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CLAEENDON MADE LORD CHANCELLOR- 191
did he dream, in those golden days of youth, that out of the dark days of his second exile would come a book, which should gild his name with even brighter lustrethan statesmanship or devotion to his king could win for him. A chequered reputation on the page of history, and two old pillars in Piccadilly, might have been all that remained of the great lawyer's life-work, had not his brilliant pen raised a monument of eloquence, imperishable while the English language lives. As member for Wootton Basset he began his political career in 1640, having previously, though enjoying a considerable private fortune, devoted himself so earnestly to the practice of the law as to win by it much renown and many friends. His rise to royal favour was very speedy. Having aided the King most materially by writing several important papers, he was knighted in 1643, and made Chancellor of the Exchequer. But in spite of all that the swords of the Cavaliers or the eloquence of Hyde could do, the cause of Charles declined, and it was judged right that the Prince of Wales should leave England. Hyde accompanied the 1646 royal boy to Jersey, where after some time he commenced A.D. his great History of the Rebellion. It would be out of place here to trace the wanderings of his first exile. At the Hague he heard of the Whitehall tragedy. At Paris he shared the poverty of the royal Stuart—sometimes with neither clothes nor fire to keep out the winter cold, and often with not a livre he could call his own. All that the unfortunate, lazy, dissipated, uncrowned, and kingdomless monarch could do to recompense the fidelity of this devoted servant, he did. He made him his Lord Chancellor —an empty name written on an empty purse, as things went then. But soon came the Restoration with its pealing bells and scattered flowers. Hyde, created Earl of Clarendon, became a real Lord Chancellor, entitled to sit on the 1660 actual woolsack. Then for seven years he was the ruling A.D. spirit of English politics, and he shares in many of the dark stains, which lie upon the memory of King Charles II. The feeling of the nation grew strong against him. He lost the royal favour. In August 1667 he had to give up the Great Seal; and, with a trial
192 CLARENDON AND MILTON.
for high treason hanging over his grey head, he fled down to the coast, and took ship at the pretty village of Erith for the French shore. Louis proved unfriendly to the fallen statesman. From place to place the old man wandered, finding solace only in his pen. Seven years passed wearily by, gout racking his feeble frame. A plaintive petition in his last days entreated his heartless master's leave to die at home. “Seven years,” he wrote, “was a time prescribed and limited by God himself for the expiration of some of his greatest judgments; and it is full that time since I have, with all possible humility, sustained the insupportable weight of the king's displeasure. Since it will be in nobody's power long to prevent me from dying, methinks the desiring a 1674 place to die in should not be thought a great presumption.” A.D. No answer came ; and when the year 1674 was near its close, Clarendon breathed his last at Rouen. The great Cavalier—prince of historical portrait painters—outlived the great Puritan—prince of epic poets—but a few days. Born in the same year, Clarendon and Milton stood all their lives apart, towering in rival greatness above their fellows in the grand struggle of their century. The year of the Restoration, which brought wealth and splendour to the Cavalier, plunged the blind old Puritan in bitter poverty. But a few years more, and the great Earl, too, was stricken down from his lofty place, and sent a homeless wanderer to a stranger's land. To both, their sternest discipline was their greatest gain; for when the colours of hope and gladness had faded from the landscape of their lives, and nothing but a waste of splendourless days seemed to stretch in cheerless vista before them, they turned to the desk for solace, and found in the exercise of their literary skill, not peace alone, but fame. Milton wrote most of his great Poem in blindness and disgrace; Clarendon completed his great History during a painful exile. Clarendon’s “History of the Rebellion” (mark the Cavalier in the last word of this title) is not in all things a faithful picture of those terrible days, red with civil and with royal blood. Nor is this wonderful, for the writer was absent from his native land during a great part of the eventful strife, which he designates by so
THE “HISTORY OF THE REBELLION.” 193
pointed a name. It is very unequally written, here adorned with a passage of most picturesque and glowing eloquence, and there marred by a “ravelled sleave” of sentences, tangled together in utter defiance of grammatical construction. Yet he is never, even in his most slovenly passages, obscure. It has been well remarked that his language is that of the speaker, not of the writer; and if we remember Hyde's training at the bar, we shall cease to wonder at his off-hand, careless style. When he sits down to paint the character of some celebrated man, his pencil seems dipt in the brightest hues, and, as touch after touch falls lovingly on the canvas, we feel that a master's hand is tracing the growing form. The History was not published until 1707; his Life and the Continuation of the History, not until 1759. Another remarkable work of Clarendon is his Essay on an Active and Contemplative Life.
CHARACTER AND DEATH OF LORD FALKLAND.
When there was any overture or hope of peace, he would be more erect and vigorous, and exceedingly solicitous to press anything which he thought might promote it; and sitting among his friends, often after a deep silence, and frequent sighs, would, with a shrill and sad accent, ingeminate the word Peace, peace; and would passionately profess, “that the very agony of the war and the view of the calamities and desolation the kingdom did and must endure, took his sleep from him, and would shortly break his heart.” This made some think, or pretend to think, “that he was so much enamoured of peace, that he would have been glad the King should have bought it at any price;” which was a most unreasonable calummy;-as if a man that was himself the most punctual and precise in every circumstance, that might reflect upon conscience or honour, could have wished the King to have committed a trespass against either. . . . . .
In the morning before the battle, as always upon action, he was very cheerful, and put himself into the first rank of the Lord Byron's regiment, then advancing upon the enemy, who had lined the hedges on both sides with musketeers; from whence he was shot with a musket in the lower part of the belly, and in the instant falling from his horse, his body was not found till the next morning; till when, there was some hope he might have been a prisoner, though his nearest friends, who knew his temper, received small comfort from that imagination. Thus fell that incomparable young man, in the four-and-thirtieth year of his age, having so much despatched the true business of life, that the eldest rarely attain to that immense knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more innocency: whosoever leads such a life, needs be the less anxious upon how short warning it is taken from him.
(15) 13 X
SPLENDOUR OF MILTON'S PAME.
Born 1608 A.D.......... Died 1674 A.D.
Paradise Lost completed.
Terms of the sale.
Picture of old Milton.
His daily life.
Mustrative extracts. inake up.
PERHAPS the finest sentence in that noble fragment of an English History, by which the dead Macaulay yet speaks to a grateful, reverent nation, is a sentence thus recording the glory of John Milton :
"A mightier poet, tried at once by pain, danger, poverty, obloquy, and blindness, meditated, undisturbed by the obscene tumult which raged all around him, a song so sublime and so holy that it would not have misbecome the lips of those ethereal Virtues whom he saw, with that inner eye which no calamity could darken, flinging down on the jasper pavement their crowns of amaranth and gold.”
If Milton had written not one line of verse, his richly jewelled and majestic prose would have raised him to a lofty rank among the Raleighs and the Bacons, the Taylors and the Gibbons of our English tongue; and if he had dropped the poet's lyre for ever, when he exchanged the green shades of Horton and the crystal skies of Italy for the smoke and din of London life and the heat of a great controversial war, the songs already sung by the youthful Puritan bard had won a chaplet of unfading bays, at least as bright as those that decorate the brows of Dryden and of Pope. But, when we add to these achievements the sublime and solemn anthem of his blind old age, the lustre of his life's work brightens to such intensity, that there is but one name in the long roll of English writers which does not grow dim in the surpassing radiance of his fame.
A HAPPY PURITAN HOME. 195
Shakspere and Milton dwell apart from all, in a loftier region of their own. Great Consuls in the mighty republic of English letters, to them alone belong the honours of the ivory chair, the robe with purple hem, and the rod-surrounded axe. In the reign of Elizabeth a certain John Mylton was underranger of Shotover Forest, not far from Oxford. This was the poet's grandfather. A strict Roman Catholic, he disinherited his son for adopting the Protestant faith; and this son, also a John Milton, having gone to London, set up, as a scrivener or notarypublic, at the sign of the Spread Eagle in Bread Street. There, in the intervals of his professional will-drawing and money-lending John Milton the scrivener wrote trifling verses and composed elaborate pieces of music. Under the wings of this Spread Eagle, which seems to have shadowed a very com- 1608 fortable, happy home, was born, on the 9th of December A.D. 1608, John Milton the poet, son of a Puritan scrivener, and grandson of a Roman Catholic ranger;-receiving from his father literary tastes and a love of music; and from his mother a kind, gentle nature, and the sad inheritance of weak eyes. The Puritan influences, amid which the boy grew up, moulded his character to a shape it never lost. Having received his earlier education at home, from a Scotchman, Thomas Young, he went at about twelve years of age to St. Paul's school, which was then under the direction of a Mr. Gill. Even at that unripe age Milton's studious tastes showed themselves. Night after night he was upover his books till past twelve, and neither watering eyes nor increasing headaches could daunt the brave young worker. We cannot but be pained when we think of this intense application, by which Miltonlaid the foundation of the wonderful learning displayed in “Paradise Lost.” The midnight studies of the child cost the old man his enjoyment of heaven's light and earth's colouring. Yet even here there was a blessing in disguise; for the affliction which quenched the light of the body's eye, deepened and strengthened the vision of that inner, spiritual eye, “which no calamity could darken.” While yet a school-boy, Milton could write capital Latin and Greek, either in verse or prose; and knew something, too, of