Page images

the following elegant poetical distich:

"Galli ex concubitu gravidam te, Pontia, Mori
Quis bene moratam morigeramque neget?"

which gave rise to his "Fides Publica," in answer to Milton; in which he declared Du Moulin to be the author. Milton imagined this to be a trick, and therefore persisted in his accusation, and endeavoured to make it good in his defence of himself, "Autoris pro se Defensio," which was published in 1655.

The same year, 1655, a writing in Latin was published in the name of the Lord Protector, setting forth the reasons of the war with Spain; but who was the real author we have not been able to discover: there can, however, be little doubt but that it came from the pen of Milton, both on account of the peculiar elegance of the style, and because it was his province to write such things, as Latin Secretary. At length, Oliver Cromwell being dead, and the government weak and unsettled, Milton thought fit again to advise the public, and therefore, in 1659, he published, “A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes; shewing, that it is not lawful for any Power on Earth to compel in Matters of Religion." He likewise published a tract intituled, "Considerations on the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church: wherein is also discoursed, of Tithes, Church - Fees,

[blocks in formation]

Church-Revenues, and whether any Maintenance of Ministers can be settled by Law." These were both addressed " To the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, with the Dominions thereof."


Milton now perceived that affairs tended more and more every day to the subversion of the commonwealth, and to the restoration of the Royal Family; and therefore published his Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof compared with the Inconveniences and Dangers of readmitting Kingship in the Nation." Mr. Wood informs us, that Milton published this piece in February 1659-60: and after this he put forth "Brief Notes upon a late Sermon*, tituled, The Fear of God and the King, preached, and since published, by Matthew Griffith, D. D. and Chaplain to the late King; wherein many notorious Wrestings of Scripture and other Falsities are observed. By J. Milton." Thus it appears how bold and resolute Milton was in declaring his sentiments to the last, thinking that his voice was the voice of expiring liberty.

A short time before the King's landing, Milton was discharged from his office of Latin Secretary; when he left his house in Petty France, and fled, for shelter, to that of a friend in Bar

*This Sermon was preached March 25, 1660.

tholomew Close, near West Smithfield, where he was concealed till the worst of the storm was

blown over. On the 29th of August, 1660, notwithstanding several rigorous transactions of the House of Commons, Milton was included in the act of indemnity.

Having thus gained a full protection from the Government, he appeared as much in public as he formerly used to do; and removed to a house near Red Lion Fields, in Holborn. Here, however, he did not long continue, but took a house in Jewen Street, near Aldersgate Street. While in this habitation, being in his 53d or 54th year, and blind and infirm, he wanted somebody better than servants to tend and look after him; and therefore he employed his friend Dr. Paget to make choice of a proper consort for him. On his recommendation, he married his third wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Mr. Minshul, a Cheshire Gentleman; by whom he had no issue *. Three daughters by his first wife were then liv

* It is recorded, that an offer was made to Milton, as well as to Thurloe, of holding the same place of Secretary under the King, which he had discharged with so much integrity and ability under Cromwell; but he, having adopted his ideas of Republicanism from principle, and being steady to his purpose, persisted in refusing it, notwithstanding his wife (Elizabeth Minshul,) pressed his compliance: "Thou art in the right (says he): you, as other women, would ride in your coach; for me, my aim is to live and die an honest


ing; the two elder of whom are said to have been very serviceable to him in his studies. For, having been instructed to pronounce not only the modern, but also the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, they read in their respective originals whatever authors he wanted to consult, though they understood none but their mother-tongue. This employment, however, was too unpleasant to be continued for any long process of time; and therefore he dismissed them, to receive an education more agreeable to their sex and temper.

Milton did not, however, long remain at Jewen Street, but removed to a house in the Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields, where he continued to the day of his death, except a small interval that he retired to Buckinghamshire during the raging of the plague in London in 1665.

We come now to take a survey of him in that point of view in which he will be looked on by all succeeding ages with equal delight and admiration. An interval of above twenty years had elapsed since he wrote the Mask of Comus, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas; all written in an exquisite strain: but, neither the infirmities of age and constitution, nor the vicissitudes of fortune, could depress the vigour of his mind, or divert it from executing a design

he had long conceived of writing an Heroic Poem. The Fall of Man was a subject which he had some years before fixed on for a Tragedy, which he intended to form by the models of Antiquity and some, not without probability, say the play opened with that speech in the fourth book of PARADISE LOST, ver. 32, which is addressed by Satan to the Sun. But whatever truth there may be in this report, 'tis certain that he did not begin to mold his subject in the form it bears now, before he had concluded his controversy with Salmasius and More, when he had wholly lost the use of his eyes, and was forced to employ in the office of an Amanuensis any friend who accidentally paid him a visit. Yet, under all these discouragements and various interruptions, in the year 1667 he published his PARADISE LOST; the noblest Poem (next to those of Homer and Virgil) that ever the wit of man produced in any age or nation. Need I mention any other evidence of its inestimable worth, than that the finest Geniuses who have succeeded him, have ever esteemed it a merit to relish and illustrate its beauties? Whilst the Critic who gazed with so much wanton malice on the nakedness of Shakspeare when he slept, after having† formally declared war against it, *Par. Lost, B. IX. Ver. 26.

Rymer's Tragedies of the Last Age considered, p. 143.

« EelmineJätka »