figure of Milton
, and our image of him has dwelt securely in ideal remoteness from the vulgarities of life.
No diaries, no private letters, remain to give the idle curiosity of after-times the right to force itself on the hallowed seclusion of his reserve.
That a man whose familiar epistles were written in the language of Cicero
, whose sense of personal dignity was so great that, when called on in self-defence to speak of himself, he always does it with an epical stateliness of phrase, and whose self-respect even in youth was so profound that it resembles the reverence paid by other men to a far-off and idealized character,— that he should be treated in this offhand familiar fashion by his biographer seems to us a kind of desecration, a violation of good manners no less than of the laws of biographic art. Milton
is the last man in the world to be slapped on the back with impunity.
Better the surly injustice of Johnson
than such presumptuous friendship as this.
Let the seventeenth century, at least, be kept sacred from the insupportable foot of the interviewer!
But Mr. Masson
, in his desire to be (shall I say) idiomatic, can do something worse than what has been hitherto quoted.
He can be even vulgar.
Discussing the motives of Milton
's first marriage, he says, ‘Did he come seeking his £ 500, and did Mrs. Powell heave a daughter at him
We have heard of a woman throwing herself at a man's head, and the image is a somewhat violent one; but what is this to Mr. Masson
's improvement on it?
It has been sometimes affirmed that the fitness of an image may be tested by trying whether a picture could be made of it or not. Mr. Masson
has certainly offered a new and striking subject to the historical school of British art. A little further on, speaking of Mary Powell
, he says, ‘We have no portrait of her, nor any account of her appearance; but on the usual rule of the ’