Oldalképek
PDF

controversial merriment of Milton; his gloomy seriousness is yet more offensive. Such is his malignity, that hell grows darker at his frown.

His father, after Reading was taken by Essex, came to reside in his house; and his school increased. At Whitsuntide, in his thirty-fifth year, he married Mary, the daughter of Mr. Powel, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. He brought her to town with him, and expected all the advantages of a conjugal life. The lady, however, seems not much to have delighted in pleasures of spare diet and hard study; for, as Philips relates, . having for a month led a philosophic life, after • having been used at home to a great house, and ' much company and joviality, her friends, possibly by her own desire, made carnest suit to have her company the remaining part of the summer; which was granted, upon a promise of her return at Michaelmas.'

Milton was too busy to much miss his wife: he pursued his studies; and now and then visited the Lady Margaret Leigh, whom he has mentioned in one of his sonnets. At last Michaelmas arrived ; but the Lady had no inclination to return to the sullen gloom of her husband's habitation, and therefore very willingly forgot her promise. He sent her a letter, but had no answer ; he sent more with the same success. It could be alledged that letters miscarry; he therefore dispatched a mesSenger, being by this time too angry to go himself, His messenger was sent back with some contempt. The family of the Lady were Cavaliers.

In a man whose opinion of his own merit was like Milton's, less provocation than this might have raised violent resentment. Milton soon determined to repudiate her for disobedience; and, being one of those who could easily find arguments to justify inclination, published (in 1644) The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce; which was followed by The Judgement of Martin Bucer, concerning Divorce ; and the next year, his Tetrachordon, Expositions upon the four chief Places of Scripture which treat of Marriage.

This innovation was opposed, as might be expected, by the clergy, who, then holding their famous assembly at Westminster, procured that the author should be called before the Lords; - but

that House,' says Wood, “ whether approving the • doctrine, or not favoring his açcusers, did soon • dismiss him.'

There seems not to have been much written against him, nor any thing by any writer of eminence. The antagonist that appeared is styled by him, a Serving Man turned Solicitor. Howel in his Letters, mentions the new doctrine with con. tempt'; and it was, I suppose, thought more worthy of derision than of confutation. He complains of this neglect in two sounets, of which the first is contemptible, and the second not excellent.

From this time it is observed that he became an

enemy to the Presbyterians, whom he had favored before. He that changes his party by his humor is not more virtuous than he that changes it by his interest ; he loves himself rather than truth.

His wife and her relations now found that Milton was not an unresisting sufferer of injuries; and perceiving that he had begun to put his doctrine in practice, by courting a young woman of great accomplishments, the daughter of one Doctor Davis, who was however not ready to comply, they resolved to endeavor a re-union. He went sometimes to the house of one Blackborough, his relation, in the lane of St. Martin's-le-Grand, and at one of his usual visits was surprised to see his wife come from another room, and implore forgiveness on her knees. He resisted her intreaties for a while: · but partly,' says Philips, his own generous nature, more inclinable to reconciliation than to perseverance in anger or revenge, and partly the strong intercession of friends on both sides, soon brought him to an act of oblivion and "a firm league of peace. It were injurious to omit, that Milton afterwards received her father and her brothers in his own house, when they were distressed, with other Royalists.

He published about the same time his Areopagitica, a Speech of Mr. John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed Printing. The danger of such unounded liberty, and the danger of bounding it, ave produced a problem in the science of Govern.

ment, which human understanding seems hitherto unable to solve. If nothing may be published but what civil authority shall have previously approved, power must always be the standard of truth; if every dreamer of innovations may propagate his projects, there can be no settlement ; if every murmurer at government may diffuse discontent, there can be no peace; and if every sceptic in theology may teach his follies, there can be no religion. The remedy against these evils is to punish the authors; for it is yet allowed that every society may punish, though not prevent, the publication of opinions, which that society shall think pernicious; but this punishment, though it may crush the author, promotes the book; and it seems not more reasonable to leave the right of printing unrestrained because writers may be afterwards censured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted, because by our laws we can hang a thief.

But whatever were his engagements, civil or domestic, poetry was never long out of his thoughts.

About this time (1645) a collection of his Latin and English poems appeared, in which the Allegro and Penseroso, with some others, were first published.

He had taken a larger house in Barbican for the reception of scholars; but the numerous relations of his wife, to whom he generously granted refuge for a while, occupied his rooms. In time, however, they went away; "and the house again,' says Philips, now looked like a house of the Muses only, though the accession of scholars was not great. Possibly his having proceeded so far in the education of youth may have been the occa

sion of his adversaries calling him pedagogue and 'school-master; whereas it is well known he never

set up for a public school, to teach all the young • fry of a parish; but only was willing to impart his • learning and knowledge to his relations, and the sons of gentlemen who were his intimate friends,

and that neither his writings, nor his way of • teaching, ever savored in the least of pedantry.'

Thus laboriously does his nephew extenuate what cannot be denied, and what might be confessed without disgrace. Milton was not a man who could become mean by a mean employment. This, however, his warmest friends seem not to have found ; they therefore shift and palliate. He did not sell literature to all comers at an open shop; he was a chamber-milliner, and measured his commodities only to his friends..

Philips, evidently impatient of viewing him in this state of degradation, tells us that it was not Jong continued; and, to raise his character again, has a mind to invest him with military splendor: 'He is much mistaken,' he says, 'if there was not

about this time a design of making him an adjutant-general in Sir William Waller's army. But the new-modelling of the army proved an obstruction to the design. An event cannot be set

VOL. I.

« ElőzőTovább »