Imágenes de páginas

tions. The Parliamentary general-in-chief, Essex, having recently sustained a great defeat, and the war having turned otherwise in the King's favour, it was resolved, really through Cromwell's influence, that the Army should be entirely remodelled, that Essex, Waller, Manchester, and all the chief officers till then in command should lay down their commissions, and that the New-modelled Army should be commanded by Fairfax as general- in-chief, with officers under him not having seats in Parliament (Feb.—April, 1645). The Newmodelled Army having taken the field, with Cromwell exceptionally retained in it as second in command to Fairfax, the result was at once seen. On June 14, 1645, there was fought the great battle of Naseby, in which the King was utterly ruined. The war was to straggle on in detail for a year more; but Naseby had virtually finished it. After that battle, of course, the Independents and Sectaries, with their principle of Religious Toleration, had fuller sway in the politics of England, and the Presbyterians and their Scottish friends were checked.

Through those two important years Milton, deserted by his wife, had been living on in Aldersgate Street. Shortly after his wife's departure, his aged father, dislodged from Christopher Milton's house in Reading by the capture of that town by the Parliamentarians in April 1643, had come permanently to live with him. The teaching of his two nephews, and of a few sons of friends who were admitted daily to share their lessons, had been one of the occupations of his enforced bachelorhood. His industry otherwise is attested by the fact that six new pamphlets came from his pen during the two years. One was a little Tract on Education, addressed (June 1644) to a friend of his, Samuel Hartlib, a well-known German, living in London, and busy with all kinds of projects and speculations. It expounded Milton's views of an improved system of education for gentlemen's sons, that should supersede the existing public schools and universities. It was followed (Nov. 1644) by his famous Areopagitica, or Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing," addressed to the Parliament, and urging them to repeal an Ordinance they had passed in June 1643 for the Regulation of the Press by a staff of official censors. In this pamphlet there was abundant evidence that Milton, as might have been inferred from his passion for intellectual liberty from his earliest youth, was in political sympathy with the Independents. It was the most eloquent plea for freedom of opinion and speech on all subjects that had yet appeared in the English or in any other tongue. But, indeed, by this time Milton and the Presbyterians were at open war for reasons more peculiar and personal. Hardly had his wife left him when he had published (August 1643) an extraordinary pamphlet entitled The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce Restored, to the Good of both Sexes,” in which, without mention of his own case, but with implied reference to it, he argued that obstinate incompatibility of mind or temper between husband and wife is as lawful a ground for divorce as infidelity, and that any two persons who, after marriage, found that they did not suit each other, should be at liberty, on complying with certain public formalities, to separate and marry again. A second and much enlarged edition of this treatise appeared in February 1643-4, openly dedicated to the Parliament; and the same doctrine was advocated in three subsequent tracts : viz., The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce” (July 1644); " Tetrachordon, or Expositions upon the four chief places in Scripture which treat of Marriage" (March 1644-5); and “Colasterion : a Reply to a Nameless Answer against the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce(March 1644-5). It is impossible now to imagine adequately the commotion caused in the religious world of London and of England by Milton's four Divorce Pamphlets. He was denounced and stigmatised at once as a heretic of the worst kind, the promulgator of a doctrine of hideous import, that would corrupt public morals and sap the very foundations of society. He was preached against from the pulpit, written against in books, named everywhere among the orthodox with horror and execration. The Presbyterian Divines, in particular, were violent in their attacks upon him, coupling him with the most notorious heretics and sectaries of the time, and pointing to him as an example of the excesses to which Toleration would lead, They complained of him to Parliament, so that actually twice he and his writings were the subject of Parliamentary notice and inquiry. There were men in Parliament, however, who knew him ; and, though his Divorce doctrine shocked many of the Independents as well as the Presbyterians, the general feeling among the Independents was that it ought to be regarded in his case only as the eccentric speculation of a very able and noble man. He was therefore let alone; and his pamphlets, circulating in English society, then in a ferment of new ideas of all kinds, did make some converts, so that Miltonists or Divorcers came to be recognised as one of the Sects of the time. Thus, though Milton had been the friend and adviser of the five Smectymnuans who were now leading Presbyterians in the Westminster Assembly, though he had himself in his Anti-Episcopal pamphlets advocated what was substantially a Presbyterian constitution for the Church of England, and though, with hundreds of thousands of other Englishmen, he had signed the Solemn League and Covenant and welcomed the Scots, he had, by a natural course of events, been led to repudiate utterly the Presbyterians, the Scots, and their principles, and to regard them as narrow-minded and pragmatical men, enemies to English freedom.

Phillips believes that his uncle was so resolute in his Divorce views that he was prepared to put them in practice and risk the consequences. In or before 1645 there were proposals of marriage, Phillips had heard, to a Miss Davis, though that lady was naturally reluctant. Unexpectedly, however, and just at the crisis, the wife reappeared. The shattering of the King's fortunes at Naseby had led Mr. and Mrs. Powell of Forest-hill to reconsider the state of affairs, with the conclusion that it would be better for their daughter to go back to her husband. Arrangements having been made, she came to London ; Milton was entrapped into an interview with her; and a reconciliation was effected. This was in July or August 1645, after two years of separation, and exactly at the time when Milton, having had pressing applications to receive more pupils than the Aldersgate Street house could accommodate, had taken a larger house in the same neighbourhood.

How completely Milton had desisted from Poetry during his five years in Aldersgate Street appears from the extreme slenderness of the list of his poetical pieces belonging to this period :Sonnet “When the Assault was intended to the City” (Sonnet viii.)

1642. Sonnet to a Lady (Sonnet 1x.) 1644. Sonnet “To the Lady Margaret Ley” (Sonnet x.) 1644. Translated Scraps from Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, Horace, Sophocles, BARBICAN, LONDON.

and Euripides, in the Prose Pamphlets (now appended to the Minor

English Poems). 1641-1645.
Philosophus ad Regem Quendam (Greek Verses).

1645–1647 : ætat. 37–39. The house to which Milton removed was in the street called Barbican, going off from Aldersgate Street at right angles, and within a walk of two or three minutes from his former house. As you went from Aldersgate Street it was on the right side of Barbican. It existed entire till the other day, when one of the new city railways was cut through that neighbourhood. Milton, with his wife, his father, the two nephews, and other pupils, entered the house, as I calculate, in September 1645, and it was to be his house for two years.

One of the first incidents after the removal to Barbican was the publication by the bookseller Moseley of the First or 1645 edition of Milton's Minor Poems (see General Introduction to Minor Poems). Milton evidently attached some importance to the appearance of the little volume at that particular time. It would remind people that he was not merely a controversial prose-writer, but something more. Nor was this unnecessary. Although he wrote no more upon Divorce, his opinions on the subject were unchanged, and the infamy with the orthodox brought upon him by his past Divorce Pamphlets still pursued him. The little volume of Poems might do something to counteract such unfavourable judgments. Not but that Milton had many friends whose admiration and respect for him were undisturbed, if indeed they were not enhanced, by the boldness of his opinions. Such were those, some of them relatives of his own, and others of considerable rank in London society, who accounted it a favour that he should receive their sons or nephews as his pupils. The two years in Barbican, we learn from Phillips, were his busiest time in pedagogy. The house seems to have been, in fact, a small private academy, in which Milton carried out, as far as he could with about a dozen day-scholars and boarders, the plan of education explained in his tract to Hartlib, and especially his method for expeditiously acquiring the Latin tongue, and at the same time a great deal of useful knowledge, by readings in a course of books different from those usually read in schools.

The King's cause having been desperate since Naseby, he at length left Oxford in disguise, to avoid being taken there by the New-Model army of English Independents, and surrendered himself to the Scottish auxiliaries (May 1646), who immediately withdrew with him to Newcastle. The Civil War was then over, and the garrisons that still held out for the King yielded one by one. Oxford surrendered to Fairfax in June 1646 ; and Milton's father-in-law Mr. Powell, who had been shut up in that city, availed himself of the Articles of Surrender, and came to London, with his wife and several of their children. Through losses in the Civil War and sequestration of their small remaining property, they were in a very poor condition, and were glad of the shelter of Milton's house. Here Mr. Powell died January 1, 1646-7, leaving his affairs in sad confusion. Two months and a half afterwards Milton's own father died. He was buried in the Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, March 15, 1646-7. The birth of Milton's first child, a daughter named Anne, had preceded these deaths by a few months (July 29, 1646). After the death of Milton's father, Mrs. Powell and her children removed from the house in Barbican to some other part of London, Milton making her an allowance out of a small property in Oxfordshire of which he took legal possession as one of the creditors of his late father-in-law. Mrs. Powell and her affairs were to cause him a good deal of trouble, at intervals, for the next seven years.

The possession of the King by the Scots at Newcastle had greatly complicated for a time the political struggle between the English Presbyterians and the English Independents. The Presbyterians wanted to treat with him in such a way as to get rid of the Army of Sectaries which the Civil War had created, and establish, after all, a strict and universal system of Presbytery in England, without any toleration. The Independents, on the other hand, if they were to treat with him at all, wanted to make terms that should prevent such a universal Presbyterian domination, and secure religious liberty for themselves and the sects. Thinking that the possession of him by the Scots gave the Presbyterians the advantage, the Independents and the Army were for a time furious against the Scots, and threatened to chase them out of England and take Charles from them by force. At length, however, Charles refusing to take the Covenant and consent to complete Presbytery, which were the only terms on which the Scots would stand by him, they accepted the arrears due

« AnteriorContinuar »