero avanzar: quegli ando sotto,
E quei drizzo, volando, suso il petto. Non altrimenti l’ anitra di botto,
Quando ‘l falcon s’ appressa, giu s’ attuffa, Ed ei ritorna su crucciato e rotto.
Irato Calcabrina della buffa,
Volando dietro gli tenne, invaghito, Che quei campasse, per aver la zuffa:
E come ‘l barattier fu disparito,
Cosi volse gli artigli al suo compagno, E fu con lui sovra ‘l fosso ghermito.
Ma l’ altro fu bene sparvier grifagno Ad artigliar ben lui, e amedue
Cadder nel mezzo del bollente stagno. Lo caldo sghermidor subito fue:
Ma pero di levarsi era niente,
Si aveano inviscate l’ ale sue.

(‘Infer.’ c. xxii. ver. 127, &c.)

But little it avail’d: terror outstripp’d His following flight: the other plung’d beneath, And he with upward pinion rais’d his breast: E’en thus the water-fowl, when she perceives The falcon near, dives instant down, while he Enrag’d and spent retires. That mockery In Calcabrina fury stirr’d, who flew
After him, with desire of strife inflam’d; And, for the barterer had ‘scap’d, so turn’d His talons on his comrade. O’er the dyke In grapple close they join’d; but th’ other prov’d A goshawk, able to rend well his foe;
And in the boiling lake both fell. The heat Was umpire soon between them, but in vain To lift themselves they strove, so fast were glued Their pennons.


V. Very closely connected with this picturesqueness, is the topographic reality of Dante’s journey through Hell. You should note and dwell on this as one of his great charms, and which gives a striking peculiarity to his poetic power. He thus takes the thousand delusive forms of a nature worse than chaos, having no reality but from the passions which they excite, and compels them into the service of the permanent. Observe the exceeding truth of these lines:

Noi ricidemmo ‘l cerchio all’ altra riva, Sovr’ una fonte che bolle, e riversa,
Per un fossato che da lei diriva.
L’ acqua era buja molto piu che persa: E noi in compagnia dell’ onde bige
Entrammo giu per una via diversa.
Una palude fa, ch’ ha nome Stige,
Questo tristo ruscel, quando e disceso Al pie delle maligne piagge grige.
Ed io che di mirar mi stava inteso,– Vidi genti fangose in quel pantano
Ignude tutte, e con sembiante offeso. Questi si percotean non pur con mano,
Ma con la testa, e col petto, e co’ piedi, Troncandosi co’ denti a brano a brano. …

Cosi girammo della lorda pozza
Grand’ arco tra la ripa secca e ‘l mezzo, Con gli occhi volti a chi del fango ingozza: ‘Venimmo appi d’ una torre al dassezzo’.

(C. vii. ver. 100 and 127.)

–We the circle cross’d
To the next steep, arriving at a well, That boiling pours itself down to a foss Sluic’d from its source. Far murkier was the wave Than sablest grain: and we in company
Of th’ inky waters, journeying by their side, Enter’d, though by a different track, beneath. Into a lake, the Stygian nam’d, expands The dismal stream, when it hath reach’d the foot Of the grey wither’d cliffs. Intent I stood To gaze, and in the marish sunk, descried A miry tribe, all naked, and with looks Betok’ning rage. They with their hands alone Struck not, but with the head, the breast, the feet, Cutting each other piecemeal with their fangs. …

–Our route
Thus compass’d, we a segment widely stretch’d Between the dry embankment and the cove Of the loath’d pool, turning meanwhile our eyes Downward on those who gulp’d its muddy lees; _Nor stopp’d, till to a tower’s low base we came._


VI. For Dante’s power,–his absolute mastery over, although rare exhibition of, the pathetic, I can do no more than refer to the passages on Francesca di Rimini (Infer. C. v. ver. 73 to the end.) and on Ugolino, (Infer. C. xxxiii. ver. 1. to 75.) They are so well known, and rightly so admired, that it would be pedantry to analyze their composition; but you will note that the first is the pathos of passion, the second that of affection; and yet even in the first, you seem to perceive that the lovers have sacrificed their passion to the cherishing of a deep and rememberable impression.

VII. As to going into the endless subtle beauties of Dante, that is impossible; but I cannot help citing the first triplet of the 29th canto of the Inferno:

La molta gente e le diverse piaghe
Avean le luci m ‘e s’ inebriate,
Che dello stare a piangere eran vaghe.

So were mine eyes inebriate with the view Of the vast multitude, whom various wounds Disfigur’d, that they long’d to stay and weep.


Nor have I now room for any specific comparison of Dante with Milton. But if I had, I would institute it upon the ground of the last canto of the Inferno from the 1st to the 69th line, and from the 106th to the end. And in this comparison I should notice Dante’s occasional fault of becoming grotesque from being too graphic without imagination; as in his Lucifer compared with Milton’s Satan. Indeed he is sometimes horrible rather than terrible,–falling into the [Greek (transliteration): misaeton] instead of the [Greek (transliteration): deinon] of Longinus;[3] in other words, many of his images excite bodily disgust, and not moral fear. But here, as in other cases, you may perceive that the faults of great authors are generally excellencies carried to an excess.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Coleridge here notes: “I will, if I can, here make an historical movement, and pay a proper compliment to Mr. Hallam.” Ed.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Coleridge here notes: “Here to speak of Mr. Cary’s translation.”–Ed.]

[Footnote 3: ‘De Subl.’ 1. ix.]


Born in London, 1608.–Died, 1674.

If we divide the period from the accession of Elizabeth to the Protectorate of Cromwell into two unequal portions, the first ending with the death of James I. the other comprehending the reign of Charles and the brief glories of the Republic, we are forcibly struck with a difference in the character of the illustrious actors, by whom each period is rendered severally memorable. Or rather, the difference in the characters of the great men in each period, leads us to make this division.

Eminent as the intellectual powers were that were displayed in both; yet in the number of great men, in the various sorts of excellence, and not merely in the variety but almost diversity of talents united in the same individual, the age of Charles falls short of its predecessor; and the stars of the Parliament, keen as their radiance was, in fulness and richness of lustre, yield to the constellation at the court of Elizabeth;–which can only be paralleled by Greece in her brightest moment, when the titles of the poet, the philosopher, the historian, the statesman and the general not seldom formed a garland round the same head, as in the instances of our Sidneys and Raleighs. But then, on the other hand, there was a vehemence of will, an enthusiasm of principle, a depth and an earnestness of spirit, which the charms of individual fame and personal aggrandisement could not pacify,–an aspiration after reality, permanence, and general good,–in short, a moral grandeur in the latter period, with which the low intrigues, Machiavellic maxims, and selfish and servile ambition of the former, stand in painful contrast.

The causes of this it belongs not to the present occasion to detail at length; but a mere allusion to the quick succession of revolutions in religion, breeding a political indifference in the mass of men to religion itself, the enormous increase of the royal power in consequence of the humiliation of the nobility and the clergy–the transference of the papal authority to the crown,–the unfixed state of Elizabeth’s own opinions, whose inclinations were as popish as her interests were protestant–the controversial extravagance and practical imbecility of her successor–will help to explain the former period; and the persecutions that had given a life and soul-interest to the disputes so imprudently fostered by James,–the ardour of a conscious increase of power in the commons, and the greater austerity of manners and maxims, the natural product and most formidable weapon of religious disputation, not merely in conjunction, but in closest combination, with newly awakened political and republican zeal, these perhaps account for the character of the latter aera.

In the close of the former period, and during the bloom of the latter, the poet Milton was educated and formed; and he survived the latter, and all the fond hopes and aspirations which had been its life; and so in evil days, standing as the representative of the combined excellence of both periods, he produced the ‘Paradise Lost as by an after-throe of nature. “There are some persons (observes a divine, a contemporary of Milton’s) of whom the grace of God takes early hold, and the good spirit inhabiting them, carries them on in an even constancy through innocence into virtue, their Christianity bearing equal date with their manhood, and reason and religion, like warp and woof, running together, make up one web of a wise and exemplary life. This (he adds) is a most happy case, wherever it happens; for, besides that there is no sweeter or more lovely thing on earth than the early buds of piety, which drew from our Saviour signal affection to the beloved disciple, it is better to have no wound than to experience the most sovereign balsam, which, if it work a cure, yet usually leaves a scar behind.” Although it was and is my intention to defer the consideration of Milton’s own character to the conclusion of this Lecture, yet I could not prevail on myself to approach the Paradise Lost without impressing on your minds the conditions under which such a work was in fact producible at all, the original genius having been assumed as the immediate agent and efficient cause; and these conditions I find in the character of the times and in his own character. The age in which the foundations of his mind were laid, was congenial to it as one golden era of profound erudition and individual genius;–that in which the superstructure was carried up, was no less favourable to it by a sternness of discipline and a show of self-control, highly flattering to the imaginative dignity of an heir of fame, and which won Milton over from the dear-loved delights of academic groves and cathedral aisles to the anti-prelatic party. It acted on him, too, no doubt, and modified his studies by a characteristic controversial spirit, (his presentation of God is tinted with it)–a spirit not less busy indeed in political than in theological and ecclesiastical dispute, but carrying on the former almost always, more or less, in the guise of the latter. And so far as Pope’s censure [1] of our poet,–that he makes God the Father a school divine–is just, we must attribute it to the character of his age, from which the men of genius, who escaped, escaped by a worse disease, the licentious indifference of a Frenchified court.

Such was the ‘nidus’ or soil, which constituted, in the strict sense of the word, the circumstances of Milton’s mind. In his mind itself there were purity and piety absolute; an imagination to which neither the past nor the present were interesting, except as far as they called forth and enlivened the great ideal, in which and for which he lived; a keen love of truth, which, after many weary pursuits, found a harbour in a sublime listening to the still voice in his own spirit, and as keen a love of his country, which, after a disappointment still more depressive, expanded and soared into a love of man as a probationer of immortality. These were, these alone could be, the conditions under which such a work as the Paradise Lost could be conceived and accomplished. By a life-long study Milton had known–

What was of use to know,
What best to say could say, to do had done. His actions to his words agreed, his words To his large heart gave utterance due, his heart Contain’d of good, wise, fair, the perfect shape;

and he left the imperishable total, as a bequest to the ages coming, in the ‘Paradise Lost’. [2]

Difficult as I shall find it to turn over these leaves without catching some passage, which would tempt me to stop, I propose to consider, 1st, the general plan and arrangement of the work; 2ndly, the subject with its difficulties and advantages; 3rdly, the poet’s object, the spirit in the letter, the [Greek (transliterated): enthumion en muthps], the true school-divinity; and lastly, the characteristic excellencies of the poem, in what they consist, and by what means they were produced.

1. As to the plan and ordonnance of the Poem.

Compare it with the ‘Iliad’, many of the books of which might change places without any injury to the thread of the story. Indeed, I doubt the original existence of the ‘Iliad’ as one poem; it seems more probable that it was put together about the time of the Pisistratidae. The ‘Iliad’–and, more or less, all epic poems, the subjects of which are taken from history–have no rounded conclusion; they remain, after all, but single chapters from the volume of history, although they are ornamental chapters. Consider the exquisite simplicity of the Paradise Lost. It and it alone really possesses a beginning, a middle, and an end; it has the totality of the poem as distinguished from the ‘ab ovo’ birth and parentage, or straight line, of history.

2. As to the subject.

In Homer, the supposed importance of the subject, as the first effort of confederated Greece, is an after-thought of the critics; and the interest, such as it is, derived from the events themselves, as distinguished from the manner of representing them, is very languid to all but Greeks. It is a Greek poem. The superiority of the ‘Paradise Lost’ is obvious in this respect, that the interest transcends the limits of a nation. But we do not generally dwell on this excellence of the ‘Paradise Lost’, because it seems attributable to Christianity itself;–yet in fact the interest is wider than Christendom, and comprehends the Jewish and Mohammedan worlds;–nay, still further, inasmuch as it represents the origin of evil, and the combat of evil and good, it contains matter of deep interest to all mankind, as forming the basis of all religion, and the true occasion of all philosophy whatsoever.

The FALL of Man is the subject; Satan is the cause; man’s blissful state the immediate object of his enmity and attack; man is warned by an angel who gives him an account of all that was requisite to be known, to make the warning at once intelligible and awful; then the temptation ensues, and the Fall; then the immediate sensible consequence; then the consolation, wherein an angel presents a vision of the history of men with the ultimate triumph of the Redeemer. Nothing is touched in this vision but what is of general interest in religion; any thing else would have been improper.

The inferiority of Klopstock’s ‘Messiah’ is inexpressible. I admit the prerogative of poetic feeling, and poetic faith; but I cannot suspend the judgment even for a moment. A poem may in one sense be a dream, but it must be a waking dream. In Milton you have a religious faith combined with the moral nature; it is an efflux; you go along with it. In Klopstock there is a wilfulness; he makes things so and so. The feigned speeches and events in the ‘Messiah’ shock us like falsehoods; but nothing of that sort is felt in the ‘Paradise Lost’, in which no particulars, at least very few indeed, are touched which can come into collision or juxta-position with recorded matter.

But notwithstanding the advantages in Milton’s subject, there were concomitant insuperable difficulties, and Milton has exhibited marvellous skill in keeping most of them out of sight. High poetry is the translation of reality into the ideal under the predicament of succession of time only. The poet is an historian, upon condition of moral power being the only force in the universe. The very grandeur of his subject ministered a difficulty to Milton. The statement of a being of high intellect, warring against the supreme Being, seems to contradict the idea of a supreme Being. Milton precludes our feeling this, as much as possible, by keeping the peculiar attributes of divinity less in sight, making them to a certain extent allegorical only. Again, poetry implies the language of excitement; yet how to reconcile such language with God? Hence Milton confines the poetic passion in God’s speeches to the language of scripture; and once only allows the ‘passio vera’, or ‘quasi-humana’ to appear, in the passage, where the Father contemplates his own likeness in the Son before the battle:–

Go then, thou Mightiest, in thy Father’s might, Ascend my chariot, guide the rapid wheels That shake Heaven’s basis, bring forth all my war, My bow and thunder; my almighty arms
Gird on, and sword upon thy puissant thigh; Pursue these sons of darkness, drive them out From all Heaven’s bounds into the utter deep: There let them learn, as likes them, to despise God and Messiah his anointed king.

(B. VI. v. 710.)

3. As to Milton’s object:–

It was to justify the ways of God to man! The controversial spirit observable in many parts of the poem, especially in God’s speeches, is immediately attributable to the great controversy of that age, the origination of evil. The Arminians considered it a mere calamity. The Calvinists took away all human will. Milton asserted the will, but declared for the enslavement of the will out of an act of the will itself. There are three powers in us, which distinguish us from the beasts that perish;–1, reason; 2, the power of viewing universal truth; and 3, the power of contracting universal truth into particulars. Religion is the will in the reason, and love in the will.

The character of Satan is pride and sensual indulgence, finding in self the sole motive of action. It is the character so often seen ‘in little’ on the political stage. It exhibits all the restlessness, temerity, and cunning which have marked the mighty hunters of mankind from Nimrod to Napoleon. The common fascination of men is, that these great men, as they are called, must act from some great motive. Milton has carefully marked in his Satan the intense selfishness, the alcohol of egotism, which would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. To place this lust of self in opposition to denial of self or duty, and to show what exertions it would make, and what pains endure to accomplish its end, is Milton’s particular object in the character of Satan. But around this character he has thrown a singularity of daring, a grandeur of sufferance, and a ruined splendour, which constitute the very height