Imágenes de páginas

ment to be tried for his life by the High Court of Justice, and the interest of Milton was then exerted to save him ; he now, it is said, paid the debt of gratitude.* Perhaps after all it was Monk himself, who we know had wished to have only four persons excepted from indemnity, that caused Milton's name not to appear among the exceptions.

Warton, who we need not say was no lover of Milton, tells us, on the authority of Thyer, who he says had it from good authority, that “when he was under persecucution with John Goodwin, his friends, to gain time, made a mock-funeral for him, and that when matters were settled in his favour, and the affair was known, the King laughed heartily at the trick." This account, improbable as it may appear, receives some confirmation from the fact that it is to be found in a work written long before the time of Thyer or Warton,t and with which neither of them can be supposed to have been acquainted. The story after all is by no means incredible, for Milton's friends might—but assuredly without his knowledge—have had recourse to such an artifice.

On the 16th of June, 1660, the Commons resolved that his Majesty should be “humbly moved to call in Milton's two books [Iconoclastes and The Defence] and that of John Goodwin (The Obstructors of Justice), written in justification of the murder of the late King, and order them to be burnt by the common hangman; and that the Attorney-General do proceed against them by indictment or otherwise.” On the 27th of

* Richardson, from Pope, who said he had it from Betterton the actor, whose patron Davenant had been. Aubrey, in his MS. Life of Davenant, as Todd observes, ascribes his safety, without any mention of Milton, to two aldermen of York.

+ Cunningham's History of Great Britain, i. 14.


August following several copies of these works were committed to the flames. Two days after, the Act of Indemnity was passed, and Milton had nothing more to fear for his life. Yet we find him, for some cause or other, afterwards in the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, for there is an order of the 15th of December for his release, paying his fees; and another of the 17th, on his complaint of excessive fees being demanded, directing that inquiry should be made of what is fit to be given to the Sergeant. For his confinement on this occasion no adequate cause has been assigned. Birch conjectures that it was in consequence of the order given by the Commons for his prosecution; but there was no such order, it was merely a motion for an address to the King. We are therefore left in uncertainty. We may now however suppose that Milton's mind was at ease, and that he could give his undivided attention to the great work he had in hand. But if we may credit Richardson's informant, this was by no means the case. “He was,” he says, “in perpetual terror of being assas

“ sinated; though he had escaped the talons of the law, he had made himself enemies in abundance. He was dejected, he would lie awake at nights,” etc. This, he says, Dr. Tancred Robinson had from a relation of Milton's—Mrs. Walker, of the Temple. To us it does not appear to be at all probable.

Milton now took a house in Holborn, near Red Lionstreet, but he did not remain long there, it is said; and he removed from it to a house in Jewin-street, near Aldersgate-street, but in what year is uncertain. In 1661 he published, under the title of Accidence commenced Grammar, a Latin grammar, which he had probably drawn up while he was engaged in tuition ; for,

[ocr errors]

like a truly wise man, he regarded nothing as mean or insignificant that was useful; and, besides, he seems to have had a sort of predilection for works in which little beyond judgement and the spirit of arrangement could be exhibited. At this time also he published another of Raleigh’s manuscripts, named Aphorisms of State.

It was during his residence in Jewin-street, that Milton entered for the third and last time into the married state. The name of the lady was Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Randolph Minshull, of Wistaston, near Nantwich, in Cheshire, who had been recommended to him by his friend Dr. Paget, to whom she was related. The date of his marriage is uncertain. Aubrey says, it was the year before the sickness, which would place it in 1664 ; and this perhaps is correct. His bride, as will the sequel, was thirty years younger than himself.*

It may seem strange that Milton, who had remained now for eight years a widower, and whose eldest daughter Anne must have been nearly eighteen years of age, and therefore, it might be supposed, capable of managing his house, and giving him, with the aid of her sister Mary, now sixteen, the attention which he required in his helpless condition,—should have thought of marrying again. But it appears to have been the conduct of these very daughters that induced him to do so. In the depositions made on the occasion of his will, we find that he was repeatedly heard to say, that “they had been un

appear in

* It has been observed, that Milton's wives were all maidens. In the Apology for Smectymnuus, when replying to his adversary, who had said, that “a rich widow, or a lecture, or both, would content him," he says,

“I care not, if I tell him thus much professedly,—though it be the losing of my rich hopes, as he calls them,—that I think with them who, both in prudence and elegance of spirit, would chuse a virgin of mean features, honestly bred, before the wealthiest widow.”

[ocr errors]

dutiful and unkind to him ;” and to complain, that "they were careless of him, being blind, and made nothing of deserting him.” One witness deposed that “ he had declared to her, that a little before his marriage a former maid-servant of his told his daughter Mary, that she heard he was to be married ;” to which she replied, that “that was no news, to hear of his wedding; but if she could hear of his death, that was something :” and that he also told her, that “they did combine together and counsel his maid-servant to cheat him in her marketings, and that they had made away with some of his books, and would have sold the rest of his books to the dunghillwomen.” We may observe, that what is here said can apply only to the two elder daughters, for Deborah was not yet twelve years old. It must also be noted that, by their uncle's testimony, they all continued to live in his house for five or six years after his marriage. Of what education he gave them, we shall speak in the sequel.

Mrs. Milton,-Betty, as he used to call her,--appears at all events to have made him an excellent wife, and to have contributed largely to the comforts of his declining years, thus justifying the prudence of the hazardous step he had taken in marrying again at this time of life. Not long after this marriage, Milton, through Dr. Paget also, became acquainted with a young Quaker, named Thomas Ellwood, who has left some interesting notices of the illustrious poet.

“ John Milton," says the naïf Friend, “ a gentleman of great note for learning throughout the learned world, having filled a public station in former times, lived now a private and retired life in London; and, having wholly lost his sight, kept always a man to read to him, which usually was the son of some gentleman of his acquaintance, whom in kindness he took to improve in his learning. By the mediation of my friend Isaac Pennington with Dr. Paget, and of Dr. Paget with John Milton, was I admitted to come to him,—not as a servant to him, which at that time he needed not, nor to be in the house with him ;—but only to have the liberty of coming to his house at certain hours when I would, and to read to him what books he should appoint me, which was all the favour I desired.

“I went therefore and took myself a lodging near to his house, which was then in Jewin-street, as conveniently as I could; and from thenceforward went every day in the afternoon, except on the first days of the week, and, sitting by him in his dining-room, read to him such books, in the Latin tongue, as he pleased to hear me read.

“At my first sitting to read to him, observing that I used the English pronunciation, he told me, ‘if I would have the benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and to understand Latin authors, but to converse with foreigners either abroad or at home, I must learn the foreign pronunciation. To this I consenting, he instructed me how to sound the vowels. This change of pronunciation proved a new difficulty to me; but Labor omnia vincit Improbus, and so did I, which made my reading the more acceptable to my master. He, on the other hand, perceiving with what earnest desire I pursued learning, gave me not only all the encouragement, but all the help he could; for, having a curious ear, he understood by my tone when I understood what I read, and when I did not, and accordingly would stop me, examine me, and open the most difficult passages to me.'

Milton, it appears, did not remain in Jewin-street

« AnteriorContinuar »