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nameless antagonist was induced to interpolate into his calumnious attack a vaunting panegyric on the Liturgy, as “preserving unity and piety.” This elicited the following animated reply with reference to unity and piety:-“ Nor is unity less broken, especially by our Liturgy, though this author would almost bring the communion of saints to a communion of liturgical words. For what other reformed church holds communion with us by our Liturgy, and does not rather dislike it? And among ourselves, who knows it not to have been a perpetual cause of disunion ? Lastly, it hinders piety rather than sets it forward, being more apt to weaken the spiritual faculties, if the people be not weaned from it in due time; as the daily pouring in of hot waters quenches the natural heat. For not only the body and the mind, but also the improvement of God's Spirit, is quickened by using. Whereas they who will ever adhere to liturgy, bring themselves in the end to such a pass, by overmuch learning, as to lose even the legs of their devotion.”
After some further references to the “errors, tautologies, and impertinences” of the Liturgy, he concludes with the following appeal:—“Hark ye, prelates, is this your glorious mother of England, who, whenas Christ hath taught her to pray, thinks it not enough unless she add thereto the teaching of Antichrist? How can we believe ye would refuse to take the stipend of Rome, when ye shame not to live upon the almsbasket of her prayers? Will ye persuade us that ye can curse Rome from your hearts, when none but Rome must teach ye to pray? Abraham disdained to take so much as a thread or shoe-latchet from the king of Sodom, though no foe of his, but wicked king: and shall we receive our prayers at the bounty of our more wicked enemies, whose gifts are no gifts, but the instruments of our bane ? Alas! that the Spirit of God should blow as an uncertain wind, should so mistake his inspiring, so misbestow his gifts, promised only to the elect, that the idolatrous should find words acceptable to present to God with, and abound to their
neighbours, while the true professors of the gospel can find nothing of their own worth the constituting, wherewith to worship God in public! Consider if this be to magnify the Church of England, and not rather to display her nakedness to all the world.
“If we have indeed given a bill of divorce to popery and superstition, why do we not say, as to a divorced wife, “Those things which are yours, take them all with you, and they shall sweep after you! Why were we not thus wise at our parting from Rome? Ah! like a crafty adulteress, she forgot not all her smooth looks and enticing words at her parting: Yet keep these letters, these tokens, and these few ornaments. I am not all so greedy of what is mine; let them
you the memory-of what I am? No, but—of what I was; once fair and lovely in your eyes.' Thus did those tender-hearted reformers dotingly suffer themselves to be overcome with harlot's language. And she, like a witch, but with a contrary policy, did not take something of theirs, that she still might have power to bewitch them, but for the same intent left something of her own behind her. They object that if we must forsake all that is Rome's, we must bid adieu to our creed; and I had thought our creed had been of the apostles, for so it bears title. But if it be hers, let her take it. WE CAN WANT NO CREED, SO LONG AS WE WANT NOT THE SCRIPTURES."
MILTON'S MARRIAGE-IS DESERTED BY HIS WIFE-PUBLISHES HIS DOC.
TRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE-EFFECT OF THE EXISTING LAWS
In the summer of 1643, occurred one of the few known events in Milton's private life. We are informed by Philips, his nephew and first biographer, that about Whitsuntide he took a journey into the country, which no one about him supposed to have any other object than that of recreation. After a month's absence, however, he returned with a wife, having married Mary Powell, the daughter of a gentleman residing at Forest Hill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire, who held the commission of the peace. No information that has descended to us throws any light upon this extraordinary connexion. Not only were the Powells heartily attached to the cause of Charles I., but their general habits were as inconsistent with the notions of Milton as their political bias was with his principles ; for it would appear, from the brief accounts we have of them, that they indulged in all the gay festivity common among the cavaliers of that day. So ill-assorted a union was not likely to be productive of much happiness to either party. It is probable that the studious and religious habits of her husband were distasteful to the bride, and perhaps the general character of his household was not less so. Having taken a larger
and more commodious house in a court leading from Aldersgate-street, he consented to receive into his household some other pupils, in addition to his nephews. His aged father, also, who, until the spring of 1643, had resided with his younger son at Reading, had, on the taking of that town by the Earl of Essex, come to reside with the poet, in the enjoyment of whose affectionate attentions he spent the remaining four years of his life.
Whatever may have been the causes of the young wife's distaste, it is certain that at the expiration of one month from her entering on her new establishment, she obtained his permission to spend the remainder of the summer at her father's house. This voluntary separation of herself from her husband so soon after her marriage, is a sufficient proof of her unfitness for, and probably her unworthiness of, such a union. But though her leave of absence extended only to Michaelmas, there seems little reason to doubt that from the first she contemplated nothing less than the final desertion of her husband. At the expiration of the time limited for her absence, Milton wrote to remind her of her engagement, but to this, as to several other subsequent letters to the same purpose, she never replied. The temporary ascendancy of the monarch’s fortunes, by his victories at Atherston Moor and Lansdowne, had revived the hopes of his adherents, and probably furnished motives to the Powell family for repudiating the connexion of one of its members with so eminent a champion of the Parliamentary party; and the consequence was the contemptuous dismission of a messenger whom Milton had sent to accompany his wife to her proper home. This outrage upon the natural claims and the just authority of a husband, at once wounded and incensed the mind of Milton, who, instead of the conjugal happiness he had anticipated, found himself left “with nothing belonging to matrimony but its chain." These circumstances induced the injured husband to contemplate the ultima ratio of a divorce ; and in order to vindicate his
reputation in so doubtful a matter, and, perhaps, with a view to gain the approval of the legislature, he published, in 1644, two editions (one anonymously, and one with his name) of a treatise entitled “ The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.” This he inscribed, with a stately address, to the Parliament of his country.
The “Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce” is probably, of all the prose writings of Milton, the least known, and the least likely to obtain a future popularity. Yet, as a composition, it is one of the most remarkable that we possess from his pen. The subject must be to most men unattractive and painful, and under the social regulations of this country, and this age, it is to be hoped that comparatively few would be led to peruse it by any more earnest motives than those which spring from their literary tastes. It evinces the profoundest mastery of the question, the most learned research, a majestic power of diction and illustration, and (if I may use the expression) a most spiritual appreciation of that delicate passion which sanctifies the bond of marriage.
my notice of this and three succeeding treatises, I shall so far desert the general scheme of this biography, as to refrain from reproducing his extended arguments in the form of analysis, and shall only present a few passages which will convey an idea of the pervading tone and tenour of the composition.
* Mr. St. John, the latest editor of Milton's prose works, commits himself to a judgment on this subject, in the following words :
“These works on Divorce are full of beauty--of poetical descriptions of love- of philosophical investigations- of original ideas and images. The whole is pervaded and adorned by an enthusiastic spirit of poetry, which constitutes in him the vitality of style. All, therefore, who can tolerate a little quaintness and plain speaking, and who are not averse from being taught by a somewhat dogmatic instructor, can read with pleasure Milton's speculations on divorce, which are full of sound wisdom, which may serve to enlighten both onr legislators and philosophers, if they will be modest enough to listen and learn."