Justin Smith Morrill to Matthew H. Buckham, June 21, 1873

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Strafford Vt. June 21, 1873
Prst. M.H. Buckham,
Burlington, Vt.
My dear Sir: Thanks for your kind
favor of the 18 inst. By no means should I
presume to place my opinions upon any
literary point against yours, for mine are based
upon too scanty and too desultory reading for
that, though it is true when employed in that
direction I find my highest enjoyment.
You object to any opinions of Milton on
the historian Sallust because he had, as you
think, an undue admiration of the Greek

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poet - "the effeminate Euripides", and thereby
start me on the defence of Milton.
I have little knowledge of Euripides save
what I have acquired from the judgement
of others -- never having
only a part of
his tragedies, found translated in the "Poetry
of the Ancients", but I have regarded him
as among the first in merits and perhaps
in faults. The anecdote given by Plutarch,
where such Athenian prisoners, as could re-
peat any verses of Euripides, gained their
liberty, shows he had won a wide fame, even
away from his own country, in ancient times;
and in modern, Rachel made her great
reputation by portraying Phaidra according to
the Greek conception rather than that of

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Racine. To be sure Aristophanes hated and
ridiculed Euripides, and German critics have
followed in the track of Aristophanes, but Mil-
ton had rare authority for his partiality, (whether
expressed in prose or in his sonnets,) in such
names as those of Aristotle, Quintillian [Quintilian],
Socrates and Cicero. These surely are not
poets and they are all recorded very
heartily for Euripides, and even Tacitus men-
tions his name apparently as only second to Aes-
chylus. Poets, it is true, belong to the irritable
genus, ever envious, and are rarely able to
classify even their own productions according
to obvious merit, but, like parents with weak
or deformed children, most esteem their un-
healthiest offspring. Still Milton was a giant

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not only among poets but excited a power-
ful influence in the times in which
he lived. He was a scholar, traveling
and mixing with the world as a red-hot
Republican in the days when such prin-
ciples were rare. Of course he had faults, but
his opinions in literary or classic questions
were as good as those of any of his contemporaries.
More of the plays of Euripides have en-
dured than of any other playwrites of that period
-- a fact worth something. Of course tragedies
are made for the age. The fables of Grecian
mythology, through not reverently accepted
by the authors, were relished by their au-
dience, but to us they are only fables. The plays
where they appear would now be ridiculous.
But I only proposed to stand up for that old Puritan Milton and must
crave your pardon for taking up so much of your time with this long yarn.
Very truly yours
Justin S. Morrill