He tells us that, ‘whatever may be thought by a hasty person looking in on the subject from the outside, no one can study the life of Milton
as it ought to be studied without being obliged to study extensively and intimately the contemporary history of England
, and even incidentally of Scotland
too. . . . . Thus on the very compulsion, or at least the suasion, of the biography, a history grew on my hands.
It was not in human nature to confine the historical inquiries, once they were in progress, within the precise limits of their demonstrable bearing on the biography, even had it been possible to determine these limits beforehand; and so the history assumed a co-ordinate importance with me, was pursued often for its own sake, and became, though always with a sense of organic relation to the biography, continuous in itself.’
If a ‘hasty person’ be one who thinks eleven years rather long to have his button held by a biographer ere he begin his next sentence, I take to myself the sting of Mr. Masson
's covert sarcasm.
I confess with shame a pusillanimity that is apt to flag if a ‘to be continued’ do not redeem its promise before the lapse of a quinquennium.
I could scarce await the ‘Autocrat’ himself so long.
The heroic age of literature is past, and even a duodecimo may often prove too heavy (οἷον νῦν βρότοι
) for the descendants of men to whom the folio was a pastime.
But what does Mr. Masson
mean by ‘continuous’?
To me it seems rather as if his somewhat rambling history of the seventeenth century were interrupted now and then by an unexpected apparition of Milton
, who, like Paul Pry
, just pops in and hopes he does not intrude, to tell us what he
has been doing in the mean while.
The reader, immersed in Scottish politics or the schemes of Archbishop Laud
, is a little puzzled at first, but reconciles himself on being reminded that this fair-haired young man is the protagonist of the drama.
Pars minima est ipsa puella sui