By Christine Rees
Samuel Johnson is frequently represented as essentially opposed or antipathetic to Milton. but his creative and highbrow engagement with Milton's existence and writing prolonged around the complete span of his personal assorted writing occupation. As essayist, poet, lexicographer, critic and biographer - in particular as reader - Johnson constructed a arguable, attention-grabbing and efficient literary dating along with his strong predecessor. to appreciate how Johnson creatively appropriates Milton's texts, how he seriously demanding situations but additionally confirms Milton's prestige, and the way he constructs him as a biographical topic, is to deepen the trendy reader's figuring out of either writers within the context of ancient continuity and alter. Christine Rees's insightful examine may be of curiosity not just to Milton and Johnson experts, yet to all students of early glossy literary background and biography.
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Additional info for Johnson's Milton
But if Mrs Thrale accurately reports his words to her on one occasion, then he did not always benefit from his own reassuring application of Adam’s lines: ‘“Make your boy tell you his dreams: the first corruption that entered into my heart was communicated in a dream”’(JM I. p. 159). When he once more confronts the consciousness of sin and guilt in Rambler 110, composed during the Easter season of 1751, he is solaced by another passage from Paradise Lost with its moving summons to human repentance in the hope of divine forgiveness: What better can we do, than to the place Repairing where he judged us, prostrate fall Before him reverent, and there confess Humbly our faults, and pardon beg, with tears Watering the ground, and with our sighs the air Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek.
Life I. p. 9 The Miltonic association of ideas recurs in another of Johnson’s Latin exercises, Aurora Est Musis Amica (‘Aurora is friend to the Muses’), which J. D. Fleeman compares to Milton’s first Prolusion ‘“exaudiatque Aurora Musis amica, exaudiat et Phoebus …” (May Aurora, the friend of the Muses, hearken, and may Phoebus give heed …)’. ’10 As an observation, it is a commonplace familiar to generations of early modern students, but for both Milton and Johnson it would come to be invested with strongly personal meaning.
To adopt these lines at the end of this profoundly felt essay is to pay serious homage to Milton’s religious inspiration. Moreover, as Stephen Fix points out when citing this essay to support his contention that Johnson makes devotional use of Paradise Lost,12 the source is unattributed. Johnson segues into the coda as if it were part of his original text, albeit in verse not prose: What better can we do, than prostrate fall Before him reverent; and there confess Humbly our faults, and pardon beg, with tears Wat’ring the ground, and with our sighs the air Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign Of sorrow unfeign’d, and humiliation meek?