Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Milton > His temperament
  His later years The growth of his reputation  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

V. Milton.

§ 8. His temperament.


It must not be supposed, from anything that has been said that Milton’s temperament was essentially or uniformly morose. His youngest daughter Deborah—an unexceptionable witness, whatever tales are true—described him as excellent company, especially with young people. His very asceticism has been much exaggerated. One anecdote speaks of his special gratitude to his last wife for providing “such dishes as pleased him”; and, while the Lawrence sonnet cannot be interpreted in any sense but that of cheerful enjoyment of festivity, the common limitation of “spare to interpose” is almost certainly wrong, while the other interpretation is supported by the companion piece to Cyriack Skinner. The personal beauty of his youth naturally yielded to age and gout; but he seems always, despite his blindness, to have been careful of his dress and appearance. His delight in gardens was life-long, even when he could not appreciate their trimness. He was a smoker—the austerest puritan had no objection to the Indian weed—and a wine drinker, though a moderate one. Study, in spite of fate and of the harm it had done him, he never abandoned. He was as little of a Nazarite as of a Stylites, and not more of either than of the kind of bacchanalian-amorist poet whom he despised. In fact, if it were not for the testimony of the works, it would not be quite irrational to reject most of this gossip about him; and, as it is, reason, no less than charity, may reject a good deal of it. Nothing but amiable paralogism can give Milton an amiable character, inasmuch as the intensity of his convictions, and the peculiar complexion of these, almost necessitated a certain asperity. But the other testimony which the works bear makes unamiableness a very minor matter.   28

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  His later years The growth of his reputation  
 
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