Imágenes de páginas

who was somewhat deformed, was but in her eighth year; the second was in her sixth; the youngest was a mere infant. A son, born in Scotland Yard between the second daughter and the third, had not survived. How the motherless little creatures were brought up in the house in Petty France, under the charge of their blind father, no one knows. It may have been a happy chance for them when he married again, Nov. 12, 1656. But the second wife, known merely as Catherine Woodcock, daughter of a Captain Woodcock of Hackney, died in childbirth Feb. 10, 1657-8, only fifteen months after the marriage, the child dying also ; and thus, in the last year of Cromwell's Protectorate, Milton, in his fiftieth year, was again a widower, with his three motherless girls, the eldest not twelve years old. One can fancy, in the house in Petty France, the blind father, a kind of stern King Lear, mostly by himself, and the three young things pattering about as noiselessly as possible, at their own will or in the charge of some servant. It was to be tragic in the end, both for him and for them.

What of Milton's independent literary activity through the five years of Cromwell's Protectorate? For a blind man it was considerable. --Besides fourteen of his Latin Familiar Epistles, most of them to foreign friends, there belong to the period of the Protectorate two of Milton's most substantial Latin pamphlets. The first, which appeared in 1654, was his Reply to that attack upon him, already mentioned, which had been published at the Hague in 1652 by some anonymous friend of Salmasius. While defending his own character in this Reply, Milton made it also a new defence of the English nation; and hence it was entitled Joannis Miltoni Angli pro Populo Anglicano Defensio Secunda(“Second Defence of John Milton, Englishman, for the English People"). Both historically and autobiographically it is one of the most interesting of Milton's pamphlets. It contains his splendid and most memorable panegyric on Cromwell, with notices of Fairfax, Bradshaw, Fleetwood, Lambert, Whalley, Overton, and others. Milton assumes throughout that the author of the book to which he was replying was a certain Alexander More or Morus, a Frenchman of Scottish descent then settled in Holland ; and the license he gives himself in his personal abuse of this Morus is something frightful. Morus, who had only had a hand in

the publication of the book that had given the offence,-the
real author of which was Peter du Moulin, afterwards pre-
bendary of Canterbury, -replied to Milton's attack, and so
drew from him in 1655 another pamphlet entitled “Joannis
Miltoni Angli pro se Defensio contra Alexandrum Morum
(“' Defence of John Milton, Englishman, for himself, against
Alexander More”), to which was annexed " Authoris ad
Alexandri Mori Supplementum Responsio(“* The Author's
Reply to Alexander More's Supplement”). This closed the
controversy ; and the only other known publication of Milton
in Oliver's life-time was an edition, in May 1658, of a treatise
of Sir Walter Raleigh, entitled The Cabinet Council, from a
manuscript which had come into his possession.-- In the
shape of Verse we have from Milton, through the time of
Cromwell's rule, the following :-

Eight of the Psalms (Psalms 1.-V111.) done into Verse. Aug. 1653.
The Fifth Ode of Horace, Lib. I., translated.
De Moro (Scrap from the Defensio Secunda, now appended to

Elegiarum Liber; though not really Milton's). 1654.
In Salmasium(another scrap from the Defensio Secunda, now appended

to the Sylva). 1654. Ad Christinam, Suecorum Reginam, nomine Cromwelli (appended

to the Elegiarum Liber, as attributed to Milton; but almost

certainly by Andrew Marvell). 1654. Sonnet “On the late Massacre in Piedmont” (Sonnet xvi11.) 1655. Sonnet on his Blindness (Sonnet xix.) Sonnet to Mr. Lawrence (Sonnet xx.) Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner (Sonnet xxi.) Sonnet to the Same (Sonnet xxII.) 1655. Sonnet to the memory of his Second Wife (Sonnet xxı11.) 1658.

A fact of special interest, for which there is very good authority, is that the actual composition of Paradise Lost was begun in the last year of Cromwell's Protectorate, i.e. in 1658, about the date of the last of Milton's Sonnets. In resuming the subject, first projected in 1639 or 1640, Milton abandoned the dramatic form then contemplated, and settled on the epic.

PROTECTORATE OF RICHARD CROMWELL, AND ANARCHY PRECEDING THE RESTORATION (Sept. 1658May 1660) :— Eleven printed Latin Letters by Milton in the name of the Protector Richard, and two written by him for the restored Rump Parliament after Richard's abdication (April 1659), attest the continuance of Milton's Secretaryship into this wretched period. Indeed, as late as October 1659 he and his friend Andrew Marvell are found in receipt of their salaries of £200 a year each, as formally colleagues in the office. But, " a little before the King's coming over," Phillips informs us, he was sequestered from his office and “the salary thereunto belonging.” O how Milton had been struggling, and how he struggled to the last to avert that disaster, as he regarded it, of “the King's coming over"! A new and enlarged edition of his Defensio pro Populo Anglicano contra Salmasium had appeared in October 1658. A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, showing that it is not lawful for any power on earth to compel in matters of Religion," is the title of a pamphlet he had published in Feb. 1658-9, while Richard was still Protector, and addressed indeed to Richard's Parliament, in the hope that the adoption of its ideas, and consequently of a policy less favourable to Church-establishments than that of Oliver, might tend to the popularity of the new Protectorate and to the preservation of the Cromwell Dynasty. Even in that pamphlet, however, it was to be perceived that Milton's sympathies had gone back considerably to the old Republican Party of Vane and the rest, as the likeliest now to avert the dangers imminent since Oliver's death ; and this became more apparent after the compelled abdication of Richard, the dissensions of the Army-chiefs among themselves, and the triumph of the old Republicans by the Restoration of the Rump in May 1659. Milton may be said to have then declared himself openly for “the good old cause,” as it was fondly called, -i.e. for return to a pure Republic, under Parliamentary management, and liberated from all military control. To this effect, he had addressed to the Restored Rump Parliament, in August 1659, another Disestablishment and Disendowment Tract, more outspoken than the last, entitled “ Considerations touching the Likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church." Like its predecessor, it had fallen dead, the Restored Rump being too busy with other matters to take up the subject. In October 1659, when the Restored Rump was again dispersed by Lambert's coup d'etat, and the Wallingford House Council of Armyofficers, with Fleetwood, Lambert, and Desborough as their chiefs, had taken the government into their hands, Milton's political flexibility,- if we may give that name to his willingness to accept, and his anxiety that his countrymen should accept, any form of government whatever that would preserve the Commonwealth and keep out the Stuarts,—was again manifest. In a private letter, entitled “Letter to a Friend concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth,he severely condemned Lambert's violent suppression of the Rump; but, as the act had been done, he advised the Army men and the civil Republicans or Republicans of the Rump to attempt agreement and co-operation for the future on the basis of a dual system of permanent Councils of State or Central Governing Bodies, one military and the other civil, the members of both to be pledged to the principles of Liberty of Conscience and opposition to Single - Person Sovereignty in any guise. Thenceforward, through the increasing anarchy, Milton is found still in the same mood of passionate anxiety for the preservation of the Republic by any practical compromise whatever. Sinking for the while his own favourite idea of Church - Disestablishment, and addressing himself to the now paramount question of a Republican Constitution of any tolerable sort that would terminate the anarchy and prevent the return of the Stuart Royalty, he is found studying all the numerous models of constitutions that were proposed for that end by Harrington and other theorists, meditating a freer model of his own, and always shaping and modifying that model in order that it might suit the changing circumstances. For the circumstances themselves had been changing most remarkably. The news from Scotland of Monk's determination to be the champion of the deposed Rump, and the expectation of his march out of Scotland for that purpose, had brought the Wallingford House Government of Fleetwood and his col. leagues into sudden unpopularity and collapse; and in the end of December 1659 the Rump was again in power by a second reinstatement, and was waiting the arrival of Monk. It was then that Milton, more and more desponding, more and more dreading that the efforts of himself and other Republicans would be in vain, put his thoughts on paper in the form of a pamphlet of warning and advice to be addressed to the Rump. Before it could be published the Rump was no more, --its champion Monk having arrived in London, after his ominous march from Scotland, on the 3d of February 1659-60, only to find that the Londoners were sick of the very name of the Rump, and that, unless he were himself to go down in the general roar of execration that was rising round it, he must change his tactics. He did change his tactics; and on the 21st of February 1659-60 he assumed the formal dictatorship by re-admitting to their places in Parliament as many of the “secluded Members," or old Presbyterian members of the late King's time, as chose to come, and so transmuting the Rump into a kind of revival of the original Long Parliament, as it had stood in 1648 before the Regicide and the institution of the Republic. It was at this moment, when the restoration of the Stuarts was virtually involved in what Monk had done, and there were songs and cries in anticipation of that event, but Monk himself persisted in a most cautious silence on the subject, and the open understanding was that the Parliament of the Secluded Members should also refrain from all constitutional questions, and leave them entirely to a new “full and free Parliament,” to be called for the purpose, -it was at this moment that Milton, trying to hope against hope, did publish, with the final modifications rendered thus necessary, the pamphlet he had prepared. “ The Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof compared with the inconveniences and dangers of re-admitting Kingship in this Nation: such was the title of this pamphlet of the first week of March 1660, perhaps the boldest and most powerful of all Milton's English pamphlets since those he had published in the first years of the Revolution. Full of the undying Republican fervour, and of the unmitigated hatred and contempt of the Stuart Dynasty in particular, that had characterised all his intermediate pamphlets, in English or in Latin, it is peculiar from the wailing and mournful earnestness, the desperate secret sense of a lost cause, that runs through its assumed hopefulness and its dauntless personal courage. Of the “ready and easy way" recommended in it to the Parliament and the public in general, and recommended also to Monk privately at the same time by Milton in the short summary now printed in his Works under the title “ The Present Means and Brief Delineation of a Free Commonwealth, easy to be put in practice and without delay, in a Letter to General Monk,” the universal

« AnteriorContinuar »