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“ There is not perhaps," says one writer, "a more remarkable instance liow submissive a slave, reason becomes sometimes to passion, than Mil: ton has given in these books of the doctrine and discipline of Divorce; he undertakes to prove it warranted from scripture, to divorce a wife for no other reason, but only not liking her temper. He had struck up the match in great haste. It was about Whitsuntide or a little after, that he took a journey into the country, nobody about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was any more than a journey of recreation. After a month's stay from home, he returns a married inan, bringing the bride and some few of her nearest relations along with him. As soon as the feasting, which held for some days, was over, the relations returned to Forest Hill, leaving their sister behind, but probably not much to her satisfaction, as appeared by the sequel. For by that time she had for a month, or thereabout, led a philosophical life, after having been used at home to a great house, and much company and joviality, her friends, probably incited by her own desire, made earnest suit by letter, to have her company the remaining part of the summer ; . which was granted, on condition of her return at the time appointed, Michaelmas, or thereabout. That time expiring without any account of her, Milton sent for her by letter. This and several others being unanswered, he dispatched a mes. senger with a letter to fetch her home. But that
was treated with contempt. This so incensed him that thinking it dishonourable ever to receive her again, he set himself to find out arguments to support that resolution."'* On this he pub. lished his books in defence of divorce, which gave such offence to the Assembly of Divines, then sitting at Westminster, that they caused the author to be summoned before the House of Lords, who dismissed him without any censure. But this conduct of the Assembly made Milton their enemy, and from this time he opposed his old friends the presbyterians, with as much virulence as he had before done the episcopal party, so little were his attachments or resentments founded upon principle.
Not content with defending every man's right to put away his wife, at his mere will and pleasure; Milton was about to assert the lawfulness of polygamy also, and he actually paid his addresses to a young lady of great accomplishments, the daughter of one Dr. Davis, but the damsel was averse to the motion, and no wonder, when she found that her suitor was a married man.
This, however, brought about a reconciliation between Milton and his wife ; for the affairs of the royalists being in a very low way, her friends were desirous of regaining the favour of a man whose influence was great with the reigning fac
* Biograplıia Britannica, Art. Milton, Note z.
tion. Of this re-union Philips gives the following account:
“There dwelt in the lane of St. Martin's le Grand, which was hard by Milton's house, a relation of his, one Blackborough, whom it was known be often visited; and upon this occasion the visits were more narrowly observed, and possibly there might be a combination between both parties, the friends on both sides consenting to the same action. One time above the rest, making his usual visit, the wife was ready in another room, and on a sudden he was surprised with a sight of one whom he had thought never to have . seen more, making submission and begging pardon on her knees before him. He might probably, at first, make some shew of aversion and rejection, but partly his own generous nature, more inclinable to a reconciliation, than to perseverance in anger and revenge, and partly the strong intercession of friends on both sides, soon brought him to an act of oblivion, and a firm league of peace for the future. And it was at length concluded, that she should remain in St. Clement's Church-yard, at the house of one Widow Webber, whose second daughter had beer, married to the other brother (Sir Christopher Milton] many years before.”
It is supposed by some writers, particularly Fenton, that Milton had this circumstance in bis recollection when, in describing the reconcili
ation of Adam and Eve, he composed these lines:
Soon his heart relented
But the thought is more ingenious than solid; for Milton never shewed much kindness to his family ; and on the present occasion, though the reconciliation was brought about by the submission of his wife, and the good offices of their friends, there was little of tenderness ou his part. It has been supposed that his wife quitted him from a dislike of his political principles; but this is highly improbable, for there are few women so romantic as to sacrifice love and interest to speculative opinions; besides, it is not to be supposed that a man of Milton's disposition would keep his real sentiments concealed about public affairs, at the time of his courtship. From all that appears in Milton's character, and his nephew's narrative, this was a marriage made up in haste, and the honey-moon soon terminated in disgust, produced by the forbidding austerity. of the husband's manners.
When Milton found that his wife staid longer than the time appointed, he sent her a letter, but it is remarkable enough, that we have no account of any preliminary correspondence. No answer being given, he sent her another mandate to reP
turn, which was also disobeyed : on which this husband of a month, instead of going himself, as a man who really loved his wife would have done, sent a messenger to bring her away. Upon her refusal to obey this injunction also, our Petruchio made no farther advances, but immediately set himself to examine the Bible, whether he could not discover scriptural authorities for putting away his wife for other causes besides fornication: He that has formed an inclination and resolution will not be long in finding reasons and proofs for indulging his purpose. Error once imbibed through a spirit of resentinent at real or supposed injuries, will readily be furnished with arguments to give it a colour of defence. Such was the occasion, and such were the grounds on which Milton wrote and published his celebrated treatises“On the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce," in which, according to his eulogist, he has made “out a strong case," but whichevery dispassionate reader will pronounce to be an apology for domestic tyranny and licentiousness of manners.
But though we condemn the motives which led Milton to write these books, it must be mentioned to his praise, that when the storm of rebellion had overwhelmed the fortune of his wife's family, he gave them an asylum in his house, where they remained till their affairs were accommodated through Milton's interest.
In 1647, he removed to a smaller habitation in High Holborn, overlooking Lincoln's Inn Fields,