1902 Encyclopedia > John Milton

John Milton
English poet
(1608-74)




JOHN MILTON (1608-1674), was born in Breed Street, Cheapside, London, on the 9th of December 1608. His father known as Mr John Milton of Breed Street, scrivener, was himself an interesting man. He was a native of Oxfordshire, having been born there in or about 1563, the son of a Richard Milton, yeoman of Stanton-St-John’s, of whom there are traces as one of the sturdiest adherents to the old Roman Catholic religion that had been left in his district. The son, however, had turned Protestant, and, having been cast off on that account, had come to London, apparently about the year 1586, to push his fortune. Having received a good education, and having good abilities, especially in music, he may have lived for some time by musical teaching and practice. Not till 1595, at all events when he was long past the usual age of apprenticeship, do we hear of his preparation for the profession of a scrivener ; and not till February 1599-1600, when he was about thirty seven years of age, did he enter the profession as a qualified seven years of age, did he enter the profession as a qualified member of the Scriveners’ Company. It was that he set up his "house and shop" in Bread Street, and began, like other scriveners, his lawyerly business of drawing up wills, marriage-settlements, and the like, with such related business as that of receiving money from client for investment and lending it out to the best advantage. It was at the same time that he married. Till recently there has been the most extraordinary uncertainty as to the maiden name of his wife, the mother of the poet. It has been now ascertained, however, that she was a Sarah Jeffrey, one of the two orphan daughters of a Paul Jeffrey, of St Swithin’s London, "citizen and merchant-taylor," originally from Essex, who had died before 1883. At the date of her marriage she was about twenty-eight years of age. Her widowed mother, Mrs Ellen Jeffrey, came to reside in the house in Bread Street, and died there in February 1610-11. Before this death of the maternal grandmother, three children had been born to the scrivener and his wife, of whom only two survived,—the future poet, and an elder sister, called Anne. Of there more children, born subsequently, only one survived,—Christopher, the youngest of the family, born December 3, 1615.

The first sixteen years of Milton’s life, coinciding exactly with the last sixteen of the reign of James I., associate themselves with the house in Bread Street, and with the surrounding of that house in Old London. His father while prospering in business, continue to be known as a tinction in the London musical world of that time by his occasional contributions to important musical publications. Music was thus a part of the poet’s domestic education from his infancy. Whatever else could be added was added without stint. Again and again Milton speaks with gratitude and affection of the ungrudging pains bestowed by his father on his early education. "Both at the grammar school and also under the masters at home," is the statement in one passage. "he caused me to be instructed daily." This brings us to about the year 1619, when Milton was ten years of age. At that time his domestic tutor was Thomas Young, a Scotsman from Perthshire, and graduate of the university of St Andrews, afterwards a man of no small distinction among the English Puritan clergy, but then only curate or assistant to some parish clergyman in or near London, and eking out his livelihood by private teaching. Young’s tutorship lasted till 1622, when he was drawn abroad by an offer of the pastorship or chaplaincy to the congregation of English merchants in Hamburg. Already, however, for a year or two, his tutorship had been only supplementary to the education which the boy was receiving by daily attendance at St Paul’s public school was Mr Alexander Gill, an elderly Oxford divine, of high reputation for scholarship and teaching ability. Under him, as usher or second master, was his son Alexander Gill the younger, also an Oxford graduate of scholarly reputation, but of blustering character. Milton’s acquaintanceship with this younger Gill, begun at St Paul’s school, led to subsequent friendship and correspondence. Far more affectionate and intimate was the friendship found by Milton at St Paul’s with a certain young Charles Diodati, his schoolfellow there, the son of a naturalized Italian physician, Dr Thedore Diodati, who had settled in London in good medical practice, and was much respected, both on his own account, and being the brother of the famous Protestant divine, Jean or Giovanni Diodati of Geneva. Young Diodati, who was destined for his father’s profession, left the school for Oxford University early in 1623 ; but Milton remained till the end of 1624. A family incident of that year was the marriage of his elder sister, Anne, with Edward Philips, a clerk in the Government had then all but completed his sixteenth year, and was a scholarly, as accomplished and as handsome a youth as St Paul’s school had sent forth. We learn from himself that his exercise " in English or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly this latter," had begun to attract attention even in his boyhood. This implies that he must have had a stock a attempts in English and Latin by him of earlier date than 1624. Of these the only specimens that now remain are his Paraphrase on Psalm CXIV. And his Paraphrase on Psalm CXXXVI.

On February 12, 1624-25, Milton, at the age of sixteen years and two months, was entered as a student of Christ’s College, Cambridge, in the grade of a "Lesser Pensioner." His matriculation entry in the books of the university is two months later, April 9, 1625. Between these two dates James I. had died, and had been succeeded by Charles I.

Cambrigde University was then in the full flush of its prosperity on that old system of university education which combined Latin and Greek studies with plentiful drill and disputation in the scholastic logic and philosophy, but with little of physical science, and next to no mathematics. There were sixteen colleges in all, dividing among them a total of about 2900 members of the university. Christ’s College, to which Milton belonged, ranked about third in the university in respect of numbers, counting about 265 members on its books. The master was Dr Thomas Bainbrigge ; and among the thirteen fellows were Mr Joseph Meade, still remembered as a commentator on the Apocalypse, and Mr William Chappell, afterwards an Irish bishop. It was under Chappell’s tutorship that Milton was placed when he first entered the college. At least three students who entered Christ’s after Milton, but during his residence, deserve mention. One was edward King, a youth of Irish birth and high Irish connexions, who entered in 1626, at the age of fourteen ; another was John Cleveland, afterwards known as royalist and satirist, who entered in 1627 ; and the third was Henry More, subsequently famous as the Cambridge Platonist, who entered in 1631, just before Milton left. Milton’s own brother. Christopher, joined him in the college in February 1630—31, at the age of fifteen.

Milton’s academic course lasted seven years and five months, or from February 1624—25 to July 1632, bringing him from his seventeenth year to his twenty-fourth. The first four years were his time of undergraduateship. It was in the second of these, the year 1626, that there occurred that quarrel between him and his tutor, Mr Chappell, which Dr Johnson, making the most of a lax tradition from Aubrey, magnified into the supposition that Milton may have been one of the last students in either of the English universities that suffered the indignity of corporal punishment. The legend deserves no credit ; but it is certain that Milton, on account of some disagreement with Chappell, leading to the interference of Dr Bainbrigge, left college for a time, and that, when he did return, it was under an arrangement which, while securing that he should not lose a term by his absence, transferred him from the tutorship of Chappell to that of Mr Nathaniel Tovey, another of the fellows of Christ’s. From a reference to the matter in the first of the Latin elegies one infers that the cause of the quarrel was some outbreak of self-assertion on Milton’s part. We learn indeed, from words of this own elsewhere, that it was not only Chappell and Bainbrigge that he had offended by his independent demeanour, but that, for the first two or three years of his undergraduatehip, he was generally unpopular, for the same reason, among the younger men of his college. They had nicknamed him "The Lady," a nickname which the students of the other colleges took up, converting it into "The Lady of Christ’s College" ; and, though the allusion was chiefly to the peculiear grace of his personal appearance, it conveyed also a sneer at what the rougher men thought his unusual prudishness, the haughty fastidiousness of his tastes and morals. Quite as distinct as the information that he was for a white the majority of his fellow-students are the proofs that they all came round him at last with respect and deference. The change had certainly occurred before January 1628–29, when, at the age of twenty, he took his B. A. Degree. By that time his intellectual pre-eminence in his college, and indeed among his coevals in the whole university, had come to be acknowleged. His reputation for scholarship and literary genius, extraordinary even then, was more than confirmed during the remaining three years and a half of his residence in Cambridge. A fellowship in Christ’s which fell vacant in 1630 would undoubtedly have been his had the election to such posts depended then absolutely on merit. As it was, the fellowship was conferred, by royal favour and mandate, on Edward King, his junior in college standing by sixteen months. In July 1632 Milton completed his career at the university by taking his M. A. degree. His signature in the University Register stands at the head of the list of those who graduated as masters that year from Christ’s. Another Wood’s summary of the facts of his university career as a whole is that he "performed the collegiate and academical exercises to the admiration of all, and was esteemed to be a virtuous and sober persons, yet not to be ignorant of his own parts." The statements is in perfect accordance with Milton’s own account. He speaks of "a certain niceness of nature, an honest haughtiness, and self-esteem of what I was or what I might be," as one of his earliest characteristics ; and, though intimating "never greatly admired" the systems of the place, he leaves us in no doubt as to be quite exceptional applause with which he had gone through all the prescribed work. To the regular Latin and Greek of the university he had added, he tells us, French, Italian, and Hebrew. He had also learnt fencing and other gentlemanly exercises of the time, and was an expert swordsman.

Of Milton’s skill at Cambridge in what Wood calls " the collegiate and academical exercises" specimens remain in his Prolusiones Quaedam Oratoriae. They consist of seven rhetorical Latin essays, generally in a whimsical vein, delivered by him, in his undergraduateship or during his subsequent bachelorship in arts, either in the hall of Christ’s College or in the public University School. Relics of Miltons’ Cambridge period are also four of his Latin Familiar Epistles; but more important are the poetical remains. These include the greater number of his preserved Latin poems—to wit, (1) the seven pieces which compose his Elegiarum Liber, two of the most interesting of them addressed to his medical friend, Charles Diodati, and one to his former tutor Young in his exile at Hamburg, (2) the five short Gunpowder Plot epigrams, now appended to the Elegies, and (3) the first five pieces of the Sylvarum Liber, the most important of which are the hexameter poem "In Quintum Novembris" and the piece entitled "Naturam non pati senium." Of the English poems of the Cambridge period the following is a dated list:—On the Death of a Fair Infant, 1625 –26, the subject being the death in that inclement winter of his infant niece, the first-born child of his sister Mrs Philips ;At a Vacation Exercise in the College, 1628 ; the magnificent Christmas ode On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, 1629 ; the fragment called The Passion and the Song on May Morning, both probably belonging to 1630 ; the lines On Shakespeare, certainly belonging to that year ; the two facetious pieces On the University Carrier, 1630–31 ; the Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester, 1631 ; the sonnet To the Nightingale, probably the same year ; the sonnet On arriving at the Age of twenty-three, dating itself certainly in December 1631.

Just before Milton quitted Cambridge, his father, then verging on his seventieth year, had practically retired from his Bread Street business, leaving the active management of it to a partner, named Thomas Bower, a former apprentice of his, and had gone to spend his declining years at Horton in Buckinghamshire, a small village near Colnbrook, and not far from Windsor. Here, according, in a house close to Horton church, Milton mainly resided for the next six years,—from July 1632 to April 1638.

Although, when he had gone to Cambridge, it had been with the intention of becoming a clergyman, that intention had been abandoned. His reason were that "tyranny had invaded the church," ad that, finding he could not honesty subscribe the oaths and obligations required, he "thought it better to preserved a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking begun with servitude and forswearing." In other words, he was disgusted with the system of high prelacy which Land, who had been bishop of London and minister paramount in ecclesiastical matters since 1628, was establishing and maintaining in the Church of England. "Church-outed by the prelates," as he emphatically expresses it, he seems to have thought for a time of law. From that too h recoiled; and, leaving the legal profession for his brother Christopher, he had decided that the only life possible for himself was one of leisurely independence, dedicated wholly to scholarship and literature. His compunctions on this subject, expressed already in his sonnet on arriving at this twenty-third year, are expressed more at length in an English letter sent by him, shortly after the date of that sonnet, and with a copy of the sonnet included, to some friend who had been remonstrating with him on his "belatedness" and his persistence in a life of mere dream ad study. There were gentle remonstrances also from his excellent father. Between such a father and such a son, however, the conclusion was easy. What is was may be learnt from Milton’s fine Latin poem Ad Patrem. There, in the midst of an enthusiastic recitation of all that his father had done for him hitherto, it is intimated that the agreement between them on their one little matter of difference was already complete, and that, as the son was bent on a private life of literature and peotry, it had decided that he should have his own way, and should in fact, so long as he chose, be the master of his father’s means’s and the chief person in the Horton household. For the six years from 1632 this, accordingly, was Milton’s position. In perfect leisure, and in a pleasant rural retirement, with Windsor at the distance of an easy walk and London only about 17 miles off, he went through, he tells us, a systematic course of reading in the Greek and Latin classics, varied by mathematics, music, and the kind of physical science we should now call cosmography.

It is an interesting fact that Milton’s very first public appearance in the world of English authorship was in so honourable a place as the second folio edition of Shakespeare in 1632. His enthusiastic eulogy on Shakespeare, written in 1630, was one of three anonymous pieces prefixed to that second folio, along with reprints of the commendatory verses that had appeared in the first folio, one of them Ben Jonson’s immortal tribute to Shakespear’s memory. Among the poems actually written by Milton at Horton the first, in all probability, after the Latin hexameters Ad and Il Penseroso. There followed, inor about 1633, the fragment called Arcades. It was part of a pastoral masque got up by the young people of the noble family of Egerton in honour of their venerable relative the countess-dowager of Derby, and performed before that lady at her mansion of Harefield, near Uxbridge, about 10 miles from Horton. That Milton contributed the words for the entertainment was, almost certainly, owing to his friendship with Henry Lawes, one of the chief court musicians of that time, whose known connexion with the Egerton family points him out as the probable manager of the Harefield masque. Next in order among the compositions at Horton may be mentioned the three short pieces, At a Solemn Music, On Time, and Upon the Circumcision ; after which comes Comus, the largest and most important of all Milton’s minor poems. The name by which that beautiful drama is now universally known was not give to it by Milton himself. He entitled it, more and vaguely, "A Masque presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634, before the Earl of Bridgewater, Lord President of Wales." The existence of this poem is certainly due to Milton’s intimacy with Lawes. The earl of Bridgewater, the head of the Egerton family, had been appointed to the high office of the presidency or viceroyalty of Wales, the official seat of which was Ludlow in Shropshire it had been determined that among the festivities on his assumption of the office there should be a great masque in the hall of Ludlow Castle, with Lawes for the stage manager and one of the actors ; Milton had been applied to by Lawes for the poetry; and, actually, on Michaelmas night, September 29, 1634, the drama furnished by Milton was performed in Ludlow Castle before a great assemblage of the nobility and gentry of the Welsh principality, Lawes taking the part of "the attendant spirit," while the parts of "first brother," "second brother," and "the lady" were taken by the earl’s three youngest children Viscount Brackley, Mr Thomas Egerton, and Lady Alice Egerton.—From September 1634 to the beginning of 1637 is a comparative blank in our records. Straggling incidents in this blank are a Latin letter of date December 4, 1634, to Alexander Gill the younger, a Greek Translation of Psalm CXIV., a visit to Oxford of M.A. in that university, and the beginning in May 1636 of a troublesome lawsuit against his now aged and infirm father.—The Lawsuit, which was instituted by a certain Sir Thomas Cotton, baronet, nephew and executor of a deceased John Cotton, Esq., accused the elder Milton and his partner Bower, or both, of having, in their capacity as scriveners, misappropriated divers large sums of money that had been entrusted to them by the deceased Cotton to be let out at interest. The lawsuit was still in progress when, on the 3d of April 1637, Milton’s mother died, at the age of about sixty-five. A flat blue stone, with a brief inscription, visible on the chancel-pavement of Horton church, still marks the place of her burial. Milton’s testimony to her character is that she was a "a most excellent mother and particularly known for her charities through the neighbourhood." The year 1637 was otherwise eventful in his biography. It was in that year that his Comus, after lying in manuscript for more than two years, was published by itself, in the form of a small quarto of thirty-five pages. The author’s name was withheld, and the entire responsibility of the publication was assumed by Henry Lawes. Milton seems to have been in London when the little volume appeared. He was a good deal in London, at all event, during the summer and autumn months immediately following his mother’s death. The plague which had been on one of its periodical visits of ravage through England since early in the preceding year, was then especially severe in the Horton neighbourhood, while London was comparatively free. It was probably in London that Milton heard of the death of young Edward King of Christ’s College, whom he had left as one of the most popular of the fellows of the college, and one of the clerical hopes of the university. King had sailed from Chester for a vacation visit to his relatives in Ireland, when, on the 10th of August, the ship, in perfectly calm water, struck, on a rock and went down, he and nearly all the other passengers going don with her there is no mention of the sad accident in two otherwise very interesting Latin Familiar Epistles of Milton, of September 1637, both addressed to his medical friend Charles Diodati, and both dated from London ; but how deeply the death of King had affected him appears from his occupation shortly afterwards. In Novomber 1637, and probably at Horton, whence the plague had by that time vanished, he wrote his matchless pastoral monody of Lycidas. It was his contribution to a collection of obituary verses, Greek, Latin and English, which King’s numerous friends, at Cambridge and elsewhere, were getting up in lamentation for his sad fate. The collection did not appear till early in 1638, when it was published in two parts, with black-bordered title-pages, from the Cambridge University press, one consisting of twenty-three Latin and Greek pieces, the other of thirteen English pieces, the last of which was Milton’s monody, signed only with his initials "J.M." It was therefore early in 1638, when Milton was in his thirtieth year, that copies of his Lycidas may have been in circulation among those who had already become acquainted with his Comus.

Milton was then on the wind for a foreign tour. He had long set his heart on a visit to Italy, and circumstances now favoured his wish. The vexatious Cotton Lawsuit, after hanging on for nearly two years, was at an end, as far as the elder Milton was concerned, with the most absolute and honourable vindication of his character for probity, though with some continuation of the case against his partner, Bower. Moreover, Milton’s younger brother, Christopher, though but twenty-two years of age and just about to be called to the bar of the Inner Temple, had married a wife; and the young couple had gone to reside at Horton to keep the old man company. There being nothing then to detain Milton, all was arranged for his journey. Before the end of April 1638 he was on his way across the Channel, taking one English man-servant with him. At the time of his departure the last great news in England was that of the National Scottish Covenant, or solemn oath and band of all ranks and classes of the Scottish people to stand by each other to the death in resisting the ecclesiastical innovations which Land and Charles had been forcing upon Scotland. To Charles the news of this "damnable Covenant," as he called it, was enraging beyond measure; but to the mass of the English Puritans it was far from unwelcome, promising, as it seemed to do, for England herself, the subversion at last of that system of "Thorough," or despotic government by the king and his ministers without parliaments, under which the country had been groaning since the contemptuous dissolution of Charles’ third parliament ten years before.

Through Paris, where Milton made but a short stay, receiving polite attention from the English ambassador, Lord Scudmore, and having the honour of an introduction to the famous Hugo Grotius, then ambassador for Sweden at the French court, he moved on rapidly to Italy, by way of Nice. After visiting Genoa, Leghorn, and Pisa, he arrived at Florence, August 1638. Enchanged by the city and its society, he remained there two months, frequenting the chief academies or literary clubs, and even taking part in their proceedings. Among the Florentines with whom he became intimate were Jacopo Gaddi, young Carlo Dati, Pietro Fresobaldi, Agostino Coltellini, the grammarian Benedetto Buommattei, Valerio Chimentelli, and Antonio Francini. It was in the neighbourhood of Florence also that he "found and visited" the great Galileo, then old and blind, and still nominally a prisoner to the Inquisition for his astronomical heresy. From Florence, by Siena, Milton wen to Rome. He reached the Eternal City some time in October, and spent about another two months there, not only going about among the ruins and antiquities and visiting the galleries, but mixing also, as he had done in Florence, with the learned society of the academies. Among those with whom he formed acquaintance in Rome were the German scholar, Lucas Holstenius, librarian of the Vatican, and three native Italian scholars, named Cherubini, Salzilli, and Selvaggi. There is record of his having dined once, in company with several other Englishmen, at the hospitable table of the English Jesuit College. The most picturesque incident, however, of his stay in Rome was his presence at a great musical entertainment in the palace of Cardinal Francesco Barberini. Here he had not only the honour of a specially kind reception by the cardinal himself, but also, it would appear, the supreme pleasure of listening to the marvellous Leonora Baroni, the renowned signer of her age. Late in November he left Rome for Naples. Here also he was fortunate. The great man of the place was the now very aged Giovanni Battista Manso, marquis of Villa, the friend and biographer of the great Tasso, and subsequently the friend and patron of the sweet Marini. By the a happy accident Milton obtained an introduction to Manso, and nothing could exceed the courtesy of the attentions paid by aged marquis to the young English stranger. He had hardly been in the Naples a month, however, when there came news from England which not only stopped an intention he had formed of extending his tour to Sicily and thence into Greece, but urged his immediate return home. "The sad news of civil war in England, he says "called me back ; for I considered it base that, while my fellow-countrymen were fighting at home for liberty, I should be travelling abroad for intellectual culture." In December 1638, therefore, he set his face northwards again. His return journey, however, probably because he learnt that the news he had first received was exaggerated or premature, was broken into stages. He spent a second two months in Rome, ascertained to have been January and February 1638–39 ; during which two months, as he tells us, he was in some danger from the papal police, because the English Jesuits in Rome had taken offence at his habit of free speech, wherever he went, on the subject or religion. Though he did not alter his demeanor in the least in this particular, nothing happened ; and from Rome he got safely to Florence, welcomed back heartily by his Florentine friends, and renewing his meeting with them privately and in their academies. His second visit to Florence, including an excursion to Lucca, extended over two months ; and not till April 1639 did he take his leave, and proceed, by Bologna and Ferrara, to Venice. About a month was given to Venice ; and thence, having shipped for England the books he had collected in Italy, he went on, by Verona and Milan, over the Alps, to Geneva. In this Protestant city he spent a week or two in June, forming interesting acquaintanceships there too, and having daily conversations with the great Protestant theologian Dr Jean Diodati, the uncle of his friend Charles Diodati. From Geneva he returned to Paris, and so to England. He was home again in August 1639, having been absent in all fifteen or sixteen months.

Milton’s Continental tour, and especially Italian portion of it, remained one of the chief pleasures of his memory through all his subsequent life. Nor was it quite without fruits of a literary kind. Besides two of his Latin Epistolae Familiares, one to the Florentine grammarian Buommattei, and the other to Lucas Holstenius, there have to be assigned ato Milton’s sixteen months on the Continent his three Latin epigrams Ad Leonoram Romae Canentem, his Latin scazons Ad Salsillum Poetam Romannum Aegrotantem, his fine and valuable poem in Latin hexameters entitled Mansus, and his Five Italian Sonnets, with a Canzone, celebrating the charms of some Italian lady he had met in his travels.

One sad and marring memory did mingled itself with all that was otherwise so delightful in his Italian reminiscences. His bosom friend and companion from boyhood, the half-Italian Charles Diodati, who had been to him as Jonathan to David, and into whose ear he had hoped pour the whole narrative of what he had seen and done abroad, had died during his absence. He had died, in Blackfriars, London, in August 1638, not four months after Milton had gone away on his tour. The intelligence had not reached Milton till some months afterwards, probably not till his second stay in Florence ; and, though he must have learnt some of the particulars from the youth’s uncle in Geneva, he did not know them fully till his return to England. How profoundly they affected him appears from his Epitaphium Damonis, then written in memory of hid dead friend. The importance of this poem in Milton’s biography cannot be overrated. It is perhaps the noblest of all his Latin poems ; and, though in the form of a pastoral, and even of a pastoral of the most artificial sort, it is unmistakably an outburst of the most passionate personal grief. In this respect Lycidas, artistically perfect though that poem is, cannot be compared with it ; and it is only the fact that Lycidas is in English, while the Epitaphium Damonis is in Latin, that has led to the notion that Edward Kin of Christ’s College was peculiarly and pre-eminently the friend of Milton in his youth and early manhood.

That Milton, now in his thirty-first year, had been girding himself for some greater achievement in poetry than any he had yet attempted, Comus not excepted, we should have known otherwise. What we should not have known, but for an incidental passage in the Epitaphium Damonis, is that, at the time of his return from Italy, he had chosen a subject for such a high literary efforts of a new Miltonic sort. The passage is one in which, after referring to the hopes of Diodati’s medical career as so suddenly cut short by his death, Milton speaks of himself as the survivor and of his own projects in his profession of literature. In translation, it may run thus:—

"I have a theme of the Trojans cruising our southern headlands
Shaping to song, and the realm of Imogen, daughter of Pandras,
Brennus and Arvirach, dukes, and Bren’s bold brother, Belinus ;
Then the Armorican settlers under the laws of the Britons,
Ay, and the womb of Igraine fatally pregnant with Arthur,
Uther’s son, whom he got disguished in Gorlois’ likeness,
All by Merlin’s craft. O then, if life shall be spared me,
Though shalt be hung, my pipe, far off on some dying old pine-tree,
Much-forgotten of me ; or else your Latian music
Change for the British war-screech! What then? For one to do all things,
One to hope all things, fits not! Prize sufficiently ample
Mine, and distinction great (unheard-of ever thereafter
Though I should be and inglorious all through the world of the stranger),
If but they yellow-haired Ouse shall read me, the drinker of Alan,
Humber, which whirls as it flows, and Trent’s whole valley of orchards,
Thames, my own Thames, above all, and Tamar’s western waters,
Tawny with ores, and where the write wavaes swinge the far Orkneys."

Interpreted prosaically, this means that Milton was meditating an epic of which King Arthur was to be the central figure, but which should include somehow the whole cycle of British and Arthurian legend, and that not only was this epic to be in English, but he had resolved that all his poetry for the future should be in the same tongue.

Not long after Milton’s return the house at Horton ceased to be the family home. Christopher Milton and his wife went to reside at Reading, taking the old gentleman with them, when Milton Himself preferred London. He had first taken lodgings in St Bride’s Churchyard, at the foot of Fleet Street ; but, after a while, probably early in 1640, he removed to a "pretty garden house" of his own, at the end of an entry, in the part of Aldersgate Street which less immediately on the city side of what is now Maidenhead Court. His sister, whose first husband had died in 1631, had married a Mr Thomas Agar, his successor in the Crown Office ; and it was arranged that her two sons by her first husband should be educated by their uncle. John Philips, the younger of them, only nine years old, had boarded with him in the St Bride’s Churchyard lodgings; and, after the removal to Alderesgate Street, the other brother, Edward Philips, only a year older, became his boarder also. Gradually a few other boys, the sons of well-to-do personal friends, joined the two Phillipses, whether as boarders or for daily lessons, so that the house in Aldersgate Street became a small private school. The drudgery of teaching seems always to have been liked by Milton. What meanwhile of the great Arthurian epic? That project, we find, had been given up, and Milton’s mind was roving among many other subjects, and balancing their capabilities. How he wavered between Biblical subjects and heroic subjects from British history, and how many of each kind suggested themselves to him, one learns from a list in his own handwriting among the Milton MSS. at Cambridge. It contains jottings of no fewer then fifty-three the Old Testament, eight from the Gospels, thirty-three from British and English history before the Conquest, and five from Scottish history. It is curious that all or most of them are headed or described as subjects for "tragedies," as if the epic or described as subject for "tragedies," as if the epic form had now been abandoned for the dramatic. It is more interesting still to observed which of the subjects fascinated Milton most. Though several of them are sketched pretty fully, not one is sketched at such length and so particularly as Paradise Lost. It is the first subject on the list, and there are four separate drafts of a possible tragedy under that title, two of them merely enumerating the dramatis personae, but the last two indicating the plot and the division into acts. Thus, in 1640, twenty-seven years before Paradise Lost was given to the world, he had put down the name on paper, and had committed himself to the theme.





To these poetic dreaming and schemings there was to be a long interruption. The Scottish National Covenant had let to extraordinary results. Not only were Charles and Laud checkmated in their design of converting the mild Episcopal system which King James had established in Scotland into a high Laudian prelacy; but, in a General Assembly held at Glasgow in the end of 1638, Episcopacy had been utterly abolished in Scotland, and the old Presbyterian system of Knox and Melville revived. To average this, and restore the Scottish bishops, Charles had marched to the Border with an English army ; but, met there by the Convenanting army under General Alexander Leslie, he had not deemed it prudent to risk a battle, and had yielded to a negotiation conceding to the Scots all their demands. This "First Bishops’ War," as it came to be called, was begun and concluded while Milton was abroad. About the time of his return, however, Charles had again broken with the Scots. Milton had been watching the course of affairs since then with close and eager interest. He has seen and partaken in the sympathetic stir in favour of the Socts which ran through the popular and Puritan mind of England. He had welcomed the practical proof of this sympathy given in that English parliament of April 1640, called "The Short Parliament," which Charles, in straits for supplies against the Scots, had reluctantly summoned at last, but was obliged to dismiss as unmanageable. Charles had nevertheless, with money raised somehow, entered on the "Second Bishops’ War." This time the result was momentous indeed. The Scots, not waiting to be attacked in their own country, took the aggressive, and invaded England. In August 1640, after one small engagement with a portion of Charles’s army, they were in possession of Newcastle and of all the northern English countries. The English then had their opportunity. A treaty with the Scots was begun, which the English Puritans, who regarded their presence in England as the very blessing they had been praying for, were in no haste to finish ; and, on the 3d of November 1640, there met that parliament which was to be famous in English history, and in the history of the world, as "The Long Parliament."

Of the first proceedings of this parliament, including the trial and execution of Strafford, the impeachment and imprisonment of Laud and others, and the break-down of the system of Thorough by miscellaneous reforms and by guarantees for parliamentary liberty, Milton was only a spectator. It was when the church question emerged distinctly as the question paramount, and there had arisen divisions on that question among those who had been practically unanimous in matters of civil reform, that he plunged in as an active adviser. There were three parties on the church question. There was a high-church party, contending for Episcopacy by divine right, and for the maintenance of English Episcopacy very much as it was; there was a middle party, defending Episcopacy on grounds of usage and expediency, but desiring to see the powers of bishops greatly curtailed, and a limited Episcopacy, with councils of presbyters round each bishop, substituted for existing high Episcopacy ; and there was the root-and-branch party, as it called itself, desiring the entire abolition of Episcopacy and the reconstruction of the English Church on something like the Scottish Presbyterian model. Since the opening of the parliament there had been a storm of pamphlets crossing one another in the air from these three parties. The chief manifesto of the high-church party was a pamphlet by Joseph Hall, bishop of Exeter, entitled Humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament. In answer to Hall, and in representation of the views of the root-and-branch party, there had stepped forth, in March 1640–41, five leading Puritan parish ministers, the initials of whose names, clubbed together on the title-page of their joint production, made the uncouth word "Smectymnuus." These were Stephen Marshall Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurstow. The Thomas Young whose names comes it the middle was no other than the Scottish Thomas Young who had been Milton’s domestic preceptor in Bread Street. Having returned from Hamburg in 1628 he had been appointed to the vicarage of Stowmarket in Suffolk, in which living he had remained ever since, with the reputation of being one of the most solid and famous Smectymnuan pamphlet in reply to Hall was mainly Young’s. What is more interesting is that his old pupil Milton was secretly in partnership with him and his brother-Smectymnuans. Milton’s hand is discernible in a portion of the original Smectymnuan pamphlet ; and he continued to aid the Smectymnuans in their subsequent rejoinders to Hall’s defences of himself. It was more in Milton’s way, however, to appear in print independently ; the Smectymnuans was going on, he put forth a pamphlet of his own. It was entitled Of Reformation touching Church Discipline in England and the Causes that have hitherto hindered it, and consisted of a review of English ecclesiastical history, with an appeal to his countrymen to resume that course of reformation which he considered to have been prematurely stopped in the preceding century, and to sweep away the last relics of papacy and prelacy. Among all the root-and-branch pamphlets of the time it stood out, and stands out still, as the most thorough-going and tremendous. It was followed by four others in rapid succession,—to wit, Of Prelatical Episcopacy and whether it may be deduced from the Apostolical Times (June 1641), Animadversions upon the Remostrant’s Defence against Smectymnums (July 1641), The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty (February 1641–42), Apology against a Pamphlet called a Modest Confutation of the Animadversions, &c. (March 1641 –42). The first of these was directed chiefly against that middle party which advocated a limited Episcopacy, with especial reply to the arguments of Archbishop Ussher, as the chief exponent of the views of that party. Two of the others, as the titles imply, belong to the Smectymnuan series, and were castigations of Bishop Hall. The greatest of the four, and the most important of all Milton’s anti-Episcopal pamphlets after the first, is that entitle The Reason of Church Government. It is there that Milton takes his readers into his confidence, speaking at length of himself and his confidence, speaking at length of himself and his motives in becoming a controversialist. Poetry, he declares, was his real vocation ; it was with reluctance that he had resolved to "leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes" ; but daily had left him no option. The great poem or poems he had been meditating could wait ; and meanwhile, though in prose-polemics he had the use only of his "left hand," that hand should be used all its might in the cause of his country and of liberty.

The parliament had advanced in the root-and-branch direction so far as to have passed a bill for the exclusion of bishops from the House of Lords, and compelled the king’s assent to that bill, when, in August 1642, the further struggle between Charles and his subjects took the form of civil war. All England was then divided into the Royalists, supporting the king, and the Parliamentarians, adhering to that majority of the Commons, with a minority of the Lords, which sat on as the parliament. While the first battles of the civil war were being fought with varying success, this parliament, less impeded than when it had been full, moved on more and more rapidly in the root-and-branch direction, till, by midsummer 1643, the abolition of Episcopacy had been decreed, and the question of the future non-prelatic constitution of the Church of England referred to a synod of divines, to meet at Westmister under parliamentary authority. Of Milton’s life through those first months of the civil war little is known. He remained in his house in Aldersgate Street, teaching his nephews and other pupils ; and the only scrap that came from his pen was the semi-jocose sonnet bearing the title When the Assault was intended to the City. In the summer of 1643, however, there was a great change in the Aldersgate Street household. About the end of May, as his nephew Edward Phillips remembered, Milton went away on a country journey, without saying whither or for what purpose ; and, when he returned, about a month afterwards, it was with a young wife, and with some of her sisters and other relatives in her company. He had, in fact, been in the very headquarters of the king and the Royalist army in and round Oxford ; and the bride the brought back with him was a Mary Powell, the eldest daughter of Richard Powell, Esq., of Forest Hill, near Oxford. She was the third of a family of eleven sons and daughters, of good standing, but in rather embarrassed circumstances, and was seventeen years and four months old, while Milton was in his thirty-fifth year. However the marriage came about, it was a most unfortunate event. The Powell family were strongly Royalist, and the girl herself seems to have been frivolous, unsuitable, and stupid. Hardly were the honeymoon festivities over in Aldersgate Street when, her sisters and other relatives having returned to Foresh Hill and left her alone with her husband, she pined for home again and begged to be allowed to go back on a visit. Milton consented, on the understanding that the visit was to be a brief one. This seems to have been in July 1643. Soon, however, the intimation from Forest Hill was that he need not look ever to have his wife in his house again. The resolution seems to have been mainly the girl’s own, abetted by her mother ; but, as the king’s cause was then prospering in the field, it is a fair conjecture that the whole of the Powell family had repented of their sudden connexion with so prominent a Parliamentarian and assailant of the Church of England as Milton. While his wife was away, his old father, who had been residing for three years with his younger and lawyer son of Reading, came to take up his quarters in Aldergate Street.

Milton’s conduct under the insult of his wife’s desertion was most characteristic. Always fearless and speculative, he converted his own case into a public protest against the existing law and theory of marriage. The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce Restored, to the good of both Sexes, was the title of a pamphlet put forth by him in August 1643, without his name, but with no effort at concealment, declaring the notion of a sacramental sanctity in the marriage relation to be a clerically invented superstition, and arguing that inherent incompatibility of character, or contrariety of mind, between two married persons, is a perfectly just reason for divorce. There was no reference to his own case, except by implication; but the boldness of the speculation roused attention and sent a shock through London. It was a time when the authors of heresies of this sort, or of any sort, ran considerable risks. The famous Westminster Assembly of Divines, called by the Long Parliament, had met on the appointed day, July 1, 1643 ; the Scots, in consenting to send an army into England to assist the parliament in their war with the king, had proposed, as one of the conditions, their Solemn League and Covenant, binding the two nations, to endeavour after a uniformity of religion and of ecclesiastical discipline with the extirpation of all "heresy, schism, and profaneness," as well as popery ; the Solemn League and Covenant had been enthusiastically accepted in England, and was being sworn to universally by the Parliamentarians ; and one immediate effect was that four eminent Scottish divines and two Scottish lay commissioners were added to the Westminster Assembly and became leaders there. Where Milton’s divorce tract was formally discussed in the Assembly during the first months of its sitting is unknown ; but it is certain that the London clergy, including not a few members of the Assembly, were then talking about it privately with anger and execration. That there might be no obstacle to a more public prosecution, Milton threw off the anonymous in a second and much enlarged edition of the tract, in February 1643–44, dedicated openly to the parliament and the Assembly. Then, for a month or two, during which the gossip about him and his monstrous doctrine was spreading more and more, he turned his attention to other subjects. Among the questions in agitation in the general ferment of opinion brought about by the civil war was that of a reform of the national system of education and especially of the universities. To this question Milton made a contribution in June 1644, in a small Tract on Education, in the form of a letter to Mr Samuel Hartlib, a German then resident in London and interesting himself busily in all philanthropic projects and schemes of social reform. In the very next month, however, July 1644, he returned to the divorce subject in a pamphlet addressed specially to the clergy and entitled The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce. The outcry against him then reached its height. He was attacked in pamphlets ; he was denouned in pulpits all through London, and more than once in sermons before the two Houses of Parliament by prominent divines of the Westminster Assembly ; strenuous efforts were made to bring him within definite parliamentary censure. In the cabal formed against him for this purpose a leading part was played, at the instigation of the clergy, by the Stationers’ Company of London. That company, representing the publishers and booksellers of London, had a plea of their own against him, on the ground that his doctrine was not only immoral, but had been put forth in an illegal manner. His first divorce treatise, though published immediately after the "Printing Ordinance" of the parliament of June 14, 1643, requiring all publications to be licensed for press by one of the official censors, and to be registered in the books of the Stationers’ Company, had been issued without licence and without registration. Complaint to this effect was made against Milton, with some others liable to the same charge of contempt of the printing ordinance, in a petition of the Stationers to the House of Commons in August 1644 ; and the matter came before committee both in that House and in the Lords. It is to this circumstance that the world owes the most popular and eloquent, if not the greatest, of all Milton’s prose-writings his famous Areopagitica, a Speech of Mr John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing to the Parliament of England. It appeared in the end of November 1644, deliberately unlicensed and unregistered, as was proper on such an occasion, and was a remonstrance addressed to the parliament, as if in an oration to them face to face, against their ordinance of June 1643 and the whole system of licensing and censorship of the press. Nobly eulogistic of the parliament in other respects, it denounced their printing ordinance as utterly unworthy of them, and of the new era of English liberties which they were initiating, and called for its repeal. Though that effect did not follow, the pamphlet virtually accomplished its purpose. The licensing system had received its deathblow ; and though the Stationers returned to the charge in another complaint to the House was condoned. He was still assailed in pamphlets, and found himself "in a world of disesteem" ; but the lived on through the winter of 1644–45 undisturbed in his house in Aldersgate Street. To this period there belong, in the snape of verse, only his sonnets ix. and x., the first to some anonymous lady, and the second "to the Lady Margaret Ley," with perhaps the Greek lines entitled Philosophus ad Regem Quendam. His divorce speculation, however, still occupied him; and in March 1644–45 he published simultaneously his Tetrachordon, or Expositions upon the four chief places of Scripture which treat of Marriage, and his Colasterion, a Reply to a nameless Answer against the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. In these he replied to his chief recent assailants, lay and clerical, with merciless severity.

It was not merely Milton’s intellectual eminence that had saved him from prosecution for his divorce heresy. A new tendency of national opinion on the church question had operated in his favour, and in favour of all forms of free speculation. There had occurred in the Westminster Assembly itself, more largely throughout the general community, that spirit of English Puritanism into the two opposed varieties of Presbyterianism on the one hand and Independency or Congregationalism on the other which explains the whole subsequent history of the Puritan revolution. Out of the theoretical discussion as to the constitution of the church there had grown the all-important practical question of toleration. The Presbyterians insisted that the whole population of England should necessarily belong to the one national Presbyterian Church, be compelled to attend its worship, and be subject to its discipline, while the Independence demanded that, if a Presbyterian Church should be set up as the national and state-paid church, there should at least be liberty of dissent from it, and toleration for those that chose to form themselves into separate congregations. Vehement within the Westminster Assembly itself, the controversy had attained wider dimensions out of doors, and had inwrought itself in a most remarkable manner with the conduct of the war. Orthodox Presbyterian Calvinists were still the majority of the Puritan body ; but, in the new atmosphere of liberty, there had sprung up, from secret and long-suppressed seeds in the English mind, a wonderful variety of sects and denominations, mingling other elements with their Calvanism, or hardly Calvinistic at all,—most of them, it is true, fervidly Biblical and Christian after their different sorts, but not a few professing the most coolly inquisitive and sceptical spirit, and pushing their speculations to strange extremes of free-thinking. These sects, growing more and more numerous in the large towns, had become especially powerful in the English Parliamentary army. That army had, fact, become a marching academy of advanced opinionists and theological debaters. Now, as all the new Puritan sects, differing however much among themselves, saw their existence and the perpetuity of their tenets threatened by that system of ecclesiastical uniformity which the Presbyterians proposed to establish, they had, one and all, abjured Presbyterianism, and adopted the opposite principle of Independency, with its appended principle of toleration. Hence as extraordinary conflict of policies among those who seemed to be all Parliamentarians, all united in fighting against the king. The auxiliary Scottish army, which had come into England in January 1643–44, and had helped the English generals to beat the king in the great battle of Marston Moor in July 1644, thought that he had then been almost sufficiently beaten, and that the object of the Solemn League and Covenant would be best attained by bringing him to such terms as should secure an immediate Presbyterian settlement and the suppression of the Independents and secretaries. In this the chief English commanders, such as Essex and Manchester, agreed substantially with the Scots. Cromwell, on the other hand, who was now the recognized head of the army Independents, did not think that the king had been sufficiently beaten, even for the general purpose of the war, and was resolved that the war should be pushed on to a point at which a Presbyterian settlement should be impossible without guarantees for liberty of conscience and a toleration of non-Presbyterian sects. Through the latter part of 1644, accordingly, Milton had been saved from the penalties which his Presbyterian opponents would have inflicted on him by this general championship of liberty of opinion by Cromwell and the army Independents. Before the middle of 1645 he, with others who were on the black books of the Presbyterians as heretics, was safer still. Though the parliament had voted, in January 1644–45, that the future national church of England should be on the Presbyterian system, Cromwell and the Independents had taken care to have the question of toleration left open; and, within the next month or two, by Cromwell’s exertions, a completely new face was put upon the war by the removal of all the chief officers that had been in command hitherto, and the equipment of the New Model army, with Fairfax as its commander-in-chief and Cromwell himself as lieutenant-general. The Scots and the stricter English Presbyterians looked on malignantly while this army took the field, calling it an "Army of Sectaries," and almost hoping was fought the great battle of Naseby, utterly ruining the king at last, and leaving only relics of his forces here and there. Milton’s position then may be easily understand. Though his first tendency on the church question had been to some form of a Presbyterian constitution for the church, he had parted utterly now from the Scots and Presbyterians, and become a partisan of Independency, having no dread of "sects and schims," but regarding them rather as healthy signs in the English body-politic. He was indeed, himself one of the most noted sectaries of the time, of in the list of sects drawn out by contemporary Presbyterian writers special mention is made of one small sect who were known as Miltonists or Divorcers.

So far as Milton was concerned personally, his interest in the divorce speculation came to an end in July or August 1645, when, by friendly interference, reconciliation was effected between him and his wife. The ruin of the king’s cause at Naseby had suggested to the Powells that it might be as well for their daughter to go back to her husband after their two years of separation. It was not however, in the house in Aldersgate Street that she rejoined him, but in a larger house, which he had taken in the adjacent street called Barbican, for the accommodation of an increasing number of pupils.

The house in Barbican was tenanted by Milton from about August 1645 to September or October 1647. Among his first occupations there must have been the revision of the proof sheets of the first-edition of his collected poems. It appeared as a tiny volume, copies of which are now very rare, with the title Poems of Mr John Milton, both English and Latin, composed at several times. The title-page gives the date 1645, but January 1645–46 seems to have been the exact month of the publication. The appearance of the volume indicates that Milton may have been a little tired by this time of his notoriety as a prose-polemic, and desirous of being recognized once more in his original character of literary man and poet. But, whether because his pedagogic duties now engrossed him or for other reasons, very few new pieces were added in the Barbican to those that the little volume hand thus made public. In English, there were only the four sonnets now numbered xi.–xiv., the first two entitled "On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises," the third "To Mr Henry Lawes on his Airs," and the fourth "To the Religious Memory of Mrs Catherine Thomson," together with the powerful anti-Presbyterian invective or "tailed sonnet" entitled "On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament"; and in Latin there were only the ode Ad Joannem Rousium, the trifle called Apologus de Rustico et Hero, and one interesting Familiar Epistle addressed to his Florentine friend Carlo Dati. Some family incidents of importance, however, appertain to this time of residence in Barbican. Oxford having surrendered to Fairfax in June 1646, the whole of the Powell family had to seek refuge in London, and most of them found shelter in Milton’s house. His first child, a daughter named Anne, was born there on the 29th of July that year ; on the 1st of January 1646–47 his father-in-law Mr Powell died there, leaving his affairs in confusion ; and in the following March his own father died there, at the age of eighty-four, and was buried in the adjacent church of St Giles, Cripplegate. For the rest, the two years in Barbican are nearly blank in Milton’ biography. The great Revolution was still running its course. For a time Charles’s surrender of himself, in May 1646, to the auxiliary Scottish may rather than to Fairfax and Cromwell, and his residence with the Scottish army at Newcastle in negotiation with the Scots, had given the Presbyterians the advantage ; but, after the Scots had evacuated England in January 1646–47, leaving Charles a captive with his English subjects, and especially after the English army had seized him at Holmby in June 1647 and undertaken the further management of the treaty with him, the advantage was all the other way. It was a satisfaction to Milton, and perhaps still a protection for him, that the "Army of Independents and Sectaries" had come to be really the masters of England.

From Barbican Milton removed in September or October 1647, to a smaller house in that part of High Holborn which adjoins Lincoln’s Inn Fields. His Powell relatives had now left him, and he had reduced the number of his pupils, or perhaps kept only his two nephews. But, though thus more at leisure, he did not yet resume his projected poem, but occupied himself rather with three works of scholarly labour which he had already for some time had on hand. One was the compilation in English of a complete history of England, or rather of Great Britain, from the earliest times ; another was the preparation in Latin of a complete system of divinity, drawn directly from the Bible ; and the third was the collection of materials for a new Latin dictionary. Milton had always a fondness for such labours of scholarship and compilation. Of a poetical kind there is nothing to record, during his residence in High Holborn, but an experiment in psalm-translation, in the shape of Psalms lxxx.–lxxviii. Done into service-metre in April 1648, and the Sonnet to Fairfax, written in September of the same year.—This last connects him again with the course of public affairs. The king, having escaped from the custody of the army chiefs, and taken refuge in the Isle of Wight, had been committed to closer custody there ; all negotiation between him and parliament had been declared at an end ; and the result would probably have been his depsition, but for the consequences of a secret treaty he had contrived to make with the Scots. By this treaty the Scots engaged to invade England in the king’s behalf, rescue him from the English parliament and army, and restore him to his full royalty, while he engaged in return to ratify the Covenant, the Presbyterian system of church government, and all the other conclusions of the West-minister Assembly, throughout England, and to put down Independency and the sects. Thus, in May 1648, began what is called the Second Civil War, consisting first of new risings of the Royalists in various parts of England, and then of a conjuction of these with a great invasion; of England by a Royalist Scottish army, under the command of the duke of Hamilton. It was all over in August 1648, when the crushing defeat of the Scottish army by Cromwell in the three day’s battle of Preston, and the simultaneous suppression of the English Royalist insurrection in the south-east countries by Fairfax’s siege and capture of Colchester, left Charles at the mercy of the victors.—Milton’s Sonnet to Fairfax was a congratulation to that general-in-chief- of the parliament on his success at Colchester, an attested the exultation of the writer over the triumph of the Parliamentary cause. His exultation continued through what followed. After one more dying army took the whole business on itself. The king was brought from the Isle of Wight ; the parliament, manipulated by the army officers, and purged of all members likely to impede the army’s purpose, was converted into an instrument for that purpose ; and court of high justice was set up for the trial of Charles ; and on January 30, 1648–49, he was brought to the scaffold in front of Whitehall. By that act England became a republic, governed, without King or House of Lords, by the persevering residue or "Rump" of the recent House of Commons, in conjunction with an execution council of state, composed of forty-one members appointed annually by that House.

The first Englishman of mark out of parliament to attach himself openly to the new republic was John Milton. This he did by the publication of his pamphlet entitled Tenure of Kings, and Magistrates, proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so in all ages, for any who have the power, to call to account a Tyrant or wicked King, and, after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary Magistrate have neglected to do it. It was out within a fortnight after the king’s death, and was Milton’s last performance in the house in High Holborn. The chiefs of the new republic could not but perceive the importance of securing the services of a man who had so opportunely and so powerfully spoken out in favour of their tremendous act, and who was otherwise so distinguished. In March 1648–49, according, Milton was offered, and accepted, the secretaryship for foreign tongues to the council of state of the new Commonwealth. The salary was to be £288 a year, worth about £1000 a year now. To be near his new duties in attendance on the council, which held its daily sittings for the few weeks in Derby House, close to Whitehall, but afterwards regularly in Whitehall itself, he removed at once to temporary lodging at Charing Cross. In the very first meetings of council which Milton attended he must have made personal acquaintance with President Bradshaw, Fairfax, Cromwell himself, Sir Henry Vane, Whitlocke, Henry Marten, Hasilrig, Sir Gilbert Pickering, and the other chiefs of the council and the Commonwealth, if indeed he had not known some of them before. After a little while, for his greater convenience, official apartments were assigned him in Whitehall itself.

At the date of Milton’s appointment to the secretaryship he was forty years of age. His special duty was the drafting of such letters as were sent by the council of state, or sometimes by the Rump Parliament, to foreign states and princes, with the examination and translation of letters in reply, and with personal conferences, when necessary, with the agents of foreign powers in London, and with envoys and ambassadors. As Latin was the language employed in the written diplomatic documents, his post came to be known indifferently as the secretaryship for foreign tongues or the Latin secretaryship. In that post, however, his duties, more particularly at first, were very light in comparison with those of his official colleague, Mr Walter Frost, the general secretary. Foreign powers held aloof from the English republic as much as they could ; and while Mr, while Mr Frost had to be present in every meeting of the council, keeping the minutes, and conducting all the general correspondence, Milton’s presence was required only when some piece of foreign business did turn up. Hence, from the first, his employment in very miscellaneous work. Especially, the council looked to him for everything in the nature of literary vigilance and literary help in the interests of the struggling Commonwealth. He was employed in the examination of suspected papers, and in interviews with their authors and printers ; and he executed several great literary commissions expressly entrusted to him by the council. The first of these was his pamphlet entitled Observations on Ormond’s Articles of Peace with the Irish Rebels. It was published in May 1649, and was in defence of the republic against a complication of Royalist intrigues and dangers in Ireland. A passage of remarkable interest in it is one of eloquent eulogy on Cromwell. More important still was the Eikonoklastes (which may be translated "Image-Smasher"), published by Milton in October 1649, by way of counterblast to the famous Eikon Basilike ("Royal Image"), which has been in circulation in thousands of copies since the king’s death, and had become a kind of Bible in all Royalist households, on the supposition that it had been written by the royal martyr himself. A third piece of work was of a more laborious nature. In the end of 1649 there appeared abroad, under the title of Defensio Regia pro Cardo I., a Latin vindication of the memory of Charles, with an attack on the English Commonwealth, intended for circulation on the Continent. As it had been written, at the instance of the exiled royal family, by Salmasius, or Claude de Saumaise, of Leyden, then of enormous celebrity over Europe as the greatest scholar of his age, it regarded as a serious blow to the infant Commonwealth. To anwer it was thought a task worthy of Milton, and he threw his whole thought a task worthy of Milton, and the threw his whole strength into the performance through the year 1650, interrupting himself only by a new enlarged edition of his Eikonoklastes. Not till April 1651 did the result appear ; but then the success was prodigious. Milton’s Latin Pro Populol Anglicano Defensio, as it was called, ran at once over the British Islands and the Continent, rousing acclamation everywhere, and received. Though the rest of 1651 the observation was that the two agencies which had co-operated most visibly in raising the reputation of the Commonwealth abroad were Milton’s book and Cromwell’s battles.—These battles of Cromwell, in the service of the Commonwealth he had founded, had kept him absent from the council of state, of which he was still a member, since shortly after the beginning of Milton’s secretaryship. For nearly a year he had been in Ireland, as lord lieutenant, reconquering that country after its long rebellion ; and then, for another year, he had been in Scotland, crushing the Royalist commotion there round Charles II., and annexing Scotland to the English republic. The annexation was complete on the 3d of September 1651, when Cromwell chasing Charles II. and his army out of Scotland, came up with them at Worcester and gained his crowning victory. The Commonwealth then consisted of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and Cromwell was its supreme chief.—Through the eventful year 1651, it has been recently ascertained, Milton had added to the other duties of his secretaryship that of Government journalist. Through the whole of that year, if not from an earlier period, he acted as licenser and superintending editor of the Mercurius Politicus, a newspaper issued twice a week, of which Mr Marchamont Needham was the working editor and proprietor. Milton’s hand is discernible in some of the leading articles.

About the end of 1651 Milton left his official rooms in Whitehall for a house he had taken on the edge of St James’s Park, in what was then called Petty France, Westminster, but now York Street. The house existed till the other day, but has been pulled down. In Milton’s time it was a villa-looking residence, with garden, in a neighbourhood of villas and gardens. He had now more to do in the special work of his office, in consequence of the increase of correspondence with foreign powers. But he had for some time been in ailing health ; and a dimness of eyesight which had been growing upon him gradually for ten years had been settling rapidly, since his labour over the answer to Salmasius, into total blindness. Actually, before or about May 1654, when he was but in his forty-fourth year, his blindness was total, and he could go about only with some one to lead him. Hence a re-arrangement of his secretarial duties. Such of these duties as he could perform at home, or by occasional visits to the Council Office near, he continued to perform ; but much of the routine work was done for him by assistants, one of them a well-known German named Weckherlin, under the superintendence of Mr John Thurloe, who had succeeded Mr Walter Frost in the general secretaryship. Precisely to this time of a lull in Milton’s secretaryship on account of his ill-health and blindness we have to refer his two great comapanion sonnets To the Lord General Cromwell and To Sir Henry Vane the Younger. To about the same time, or more precisely to the interval between May and September 1652, though the exact date is uncertain, we have to refer the death of his only son who had been born in his official Whitehall apartments in the March of the preceding year, and the death also of his wife, just after she had given birth to his third daughter, Deborah. With the three children thus left him,—Anne, but six years old, Mary, not four, and the infant Deborah,—the blind widower lived on in his house in Petty France in such desolation as can be imagined. He had recovered sufficiently to resume his secretarial duties ; and the total number of his dictated state letters for the single year 1652 is equal to that of all the state letters of his preceding term of secretaryship put together. To the same year there belong also three of his Latin Familiar Epistles. In December 1652 there was published Joannis Philippi Angli Responsio ad Apologiam Anonymi Cujusdam Tenebrionis, being a reply by Milton’s younger nephew, John Philips, but touched up by Milton himself, to one of several pamphlets that had appeared against Milton for his slaughter of Salmasius. The ablest and most scurrilous of these, which had just appeared anonymously at the Hague, with the title Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Coelum adversus Parricidas Anglicanos ("Cry of the Royal Blood to Heaven against the English Parricides"), Milton was reserving for his own attention at his leisure.

On the 20th of April 1653 there was Cromwell’s great act of armed interference by which he turned out the small remnant of the Rump Parliament, dismissed their council of state, and assumed the government of England, Ireland, and Scotland into his own hands. For several months, indeed, he acted only as interim dictator, governing by a council of his officers, and waiting for the conclusions of that select body of advisers which he had called together from all parts of the country, and which the Royalists nickmaned. "The Barebones Parliament." In December 1653, however, his formal sovereignty began under the name of the Protectorate, passing gradually into more than kingship. This change from governed by the Rump and its council to government by a single military Lord Protector and his council was regarded by many as treason to the republican cause, and divided those who had hitherto been the united Commonwealth’ s men into the "Pure Republican," represented by such men as Bradshaw and Vane, and the "Oliverians," adhering to the Protector. Milton, whose boundless admiration of Cromwell had shown itself already in his Irish tract of 1649 and in his recent sonnet, was recognized as one of the Oliverians. He remained in Oliver’s service and was his Latin secretary through the whole of the Protectorate. For a while, indeed, his Latin letters to foreign states in Cromwell’s name was but few,—Mr Thurloe, as general secretary, officiating as Oliver’s right-hand man in everything, with a Mr Philip Meadows under him, at a salary of £200 a year, as deputy for the blind Mr Milton in foreign correspondence and translations. The reason for this temporary exemption of Milton from routine duty may have been that he was then engaged on an answer, by commission from the late Government, to the already-mentioned pamphlet from the Hague entitled Regii Sanguinis Clamor. Salmasius was now dead, and the Commonwealth was too stable to suffer from such attacks ; but no Royalist pamphlet had appeared so able or so venomous as this in continuation of the Salmasian controversy. All the rather because it was in the main a libel of Milton himself did a reply from his pen seem necessary. It came out in May 1654, with the title Joannis Miltoni Angli pro Populo Anglicano Defensio Secunda ("Second Defence of John Milton, Englishman, for the People of England"). It is one of the most interesting of all Milton’s writings. The author of the libel to which it replied was Dr Peter du Moulin the younger, a naturalized French Presbyterian minister, then moving about in English society, close to Milton ; but, as that was a profound secret, and the work was universally attributed on the Continent to an Alexander Morus, a French minister of Scottish descent, then of much oratorical celebrity in Holland,—who had certainly managed the printing in consultation with the now deceased Salmasius, and had contributed some portion of the matter,—Milton had made this Morus the responsible person and the one object of his castigations. They were frightful enough. If Salmasius had been slaughtered in the former Defensio, Morus was murdered and gashed in this. His moral character was blasted by explsure of his antecedents, and he was blazoned abroad in Europe as a detected clerical blackguard. The terrific castigation of Morus, however, is but part of the Defensio Secunda. It contains passages of singular autobiographical and historical value, and includes laudatory sketches of such eminent Common, wealth’s men as Bradshaw, Fairfax, Fleetwood, Lambert, and Overton, together with a long panegyric on Cromwell himself and his career, which remains to this day unapproached for elaboration and grandeur by any estimate of Cromwell from any later pen. From about the date of the publication of the Defensio Secunda to the beginning of 1655 the only specially literary relics of Milton’s life are his translations of Psalms. i. –viii. in different metres, done in August 1654, his translation of Horace’s Ode i. 5, done probably about the same time, and two of his Latin Familiar Epistles. The most active time of his secretaryship for Oliver was from April 1655 onwards. In that month, in the course of a general revision of official salaries under the Protectorate, Milton’s salary of £288 a year hitherto was reduced to £200 a year, with a kind of redefinition of his office, recognizing it, we may say, as a Latin secretaryship extraordinary. Mr Philip Meadows was to continue to do all the ordinary Foreign Office work, under Thurloe’s inspection ; but Milton was to be called in one special occasions. Hardly was the arrangement made when a signal occasion did occur. In May 1655 all England was horrified by the news of the massacre of the Vaudois Protestants by the troops of Emanuele II., duke of Savoy and prince of Piedmont, in consequence of their disobedience to an edict requiring them either to leave their native valleys or to conform to the Catholic religion. Cromwell and his council took the matter up with all their energy ; and the burst of indignant letters on the subject despatched in that month and the next to the duke of Savoy himself, Louis XIV, of France, Cardinal Mazarin, the Swiss cantons, the States-General of the United Provinces, and the kings of Sweden and Denmark, were all by Milton. His famous sonnet On the late Massacre in Piedmont was his more private expression of feeling on the same occasion. This sonnet was in circulation, and the case of the Vaudois Protestants was still occupying Cromwell, when, in August 1655, there appeared the last of Milton’s great Latin pamphlets. It was his Pro Se Defensio, in answer to an elaborate self-defence which Morus had put forth on the Continent since Milton’s attack on his character, and it consisted mainly of a re-exposure of that unfortunate clergyman. Thence, through the rest of Cromwell’ls Protectorate, Milton’s life was of comparatively calm tenor. He was in much better health than usual, bearing his blindness with courage and cheerfulness ; he was steadily busy with such more important despatches to foreign powers as the Protector, then in the height of his great foreign policy, and regarded with fear and deference by all European monarchs and states from Gibraltar to the Baltic, chose to confide to him ; and his house in Petty France seems to have been, more than at any previous time since the beginning of his blindness, a meeting-place for friends and visitors, and a scene of pleasant hospitalities. The four sonnets now numbered xix.–xxii., one of them to young Mr Lawrence, the son of the president of Cromwell’s council, and two of the others to Cyriack Skinner, belong to this time of domestic quiet, as do also no fewer than ten of his Latin Familiar Epistles. His second marriage belongs to the same years, and gleams even yet as the too brief consummation of this happiest time in the blind man’s life. The name of his second wife was Katherine Woodcock. He married her on the 12th of November 1656 ; but, after only fifteen months, he was again a widower, by her death in childbirth in February 1657–58. The child dying with her, only the three daughters by the first marriage remained. The touching sonnet which closes the series of Mitlon’s Sonnets is his sacred tribute to the memory on his second marriage and to the virtues of the wife he had so soon lost. Even after that loss we find him still busy for Cromwell. Mr Meadows having been sent off on diplomatic missions, Andrew Marvell had, in September 1657, been brought in, much to Milton’s satisfaction, as his assistant or colleague in the Latin secretaryship ; but this had by no means relieved him from duty. Some of his greatest despatches for Cromwell, including letters, of the highest importance, to Louis XIV., Mazarin, and Charles Gustavus of Sweden, belong to the year 1658.





One would like to know precisely in what personal relations Milton and Cromwell stood to each other. There is, unfortunately, no direct record to show what Cromwell thought of Milton ; but there is ample record of what Milton thought of Cromwell. "Our chief of men," he had called Cromwell in his sonnet of May 1652 ; and the opinion remained unchanged. He thought Cromwell the greatest and lost man of his generation, or of many generations ; and he regarded Cromwell’s assumption of the supreme power, and his retention of that power with a sovereign title as no real supprression of the republic, but and for the safeguard of the British Islands against a return of the Stuarts. Nevertheless, under this prodigious admiration of Cromwell, there were political doubts and reserves. Milton was so much of a modern radical of the extreme school in his own political views and sympathies that he cannot but have been vexed by the growing conservatism of Cromwell’s policy through his Protectorate. To his grand panegyric on Oliver in the Defensio Secunda of 1654 he had ventured to append cautions against self-will, over-legislation, and over-policing ; and he cannot have thought that Oliver had been immaculate in these respects through the four subsequent years. The attempt to revive an aristocracy and a House of Lords, on which Cromwell was latterly bent, cannot have been to Milton’s taste. Above all, Milton dissented in toto from Cromwell’s church policy. It was Milton’s fixed idea, almost his deepest idea, that there should be no such thing as an Established Church, or state-paid clergy, of any sort or denomination or mixture of denominations, in any nation, and that, as it had been the connexion between church and state, begun by Constantine, that had vitiated Christianity in the world, and kept it vitiated, so Christianity would never flourish as it ought till there had been universal disestablishment and disendowment of the clergy, and the propagation of the gospel were left to the zeal of voluntary pastors, self-supported, or supported modestly by their flocks. He had at one time looked to Cromwell as the likeliest man to carry this great revolution in England. But Cromwell, after much meditation on the subject in 1652 and 1653, had come to the opposite conclusion. The conservation of the union of all evangelical denominations of Christians, whether Presbyterians, or Independents, or Baptists or moderate Old Anglicans, that would accept state-pay with state-control, had been the fundamental of his Protectorate, persevered in to the end. This must have been Milton’s deepest disappointment with the Oliverian rule.

Cromwell’s death on the 3d September 1658 left the Protectorship to his son Richard. Milton and Marvell continued in their posts, and a number of the Foreign Office letters of the new Protectorate were of Milton’s composition. Thinking the time fit, he also put forth, in October 1658, a new edition of his Defensio Prima, and, early in 1659, a new English pamphlet, entitled Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, ventilating those notions of his as to the separation of church and state which he had been obliged of late to keep to himself. To Richard’s Protectorate also belongs one of Milton’s of Latin Familiar Epistles. Meanwhile, thought all had seemed quiet round Richard at first, the jealousies of the army officers left about him by Oliver, and the conflict of political elements let loose by Oliver’s death, were preparing his downfall. In May 1659 Richard’s Protectorate was at an end. The country had returned with pleasure to what was called "the good old cause" of pure republicanism ; and the government was in the hands of "the Restored Rump," consisting of the reassembled remains of that Rump Parliament which Cromwell had dissolved in 1653. To this change, as inevitable in the circumstances, or even promising, Milton adjusted himself. The last of his known official performances in his Latin secretaryship are two letters in the name of William Lenthall, as the speaker of the restored Rump, one to the king of Sweden and one to the king of Denmark, both dated May 15, 1659. Under the restored Rump, if ever, he seemed to have a chance for his notion of church-disestablishment; and, accordingly, in August 1659, he put forth, with a prefatory address to that body, a large pamphlet entitled Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove Hirelings out of the Church. The restored Rump had no time to attend to such matters. They were in struggle for their own existence with the army chiefs ; and the British Islands were in that state of hopeless confusion and anarchy which, after passing through a brief phase of attempted military government (October to December 1659), and a second revival of the purely republican or Rump government (December 1659 to February 1659–60), issued in Monk’s march from Scotland, and assumption of the dictatorship in London, and recall of all the survivors of the original Long Parliament to enlarge the Rump to due dimensions and assist him in further deliberations. Through all this anarchy the Royalist elements had been mustering themselves, and the drift to the restoration of the Stuart dynasty, as the only possible or feasible conclusion, had become apparent. To prevent that issue, to argue against it and fight against it to the last, was the work to which Milton had then set himself. His disestablishment notion and all his other notions had been thrown aside ; the preservation of the republic in any form, and by any compromise of differences within itself, had become his one thought and the study of practical means to this end his most anxious occupation. In a Letter to a Friend concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth, written in October 1659, he had propounded a scheme of a kind of dual government for reconciling the army chiefs with the Rump ; through the following winter, marked only by two of his Latin Familiar Epistles, his anxiety over the signs of the growing enthusiasm throughout the country for the recall of Charles. II. had risen to a kind of agony ; and early in March 1559–60 his agony found vent in a pamphlet of the most passionate vehemence entitled The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof thereof compared with the Inconveniences. And Dangers of readmitting Kingship in this Nation. An abridgment of the practical substance of this pamphlet was addressed by him to General Monk in a letter entitled The Present Means and Brief Delineation of a Free Commonwealth. Milton’s proposal was that the central governing apparatus of the British Islands for the future should consist of one indissoluble Grand Council or parliament, which should include all the political chiefs, while there should be a large number of provincial councils, or assemblies sitting in the great towns for the management of local and county affairs. The scheme, so far as the public attended to it all, was received with laughter ; the Royalist demonstrations were now fervid and tumultuous ; and it remained only for the new and full parliament of two Houses which had been summoned under Monk’s auspices, and which is now known as the Convention Parliament, to give effect to Monk’s secret determination and the universal popular desire. Not even then would Milton be silent. In Brief Notes on a late Sermon, published in April 1660, in reply to a Royalist discourse by a Dr Griffith, he made another protest against the recall of the Stuarts, even hinting that it would be better that Monk should become king himself ; and in the same month he sent forth a second edition of his Ready and Easy Way, more frantically earnest than even the first, and containing additional passages of the most violent denunciation of the royal family, and of prophecy of the degradation and disaster they would bring back with them. This was the dying effort. On the 25th of April the Convention Parliament met; on the 1st of May they resolved unanimously that the government by King, Lords, and Commons should be restored ; and on the 29th of May Charles II. made his triumphal entry into London. The chief republicans had by that time scattered themselves, and Milton was in hiding in an obscure part of the city.

How Milton escaped the scaffold at the Restoration is a mystery now, and was a mystery at the time. Actually, in the terrible course through the two Houses of the Convention Parliament of that Bill of Indemnity by which the fates of the surviving regicides and of so many others, of the chief republican culprits were determined, Milton was named for special punishment. It was voted by the Commons that he should be taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms, for prosecution by the attorney-general on account of his Eikonoklastes and Defensio Prima, and that all copies of those books should be called in and burnt by the hangman. There was, however, some powerful combination of friendly influences in his favour, with Monk probably abetting. At all events, on the 29th of August 1660, when the Indemnity Bill did come out complete, with the king’s assent, granting full pardon to all for their past offences, with the exception of about a hundred persons named in the bill itself for various degree of punishment thirty-four of them for death and twenty-six for the highest penalty of death, Milton did not appear as one of the exceptions on any ground or in any of the grades. From that moment, therefore, he could emerge from his hiding, and go about as a free man. Not that he was yet absolutely safe. During the next two or three months London was in excitement over the trials of such of the excepted regicides and others, as has not succeeded in escaping abroad, and the hanging and quarterings of ten of them ; there were several public burnings by the hangman at the same time of Milton’s condemned pamphlets ; and the appearance of the blind man himself in the streets, though he was legally free, would have caused him to be mobbed and assaulted. Nay notwithstanding the Indemnity Bill, he was in some legal danger to as late as December 1660. Though the special prosecution ordered against him by the Commons had been quashed by the subsequent Indemnity Bill, the sergent-at-arms had taken him into custody. Entries in the Commons journals of December 17 and 19 show that Milton complained of the sergeant-at-arms for demanding exorbitant fees for his release, and that the House arranged the matter.

Milton did not return to Petty France. For the first months after he was free he lived as closely as possible in a house near what is now Red Lion Square, Holborn. Thence he removed, apparently early I 1661, to a house in Jewin Street, in his old Aldersgate-Street and Barbican neighbourhood.

In Jewin Street Milton remained for two or three years, or from 1661 to 1664. They were the time of his deepest degradation, that time of which he speaks when he tells us how, by the Divine help, he had been able to persevere undauntedly—

"though fallen on evil days, On evil days though fallen, and evil tongue, In darkness, and with dangers compassed round,
And solitude."

The "evil days" were those of the Restoration in its first or Clarendonian stage, with its revenges and reactions, its return to high Episcopacy and suppression of every form of dissent and sectarianism, its new and shameless royal court, its open proclamation and practice of anti-Puritanism in morals and in literature no less than in politics. For the main part of this world of the Restoration Milton was now nothing more than an infamous outcast the detestable blind republican and regicide who had, by too great clemency, been left unhanged. The friends that adhered to him still, and came to see him in Jewin Street, were few in number, and chiefly from the ranks of those nonconforming denominations, Independents, Baptists, or Quakers, who were themselves under similar obloquy. Besides his two nephews, the faithful Andrew Marvell, Cyriack Skinner, and some others, of his former admirers, English or foreign, we hear chiefly of a Dr Nathan Paget, who was a physician in the Jewin-Street neighbourhood, and of several young men who would drop in upon him him by turns, partly to act as his amanuenses, and partly for the benefit of lessons him,—one of them an interesting Quaker youth, named Thomas Ellwood. With all this genuine attachment to him of a select few, Milton could truly enough describe his condition after the Restoration as one of "solitude," Nor was this the worst. His three daughters, on whom he ought now to have been able principally to depend, were his most serious domestic trouble. The poor motherless girls, the eldest in her seventeenth year in 1662, the second in her fifteenth, and the youngest in her eleventh, had grown up, in their father’s blindness and too great self-absorption, ill-looked-after and but poorly educated ; and the result now appeared. They "made nothing of neglecting him" ; they rebelled against the drudgery of reading to him or otherwise attending on him ; they "did combine together and counsel his maid-servant to cheat him in her marketings" ; they actually "had made away some of his books, and would have sold the rest." It was to remedy this horrible state of things that Milton consented to a third marriage. The wife found for him was Elizabeth Minshull, of a good Cheshire family, and a relative of Dr Paget’s they were married on the 24th of February 1662–63, the wife being then only in her twenty-fifth year, while Milton was in his fifty-fifth. She proved an excellent wife ; and the Jewin Street household, though the daughters remained in it, must have been under better management from the time of her entry into it. From that date Milton’s circumstance must have been comfortable, and his thoughts about himself less abject, than they had been through the two preceding years, though his feeling in the main must have been still that of his own Samson:—

"Now blind, disheartened, shames dishonoured, quelled
To what can I be useful? Wherein serve
My nation, and the work from heaven imposed?
But to sit idle on the household hearth,
A burdenous drone, to visitants a gaze,
Or pitied object."

That might be the appearance, but in was not the reality. All the while of his seeming degradation he had found some solace in renewed industry of various kinds among his books and tasks of scholarship, and all the while, more particularly, he had been building up his Paradise Lost. He had begun the poem in earnest, we are told, in his house in Petty France, in the last year of Cromwell’s Protectorate, and then not in the dramatic form contemplated eighteen years before, but deliberately in the epic form. He had made but little way when there came the interruption of the anarchy preceding the Restoration an of the Restoration itself ; but the work had been resumed in Jewin Street and prosecuted there steadily, by dictations of twenty or thirty lines at a time to whatever friendly or hired amanuensis chanced to be at hand. Considerable progress had been made in this way before his third marriage ; and after that the work proceeded apace, his nephew Edward Philips, who was then out in the world on his won account, looking in when he could to revise the growing manuscript.

It was not in the house in Jewin Street, however, that Paradise Lost was finished. Not very after the third marriage, probably in 1664, there was a removal to another house with a garden, not far from Jewin Street, but in a more private portion of the same suburb. This, which was to be the last of all Milton’s London residence, was in the part of the present Bunhill Row which faces the houses that conceal the London artillery-ground and was then known as "Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields." Here the poem was certainly finished before July 1665 ; for, when, in that month, Milton and his family to avoid, the Great Plague of London, then beginning its fearful ravages, went into temporary country-quarters in a cottage in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, about 23 miles from London, the finished manuscript was taken with him, in probably more than one copy. This we learn from his young Quaker friend, Thomas Ellwood, who had taken the cottage for him, and who shown one of the manuscript copies, and allowed to take it away with him for perusal, during Milton’s stay at Chalfont. Why the poem was not published immediately after his return to his Bunhill house in London, on the cessation of the Great Plague, does not distinctly appear, but may be explained partly by the fact that the official licenser hesitated before granting the necessary imprimature to a book by a man of such notorious republican antecedents, and partly by the paralysis of all business in London by the Great Fire of September 1666. It was not till the 27th of April 1667 that Milton concluded an agreement with a publisher for the printing of his epic. By the agreement of that date, still extant, Milton sold to Samuel Simmons, printer, of Aldersgate Street, London, for £5 down, the promise of another £5 after the sale of a first edition of thirteen hundred copies, and the further promise of two additional sums of £5 each after the sale of two more editions of the same size respectively, all his copyright and commercial interest in Paradise Lost for ever. It was as if an author now were to part with all his rights in a volume for £17, 10s. down, and a contingency of £52, 10s. more in three equal instalments. The poem was duly entered by Simmons as ready for publication in the Stationers’ Registers on the 20t of the following August ; and shortly after that date it was out in London as a neatly printed small quarto, with the title Paradise Lost : A Poem written in Ten Books : By John Milton. The publishing price was 3s., equal to about 10s. 6d. now. It is worth nothing as an historical coincidence that the poem appeared just at the time of the fall and disgrace of Clarendon.

The effect of the publication of Paradise Lost upon Milton’s reputation can only be describe adequately, as indeed it was consciously described by himself in metaphor, by his own words on Samson’s feat of triumph over the Philistines :—

But he, though blind of sight,
Despised, and thought extinguished quite.
With inward eyes illuminated,
His fiery virtue roused
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an evening dragon came.
Assailant on the perched roosts
And nests in order ranged
Of tame villatic fowl, but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads."

As the poem circulated and found readers, whether in the first copies sent forth by Simmons, or subsequent copies issued between 1667 an 1669,with varied titlepages, and the latest of them with a prefixed prose "Arguments," the astonishment broke out everywhere. "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too" is the saying attributed to Dryden on the occasion ; and it is the more remarkable because the one objection to the poem which at first, we are told, "stumbled many" must have "stumbled" Dryden most of all. Except in the drama, rhyme was then thought essential in anything professing to be a poem; blank verse was hardly regarded as verse at all ; Dryden especially had been and was the champion of rhyme, contending for it even in the drama ; and yet here was an epic not only written in blank verse, but declaring itself on that account to be "an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem from the troublesome andmodern bondage of riming." That, notwithstanding this obvious blow struck, by the poem at Dryden’s pet literary theory, he should have welcomed the poem so enthusiastically and proclaimed its merits so emphatically, says much at once for his critical perception and for the generosity of his temper. An opinion proclaimed by the very chief of the Restoration literature could not but prevail among the contemporary scholars ; and, though execration of the blind and unhanged regicide he had not ceased among the meaner critics,t he general vote was that he had nobly redeemed himself. One consequence of his renewed celebrity was that visitors of all ranks again sought him out for the honour of his society and conversation. His obscure house in Artillery Walk, Bunhill, we are told, became an attraction now, "much more than he did desire," for the learn notabilities of his time.

The year 1669, when the first edition of Paradise Lost had been completely sold out, and Milton had received his second £5 on account of it, may be taken as the time of the perfect recognition of his pre-eminence among the English poets of his generation. He was then sixty years of age ; and it is to about that year that the accounts that have come down to us of his personl appearance and habits in his later life principally refer. They describe him as to be seen every other day led about in the streets in the vicinity of his Bunhill residence, a slender figure, or middle stature or a little less, generally dressed in a grey cloak or overcoat, and wearing sometimes a small silver-hilted sword, evidently in feeble health, but still looking younger than he was, with his lightish hair, and his fair, rather than aged or pale, complexion. He would sit in his garden at the door of his house, in warm weather, in the same kind of the grey overcoat, "and so, as well as in his room, received the visits of people of distinguished parts, as well as quality." Within doors he was usually dressed in neat black. He was a very early riser, and very regular in the distribution of his day, spending the first part, to his midday dinner in his own room, amid his books, with an amanuensis to read for him and write to his dictation. Music was always a chief part of his afternoon and evening relaxation, whether when he was by himself or when friends were with him. His manner with friends and visitors was extremely courteous and affable, with just a shade of stateliness. In free conversation, either at the midday dinner, when a friend or two happened, by rare accident, to be present, or more habitually in the evening and at the light supper which concluded it, he was the life and soul of the company, from his "flow of subject" and his "unaffected cheerfulness and civility," though with a marked tendency to the satirical and sarcastic in his criticisms of men and things. This tendency to the sarcastic was connected by some of those whose who observed it with a peculiarity of his voice or pronunciation. "He pronounced the letter r very hard," Aubrey tells us, adding Dryden’s note on the subject "litera canina, the dog-letter, a certain sign of a satirical wit." He was extremely temperate in the use of wine or any strong liquors, at meals and at all other times ; and when supper was over, about nine o’clock, "he smoked his pipe and drank a glass of water, and went to bed." He suffered much from gout, the effects of which had become apparent in a stiffening of his hands and finger-joints, and the recurring attacks of which in its acute form were very painful. His favourite poets among the Greeks were Homer and the Tragedians, especially Euripides ; and the Latins, Virgil and Ovid ; and the English, Spenser and Shakespear. Among his English contemporaries, he thought most highly of Cowley. He had ceased to attend any church, belonged to no religious communion, and had no religious observances in his family. His reasons for this were a matter for curious surmise among his friends because of the profoundly religious character of his own mind; but he does not seem ever to have furnished the explanation. The matter became of less interest perhaps after 1669, when his three daughters ceased to reside with him, having been sent out, at considerable expense, "to learn more curious and ingenious sorts of manufacture that are proper for women to learn, particularly embroideries in gold or silver." After that the household in Bunhill consisted only of Milton his wife, a single maid-servant, and the "man" or amanuensis who came in for the day.

The remaining years of Milton’s life, extending through that part of the reign of Charles II, which figures in English history under the name of "The Cabal Administration," were by no means unproductive. In 1669 he published, under the title of Accedence Commenced Grammar, a small English compendium of Latin grammar that had been lying among his papers. In 1670 there appeared, in a rather handsome form, and with a prefixed portrait of him by Faithorne, done from the life, and the best and most authentic that now exists, his History of Britain to the Norman Conquest, being all that he had been able to accomplish of his intended complete history of England. In 1671 there followed his Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, bound together in one small volume, and giving ample proof that his poetic genius had not exhausted itself in the preceding great epic. His only publication in 1672 was a Latin digest of Ramist logic, entitled Artis Logicae Plenior Institutio, of no great value, and doubtless from an old manuscript of his earlier days. In 1673, at a moment when the growing political discontent with the government of Charles II. and the conduct of his court had burst forth in the special form of a "No-Popery" agitation and outcry, Milton ventured on the dangerous experiment of one more political pamphlet, in which, under the title Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and what best means may be used against the growth of Popery, he put forth, with a view to popular acceptance, as mild a version as possible of his former principles on the topics discussed. In the same year appeared the second edition of his Minor Poems. Thus we reach the year 1674, the last of Milton’s life. One incident of that year was the publication of the second edition of Paradise Lost, with the poem rearrange as now into twelve books, instead of the original ten. Another was the publication of a small volume containing his Latin Epistolae Familiares, together with the Prolusiones Oratoriae of his student-days at Cambridge,—these last thrown in as a substitute for his Latin state letters in his secretaryship for the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, the printing of which was stopped by order from the Foreign Office. A third publication of the same year, and probably the very last thing dictate by Milton, was a translation of a Latin document from Poland relating to the recent election of the heroic John Sobieski to the throne of that kingdom, with the title A Declaration or Letters Patents of the Election of this present King of Poland, John the Third. It seems to have been out in London in August or September 1674. On the 8th of the following November, being a Sunday, Milton died, in his house in Bunhill, of "gout struck in," or gout-fever, at the age of sixty-five years and eleven months. He was buried, the next Thursday, in the church of St Giles , Cripplegate, beside his father , a considerable concourse attending the funeral.

Before the Restoration, Milton, what with his inheritance from his father, what with the official income of his Latin secretaryship, must have been a man of very good means indeed. Since then however, various heavy losses, and the cessation of all official income had greatly reduced his estate, so that he left but £900 (worth about or over £2700 now), besides furniture and household goods. Bay a word-of-mouth will, made in presence of his brother Christopher, he had brequeathed the whole to his widow, on the ground that he had enough already for his "undutiful" daughters, and that there remained for them his interest in their mother’s marriage portion of £1000, which had never been paid, but which their relatives, the Powells, of Forest Hill, were legally bound for, and were now in circumstances to make good. The daughters, with the Powells probably abetting them, went to law with the widow to upset the will ; and the decision of the court was that they shold receive £100 each. With the £600 thus left, the widow after some further stay in London, retired to Nantwich in her native Cheshire. There, respected as a pious member of a local Baptist congregation, she lived till 1727, having survived her husband fifty-three years. By that time all the three daughters were also dead. The eldest, Ann Milton, who was somewhat deformed, had died not long after her father, having married "a masterbuilder," but left no issue ; the second, Mary Milton, had died, unmarried, before 1694 ; and only the third, Deborah, survived as long as her step-mother. Having gone to Ireland, as companion to a lady, shortly before her father’s death, she had married an Abraham Clarke, a silk-weaver in Dublin, with whom she returned to London about 1684, when they settled in the silk-weaving business in Spitalfields, rather sinking than rising in the world, though latterly some public attention was paid to Deborah, by Addison and others, on her father’s account. One of her sons, Caleb Clarke, had gone out to Madras in 1703, and had died there as "parish-clerk of Fort George" in 1719, leaving children, of whom there are some faint traces to as late as 1727, the year of Deborah’s death. Except for the possibility of further and untraced descent from this Indian grandson of Milton, the direct descent from him came to an end in his granddaughter, Elizabeth Clarke, another of Deborah’s children. Having married a Thomas Foster, a Spitalfields weaver, but after wards set up a small chandler’s shop, first in Holloway and then in Shoreditch , she died at Islington in 1754, not long after she and her husband had received the proceeds of a performance of Comus got up by Dr Johnson for her benefit. All her children had predeceased her, leaving no issue.—Milton’s brother Christopher, who had always been on the opposite side in politics, rose to the questionable honour of a judgeship and knighthood in the latter part of the reign of James II. He had then become a Roman Catholic,—which religion he professed till his death in retirement at Ipswich in 1692. Descendants from him are traceable a good way into the 18th century.—Milton’s two nephews and pupils, Edward and John Philips, both of them known as busy and clever hack-authors before their uncle’s death, continued the career of hack authorship, must industriously and variously, though not very prosperously, through the rest of their lives, Edward in a more reputable manner than John, and with more of enduring allegiance to the memory of his uncle. Edward died about 1695 ; John was alive till 1706. Their half-sister Ann Agar, the only daughter of Milton’s sister by her second husband had married in 1673, a David Moore, of Sayes House, Chertsey ; and it has so happened that the most flourishing of all the lines of descent from the poet’s father is in this Agar-Moore branch of the Miltons.

Of masses of manuscript that had been left by Milton, some portions saw the light posthumously. Prevented, in the last year of his life, as has been mentioned, from publishing his Latin State Letters in the same volume with his Latin Familiar Epistles, he had committed the charge of the State Letters, prepared for the press, together with the completed manuscript of his Latin Treatise of Christian Doctrine, to a young Cambridge scholar, Daniel Skinner, who had been among the last of his amanuenses, and had, in fact, been employed by him specially in copying out and arranging those two important MSS. Negotiations, were on foot, after Milton’s death, between this Daniel Skinner and the Amsterdam printer, Daniel Elzevir, for the publication of both MSS., when the English Government interfered, and the MSS. were sent back by Elezevir, and thrown aside, as dangerous rubbishy, in a cupboard in the State Paper Office. Meanwhile, in 1676, a London bookseller, named Pitt, who had somehow got into his possession a less perfect, but still tolerably complete, copy of the State Letters, had brought out a surreptitious edition of them, under the title Literae Pseudo-Senatus Anglicani, necnon Cromwelli, nomine et jussu conscriptae. No other posthumous publication of Milton’s appeared till 1681, when another bookseller put forth a slight tract entitled Mr John Milton’s Character of the Long Parliament and Assembly of Divines, consisting of a page of two, or rather dubious authenticity, said to have been withheld from his History of Britain in the edition of 1670. In 16 82 appeared A Brief History of Moscovia and of other less-known Countries lying eastward of Russia as far as compilations with which he sometime occupied his leisure Of the fate of his collections for a new Latin Dictionary, which had swelled to three folio volumes of MS., all that is known is that, after having been used by Edward Philips for some of his pedagogic books, they came into the hands of a committee of Cambridge scholars, and were used for that Latin dictionary of 1693, called the Cambridge Dictionary, on which Ainsworth’s Dictionary and all subsequent Latin dictionaries of English manufacture have been based. In 1698 there was published in three folio volumes, under the editorship of John Toland, the first collective edition of Milton’s the editorship of John Toland, the first collective edition of Milton’s prose works, professing to have been printed at Amsterdam, though really printed in London. A very interesting folio volume, published in 1743 by "John Nickolls, junior," under the title of Original Letters and Papers of State addressed to Oliver Cromwell, consists of a number of intimate Cromwellian documents that had somehow come into Milton’s possession immediately after Cromwell’s death, and were left by him confidently to the Quaker Ellwood. Finally, a chance search in the London State Paper Office in 1823 having discovered the long-lost parcel containing the MSS. of Milton’s Latin State Letters and his Latin Treatise of Christian Doctrine, as these had been sent back from Amsterdam a hundred and fifty years before, the Treatise on Christian Doctrine was, by the command of George IV., edited and published in 1825 by the Rev. C. R. Sumner, keeper of the Royal Library, and afterwards bishop of Winchester, under the title of Joannis Miltoni’s Angli De Doctrina Christiana Libri Duo Posthumi. An English translation, by the editor, was published in the same year.

Information, rather than criticism, has second proper in such an article as the present. What little of closing remark is necessary will best connect itself with the obvious fact of the division of Milton’s literary life into three almost mechanically distinct periods, viz. :—(1) the time of his youth and minor poems, (2) his middle twenty years of prose polemics, and (3) the time of his later Muse and greater poems.

Had Milton died in 1640, when he was in his thirty-second year, and had his literary remains been then collected, he would have been remembered as one of the best Latinists of his generation and one of the most exquisite of minor English poets. In the later character, more particularly, he would have taken his place as one of that interesting group or series of English poets, coming in the next forty years after Spenser, who, because they all acknowledged a filial relationship to Spenser, may be called collectively The Spenserians. In this group or series, counting in its each other true poets of the reigns of James I. and Charles I. as Phineas and Gileo Fletcher, William Browne, and Drummond of Hawthornden, Milton would have been intitled, by the small collection of pieces he had left, and which would have included his Ode on the Nativity, his L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, his Comus, and his Lycidas, to recognition as indubitably the very highest and finest. There was in him that peculiar Spenserian something which might be regarded as the poetic faculty in its essence, with a closeness and perfection of verbal finish not to be foun din the other Spenserians, or even in the master himself. A very discerning critic might have gone deeper, as we can now Few as the pieces were, and owning discipleship to Spenser as the author did, he was Spenserian with a difference belonging to his own constitution,— which prophesied, and indeed already exhibited, the passage of English poetry out of the Spenserian into a kind that might be called the Miltonic, This Miltonic something, distinguishing the new poet from other Spenserians, was more than mere perfection of literary finish. It consisted in an avowed consciousness already of the os magna soniturum, "the mouth formed for great utterances," that consciousness resting on a peculiar substratum of personal character that had occasioned a new theory of literature. "He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write hereafter on laudable things ought himself of his hope to write hereafter on laudable things ought himself to be a true poem" was Milton’s own memorable expression afterwards of the principle that had taken possession of him from his earliest days ; and this principle of moral manliness as the true foundation of high literary effort, of the inextricable identity of all literary production in king, and their coequality in worth, with the personality in which they have their origin, might have been detected, in more or less definite shape, in all or most of the minor poems. It is a specific form of that general Platonic doctrine of the invincibility of virtue which runs through his Comus, and which is summed up in the Miltonic motto of the closing lines :—

"Mortals that would follow me,
Love Virtue ; she alone is free. She can teach ye how to climb
Higher than the sphery chime ;
Or, if Virtue feeble were,
Heaven itself would stoop to her."

That a youth and early manhood of such poetical promise should have been succeeded by twenty years of all but incessant prose polemics has been a matter of regret with many. Why should the author of Comus and Lycidas, instead of keeping to the poetic craft, have employed himself for twenty years in the drudgery and turmoil of prose pamphleteering on questions of church and state, with nothing in verse to glitter across the long morass but a slight chain of biographical and historical sonnets? Surely this is a most shallow and most unmasculine judgment. Is nothing due to Milton’s own explanation of the reasons that drew him, at the beginning of the English Revolution, out of his literary projects and dreamings, into active partisanship with the cause which his reason favoured? Hear what he says have been the reproach of his own conscience to him, evening and morning, if he had abstained from such partisanship and persisted in his poetic privacy. "Ease and leisure was given thee for thy retired thoughts out of the sweat of other men. Thou hadst the diligence, the parts, the language of man, if a vain subject were to be adorned or beautified ; but, when the cause of God and His church was to be pleaded, for which purpose that tongue was given thee thou hast, God listened if He could her thy voice among His zealous servants, but thou were dumb as a beast : from henceforward be that which thine own brutish silence hath made thee." Or, if this should be in too high a strain for the ordinary modern apprehension, may not one ask, more simply, whether such controversial work as Milton did plunge into, and persevere in for twenty years, was unworthy, after all, of him or his powers? Do not hundreds of men, accounted among the ablest in the world, spend their lives precisely in such work of controversy on contemporary question ; and are not some of the men of noblest reputation in the world’s history remembered for nothing else? If Burke, whose whole public career consisted in a succession of speeches and pamphlets, it looked back upon as one of the greatest men of his century on their account, why should there be such regret over the fact that Miton, after having been the author of Comus and Lycidas, became for a time the prose orator of his earlier and more tumultuous generation? The truth is that it is not his exchange of poetry for prose oratory that is objected to, so much as the nature of his prose oratory, the side he took, the opinions he advocated. English scholarship and English literary criticism have not yet sufficiently which has covered with a cloud the preceding twenty years of the "Great Rebelleion," voting that period of English history to be unrespectable, and all its phenomena of Presbyterianism, the Solemn League and Covenant, Independency, the sects, English republicanism, &c., to be matters of obsolete jargon, less worthy of attention than a Roman agrarian law of the names of Horace’s mistresses. When this unscholarly state of temper has passed, there will has passed, there will be less disposition to distinguish between Milton as the poet and Milton as the prose writer. While some way recognize, with the avidity of assent and partisanship, the fact that there are in Milton’s prose writings notions of much value and consequence that have not yet been absorbed into the English political mind, there will be a general agreement at least as to the importance of those pamphlets historically. It will be perceived that he was not only the greatest pamphleteer of his generation, head and shoulders above the rest, but also that there is no life of that time, not even Cromwell’s in which the history of the great Revolution in its successive phases, so far as the deep underlying ideas and speculations were concerned, may be more intimately and instructively studied than in Milton’s. Then, on merely literary grounds, what an interest in those prose remains! Not only of his Areopagitica, admired now so unresevedly because its main doctrine has become axiomatic, but of most of his other pamphlets, even those the doctrine of which is least popular, it may be said confidently that they answer to his own definition of "a good book," by containing somehow " the precious life-blood of a master-spirit." From the entire series there might be a collection of specimens, unequalled anywhere else, of the capabilities of that older, grander, and more elaborate English prose of which the Elizabethans and their immediate successors were not ashamed, though it has fallen into disrepute now in comparison with the easier and nimbler prose which came in with Dyrden. Now will readers of Milton’s pamphlets continue to accept the hackneyed observation that his genius was destitute of humour. Though his prevailing mood was the severely earnest, there are pages in his prose writings, both English and Latin, of the most laughable irony, reaching sometimes to outrageous farce, and some of them as worthy of the name of humour as anything in Swift. Here, however, we touch on what is that worst feature in some of the prose pamphlets,—their measureless ferocity, their boundless licence in personal scurrility. With al allowance for the old custom of those days, when controversy was far more of a life-and-death business than it is now, as well as for the intrinsic soundness of Milton’s rule of always discerning the man behind the book, it is impossible for the most tolerant of modern readers to excuse Milton in this respect to the full extent of his delinquencies.

While it is wrong to regard Milton’s made middle twenty years of prose polemics as a degradation of his genius, and while the fairer contention might be that the youthful poet of Comus and Lycidas actually promoted himself, and become a more powerful agency in the world and a more interesting object in it for ever by consenting to lay aside his "singing robes" and spend a portion of his life in great prose oratory, who does not exult in the fact that such a life was rounded off so miraculously at the close by a final stage of compulsory calm, when the "singing robes" could be resumed, and Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes could issue in succession from the blind man’s chamber? Of these three poems, and what they reveal of Milton, no need here to speak at length. Paradise Lost is one of the few monumental works of the world, with nothing in modern epic literature comparable to it except the great poem of Dante. This is best perceived by those who penetrate beneath the beauties of the merely terrestrial portion of the story, and who recognize the coherence and the splendour of that vast symbolic phantasmagory by which, through the wars in heaven and the subsequent revenged of the expelled archangel, it paints forth the connexion of the whole visible universe of human cognizance and history with the grander, pre-existing, and still environing world of the eternal and inconceivable. To this great epic Paradise Regained is a sequel, and it ought to be read as such. The legend that Milton preferred the shorter epic to the larger is quite incorrect. All that is authentic on the subjects is the statement by Edward Philips that, when it was reported to his uncle that the shorter epic was "generally censured to be much inferior to the other," he could not hear with patience any such thing." The best critical judgement now confirms Milton’s own, and pronounced Paradise Regained to be not only, within the possibilities of its briefer theme, a worthy sequel to Paradis Lost, but also one of the most edifying and artistically perfect poems in any language. Finally, the poem in which Milton bade farewell to the Muse, and in which he reverted to the dramatic form, proves that to the very end his right had lost none of its power or cunning. Samson Agonistes is the most powerful drama in our language after the severe Greek model, and it has additional interest of being so contrived that, without strain at any one point, or in any one partivular, of the strictly objective incidents of the Biblical story which it enshrines, it is yet the poet’s own epitaph and his condensed autobiography. All in all, now those three great poems of Milton’s later life have drawn permanently into their company the beautiful and more simple performances of his youth and early manhood, so that we have all his English poetry under view at once, the result has been that this man, who would have had to be remembered independently as the type of English magnanimity and political courage, is laurelled also as the supreme poet of his nation, with the single exception of Shakespeare.

Much light is thrown upon Milton’s mind in is later life, and even upon the poems of the period, by his posthumous Latin Treatise of Christian Doctrine. It differs from all his other prose writings of any importance in being cool, abstract and didactic. Professing to be a system of divinity derived directly from the Bible, it is really an exposition of Milton’s metaphysics and of his reasoned opinions on all questing of philosophy, ethics, an politics. The general effect is to show that, though he is rightly regarded as the very genius of English Puritanism, its representative poet and idealist, yet he was not a Puritan of what may be called the first wave, or that were of Calvinistic orthodoxy which broke in upon the Absolutism of Charles and Laud, and set the English Revolution agoing. He belonged distinctly to that and larger and more persistent wave of Puritanism which, passing on through Independency, included at length an endless variety of sects, many of them rationalistic and free-thinking in the extreme, till, checked by the straits of the Restoration, it had to contract its volume for a while, and to reappear, so far as it could reappear at all, in the new and milder guise of what has ever since been known as English Liberalism. For example, the treatise shows the Milton in his latter life was not an orthodox Trinitarian, but an anti-Trinitarian of that high Arian order, counting Sir Isaac Newton among its subsequent English adherents, which denied the coessentiality or coequality of Christ with absolute Deity, but regarded him as clothed with a certain derivative divinity of a high and unfathomable kind. It shows him also to have been Arminian, rather than Calvinistic, in his views of free will and predestination. It shows him to have been no Sabbatarian, like the Puritans of the first wave, but most strenuously anti-Sabbatarian. Indeed one of it doctrines is that the Decalogue is no longer the standard of human morality, and that Christian liberty is no longer the standard of human morality, and that Christian liberty, is not to be bounded by its prohibitions or by any sacerdotal code of ethics founded on these. Hence, in the treatise, not only a repetition of Milton’s on the marriage subject and of other peculiar tenets of his that had been set forth in his pamphlets, but some curious and minute novelties of opinion besides. By far the most important revelation of the treatise, however, consists in the very definite statement it makes of Milton’s metaphysical creed and of the connexion of that creed in his mind with the revealed theology of Christianity. While, ontologically, he starts from a pure spiritualistic theism, or from the notion of one infinite and eternal Spirit as the self-subsisting God and author of all being, cosmologically his system is that of a pantheistic materialism, which conceives all the present universe, all that we call creation, as consisting of diverse modifications, inanimate or animate, of one primal matter, which was originally nothing else than an efflux or emanation from the very substance of God. Angles and men no less than the brute world and the things we call lifeless, are formations from this one original matter, only in higher degrees and endowed withsould and free will. Hence and radical distinction between matter and spirit, body and soul, is, Milton holds, fallaious. The soul of man, he holds, is not something distinct from the body of man and capable of existing apart, but is actually bound up with the bodily organism. Therefore, when the body dies, the soul dies also, and the whole man ceases to exist. The immortality revealed in Scripture is, therefore, not a continued existence of the soul in an immaterial condition immediately after death, but a miraculous revival of the whole man, soul and body together, at the resurrection, after an intermediate sleep. In such a resurrection, with a final judgment, a reign of Christ, and a glorification of the saints in a new heaven and a new earth, Milton declares his absolute belief. But, indeed, throughout the treatise, with all its differences from the orthodox interpretations of the Bible, nothing is more remarkable than the profoundness of the reverence avowed for the Bible itself. The very initial Principle of the treatise is that, as the Bible is a revelation from God of things that man could not have found out for himself, all that the Bible says on any matter is to be accepted implicitly, in the plain sense of the words, and without sophistication, however strange it may seem to the natural human reason. Hence, in all those essentials of Christianity which consist in the doctrines of the fall of man, atonement by Christ, and restoration and sanctification through Christ only, Milton is at one with the great body of Christians. Altogether, what the treatise makes clear is that, while Milton was a most fervid theist and a genuine Christian, believing in the Bible, and valuing the Bible over all the other books in the world, he was at the same time one of the most intrepid of English thinkers and theologians.

For further information reference may be made to Masson’s Life of Milton and History of his Time, 6 vols. (1859-80), and to his editions of Milton’s Poetical Works (Cambridge edition in 3 vols., 1874, and smaller 3 vol. ed., 1882), as well as to Todd’s variorum edition of the Poetical Works, with Life (5th ed., 1852), to Keightley’s Life, Opinions, and Writings of Milton (1855), to Milton und Seine Zeit, by Alfred Stern (1877-79), and to Mr. Mark Pattison’s Milton in Mr Morley’s series of "English Writers," Collective editions of the prose works since that of 1698 are Symmons’s (7 vol., 1806); Pickering’s, with Life by Mitford (8 vols., prose and verse together, 1851); and St. John’s, in Bohn’s Standard Library (5 vols., 1848-53). This last includes a revised edition of Bishop Summer’s translation of the Treatise of Christian Doctrine, originally published in 1825. (D. MA.)



The above article was written by: David Masson, LL.D., Litt.D.; Historiographer Royal for Scotland from 1893; Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in Edinburgh University, 1865-95; Professor of English Literature in University College, London, 1853-1865; edited Macmillan's Magazine, 1858-65; author of Life of Milton, De Quincey in Men of Letters Series, and Drummond of Hawthorneden.



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