Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

religion and all civil prudence; and will bring us soon, the way we are marching, to those calamities, which attend always and unavoidably on luxury, all national judgments under foreign and domestic slavery: so far we shall be from mending our condition by monarchizing our government, whatever new conceit now possesses us.

“However, with all hazard I have ventured what I thought my duty to speak in season, and to forewarn my country in time; wherein I doubt not but there be many wise men in all places and degrees, but am sorry the effects of wisdom are so little seen among us. Many circumstances and particulars I could have added in those things whereof I have spoken : but a few main matters now put speedily in execution, will suffice to recover us, and set all right: and there will want at no time who are good at circumstances; but men who set their minds on main matters, and sufficiently urge them, in these most difficult times I find

not many.

“What I have spoken, is the language of that which is not called amiss "The good old Cause :' if it seem strange to any, it will not seem more strange, I hope, than convincing to backsliders. Thus much I should perhaps have said, though I was sure I should have spoken only to trees and stones; and had none to cry to, but with the prophet, “O earth, earth, earth!' to tell the very soil itself, what her perverse inhabitants are deaf to. Nay, though what I have spoke should happen (which Thou suffer not, who didst create mankind free! nor Thou next, who didst redeem us from being servants of men !) to be the last words of our expiring liberty."

And the last words of expiring liberty they were ; for they terminated the political history of her noblest champion, and an enemy who had never felt the charm of her benign sway was already at the gates. His return was hailed by a people who judged themselves unworthy of

Prose Works, vol, ii. pp. 137, 138.

freedom, by an acquiescent army, and by the treacherous faction of loyalized presbyterians, more ignoble than all. Under such auspices, the most worthless of British monarchs was restored to the throne. “ Then came those days never to be recalled without a blush-the days of servitude without loyalty, and sensuality without love, of dwarfish talents and gigantic vices, the paradise of cold hearts and narrow minds, the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The King cringed to his rival that he might trample on his people, sunk into a Viceroy of France, and pocketed, with complacent infamy, her degrading insults, and her more degrading gold. The caresses of harlots, and the jests of buffoons, regulated the measures of a government which had just ability enough to deceive, and just religion enough to persecute. The principles of liberty were the scoff of

every grinning courtier, and the Anathema Maranatha of every fawning dean. In every high place, worship was paid to Charles and JamesBelial and Moloch ; and England propitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her best and bravest children. Crime succeeded to crime, and disgrace to disgrace, till the race accursed of God and man was a second time time driven forth, to wander on the face of the earth, and to be a by-word and a shaking of the head to the nations." *

The Foreign Secretary who had stood forth before the eyes of Europe as the justifier of the execution of Charles I., and as the opponent of that prelatical tyranny which the Stuarts cherished as the bulwark of their own, was too conspicuous an offender not to be endangered by the Restoration. Accordingly, he quitted his residence in Petty France, and was secreted in the house of a friend in St. Bartholomew's Close, where he remained for about four months, until his safety was permanently secured by the passing of the Act of Oblivion, on the 29th August, 1660. His two great political works, the “Eikonoclastes" and the

* Edinburgh Review, vol. xlii., p. 337.

“Defence of the People of England,” were condemned to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman ; but at this insult Milton could well afford a contemptuous smile, even through the “natural tears” which he shed over the grave of departed freedom.

CHAPTER XVII.

MILTON'S CHANGES OF RESIDENCE HIS THIRD MARRIAGE HIS CON

NEXION WITH ELLWOOD-REMOVAL TO CHALFONT-COMPLETES TAB PARADISE LOST"-EARLY HISTORY OF THIS POEM-LETTER TO HEIMBACH-"PARADISE KEGAINED"-" SAMSON AGONISTES.'

As soon as Milton was delivered from the perils in which so many whom he honoured and loved were involved by the vindictive cruelty of Charles II., he established himself in a house in Holborn, not far from Red Lion Square. From this he removed, after an occupation of about two years, to a vicinity to which, for some reason, he seems to have been partial. He had in earlier years resided in Aldersgate Street, Barbican, and Bartholomew Close, and in 1662 we find him in Jewin Street. His last removal was to no great distance from this spot; this was to a small house in Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields, where he spent the remainder of his days.

One interval, however, requiring especial observation, occurred during the period embraced in these notices of his latest places of residence. During the time of his abode in Jewin Street, he felt that his solitary condition, aggravated by the cold inattention of his daughters, required the solace of conjugal life. He accordingly requested his friend Dr. Paget to recommend him a suitable partner, and, by his advice, he married, as his third wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Minshul, of Cheshire, a distant relation of Dr. Paget. Soon after this event Milton was offered the Foreign

coach: my

Secretaryship, under the Government of Charles II., which he had filled with so much distinction in the time of the Commonwealth. His wife, dazzled by the prospect which this proposal opened before her, earnestly urged him to accede to it. This Milton peremptorily refused, adding, You, as other women, would ride in

your

aim is to live and die an honest man."

The events of Milton's personal history for the few next years have been related without any material variation by all his biographers, and modern years have brought no accession of information respecting them. The statements of the best of these authors will therefore be collated in this place, with no other acknowledgment than a marginal reference. During his residence in Jewin Street, Ellwood the quaker was recommended to him as a person who, for the advantage of his conversation, would read to him such Latin books as he thought proper; an employment to which he attended every afternoon, except on Sundays. “At my first sitting to him,” this ingenious writer informs us in his Life of himself, “ observing that I used the English pronunciation, he told me, if I would have the benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and understand Latin authors, but to converse with foreigners, either abroad or at home, I must learn the foreign pronunciation ; to this I consenting, he instructed me how to sound the vowels: this change of pronunciation proved a new difficulty to me; but labor omnia vincit improbus ;' and so did I; which made my reading the more acceptable to my master. He, on the other hand, perceiving with what earnest desire I pursued learning, gave me not only all the encouragement, but all the help, he could; for, having a curious ear, he understood by my tone when I understood what I read, and when I did not; and accordingly he would stop me, and examine me, and open the most difficult passages to me.” The kind care bestowed by Milton upon the improvement of this young man, was repaid by every mark of personal

« AnteriorContinuar »