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again exacted. When this Parliament re-assem. bled in the beginning of the following year (1629), the old discussions were renewed with greater fervor than ever. Laud had used the interval to issue a Declaration, to be prefixed to the Thirtynine Articles,' reaffirming the King's supremacy in the Church, and forbidding discussion of the Articles. This Declaration became the main object of attack, but the King stood firm, the Parliament was dissolved, and Charles began a period of personal government which lasted for eleven years (1629-1640).
The period during which Charles ruled without a Parliament was marked by a development of the policy which Laud, soon to become Archbishop, had already marked out. In religious affairs, there was an increase in the restrictions on freedom of discussion by the clergy, and the new Primate's favorite ideas in matters of worship and discipline were enforced by his control of Church legislation, patronage, and organization. Convenient instruments of coercion were found in the already existing Courts of Star Chamber and of High Commission, which were used with unsparing severity in the punishment and suppression of Separatists outside the Church, and Puritans
1 These articles of religion, originally drawn up in the reign of Edward VI, were, with little change, reaffirmed at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, and still remain the official statement of Anglican belief.
within. Men guilty of preaching or writing against Laudian principles were fined, imprisoned, and mutilated in the pillory; and the persecutions were carried even into the Universities. In secular politics, the chief problem was the raising of money, and resort was had to the sale of monopolies in almost all the articles of common consumption, to the revival of obsolete taxes, to fines for a multitude of petty offenses, to the sale of indulgences to Catholics who wished to practice their own religion, and, finally, to Ship-money. This last was an old tax, instituted before England had a permanent navy, to provide money for ships to defend the coast towns. It was now revived, and levied, not only on the seaboard as before, but over the whole country; and it was on the refusal of John Hampden to pay this tax that the spirit of the country at last rose to resist. Meanwhile, Charles and Laud had been attempting to impose Episcopacy on Presbyterian Scotland, but the task was beyond their power, and the Scots were already in armed rebellion.
Nearly four years were to pass before the Civil War in England actually broke out; but it was the rumor of these events of the year 1638, reaching Milton in Italy, which determined him to return to bear his share in his country's struggle for freedom, and which brought to a close the period of his life that includes those of his writings with which we are more immediately concerned.
II. THE LIFE OF MILTON The intimate relation between the writings of Milton and the history of his times, to which allusion has been made, is symbolized by the coincidence of the periods into which his life naturally falls with the periods into which English history in the seventeenth century divides itself. The first of these extends from Milton's birth to his return from Italy, and corresponds with that portion of the history which has just been outlined. The second ends with his retirement into private life in 1660, and coincides with the period of the Civil War and the Commonwealth. The third closes with his death in 1674, and falls within the period of the Restoration.
This threefold classification applies also to his literary productions. The first group of these, in which the poems in this volume are the most important, belongs to the period before 1639; the second, consisting chiefly of controversial works in prose, to the period between 1640 and 1660; and the third, the group containing the two great epics and Samson Agonistes, to the period of his retirement.
(a) First Period (1608-1639) V John Milton was born in Bread Street, London, on the ninth of December, 1608. He was the son of John Milton, a prosperous scrivener (i. e., attorney and law-stationer), a man of good family and
considerable culture, especially devoted to music.
In the education of the future poet the elder Milton was exceptionally generous. From childhood he destined him for the Church, and his preparation was begun at home, and continued at St. Paul's School and at Cambridge. We have abundant evidence that the boy was from the first a quick and diligent student, and that the late study to which he was addicted from childhood was the beginning of that injury to his eyes which ended in blindness. He entered Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1625, took the degree of B. A, in 1629, that of M. A. in 1632, when he left-the University after seven years' residence. Like several other poets who have brought renown to Cambridge, Milton was severely critical of his University. Yet he seems to have been highly respected while there, both for the purity of his conduct and the brilliance of his scholarship; and years afterwards he made public acknowledgment of "that more than ordinary favour and respect, which I found above any of my equals at the hands of those courteous and learned men, the fellows of that College wherein I spent some years: who at my parting ... signified many ways how much better it would content them that I would stay."
1 Apology for Smectymnuus, Milton's Works, ed. Mitford, vol. III, p. 265.
Milton left Cambridge for his father's house at Horton in Buckinghamshire with his career still unsettled. It has been mentioned that he had been intended for the Church, but this prospect he had given up before he took his Master's degree. The reasons for the change of purpose he has himself stated in no uncertain words. “Coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the Church, that he who would take orders must subscribe slave, and take an oath withal,... I thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking bought and begun with servitude and foreswearing."1 And he refers to having been “Churchouted by the Prelates”—a phrase which finds sufficient explanation in what has been said of the policy of Laud.
The life to which Milton settled down at Horton was one of quiet but persistent study, varied with occasional poetical production. Authorship, indeed, seems to have taken the place of the ministry in his vague plans for the future, though the particular form it was to take was long undefined. Even as a child he had written verses, and at the University he had produced, besides academic exercises and a number of Latin poems, occasional poetical effusions in English, the most notable
1 The Reason of Church Government (1641), Works, vol. III, p. 150.