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HOLBORN AGAIN, AND JEWIN STREET.
1660—1664: ætat. 52–56. For some little time after Milton's complete release he lived in Holborn, near what is now Red Lion Square, on the opposite side of the great Holborn thoroughfare from that which contained his former house in the same thoroughfare. As soon as possible, however, he removed to his old and favourite Aldersgate Street vicinity, having taken a house in Jewin Street, which goes off from Aldersgate Street on the same side as Barbican, but nearer to St. Martin's-leGrand than either Barbican or the site of Milton's former Aldersgate Street house. If this Jewin Street house exists, it has not been identified.
It was from those two houses, in Holborn and in Jewin Street, that Milton witnessed, or rather heard of, all those miscellaneous events and proceedings of the Hyde or Clarendon administration which were to undo, as far as was possible, the achievements of the preceding twenty years, and which are comprised now in English Histories in the single phrase The Restoration. What had been the united Commonwealth was again broken into its three parts, England, Scotland, and Ireland ; and in each the partisans of the late system found themselves disgraced and degraded, and the regulation of affairs passed into the hands of Cavaliers returned from exile, and of such renegades or new men as these drew in their train. In England Episcopacy was restored, with the Liturgy, and all else that belonged to the old Anglican Church; two thousand Presbyterian and Independent or Baptist ministers were ejected from their livings by the Act of Uniformity; and by other Acts civil penalties and disadvantages, gradually more and more excruciating, were attached to every profession of Dissent. In Scotland all acts passed since 1633 were repealed ; the Kirk was forced back into Prelacy, with Archbishop Sharp at its head; and there began, under a Privy Council in Edinburgh the chiefs of which are said by Burnet to have been generally drunk, those ruthless barbarities against the Presbyterians which are still remembered as “The Persecutions.” In Ireland there were measures to correspond. With this universal political reaction, there was a change in public morals and manners, Round a Court which set an example of shamelessness, London and the general English world were whirled, by a rebound from the extreme Puritan strictness that had been in fashion, into an ostentatious revelry in Anti-Puritanism. Swearing, swaggering, and an affectation of profligacy, were the proofs of a proper abhorrence of the cant of the lately ruling Saints, and a proper loyalty to the existing powers.
The new political system and the new social spirit were faithfully represented in a new Literature. Much, indeed, that had flourished through the late twenty years of Puritan ascendency still lingered and asserted itself. Veterans like Hobbes and Sanderson, with Hacket, Bramhall, Izaak Walton, Howell, Browne of Norwich, Jeremy Taylor, Dr. Henry More, and others, among the graver Anglican prosewriters who had survived from the reign of Charles I. and the Commonwealth, and Shirley, Herrick, Waller, Davenant, Denham, Cowley, Henry Vaughan, and others, surviving from among the poets of the same period, were very much their former selves, only rejoicing in the restored Royalty ; Puritan theologians and writers of various sorts, such as Goodwin, Calamy, Baxter, and Owen, still managed to live and write, though obliged to conform carefully to the changed conditions ; and the specific tendency to mathematical and physical science which had already grouped together such men as Wilkins, Wallis, Petty, Boyle, and Hooke, through the Commonwealth and Protectorate, now only displayed itself more signally in the institution of the Royal Society by royal authority (1662). There was, however, a special new Literature, belonging properly to the Restoration itself, and exhibiting all the characteristics of its origin. While there was an immediate paralysis of Newspaper Literature, and of all that cognate Pamphlet Literature, or Literature of Public Questions, which had been so vigorous and various through the time of the Civil Wars and the Commonwealth, while the repression of all free Literature of this kind by Restoration censorship, and the reduction of the Newspaper and Pamphlet press to a wretched authorised minimum under the superintendence of such government licensers and police-agents as Birkenhead and L'Estrange, actually diminished the total quantity of annual book-production in England to about a third of what it had lately been,-a proportion of the energy thus repressed found exercise in forms which the Restoration did foster. The Literature of the Restoration, properly so called, had a character of its own. To the core it was Anti-Puritan, reactionary, unearnest. Never in English literary history had there been such a run of talent to the comic, the jocose, the witty. The revived Drama of the re-opened theatres, to which people rushed now with an avidity all the keener for the disuse of that amusement for nearly eighteen years, consisted chiefly of comedies and farces, in which wit was desirable, but indecency indispensable. New things called tragedies there were, but of such texture and quality that Time has refused to remember them. For what of Tragedy was wanted, reproduction of Elizabethan pieces was found best : in the age itself, on the stage as elsewhere, the comic faculty was paramount. Off the stage it showed itself in songs, stories, satires, essays, character-sketches, and burlesques. Even the forms and mechanisms of English Literature were changed. The cavaliers and courtiers had brought back from their exile acquired French tastes in literature, as in other matters. The most remarkable experiments made in Tragedy were the so-called Heroic Plays, or stilted tragedies of Rhymed Declamation, by the Earl of Orrery and others, voted to be after the manner of Corneille ; the syntax of English prose was made neater and easier than it had been, partly by French example ; and the English metrical ear was tuned by the same influence to stricter and more mechanical rhythms.–Over this rising Popular Literature of the Restoration the nominal president was Davenant, the reinstated Laureate, really one of the best of his time : but the robust Dryden was making his way to the supremacy in the drama and in all other departments, with Howards, Killigrews, Wilsons, Buckinghams, Lacys, Ethereges, Buckhursts, and Sedleys about him, and Wycherleys, Shadwells, and others appearing on the horizon. Butler's Fudibras was out, and Charles and his courtiers were laughing over that immortal burlesque.
On the verge of this new world of the Restoration, dis. owning it and disowned by it, the blind Milton lived,
"On evil days now fallen, and evil tongues,
In darkness, and with dangers compassed round,
Such friends as did still come about him were chiefly Nonconformists of the more devout and persecuted sects, Independents, Baptists, or Quakers. Andrew Marvell, young Lawrence, Marchamont Needham, Cyriack Skinner, and the high-minded Lady Ranelagh, sister of Robert Boyle, who had been among his most frequent visitors in the house in Petty France, found their way occasionally to Jewin Street. Dr. Paget, a physician of that neighbourhood, was very intimate with him ; and now and then some foreigner would appear, desiring to be introduced. Such visits to Milton by foreigners, it seems, had become customary in the time of his Secretaryship to the Commonwealth and to Cromwell. They did not like to leave London without having seen the author of the Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, and even the house in Bread Street where he had been born. Still "solitude,” the word which Milton himself uses, describes his present condition too truly. The house in Jewin Street must have been a small one; and, as Milton had now no official income, and had lost by the Restoration a great part of his savings, invested in Commonwealth securities, or others as bad, the economy of his household must have been very frugal. He had always a man or a boy to read to him, write to his dictation, and lead him about in his walks ; one or other of his two nephews, Edward and John Phillips, now shifting for themselves in or near London by tutorship and literary hackwork, would sometimes drop in, and yield him superior help; and there were young men ready to volunteer their occasional services as amanuenses, for the privilege of his conversation, or of lessons from him. A young Quaker, Thomas Ellwood, recommended to him by Dr. Paget, made his acquaintance this way in Jewin Street in 1662, valuing the privilege much, and taking a lodging near on purpose. For the management of his house and of his daily life, however, Milton had to depend on his daughters, and the dependence was a sad one. The poor girls, the eldest in her seventeenth year in 1662, the next in her fifteenth, and the youngest in her eleventh, had been growing up ill looked after, and, though one does hear of a governess, but slenderly educated. The eldest, who was lame and deformed, could not write; the other two could write but indifferently. But, though Milton can therefore hardly have employed his daughters much as amanuenses, he did exact from them
attendance which they found irksome. When no one else was at hand, he would make them, or at least the two younger, read to him ; and, by some extraordinary ingenuity in his method, or by sheer practice on their part, they came at last, it is said, to be able to read sufficiently well for his purpose in Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, and even Hebrew, without themselves understanding a word. This drill, as far as the youngest daughter was concerned, can have been little more than begun in the Jewin Street house ; but there all three were already in rebellion. They “made' nothing of deserting him”; “they did combine together and counsel his maid-servant to cheat him in her marketings”; they “ had made away with some of his books, and would have sold the rest to the dunghill women.” Things had at last come to such a pass that, on the recommendation of Dr. Paget, Milton, Feb. 24, 1662-3, married a third wife. She was an Elizabeth Minshull, from Cheshire, a relation of Dr. Paget's, and not more than twenty-four years of age, Milton being fifty-four. A very excellent and careful wife she was to prove to him through the rest of his life. When Mary, the second daughter, heard of the intended marriage, she said “that that was no news, to hear of his wedding, but, if she could hear of his death, that was something." This, which is certified on oath, is almost too horrible for belief.
Nothing was published by Milton during the three or four years of his residence in Holborn and in Jewin Street after the Restoration. He was busy, however, over his collections for a Latin Dictionary, over his compilation of a Latin Digest of Theology from the Bible, and especially over his Paradise Lost.
ARTILLERY WALK, BUNHILL FIELDS.
1664-1674 : ætat. 56—66. Not long after Milton's third marriage (probably in 1664) he left Jewin Street for what was to be the last of all his London houses. It was in “ Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields,” i.e., as has been ascertained with some trouble, in that part of the present Bunhill Row where there is now a clump of newer houses “to the left of the passen.