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Milton's Divorce Pamphlets. 119 with his nephew Phillips, "took a journey into the country, nobody about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was any more than a journey of recreation ; but home he returns a married man that went out a bachelor, his wife being Mary, the eldest daughter of Mr. Richard Powell, then a justice of the peace, at Foresthill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire.” The circumstances connected with this marriage have never been clearly explained. The Powells were Royalists; Mary was only seventeen, whereas her husband was thirty-five; and altogether it seems to have been as ill-assorted a union as could well be imagined. After the newly married pair had lived together for a month, Mary Powell went back to her friends, promising, however, to return at Michaelmas. Milton, like Carlyle, was "gey ill to live wi';" his studious habits, his solitary life, and his austere disposition were doubtless very repellant to a young girl accustomed to "a great house and much company and jollity." She did not return at Michaelmas, and for a very good reason. Before that time Milton had published the first of those strange pamphlets in which he advocated freedom of divorce on very easy conditions. This raised a tempest of opposition against him, but single-handed he undauntedly. continued to maintain his thesis in three other pamphlets, the last of which appeared early in 1645. When, however, the Powell family, later on in that year, fell into difficulties, and his wife returned to him and asked his forgiveness, Milton granted it, and again received her into favour.

Between the publication of the first and the last pamphlet on Divorce appeared Milton's tract on Education (1644), and his “ Areopagitica," published in the same year, the first formal plea for the liberty of the press. It is the most generally known of Milton's prose works, and there is little need to dwell on its surpassing eloquence; none but a poet and a very great one could have written it. Meanwhile Milton's writings on Divorce had lost him the favour of the Presbyterians, many of whom bitterly assailed him; and he began to think that " new Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.” From about

1646, he favoured Independency so far as he favoured any form of church government; but in religious matters he was a law unto himself, going to no church, and joining no communion.

The year 1646 is memorable as having been that in which the poems written by Milton up to that date were collected and published together. “Let the event guide itself which way it will," wrote Moseley, the publisher, in the preface to the collected edition; “I shall deserve of the age by bringing into the light as true a birth as the Muses have brought forth since our famous Spenser wrote, whose poems in these English ones are as rarely imitated as sweetly excelled.” Three years after, in 1649, Milton again entered into controversy by publishing a pamphlet defending the execution of Charles I. Then came his Latin controversy with the great Leyden scholar Salmasius, over whom he obtained a brilliant victory. His exertions in this battle cost him his eyesight: in 1652 he became totally blind. Some consolation for his blindness was to be derived from the fact that his replies to Salmasius had caused Europe to ring with his fame from side to side. About 1654 his wie died, leaving behind her three daughters. He married again in 1656, but his second wife only lived fifteen months, dying in childbirth in 1658.

On the death of Cromwell, Milton in vain endeavoured to stem the tide of popular feeling in favour of the restoration of the monarchy, writing five pamphlets with this end in view, and fighting for what was clearly a hopeless cause till the very last moment. All in vain: on the 8th of May Charles II. was proclaimed, and on the 29th he entered London in triumph. Milton, who had been the foremost advocate of Republicanism, who had defended the execution of the King, who had acted as Latin secretary during the Protectorate, whose name was famous throughout Europe as the champion of the Commonwealth and the contemner of kings, now indeed found himself fallen on evil days and evil tongues. It is a wonder that he escaped death: if any man deserved it, the Royalists might plausibly have argued, it was the stern old blind man

Death of Milton.


who had fought strenuously against them till the very last. For about two months he lay in hiding, till, in August 1660, the Act of Indennity passed. He was then for some time in custody, but was soon released, at the intercession, according to an old tradition, of Sir William Davenant, for whom he had performed a similar good office during the Commonwealth.

Now “in darkness and with dangers compassed round,” Milton, after twenty years spent in the arid deserts of controversy, again girt his singing robes around him. A few old friends remained faithful to him, but his daughters, to whom he was a harsh parent, were undutiful, and his domestic infelicity for a time was great. Affairs were, however, put on a more comfortable footing by his marriage to Elizabeth Minshull, an excellent woman, who did her duty well to him and his daughters. In 1667 “Paradise Lost," begun in the year before the close of the Protectorate, was published. Four years later, in 1671, “Paradise Regained” and “Samson Agonistes” appeared. Busy to the last, he also published various minor prose works, a “Latin Accidence,” a “History of Britain,” a “ Tract on True Religion,” &c. The most important work of his later years, however, was his Latin “ Treatise on Christian Doctrine,” which is very valuable for the light which it throws on his theological opinions. After the manuscript of it had been lost for many years, it was at length found in an old brown paper parcel that had been lying in the State Paper Office since 1675; and its publication, along with an English translation, by Bishop Sumner in 1825, gave occasion to Macaulay's famous Edinburgh Review essay.

On November 8th, 1674, Milton died. Four days later he was buried in the chancel of St. Giles, Cripplegate, attended to the grave by “all his learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar." His personal appearance is well known from his portraits. In his youth he was eminently beautiful, with something of feminine delicacy in his appearance; and even in his old age, when blind and careworn by many trials, his features retained a sort of greatness and nobleness. “His domestic habits, so far as they are

known, were those of a severe student. He drank little strong drink of any kind, and sed without excess in quantity, and in his earlier years without delicacy of choice. In his youth he studied late at night, but afterwards changed his hours, and rested in bed from nine to four in the summer, and five in the winter. The course of his day was best known after he was blind. When he first rose, he read a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, and then studied till twelve; then took some exercise for an hour; then dined; then played on the organ, and sang, or heard another sing; then studied to six ; then entertained his visitors till eight; then supped, and, after a pipe of tobacco and a glass of water, went to bed.”* The “Notes” of Richardson supply a graphic and touching picture of Milton in his closing years. “An aged clergyman of Dorsetshire,”

" he says, "found John Milton in a small chamber hung with rusty green, sitting in an elbow-chair, and dressed neatly in black; pale, but not cadaverous; his hands and fingers gouty, and with chalkstones. He used also to sit in a grey coarse cloth coat at the door of his house near Bunhill Fields in warm, sunny weather, and so, as well as in his house, received the visits of people of distinguished parts as well as quality.” His character, after all deductions have been made, was a very noble one. Not amiable, irritable, exacting, vindictive, he was totally free from anything deserving the name of vice; conscientious, high-minded, dignified, courageous.

“Paradise Lost," as originally published, consisted of ten books. For the manuscript Milton received £5; and it was arranged that he should receive £5 after each of the first four editions, which were to consist of 1300 copies each. In 1669 Milton gave the publisher, Simmons, a receipt for £5, so that he received for the first edition just £10. The second edition appeared in 1674. In it the two longest books of the first edition, Books VII. and X., were each divided into two, and some other trifling alterations were made. In 1678 the third edition appeared, for which, in 1680, Simmons paid Milton's

* Johnson

Paradise Regained.


widow £5, and for £3 more purchased all interest in the copyright All circumstances considered, the sale of the book was not bad, and Simmons must have made a tolerably good thing of his purchase. It would be presumption to attempt to criticise a work so great and so well known as “Paradise Lost.” The most salient objections to its plan and execution are given in Johnson's unappreciative but very able criticism. Such trifling faults as he mentions are but as a feather in the balance when weighed against the wonderful majesty, the consummate art, the strength and dignity, of England's greatest epic. The theme of the poem is one so vast, so transcending human faculties, so full of difficulties, as to require a poet of Milton's massive genius to grapple with. It may be granted at once that “ Paradise Lost” is overlaid with learning ; that it is occasionally prolix; that it is sometimes even (as in the case of the war in heaven) grotesque ; but no poem, taken as a whole, is so uniformly grand, or soars up into such splendid regions of eloquence. The verse, as in all poems of first-rate excellence, is an echo to the sense.

“Perhaps no man," writes Dr. Guest, a great authority on such matters, "ever paid the same attention to the quality of his rhythm as Milton. What other poets effect as it were by chance, Milton achieved by the aid of science and art; he studied the aptness of his numbers, and diligently tutored an ear which nature had gifted with the most delicate sensibility. In the flow of his rhythm, in the quality of his letter sounds, in the disposition of his pauses,

his verse almost ever fits the subject, and so insensibly does poetry blend with this--the last beauty of exquisite versification--that the reader may sometimes doubt whether it be the thought itself, or merely the happiness of its expression, which is the source of a gratification so deeply felt.”

"Paradise Regained" had its origin in a suggestion of Ellwood the Quaker. Visiting Milton in 1665, the poet gave him the MS. of “ Paradise Lost” to read. When it was returned, Milton asked, “ How I liked it, and what I thought of it, which I modestly but freely told him; and, after some

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