« AnteriorContinuar »
in the others there are replies to defenders of Episcopacy, and especially to Bishop Hall and Archbishop Usher. The “Remonstrant” is Bishop Hall, whose Humble Remonstrance was regarded as the chief manifesto of High Prelacy; " Smectymnuus” was the fancy name put on the title-page of a large reply to Hall by five leading Puritan Divines, whose initials put together made up the odd word (one being Thomas Young, Milton's old tutor, now Vicar of Stowmarket in Suffolk); and there were other pamphlets, of retort and rejoinder, between Hall and the Smectymnuans, in all of which Milton advised and assisted the five Smectymnuans. Altogether, by the power of his Anti-Episcopal pamphlets, and especially by his vehement invectives against Hall, Milton became a man of public note, admired by the Root-andBranch Puritans, but detested by those who wanted to see Episcopacy preserved.
In August 1642, Charles having in the meantime assented to a Bill excluding the Bishops from the House of Lords, but having broken decisively with the Parliament on other questions, there began the great Civil War. From that date Englishmen were divided into two opposed masses,the PARLIAMENTARIANS, taking the side of that majority of the Commons and small minority of the Lords which still sat on as the two Houses ; and the ROYALISTS, taking the side of the King and of the bulk of the nobility, with the adhering minority of the Commons. Milton, of course, attached himself resolutely to the Parliamentarians. He did not, indeed, serve in the Parliamentary Army; but he watched the progress of the contest with the most eager interest. For the first year all was dubious. The Parliamentary generals, Essex, Manchester, and Sir William Waller, moved about ; the King and his generals moved about, advancing at one time close to London ; there were skirmishes, fights, even battles; but, when Midsummer 1643 had come, all that could be said was that London and the Eastern Counties were the fastnesses of Parliament, while the King had his head-quarters at Oxford, and the rest of England lay torn into districts, some Royalist, others Parliamentarian, and others of Royalists and Parliamentarians all but equally mixed.
That Milton should have chosen such a time for his marriage is less surprising than that he should have brought his bride from the very head-quarters of Royalism. That, however, is the fact. “About Whitsuntide [May 21, 1643] it was, or a little after,” says his nephew Phillips, “ that he took a journey into the country, nobody about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was any more than a journey of recreation ; but home he returns a married man that went out a bachelor, his wife being Mary, the eldest daughter of Mr. Richard Powell, then a Justice of the Peace, of Foresthill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire.” What was a mystery to the boy Phillips at the time is very much a mystery yet; but research has revealed a few particulars. Forest-hill is, and was, a village about four miles to the east of Oxford, in the very neighbourhood where Milton's paternal ancestors had lived, and whence his father had come. The estate and mansion of Forest-hill had been for some little time in the possession of a family called Powell, not originally of that neighbourhood. The family, though apparently well-to-do, with a carriage and what not, was really in somewhat embarrassed circumstances. There were several mortgages on the property ; and among other debts owing by Mr. Powell was one of £500 to Milton himself. It had been owing (on what account one does not know, but probably through some transaction with Milton's father) since 1627, when Milton was a student at Cambridge. The family, as their vicinity to Oxford required, were strongly Royalist. Besides Mr. Powell and his wife, there were eleven children, six sons and five daughters, the eldest one-and-twenty years of age, the youngest four. Mary Powell, the eldest daughter, whom Milton took home to Aldersgate Street as his wife, was seventeen years and four months old (born January 24, 1625-6), while Milton himself was in the middle of his thirty-fifth year, or exactly twice as old. In the house in Aldersgate Street, whither some of the bride's relatives accompanied her, “ there was feasting held for some days in celebration of the nuptials.” So we are told by Phillips, who was in the house at the time, a boy of thirteen. “At length,” he continues, “they (the bride's relatives] took their leave, and, returning to Foresthill, left the sister behind, probably not much to her satisfaction, as appeared by the sequel. By that time she had for a month or thereabout led a philosophical life (after having been used to a great house and much company and jollity), her friends, possibly incited by her own desire, made earnest suit by letter to have her company the remaining part of the sunimer; which was granted, on condition of her returning at the time appointed, Michaelmas (September 29, 1643] or thereabout.”——-In short, it had been a hasty marriage, unsuitable on both sides, and the greatest blunder of Milton's life. “ Michaelmas being come,” Phillips proceeds, “and no news of his wife's return, he sent for her by letter, and, receiving no answer, sent several other letters, which were also unanswered, so that he despatched down a foot-messenger with a letter, desiring her return; but the messenger came back, not only without an answer, at least a satisfactory one, but, to the best of my remembrance, reported that he was dismissed with some sort of contempt. This proceeding, in all probability, was grounded upon no other cause but this : viz. that, the family being generally addicted to the Cavalier Party, as they called it, and some of them possibly engaged in the King's service, . . . they began to repent them of having matched the eldest daughter of the family to a person so contrary to them in opinion, and thought it would be a blot on their escutcheon whenever the Court should come to flourish again. However, it so incensed our author that he thought it would be dishonourable ever to receive her again after such a repulse , so that he forthwith prepared to fortify himself with arguments for such a resolution, and accordingly wrote ...."-What he wrote will appear presently.
The Parliament meanwhile had virtually decreed the entire abolition of Episcopacy in England, and had called an Assembly of Puritan Divines to advise it as to the forms and creed of the future National Church. This Assembly met at Westminster, July 1, 1643, just at the time when Milton's wife left him to go back to her friends. In the following month the Parliament, finding that they had made but little advance in the war with Charles, applied to the Scots for armed aid. The Scots having agreed to this on the condition that the Parliament would do all it could to bring England into religious and ecclesiastical conformity with Scotland, an alliance was formed between the two nations on the basis of what was called the Solemn League and Covenant, to be signed by all the English Parliamentarians on the one hand and by the whole people of Scotland on the other (Sept. 1643). Some Scottish Divines then took their places in the Westminster Assembly; and in January 1643-4 a Scottish auxiliary army of 21,000 men entered England. For some time they
were rather inactive; but on the 2d of July 1644 they took part in the great battle of Marston Moor. In this battle, won chiefly by the exertions of Cromwell, then Lieutenant-general under the Earl of Manchester, the King's forces were disastrously beaten, and the North of England was secured for the Parliament. By this time there had appeared a dispute among the Parliamentarians themselves, which interfered much with the farther prosecution of the war, and was to be of immense consequence in the history of England for many years to come. It was the dispute between the Presbyterians and the Independents. It began first in the Westminster Assembly, when that body was required to advise Parliament as to the form of Church-government to be set up in England. The great majority of the English Divines, and of course all the Scottish Divines present, were for strict Presbytery, on the Scottish system of a gradation of Church Courts, from the small court of each parish or congregation, up to the district or Presbyterial Court, the Synod or Provincial Court, and so to the supreme authority of the whole Church, exercised by annual Representative Assemblies. They were also for the compulsory inclusion of every man, woman, and child, within the pale of such a Church, in attendance on its worship and subject to its discipline. A very small minority of the English Divines, however, dissented from these views. They maintained that, according to the Scriptural constitution of the Church, every voluntary congregation of Christians ought to be independent within itself, and that, though occasional meetings of ministers and members of different congregations might be useful for the purposes of consultation, any governing apparatus of Presbyteries, Synods, and Assemblies, for the control of individual congregations, was unlawful. They demanded further that, if a Presbyterian National Church were to be set up in England, — which the overwhelming drift of opinion in its favour seemed to make inevitable,there should at least be a toleration of dissent from it, and liberty for all respectable Sects to form congregations for themselves. The debate soon extended itself through the English community at large; where, though the Presbyterians were also largely in the majority, there were yet scattered thousands of persons favourable to Independency. To the Independents there attached themselves the Baptists, the Brownists, the Antinomians, and a great many other sects that had lurked in English society since Elizabeth's time, as well as free opinionists of all sorts, and many who, though agreeing sufficiently with the Presbyterians in their theology, yet held by the principle of Liberty of Conscience, and regarded spiritual compulsion by a Presbyterian Church as no less monstrous than the same under the Papacy or Prelacy. Independency, in all these various forms, had come to prevail largely in the Parliamentarian Army, and Cromwell was already marked there as the head of the Independents. Hence the English Presbyterians and the Scots had begun to look with great suspicion on the success of Cromwell and the Army - Independents in the field. They declared that Independency, with its principle of toleration, opened the door to all kinds of schisms, heresies, and blasphemies; they called the Army, all but the Scottish auxiliary portion of it, an Army of Sectaries; and they prophesied ruin to England if victory over the King should be won by such means. In these circumstances it is not surprising that the Presbyterians and the Scottish auxiliaries should have contented themselves with a slow and cautious strategy, calculated to bring the King to terms rather than to beat him thoroughly, while Cromwell and the Independents had no such hesitation, but found both their duty and their safety in audacity and energy. In fact, before the end of 1644 it had become evident that the Independents were more extreme revolutionists than the Presbyterians, with peculiar democratic ideas bound up with their principle of religious freedom. Nominally, the Presbyterians and Independents, with the Scots, were united against the King on the basis of the same Solemn League and Covenant; but, in reality, the Independents had begun to doubt the utility of that document, to resent the interference of the Scots in English affairs, and to follow such courses as were suggested by free English reasonings on the Church question and on others. ——There was no real objection on the part of the Independents to the establishment of a Presbyterian National Church in England, since that seemed to be the wish of the majority of the Parliamentarians. Accordingly, in January 1644-5 the establishment of such a Church was voted by Parliament. But Cromwell and the Independents took care that the question of a toleration of Dissent should be reserved. They were also powerful enough in Parliament to carry about the same time certain very important resolu