Front Page Titles (by Subject) XXIII.: To the illustrious Lord Henry de Bras. - The Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 2
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XXIII.: To the illustrious Lord Henry de Bras. - John Milton, The Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 2 
The Prose Works of John Milton, With a Biographical Introduction by Rufus Wilmot Griswold. In Two Volumes (Philadelphia: John W. Moore, 1847). Vol. 2.
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To the illustrious LordHenry de Bras.
I see, my Lord, that you, unlike most of our modern youth who pass through foreign countries, wisely travel, like the ancient philosophers, for the sake of completing your juvenile studies, and of picking up knowledge wherever it may be found. Though as often as I consider the excellence of what you write, you appear to me to have gone among foreigners not so much for the sake of procuring erudition yourself, as of imparting it to others, and rather to exchange than to purchase a stock of literature. I wish it were as easy for me in every way to promote the increase of your knowledge, and the improvement of your intellect, as it is pleasing and flattering to me to have that assistance requested by talents and genius like yours. I have never attempted, and I should never dare to attempt, to solve those difficulties as you request, which seem to have cast a cloud over the writers of history for so many ages.
Of Sallust I will speak as you desire without any hesitation or reserve. I prefer him to any of the Latin historians; which was also the general opinion of the ancients. Your favourite Tacitus deserves his meed of praise; but his highest praise in my opinion, consists in his having imitated Sallust with all his might. By my conversation with you on this subject I seem, as far as I can guess from your letter, to have inspired you with sentiments very similar to my own, concerning that most energetic and animated writer. As he in the beginning of his Catilinarian war asserted that there was the greatest difficulty in historical composition, because the style should correspond with the nature of the narrative, you ask me how a writer of history may best attain that excellence. My opinion is that he who would describe actions and events in a way suited to their dignity and importance, ought to write with a mind endued with a spirit, and enlarged by an experience, as extensive as the actors in the scene, that he may have a capacity properly to comprehend and to estimate the most momentous affairs, and to relate them, when comprehended, with energy and distinctness, with purity and perspicuity of diction. The decorations of style I do not greatly heed; for I require an historian and not a rhetorician. I do not want frequent interspersions of sentiment, or prolix dissertations on transactions, which interrupt the series of events, and cause the historian to entrench on the office of the politician, who if in explaining counsels, and explaining facts, he follows truth rather than his own partialities and conjectures, excites the disgust or the aversion of his party. I will add a remark of Sallust, and which was one of the excellencies which he himself commended in Cato, that he should be able to say much in a few words; a perfection which I think that no one can attain without the most discriminating judgment and a peculiar degree of moderation. There are many in whom you have not to regret either elegance of diction or copiousness of narrative, who have yet united copiousness with brevity. And among these Sallust is in my opinion the chief of the Latin writers. Such are the virtues which I think that every historian ought to possess who would proportion his style to the facts which he records. But why do I mention this to you? When such is your genius that you need not my advice, and when such is your proficiency that if it goes on increasing you will soon not be able to consult any one more learned than yourself. To the increase of that proficiency, though no exhortations can be necessary to stimulate your exertions, yet that I may not seem entirely to frustrate your expectations, I will beseech you with all my affection, all my authority, and all my zeal, to let nothing relax your diligence, or chill the ardour of your pursuit. Adieu! and may you ever successfully labour in the path of wisdom and of virtue.
Westminster, July 15, 1657.