Imágenes de páginas

fuse not to sustain this expectation.” From a promise like this, at once ferrid, pi. ous and rational, might be expected the Paradise Lost. .

He published the same year two more pamphlets, upon the same question. To one of his antagonists, who affirms that he was vomited out of the university, he answers, in general terms: “ The fellows of the college wherein I spent some years, at my parting, after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified many times how much better it would content them that I should stay.-As for the common approbation or dislike of that place as now it is, that I should esteem. or discsteem myself the more for that, too simple is the answerer, if he think to obtain with me. Of small practice were the physician who could not judge, by what she and her sister have of long time vomited, that the worser stuff she strongly keeps in her stomach, but the better she is ever kecking at, and is queasy; she vomits now out of sickness; but before it will be well with her, she must vomit by strong physic. The university in the time of her better health, and my younger judgment, I never greatly admired, but now much less." · This is surely the language of a man who thinks that he has been injured. He pro. ceeds to describe the course of his conduct, and the train of his thoughts; and, be. cause he has been suspected of incontinence, gives an account of his own purity, « that if I be justly charged,” says he, “ with this crime, it may come upon me with tenfold shame.” .

The style of his piece is rough, and such perhaps was that of his antagonist. This roughness he justifies, by great examples, in a long digression. Sometimes he tries to be humourous : “ Lest I should take him for some chaplain in hand, some squire of the body to his prelate, one who serves not at the altar only, but at the courtcupboard, he will bestow on us a pretty model of himself : and sets me out half a dozen ptisical mottoes, wherever he had them, hoping short in the measure of con. vulsion fits; in which labour the agony of his wit having escaped narrowly, instead of well-sized periods, he greets us with a quantity of thumb-ring poesies.-And thus ends this section, or rather dissection of himself.” Such is the controversial merri. ment of Milton; his gloomy seriousness is yet more offensive. Such is his malignity that Hell grows darker at his frown.

His father, after Reading was taken by Essex, came to reside in his house; and his school increased. At Whitsuntide, in his thirty-fifth year, he married Mary, the daughter of Mr. Powel, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. He brought her to town with him, and expected all the advantages of a conjugal life. The lady, how. ever, seems not much to have delighted in the pleasures of sparc diet and hard study; for, as Philips relates, “having for a month led a philosophic life, aster having been used at home to a great house, and much company and joviality, her friends, possi. bly by her own desire, made earnest suit to have her company the remaining part of the summer; which was granted, upon a promise of her return at Michaelmas."

Milton was too busy to much miss his wife; he pursued his studies: and now and then visited the lady Margaret Leigh, whom he has mentioned in one of his sonnets. At last Michaelmas arrived; but the lady had no inclination to return to the sullen gloom of her husband's habitation, and therefore very willingly forgot her promise. He sent her a letter, but had no answer; he sent more with the same success. It could be alledged that letters miscarry; he therefore dispatched a messenger, being

by this tine too angry to go himself. His messenger was sent back with some con. tempt. The family of the lady were cavaliers.

In a man whose opinion of his own merit was like Milton's, less provocation than this might have raised violent resentment. Milton soon determined to repudiate her for disobedience; and, being one of those who could easily find arguments to justify inclination, published, in 1614, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce; which was followed by The Judgment of Martin Bucer, concerning Divorce; and the next year, his Tetrachordon, Expositions upon the four chief Places of Scripture which trcat of Marriage.

This innovation was opposed, as might be expected, by the clergy, who, then holding their famous assembly at Westminster, procured that the author should be called before the Lords ; “but that house,” says Wood, “ whether approving the doctrine, or not favouring his accusers, did soon dismiss him.”

There seems not to have been much written against him, nor any thing by any writer of eminence. The antagonist that appeared is styled by him, A Serving Man turned Solicitor. Howel, in his Letters, mentions the new doctrine with con. tempt; and it was, I suppose, thought more worthy of derision than of confuta. tion. He complains of this Beglect in two sonnets, of which the first is contempti. ble, and the second not excellent.

From this time it is observed, that he became an enemy to the presbyterians, whom he had favoured before. He that changes his party by his humour is not more virtuous than he that changes it by his interest; he loves himself rather than truth.

IIis wife and her relations now found that Milton was not an unresisting sufferer of injuries; and perceiving that he had begun to put his doctrine in practice, by courting a young woman of great accomplishments, the daughter of one doctor Davis, who was however not ready to comply, they resolved to endcavour a re-uni. on. He went sometimes to the house of one Blackborough, his relation, in the lane of St. Martin's le Grand, and at one of his usual visits was surprised to see his wife come from another room, and implore forgiveness on her knees. He resisted her entreaties for a while: "but partly,” says Philips, 6 his own generous nature more inclinable to reconciliation than to perseverance in anger or revenge, and part. ly the strong intercession of friends on both sides, soon brought him to an act of oblivion and a firm league of peace.” It were injurious to omit, that Milton af. terwards received her father and her brothers in his own house, when they were

distressed with other royalists. • He published about the same time his Areopagetica, a Speech of Mr. John "Milton for the Liberty of unlicensed Printing. The danger of such unbounded li. berty, and the danger of bounding it, have produced a problem in the science of go. vernment, which human understanding seems hitherto unable to solve. If nothing may be published but what civil authority shall have previously approved, power must always be the standard of truth: if every dreamer of innovations may propa. gate his projects, there can be do settlement ; if every murmurer at government may diffuse discontent, there can be no peace; and if every sceptic in theology may teach his follies, there can be no religion. The remedy against these evils is to punish the authors, for it is yet allowed that every society may punish, though not

prevent, the publication of opinions which that society shall think pernicious; but this punishment, though it may crush the author, promotes the book; and it seems not more reasonable to leave the right of printing unrestrained because writers may be afterwards censured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted because by our laws we can hang a thief.

But, whatever were his engagements, civil or domestic, poetry was never long out of his thoughts.

About this time (1645) a collection of his Latin and English poems appeared, in which the Allegro and Penseroso, with some others, were first published.

IIe had taken a larger house in Barbican for the reception of scholars; but the numerous relations of his wife, to whom he generously granted refuge for a while, occupied his rooms. In time, however, they went away; " and the house again," says Philips, só now looked like a house of the Muses only, though the accession of scholars was not great. Possibly his having proceeded so far in the education of youth, may have been the occasion of his adversaries calling him pedagogue and schoolmaster; whereas it is well known he never set up for a public school, to teach all the young fry of a parish; but only was willing to impart his learning and knowledge to his relations, and the sons of gentlemen who were his intimate friends, and that neither his writings nor his way of teaching ever savoured in the least of pedantry.” . Thus laboriously does his nephew extenuate what cannot be denied, and what might be confessed without disgrace. Miiton was not a man who could become mean by a mean employment. This, however, his warmest friends scem not to have found; they therefore shift and palliate. Ile did not sell literature to all comers at an open shop; he was a chamber-milliner, and measured his commodities only to his friends.

Philips, evidently impatient of viewing him in this state of degradation, tells us that it was not long continued : and, to raise his character again, has a mind to in. vest him with military splendour: “ He is much mistaken,” he says, “ if there was not about this time a design of making him an adjutant-general in Sir William Waller's army. But the new-modelling of the army proved an obstruction to the design.” An event cannot be set at a much greater distance than by having been only designed, about some time, if a man be not much mistaken. Milion shall be a pica dagogue no longer : for, if Philips be not much mistaken, somebody at some time designed him for a soldier..

About the time that the army was new-modelled (1615), he removed to a smaller house in Holbourn, which opened backward into Lincoln's.lon-Fields. He is not known to have published any thing afterwards till the king's death, when, finding his murderers condemned by the presbyterians, he wrote a treatise to justify it, and to compose the minds of the people.

He made some Remarks on the Articles of Peace between Ormond and the Irish Rebels. While he contented himself to write, he perhaps did only what his conscience dictated ; and if he did not very vigilantly watch the influence of his own passions, and the gradual prevalence of opinions, first willingly admitted, and then habitually indulged; if objections, by being overlooked, were forgotten, and desire superinduced conviction; he yet shared only the common weakness of mankind, and might be no less sincere than his opponents. But as faction seldom leaves a man

honest, however it might find him, Milton is suspected of having interpolated the book called Icon Basilike, which the Council of State, to whom he was now made Latin secretary, employed him to censure, by inserting a prayer taken from Sidney's Arcadia, and imputing it to the king; whom he charges, in his Iconoclates, with the use of this prayer, as with a heavy crime, in the indecent language with which prosperity had emboldened the advocates for rebellion to insult all that is ve. nerable or great: “ Who would have imagined so little fear in him of the true all. seeing Deity—as, immediately before his death, to pop into the hands of the grave bishop that attended him, as a special relique of his saintly exercises, a prayer stolen word for word from the mouth of a heathen woman praying to a heathen god?"

The papers which the king gave to Dr. Juxton on the scaffold the regicides took away, so that they were at least the publishers of this prayer; and Dr. Birch, who had examined the question with great care, was inclined to think them the forgers. The use of it by adaptation was innocent; and they who could so noisily censure it, with a little extension of their inalice could contrive what they wanted to accuse.

King Charles the Second, being now sheltered in Holland, employed Salmasius, professor of polite learning at Leyden, to write a defence of his father and of monarchy; and, to excite his industry, gave him, as was reported, a hundred Jaco. buses. Salmasius was a man of skill in languages, knowledge of antiquity, and sa. gacity of emendatory criticism, almost exceeding all hope of human attainment; and having, hy excessive praises, been confirmed in great confidence of himself, though he probably had not much considered the principles of society, or the rights of government, undertook the employment without distrust of his own qualifications; and, as his expedition in writing was wonderful, in 1649 published Defensio Regis.

To this Milton was required to write a sufficient answer; which he performed (1651) in such a manner, that Hobbes declared himself unable to decide whose language was best, or whose arguments were worst. In my opinion, Milton's pe. riods are smoother, neater, and more pointed; but he delights himself with teazing his adversary as much as with confuting him. He makes a foolish allusion of Sal. masius, whose doctrine he considers as servile and unmanly, to the stream of Salma. sius, which, whoever entered, left half his virility behind him. Salmasius was a Frenchman, and was unhappily married to a scold. Tu es Gallus, says Milton, &, ut aiunt, nimium gallinaceus. But his supreme pleasure is to tax his adversary, so renowned for criticism, with vicious Latin. He opens his book with telling that he has used persona, which, according to Milton, signifies only a mask, in a sense not known to the Romans, by applying it as we apply person. But as Nemesis is always on the watch, it is memorable that he has enforced the charge of a sole. cism by an expression in itself grossly solecistical, when for one of those supposed blunders he says, as Ker, and I think some one before him, has remarked, propi. no te grammatistis tuis vapulandum. From vapulo, which has a passive sense, vapulandus can never be derived. No man forgets his original trade : the rights of nations, and of kings, sink into questions of grammar, if grammarians discuss them.

Milton, when he undertook this answer, was weak of body and dim of sight; but his will was forward, and what was wanting of health was supplied by zeal. He was rewarded with a thousand pounds, and his book was much read; for paradox, recommended by spirit and elegance, easily gains attention; and he who told cvery man that he was equal to his king, could hardly want an audience.

That the performance of Salmasius was not dispersed with cqual rapidity, or read with equal eagerness, is very credible. He taught only the stale doctrine of authority, and the unpleasing duty of submission; and he had been so long not only the monarch but the tyrant of literature, that almost all mankind were delighted to find him deficd and insulted by a new name, not yet considered as any one's rival. If Christina, as is said, commended the Defence of the People, her purpose must be to torment Salmasius, who was then at court; for neither her civil station, nor her natural character, could dispose her to favour the doctrine, who was by birth a queen, and by temper despotic.

That Salmasius was, from the appearance of Milton's book, treated with neglect, there is not much proof; but to a man so long accustomed to admiration, a little praise of his antagonist would be sufficiently offensive, and might incline him to leave Sweden, from which however he was dismissed, not with auy mark of con. tempt, but with a train of attendance scarcely less than regal.

He prepared a reply, which, left as it was, imperfect, was published hy his son in the year of the Restoration. In the beginning, being probably most in pain for his Latinity, he endeavours to defend his use of the word persona: but, if I re. member right, he misses a better authority than any that he has found, that of Ju. venal in his fourth satire:

-Quid agas, cum dira & fædior omni

Crimine persona est ? As Salmasius reproached Milton with losing his eyes in the quarrel, Milton de. lighted himself with the belief that he had shortened Salmasius's life, and both per. haps with more malignity than reason. Salmasius died at the Spa, Sept. 3, 1653 : and, as controvertists are commonly said to be killed by their last dispute, Milton. was flattered with the credit of destroying him.

Cromwell had now dismissed the parliament by the authority of which he had de. stroyed monarchy, and commenced monarch himself, under the title of Protector, but with kingly and more than kingly power. That his authority was lawsul, never was pretended; he himself founded his right only in necessity ; but Milton, having now tasted the honey of public employment, would not return to hunger and phi. losophy, but, continuing to exercise his office under a manisest usurpation, betray. ed to his power that liberty which he had defended. Nothing can be more just than that rebellion should end in slavery; that he who had justified the murder of his king, for some acts which seemed to him unlawful, should now sell his ser. vices and his flatteries to a tyrant, of whom it was evident that he could do nothing lawful.

He had now been blind for some years, but his vigour of intellect was such, that he was not disabled to discharge his office of Latin secretary, or continue his contro. versies. His mind was too eager to be diverted, and too strong to be subdued.

About this time his first wife died in child-bed, having left him three daughters. As he probably did not much love her, he did not long continue the appearance of lamenting her; but after a short time married Catherine, the daughter of one cap.

« AnteriorContinuar »