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by the co-operation of whose fine mind and perfect taste
I have been largely benefitted as a writer, and to the contemplation of whose piety and virtues,
the sources of much of my past happiness,
THIS LIFE OF MILTON;
which, as it grew under his eye,
and was favoured with his regard, cannot be without value in my partial estimation.
On the 23d of May, 1805,
experiencing from his God,
in requital of a pure life, the mercy of an early death.
More than two years have now elapsed since the Editors of the prose works of Milton favoured me with an application for the life of the author. With the diffidence, proper to my conscious mediocrity of talents, but with the alacrity, inspired by the wish of illustrating a great and an injured character, I undertook, and soon sketched the rough draught of a large portion of the work. Unacquainted with the general progress of the publication, with which my biography was to be connected, I already looked forward to its early appearance, when it pleased the Almighty to visit me with an affliction, of such overwhelming force as to oppress all my faculties, and, during a heavy interval of many successive months, to render me incapable of the slightest mental exertion. From this half-animated state I was, at length, roused by a sense of the duty which I owed to my engagements, and by the fear of having in
jured, with the
consequences of my weakness, those interests which I had bound myself by promise to promote.
On the completion, however, of my work, I discovered, and not without some satisfaction, that my life of Milton was yet to wait for its associate volumes from the
press, and consequently that I had contracted no obligations for indulgence either to the editors or the public. Of all the parties, indeed, engaged in the transaction I alone seemed to have experienced any essential change of situation in the interval between the expected and the actual period of the publication. Eighteen months ago I felt an interest in the scene around me, of which I must never again hope to be sensible; and my pen, which now moves only in obedience to duty, was then quickened by the influences of fame. Eighteen months ago, like the man who visited the Rosicrusian tomb, I was surrounded with brilliant light, but one blow dissolved the charm, broke the suurce of the illumination, and left me in sepulchral darkness. It is only, however, in their