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Milton

THERE is something so peculiarly striking in Milton’s preface to his book written in answer to the celebrated Eikon Basilike of Charles the First, that the reader will not be displeased to have the initial paragraph transcribed. I give it as an instance of that noble confidence in his abilities, which, in common with other superior minds, he possessed; as also for that elevated though bitter style concerning monarchs, which, as a republican, he was prompted to employ.

“To discant on the misfortunes of a person, fallen from so high a dignity, who hath also paid his final debt to Nature and his faults, is neither of itself a thing commendable, nor the intention of this discourse. Neither was it fond ambition, or the vanity to get a name, present, or with posterity, by writing against a king; I never was so thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and means, better, and more certain to attain it. For kings have gained glorious titles from their favourers by writing against private men, as Henry VIII. did against Luther; but no man ever gained much honour by writing against a king, as not usually meeting with that force of argument in such courtly antagonists, which to convince might add to his reputation. Kings most commonly, though strong in legions, are but weak at arguments; as they who ever have accustomed from the cradle to use their will only as their right hand, their reason always as their left. Whence unexpectedly constrained to that kind of combat, they prove but weak and puny adversaries.”

Editor’s Notes

D’Israeli also wrote another article with this same title.