1792 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

John Bennet, in "Letters to a Young Lady" American Museum [Philadelphia] 11 (January 1792) 9-10.



Though I do not wish you to become a poet, it is however necessary, that you should not be wholly unacquainted with the writings of many inimitable bards. They will certainly refine your taste, and spread a very elegant repast for your private amusement.

Shakespeare is, perhaps, the first genius of the world; and some of his dramatic works, whilst they astonish, will give you an useful fund of historical information.

The immortal poem of Paradise Lost should not only be in the hands, but graven on the heart of every woman, because Milton, above all other authors, describes the distinguishing graces of the sex, and, in his Eve, has exhibited an exquisite pattern of female perfection. On this subject, his feelings were always awakened in an extraordinary manner: his imagination glowed, and he has given it the finest touches of his pencil.

Milton, like all great men, was fully sensible of the blessing we derive from the society of women, and how cheerless the face of nature would have been without them. He, therefore, labours to make the mother of his Paradise ever thing that could charm, and every thing that could alleviate the infelicities of life. Let the libertine read his description of marriage, and tell me what he thinks of the prevailing rage for impurity and seduction.

Homer is universally celebrated; and, though you cannot read his poem in the original language, Pope has given an admirable translation. The same may be said of Dryden's Virgil, if you wish to taste the exquisite richness of these ancient authors.