« AnteriorContinuar »
the Samuel Barrow, M.D., who wrote the Latin Commendatory Verses prefixed, along with Marvell's English ones, to the second Edition of Paradise Lost. But, whatever occasional help Milton may have received from such friends, it is clear that he had regular help of an independent kind. “He had daily about him,” Phillips tells us, one or other to read to him”; and Phillips farther explains this by adding that there were "persons of man's estate” who "greedily catched at the opportunity” of being allowed to read to Milton, accounting it a benefit to themselves, and that in other cases parents were eager to obtain the benefit for their sons. That there was even a competition for the honour appears from Ellwood's account of the manner in which he came to share in it. The young Quaker was, doubtless, only one of many volunteers who were at Milton's service and whom he used by turns. That he had, however, some one paid attendant always or generally about him, would be likely from the very nature of the case, even did Aubrey not speak of “his man ”who read to him in the mornings. Add to all this the help he could command from the members of his own household. From the time when Paradise Lost was commenced till the time when it was finished, and for some years longer, Milton had his three daughters under the same roof with himself; and Phillips, their cousin, speaks almost with pity of the drill to which two of these girls were subjected. The eldest escaped only because she was an invalid and had a defect in her speech: she was lame and somewhat deformed, as we learn elsewhere; but the other two had been trained to read aloud books in at least six languages, without themselves understanding a word of what they read. They may have had some relief, as far as English books were concerned, though not in the way most agreeable to them, when Milton (Feb. 1662-63) married his third wife, Elizabeth Minshull, who, at the time of her marriage with Milton, was but in the twenty-fifth year of her age, or about eight years older than her eldest step-daughter. There is evidence that this wife was extremely attentive to Milton and quite capable of reading to him in English. Lastly, both before and after this marriage, Milton had valuable literary help in the visits, whenever they were possible, of his nephew Edward Phillips, whom he had himself brought up and grounded in his boyhood in all kinds of scholarship according to a system of his own. Phillips had since then been at Oxford, and, after leaving Oxford, had settled in London as what we should now call a hack
author,-editing the Poems of Drummond of Hawthornden (1656), translating romances from the Spanish (1656), compiling a Dictionary of English words (1657), and latterly continuing Sir Richard Baker's popular Chronicle of English History (1659). In every respect Phillips, whose age was about eight-and-twenty at the date of the last publication, was the very man to be of use to his uncle in literary researches; and, during the whole time of the composition of Paradise Lost, he was in the habit of seeing his uncle at short intervals : at all events, till Oct. 1663, when he went to be tutor to one of the sons of John Evelyn, and may thus have been less within reach. —But what of that other nephew of Milton's, - John Phillips, the brother of Edward, and about a year younger,—whom we should have expected to find in similar relations to his uncle about this period ? This younger nephew had also been brought up and educated in his boyhood by Milton, and he had been even more closely associated than his elder brother with some parts of Milton's
Thus, in 1652, when the elder nephew was at Oxford, it was this younger nephew, then apparently still with his uncle in London, that wrote and published, under his uncle's superintendence, a Latin reply to an anonymous attack that had been made on his uncle's famous Defensio pro Populo Anglicano. The reply, though now printed among Milton's works, is entitled Joannis Philippi, Angli, Responsio ad Apologiam Anonymi cujusdam. But after that time John Phillips had diverged from his uncle. Like his brother Edward, he had betaken himself to literature; but his style of literature can hardly have met with Milton's approbation. His first known English work had been a coarse Anti-Puritanical poem, published in 1655, with the title A Satyr against Hypocrites, and in the following year, 1656, I have found evidence of his having been reported to Cromwell's Council of State, while his uncle was still in his Secretaryship to Cromwell and that Council, for concern in another publication, containing, in the opinion of the Council, so much "scandalous, lascivious, scurrilous, and profane matter” that they ordered all copies of it to be called in and burnt. Neither of the brothers permanently retained Milton's principles, but Edward seems to have remained the more loyal to him personally. John may have visited him during the composition of Paradise Lost ; but we have not the same evidence of this as we have in the case of Edward. 1
1 About the two Phillipses see Wood's Athenæ, by Bliss, iv. 759–769; also
Amid such assistance in his blindness we are to conceive Milton not only carrying on his Dictionary of the Latin tongue, his compilation of a History of England to the Conquest, his construction of a system of Divinity from the Bible, and other prose-labours, but also slowly building up, for five or seven years, his great epic. As he required other eyes to read for him, and to provide him the new material from books which he ruminated for his various purposes, so whatever he composed had to be written for him by other hands. His mode of composition, or of committing to paper what he had previously composed in his mind, was that of dictation. Those who served him as readers, or some of them, must also have served him as amanuenses. It has been the fond fancy of the public, fostered by artists and illustrators of Milton's poetry, that it was chiefly or exclusively Milton's three daughters, Anne, Mary, and Deborah, that served him in this capacity in the composition of his Paradise Lost. Most of us have seen flummery pictures and engravings representing the blind poet, in a rapt and ecstatic attitude, dictating his sublime epic, in a beautiful trellised arbour, or in an arched Gothic library, to his attentive and revering daughters. Alas! the imagination so suggested little corresponds with the reality. Phillips expressly tells us that it was only the two younger daughters that assisted Milton as readers, and that the eldest was unfit for this service, because of her bodily infirmity. We know, independently, that this eldest daughter, Anne Milton, could not write. The other two daughters, Mary and Deborah, could write, and may, on occasion, have assisted their father as amanuenses, besides helping him so largely as readers.? That they
Godwin's Lives of Edward and John Phillips, 1815. Part of my information about John Phillips is from the preserved Minutes of Oliver's Council.
1 She signs by her mark, and a rather clumsy one, to the Release, dated Feb. 24, 1674-5, for her portion of her father's estate, after his death (facsimile in Mr. Marsh's Millon Papers, and in Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby's Ramblings, p. 176). She was then twenty-eight years of age.
2 There is a specimen of Mary's writing in her signature, at the age of twenty-six, to the Release, dated Feb. 22, 1674-5, for her portion of her father's estate (facsimile in Mr. Marsh's Milton Papers, and in Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby's Ramblings, p. 177). The handwriting is rather stiff, and she spells her name “Millton,” with two l's.—Deborah's signature is attached to a corresponding document from her, dated March 27, 1675, when she was nearly twenty-three years of age (facsimile in Mr. Marsh's Milton Papers, and in Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby's Ramblings, p. 179). It has more character than her sister Mary's, and is not inelegant; but she spells her name “Deboroh,” with an o for an a.
were, in any especial sense, however, the amanuenses to whom Milton dictated his Paradise Lost, or any considerable portion of it, admits of great doubt. At all events, the common pictures and engravings, representing the blind Milton dictating Paradise Lost to his admiring daughters, are quite untrue to the actual relations between father and daughters at the time when the poem was written. Even in this Introduction to the poem it is right that some account of these should be given. It may not be without use that the student of the poem should have an exact idea of even the less pleasant domestic surroundings amid which it was shaped, meditated from day to day, and gradually completed in the mind of its blind author.
Milton, as we have seen, began the poem in 1658, when he was fifty years of age. He was then a widower for the second time. His first wife, Mary Powell, from Forest Hill, Oxfordshire,--to whom he had been married about ten years, and his relations with whom and her family had from the first been the reverse of happy,—had died in 1652, just about the time when his blindness became total. She had left him the three daughters : Anne, about seven years of age; Mary, about five; and Deborah, a mere infant. What attention the blind father, engrossed with his public and official, or private and intellectual, labours, could give to the poor, motherless children, living in the same house with him in Petty France, may easily be imagined. It was probably a fortunate thing for them when he brought into the house (Nov. 1656) his second wife,—that Catharine Woodcock of Hackney who seems really to have been worthy of his love, and who is the “late espoused saint" of one of his best-known sonnets. But, after little more than a year (Feb. 1657-8), this wife, whom he had never seen with bodily eyes, had also died,—the time of her death coinciding very nearly with that fixed as the commencement of Paradise Lost. The three daughters of the first wife, again left to their blind father's care and to that of servants, were now, respectively, twelve, ten, and six years of age. They continued to live with their father during the rest of his stay in Petty France (i.e. till 1660); and, after his brief period of hiding at the Restoration, we are to fancy them again with him in the house which he had in Holborn, near Red Lion Fields (1660-1661), and then in that in Jewin Street, which he occupied for a year or two (1661-1663-4), and where the young Quaker Ellwood was first introduced to him. It must have been during this period of five years, spent mainly in the three houses
mentioned, -the eldest daughter advancing meanwhile from her thirteenth to her eighteenth year, the second from her eleventh year to her sixteenth, and the youngest from her seventh year to her twelfth,—that Milton, besides having a governess in to teach them less or more, subjected the two younger to that peculiar drill which enabled him to have their services as readers in languages which they did not understand. It is evident that Phillips, who must have seen the process in operation, thinks it was overdone. “It must needs," he says, in the extract already made from him, “be a trial of patience “ almost beyond endurance: yet it was endured by both for a “ time.” These last words certainly imply that the two girls continued the labour after the third marriage of their father, in Feb. 1662-3, with Elizabeth Minshull, and into the house in Artillery Walk, Bunhill, to which he removed shortly after that marriage. The services of Deborah, at any rate, who was not quite eleven years old at the time of this marriage, must have been mainly subsequent to it. Accordingly, it was in the house in Artillery Walk, and probably after the three girls had been five or six years there under the same roof with their new stepmother, that the catastrophe came which Phillips thus records : “Yet the irksomeness of this employment could not “ always be concealed, but broke out more and more into expressions
of uneasiness; so that at length they were all (even the eldest also) “sent out to learn some curious and ingenious sorts of manufacture " that are proper for women to learn, particularly embroideries in “ gold and silver.” If this first sending out of the daughters to learn some ways of earning their own living coincides with the time of their leaving their father's house finally, and ceasing to have any but the most incidental communication with him,-an event which, we know independently, did occur "four or five years” before Milton's death, -then the date is 1669 or 1670, and Paradise Lost had been not only completed, but published, while the girls were still under their father's roof. In 1669 Anne was twenty-three years of age, Mary twenty-one, and Deborah seventeen. One can imagine that girls of those ages, themselves imperfectly cultivated, might come to rebel at last against a drudgery to which they had long submitted, and the rather because there was added to the drudgery the sense of the control of a stepmother, not so much older than themselves as to be easily venerable. On the other hand, there is evidence, of a sadly authentic nature, that Milton thought he had more to complain of in