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then calls in Faith, Hope, and Charity; instructs him, he repents, gives God the glory, submits to his penalty. The Chorus briefly concludes. Compare this with the former draught.
These are very imperfect rudiments of Paradise Lost; but it is pleasant to see great works in their seminal state, pregnant with latent possibilities of excellence; nor could there be any more delightful entertainment than to trace their gradual growth and expansion, and to observe how they are sometimes suddenly advanced by acci. dental hints, and sometimes slowly improved by steady meditation,
Invention is almost the only literary labour which blindness cannot obstruct, and therefore he naturally solaced his solitude by the indulgence of his fancy, and the melody of his numbers. He had done what he knew to be necessarily previous to poetical excellence; he had made himself acquainted with seemly arts 'and affairs ; his comprehension was extended by various knowledge, and his memory stored with intellectual treasures. He was skilful in many languages, and had by reading and composition attained the full mastery of his own. He would have wanted little help from books, had he retained the power of perusing them. Bot while his greater designs were advancing, having now, like
other au. thors, caught the love of publication, he amused himself, as he could, with little productions. He sent to the press (1658) a manuscript of Raleigh, called The Ca. binet Council; and next year gratified his malevolence to the clergy by a Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Cases, and the means of removing Hirelings out of the Church.
Oliver was now dead; Richard now constrained to resign : the system of ex. temporary government, which had been held together only by force, naturally fell into fragments when that force was taken away ; and Milton saw himself and his cause in equal danger. But he had still hope of doing something. He wrote letters, which Toland has published, to such men as he thought friends to the new commonwealth ; and even in the year of the Restoration he bated no jot of heart or hope, but was fantastical enough to think that the nation, agitated as it was, might be settled by a pamphlet, called A ready and easy way to establish a free Commonwealth; which was, however enough considered to be both seriously and ludicrously answered.
The obstinate enthusiasm of the commonwealthmen was very remarkable. When the king was apparently returning, Harrington, with a few associates as fanatical as himself, used to meet, with all the gravity of political importance, to settle an equal government by rotation; and Milton, kicking when he could strike no longer, was foolish enough to publish, a few weeks before the restoration, mon prcached by one Griffiths, entitulcd, The Fear of God and the King. To these notes an answer was written by L'Estrange, in a pamphlet petulantly called, No Blind Guides.
But whatever Milton could write, or men of greater activity could do, the king was now about to be restored, with the irresistible approbation of the people. He was therefore no longer secretary, and was consequently obliged to quit the house which he held by his office; and, proportioning his sense of danger to his opinion of the importance of his writings, thought it convenient to seek some shelter, and hid himself for a time'in Bartholomew-Close, by West-Smithfield.
I cannot but remark a kind of respect, perhaps unconsciously, paid to this great
man by his biographers; every house in which he resided is historically mentioned as if it were an injury to neglect naming any place that he honoured by his sence.
The king, with lenity of which the world has had perhaps no other example, de. clined to be the judge or avenger of his own or his father's wrongs; and promised to admit into the act of oblivion all, except those whom the parliament should except; and the parliament doomed none to capital punishment but the wretches who had immediately cooperated in the murder of the king. Milton was certainly not one of them; he had only justified what they had done.
This justification was indeed sufficiently offensive; and (June 16) an order was issued to seize Milton's Defence, and Goodwin's Obstructors of Justice, another book of the same tendency, and burn them by the common hangman. The attorneygeneral was ordered to prosecute the authors; but Milton was not scized, nor perhaps very diligently pursued.
Not long after (August 19) the flutter of innumerable bosoms were stilled by an act, which the king, that his mercy might want no recommendation of elegance, rather called an Act of Oblivion than of Grace. Goodwin was named, with nine. teen more, as incapacitated for any public trust; but of Milton there was no ex. ception.
Of this tenderness shown to Milton, the curiosity of mankind has not forborn to inquire the reason. Burnet thinks he was forgotten: but this is another instance which may confirm Dalrymple's observation, who says, “ that whenever Burnet's narrations are examined, he appears to be mistaken.”
Forgotten he was not; for his prosecution was ordered; it must be therefore by design that he was included in the general oblivion. He is said to have had friends in the house, such as Marvel, Morrice, and sir Thomas Clarges : and undoubtedly a man like him must have had influence. A very particular story of his escape is told by Richardson ? in his Memoirs, which he received from Pope, as delivered by Bet. terton, who might have heard it from Davenant. In the war between the king and parliament Davenant was made prisoner, and condemned to die; but was spared at the request of Milton. When the turn of success brought Milton into the like dan. ger, Davenant repaid the benefit by appearing in his favour. Here is a reciproca. tion of generosity and gratitude so pleasing, that the tale makes its own way to credit. But, if help were wanted, I know not where to find it. The danger of Da. venant is certain from his own relation ; but of his escape there is no account. Bet. terton's narration can be traced no higher; it is not known that he had it from Davenant. We are told that the benefit exchanged was life for life; but it seems not certain that Milton's life ever was in danger. Goodwin, who had committed the same kind of crime, escaped with incapacitation; and, as exclusion from public trust is a punishment which the power of government can commonly inflict without the help of a particular law, it required no great interest to exempt Milton from a censure little more than verbal. Something may be reasonably ascribed to veneration and compassion, to veneration of his abilities, and compassion for his distresses, which made it fit to forgive his malice for his learning. fle was now poor and blind;
• It was told before by A. Wood in Ath. Oxon. Tol. II. p. 412, 2d edit, C: VOL. VII.
and who would pursue with violence an illustrious enemy, depressed by fortune and disarmed by nature 3 ?
The publication of the Act of Oblivion put him in the same condition with his fellow-subjects. He was, however, upon some pretence now not known, in the custody of the sergeant'in December; and when he was released, upon his refusal of the fees demanded, he and the sergeant were called before the House. He was now safe within the shade of oblivion, and knew himself to be as much out of the power of a griping officer as any other man. How the question was determined is not known. Milton would hardly have contended, but that he knew himself to have right on his side.
He then removed to Jewin-street, near Aldersgate-street; and being blind, and by no means wealthy, wanted a domestic companion and attendant; and there. fore, by the recommendation of Dr. Paget, married Elizabeth Minshul, of a gentle. man's family in Cheshire, probably without a fortune. All his wives were virgins : for he has declared that he thought it gross and indelicate to be a second husband: upon what other principles his choice was made cannot now be known; but marriage afforded not much of his happiness. The first wife left him in disgust, and was brought back only by terrour; the second, indeed, seems to have been more a favourite, but her life was short. The third, as Philips relates, oppressed his children in his life-time, and cheated them at his death.
Soon after his marriage, according to an obscure story, he was offered the con. tinuance of his employment, and, being pressed by his wife to accept it, answered, " You, like other women, want to ride in your coach; my wish is to live and die an honest man.” If he considered the Latin secretary as exercising any of the powers of government, he that had shared authority, either with the parliament or Crom. well, might have forborn to talk very loudly of his honesty ; and if he thought the office purely ministerial, he certainly might have honestly retained it under the king. But this tale has too little evidence to deserve a disquisition; large offers and sturdy rejections are among the most common topics of falsehood.
He had so much either of prudence or gratitude, that he forbore to disturb the new settlement with any of his political or ecclesiastical opinions, and from this time devoted himself to poetry and literature. Of his zeal for learning in all its parts, he gave a proof by publishing, the next year (1661), Accidence commenced Grammar: a little book which has nothing remarkable, but that its author, who had been late. ly defending the supreme powers of his country, and was then writing Paradise Lost, could descend from his elevation to rescue children from the perplexity of grammatical confusion, and the trouble of lessons unnecessarily repeated.
About this time Elwood the quaker, being 'recommended to him as one who would read Latin to him for the advantage of his conversation, attended him every afternoon except on Sundays. Milton, who, in his letter to Hartlib, had declared that, to read Latin with an English mouth is as ill a hearing as law French, required that Elwood should learn and practise the Italian pronunciation, which, he said,
3 A different account of the means by which Milton secured himself is given by an historian lately brought to light. “ Milton, Latin secretary to Cromwell, distinguished by his writings in favour of the rights and liberties of the people, pretended to be dead, and had a public funeral procession. The king applauded his policy in escaping the punishment of death, by a seasonable show of dying.” Cunningham's History of Great Britain, vol. 1. p. 14. R,
was necessary, if he would talk with foreigners. This seems to have been a task troublesome without use. There is little reason for prefering the Italian pronunciation to our own, except that it is more general; and to teach it to an Englishman is only to make him a foreigner at home. He who travels, if he speaks Latin, may so soon learn the sounds which every native gives it, that he need make no provision before his journey; and if strangers visit us, it is their business to practise such con. formity to our modes as they expect from us in their own countries. Elwood com. plied with the directions, and improved himself by his attendance; for he relates, that Milton, having a curious ear, knew by his voice when he read what he did not un. derstand, and would stop him, and open the most difficult passages.
In a short time he took a house in the Artillery Walk leading to Bunhill Fields ; the mention of which concludes the register of Milton's removals and habitations. He lived longer in this place than any other.
He was now busied by Paradise Lost. Whence he drew the original design has been variously conjectured by men who cannot bear to think themselves ignorant of that which, at last, neither diligence nor sagacity can discover. Some find the hint in an Italian tragedy. Voltaire tells a wild and unauthorised story of a farce seen by Milton in Italy which opened thus : 66 Let the rainbow be the fiddlestick of the fid. dle of Heaven.” It has been already shown, that the first conception was a tragedy or mystery, not of a narrative, but a dramatic work, which he is supposed to have begun to reduce to its present form about the time (1655) when he finished his dispute with the defenders of the king.
He long before had promised to adorn his native country by some great perfor. mance, while he had yet perhaps no settled design, and was stimulated only by such expectations as naturally arose from the survey of his attainments, and the con. sciousness of his powers. What he should undertake, it was difficult to determine. He was long choosing and began late.
While he was obliged to divide his time between his private studies and affairs of state, his poetical labour must have been often interrupted; and perhaps he did little more in that busy time than construct the narrative, adjust the episodes, proportion the parts, accumulate images and sentiments, and treasure in his memory, or preserve in writing, such hints as books or meditation would supply. Nothing particular is knowo of his intellectual operations while he was a statesman, for, having every help and accommodation at hand, he had no need of uncommon expedients.
Being driven from all public stations, he is yet too great not to be traced by cu. riosity to his retirement: where he has been found by Mr. Richardson, the fondest of his admirers, sitting before his door in a grey coat of coarse cloth, in warm sul. try weather, to enjoy the fresh air; and so, as in his own room, receiving the visits of the people of distinguished parts as well as quality. His visitors of high quality must now be imagined to be few; but men of parts might reasonably court the con. versation of a man so generally illustrious, that foreigners are reported, by Wood, to have visited the house in Bread-street where he was born.
According to another account, he was seen in a small house, neatly enough dres. sed in black clothes, sitting in a room hung with rusty green; pale but not cada. verous, with chalkstones in his hands. He said that, if it were not for the gout, his blindaess would be tolerable,
In the intervals of his pain, being made unable to use the common exercises, he used to swing in a chair, and sometimes played upon an organ.
He was now confessedly and visibly employed upon his poem, of which the progress might be noted by those with whom he was familiar; for he was obliged, when he had composed as many lines as his memory would conveniently retain, to employ some friend in writing them, having, at least for part of the time, no regu. lar attendant. This gave opportunity to observations and reports.
Mr. Philips observes, that there was a very remarkable circumstance in the composure of Paradise Lost, “ which I have a particular reason,” says he, “to remember; for whereas I had the perusal of it from the very beginning, for some years, as I went from time to time to visit him, in parcels of ten, twenty, or thirty ver. ses at a time (which, being written by whatever hand came next, might possibly want correction as to the orthography and pointing), having, as the summer came on, not being showed any for a considerable while, and desiring the reason thereof, was answered, that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal; and that whatever he attempted at other times was never to his satisfaction, though he courted his fancy never so much : so that, in all the years he was about this poem, he may be said to have spent half his time therein.”
Upon this relation Toland remarks, that in his opinion Philips has mistaken the time of the year; for Milton, in his Elegies, declares, that with the advance of the spring he feels the increase of his poetical force, redeunt in carmina vires. To this it is answered, that Philips could hardly mistake time so well marked ; and it may be added, that Milton might find different times of the year favourable to different parts of life. Mr. Richardson conceives it impossible that “ such a work should be suspended for six months, or for one. It may go on faster or slower, but it must go on," By what necessity it must continually go on, or why it might not be laid aside and resumed, it is not easy to discover.
This dependance of the soul upon the seasons, those temporary and periodical eobs and flows of intellect, may, I suppose, justly be derided as the fumes of vain imagination. Sapiens dominabitur astris. The author that thinks himself weather. bound will find, with a little help from hellebore, that he is only idle or exhausted. But while this notion has possession of the head, it produces the inability which it supposes. Our powers owe much of their energy to our hopes; possunt quia posse vidcntur, When success seems attainable, diligence is enforced; but when it is admitted that the faculties are suppressed by a cross wind, or a cloudy sky, the day is given up without resistance, for whọ can contend with the course of Na. ture?
From such prepossessiops Milton seems not to have been free. There prevailed in his time an opinion, that the world was in its decay, and that we have had the mis. fortune to be produced in the decrepitude of Nature. It was suspected that the whole creation languished, that neither trees nor animals bad the height or bulk of their predecessors, and that every thing was daily sinking by gradual diminution 4.
* This opinion is, with great learning and ingenuity, refuted iu a book now very little known, An Apology or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God in the Government of the World, by Dr. George Hakewill, London, folio, 1635. The first wbo ventured to propagate it in this country was Dr. Gabriel Goodman, bishop of Gloucester, a man of a versatile temper, and the author