has become unhappily numerous, I turn to a consideration of his work as a whole.
I think he made a mistake in his very plan, or else was guilty of a misnomer in his title.
His book is not so much a life of Milton
as a collection of materials out of which a careful reader may sift the main facts of the poet's biography.
His passion for minute detail is only to be equalled by his diffuseness on points mainly if not altogether irrelevant.
He gives us a Survey of British Literature, occupying one hundred and twenty-eight pages of his first volume, written in the main with good judgment, and giving the average critical opinion upon nearly every writer, great and small, who was in any sense a contemporary of Milton
I have no doubt all this would be serviceable and interesting to Mr. Masson
's classes in Edinburgh University, and they may well be congratulated on having so competent a teacher; but what it has to do with Milton
, unless in the case of such authors as may be shown to have influenced his style or turn of thought, one does not clearly see. Most readers of a life of Milton
may be presumed to have some knowledge of the general literary history of the time, or at any rate to have the means of acquiring it, and Milton
's manner (his style was his own) was very little affected by any of the English
poets, with the single exception, in his earlier poems, of George Wither.
also has something to say about everybody, from Wentworth
to the obscurest Brownist fanatic who was so much as heard of in England
If this theory of a biographer's duty should hold, our grandchildren may expect to see ‘A Life of Thackeray
, or who was who in England
, and Germany
during the first Half of the Nineteenth Century.’
These digressions of Mr. Masson
's from what should have been his main topic (he always seems somehow to be ‘completing his tendency towards the suburbs’