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neglect naming any place that he honoured 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 Davenant is certain from his own relation; but of his escape there is no account.* Betterton'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 go
This justification was indeed sufficiently offensive; and (June 16) an order was issued to seize Milton's "Defence," and Goodwin's “ Ob-vernment can commonly inflict without the help structors of Justice," another book of the same tendency, and burn them by the common hangman. The attorney-general was ordered to prosecute the authors; but Milton was not seized, nor perhaps very diligently pursued.
Not long after (August 19) the flutter of innumerable bosoms was 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 nineteen more, as incapacitated for any public trust; but of Milton there was no exception.*
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. He was now poor and blind: and who would pursue with violence an illustrious enemy, depressed by fortune, and disarmed by nature ?+
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 ser
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 Dal-geant were called before the House. He was rymple'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 Richardsont in his Memoirs, which he received from Pope, as delivered by Betterton, 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 danger, Davenant repaid the benefit by
Philips says expressly, that Milton was excepted and disqualified from bearing any office: but Toland says, he was not excepted at all, and consequently excluded in the General Pardon, or Act of Indemnity passed the 29th of August, 1660. Toland is right; for I find Goodwin and Ph. Nye the minister excepted in the Act, but Milton not named. However, he obtained a special pardon in December, 660, which passed the privy-seal, but not the greatseal.-MALONE.
It was told before by A. Wood in Ath. Oxon, vol. i. p. 412, 2d edit.-C.
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 therefore, by the recommendation of Dr. Paget, married Elizabeth Minshul, of a gentleman'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
raunot now be known; but marriage afforded not much of his happiness. The first wife left him in disgust, and was brought back only by terror; 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 lifetime, and cheated them at his death.
Soon after his marriage, according to an obscure story, he was offered the continuance 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 Cromwell, 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 lately 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, was necessary, if he would talk with foreigners. This seems to have been a task troublesome without use. There is little reason for preferring 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 La
Yelden in his continuation of Langbaine's account of the Dramatic Poets, 8vo. 1693, says, that he had been told that Milton, after the Restoration, kept a school at or near Greenwich. The publication of an Accidence at that period gives some countenance to this tradition.-MALONE
tin, 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 conformity to our modes as they expect from us in their own countries. Elwood complied with the direc tions, 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 understand, 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 unauthorized story of a farce seen by Milton in Italy, which opened thus: Let the rainbow be the fiddle-stick of the fiddle 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 performance, 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 consciousness 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 meditations would supply. Nothing particular is known 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 curiosity to his retirement: where he has been found by Mr. Richardson, the fondest of his admirers, sit
* It is scarcely necessary to inform the reader, that this relation of Voltaire's was perfectly true, as far as relates to the existence of the play which he speaks of, namely, the Adams of Andraini; but it is still a question whether Milton ever saw it.-J. B.
ting "before his door in a gray coat of coarse cloth, in warm sultry 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 conversation 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 dressed in black clothes, sitting in a room hung with rusty green; pale but not cadaverous, with chalkstones in his hands. He said, that, if it were not for the gout, his blindness 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 regular 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 verses 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 ebbs 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 videntur. 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 who can contend with the course of nature?
From such prepossessions 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 misfortune to be produced in the decrepitude of Nature. It was suspected that the whole creation languished, that neither trees nor animals had the height or bulk of their predecessors, and that every thing was daily sinking by gradual diminution.* Milton appears to suspect that souls partake of the general degeneracy, and is not without some fear that his book is to be written in "an age too late" for heroic poesy.+
Another opinion wanders about the world, and sometimes finds reception among wise men; an opinion that restrains the operations of the mind to particular regions, and supposes that a luckless mortal may be born in a degree of latitude too high or too low for wisdom or for wit. From this fancy, wild as it is, he had not wholly cleared his head, when he feared lest the climate of his country might be too cold for flights of imagination
Into a mind already occupied by such fancies, another not more reasonable might easily find its way. He that could fear lest his genius had fallen upon too old a world, or too chill a climate, might consistently magnify to himself the
* This opinion is, with great learning and ingenuity, refuted in 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 who ventured to propagate it in this country was Dr. Gabriel Goodman, bishop of Gloucester, a man of
a versatile temper, and the author of a book entitled, "The Fall of Man, or the Corruption of Nature proved by Natural Reason." Lond. 1616 and 1624, 4to. He was plundered in the Usurpation, tarned Roman Catholic, and died in obscurity.-See Athen Oxon. vol. i. p. 727,—H.
+- -Unless an age too late, or cold
influence of the seasons, and believe his faculties unpremeditated verse.
to be vigorous only half the year.
His submission to the seasons was at least more reasonable than his dread of decaying nature, or a frigid zone, for general causes must operate uniformly in a general abatement of mental power; if less could be performed by the writer, less likewise would content the judges of his work. Among this lagging race of frosty grovellers, he might still have risen into eminence by producing something which they should not willingly let die. However inferior to the heroes who were born in better ages, he might still be great among his contemporaries, with the hope of growing every day greater in the dwindle of posterity. He might still be a giant among the pigmies, the one-eyed monarch
of the blind.
Of his artifices of study, or particular hours of composition, we have little account, and there was perhaps little to be told. Richardson, who seems to have been very diligent in his inquiries, but discovers always a wish to find Milton discriminated from other men, relates, "that he would sometimes lie awake whole nights, but not a verse could he make; and on a sudden his poetical faculty would rush upon him with an impetus or œstrum, and his daughter was immediately called to secure what came. At other times he would dictate perhaps forty lines in a breath, and then reduce them to half the number."
Versification, free, like
his, from the distresses of rhyme, must, by a work so long, be made prompt and habitual; and, when his thoughts were once adjusted, the words would come at his command.
At what particular times of his life the parts of his work were written, cannot often be The beginning of the third book shows that he had lost his sight; and the introduction to the seventh, that the return of the King had clouded him with discountenance, and that he was offended by the licentious festivity of the Restoration.
There are no other internal notes of time. Milton, being now cleared from all effects of his disloyalty, had nothing required from him but the common duty of living in quiet, to be rewarded with the common right of protection; but this, which, when he skulked from the approach of his King, was perhaps. more than he hoped, seems not to have satisfied him; for no sooner is he safe, than he finds himself in danger, "fallen on evil days and evil tongues, and with darkness and with danger compass'd round."
This darkness, had his
eyes been better employed, had undoubtedly deserved compassion; but to add the mention of danger was ungrateful and unjust. He was fallen indeed on evil days; the time was come in which regicides could no longer boast their wickedness. But of evil tongues for Milton to complain required impudence at least equal to his other powers; Milton, whose warmest advocates must allow that he never spared any asThese bursts of light, and involutions of dark-perity of reproach, or brutality of insolence. ness, these transient and involuntary excursions But the charge itself seems to be false; for it and retrocessions of invention, having some ap- would be hard to recollect any reproach cast pearance of deviation from the common train of upon him, either serious or ludicrous, through nature, are eagerly caught by the lovers of a the whole remaining part of his life. He purwonder. Yet something of this inequality hap-sued his studies, or his amusements, without pens to every man in every mode of exertion, persecution, molestation, or insult. Such is manual or mental. The mechanic cannot handle the reverence paid to great abilities, however his hammer and his file at all times with equal misused: they who contemplated in Milton the dexterity; there are hours, he knows not why, scholar and the wit were contented to forget the when his hand is out. By Mr. Richardson's rereviler of his King. lation, casually conveyed, much regard cannot be claimed. That in his intellectual hour Milton called for his daughter "to secure what came,' may be questioned; for unluckily it happens to be known that his daughters were never taught to write; nor would he have been obliged, as is universally confessed, to have employed any casual visitor in disburthening his memory, if his daughter could have performed the office.
The story of reducing his exuberance has been told of other authors, and, though doubtless true of every fertile and copious mind, seems to have been gratuitously transferred to Milton.
What he has told us, and we cannot now know more, is, that he composed much of this poem in the night and morning, I suppose before his mind was disturbed with common business; and that he poured out with great fluency his
When the plague (1665) raged in London, Milton took refuge at Chalfont, in Bucks; where Elwood, who had taken the house for him, first saw a complete copy of "Paradise Lost ;" and, having perused it, said to him, "Thou hast said a great deal upon "Paradise Lost ;" what hast thou to say upon Paradise found?"
Next year, when the danger of infection had ceased, he returned to Bunhill-fields, and designed the publication of his poem. A license was necessary, and he could expect no great kindness from a chaplain of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He seems, however, to have been treated with tenderness; for though objecand tions were made to particular passages, among them to the simile of the sun eclipsed in the first book, yet the license was granted; and
he sold his copy, April 27, 1667, to Samuel had not then aspired to literature, nor was every
Simmons, for an immediate payment of five pounds, with a stipulation to receive five pounds more when thirteen hundred should be sold of the first edition; and again, five pounds after the sale of the same number of the second edition; and another five pounds after the same sale of the third. None of the three editions were to be extended beyond fifteen hundred copies.
The first edition was of ten books, in a small quarto. The titles were varied from year to year and an advertisement and the arguments of the books were omitted in some copies, and inserted in others.
The sale gave him in two years a right to his second payment, for which the receipt was signed April 26, 1669. The second edition was not given till 1674; it was printed in small octavo; and the number of books was increased to twelve, by a division of the seventh and twelfth; and some other small improvements were made. The third edition was published in 1678; and the widow, to whom the copy was then to devolve, sold all her claims to Simmons for eight pounds, according to her receipt given Dec. 21, 1680. Simmons had already agreed to transfer the whole right to Brabazon Aylmer, for twenty-five pounds; and Aylmer sold to Jacob Tonson half, August 17, 1683, and half, March 24, 1690, at a price considerably enlarged. In the history of "Paradise Lost" a deduction thus minute will rather gratify than fatigue.
The slow sale and tardy reputation of this poem have been always mentioned as evidences of neglected merit, and of the uncertainty of literary fame; and inquiries have been made, and conjectures offered, about the causes of its long obscurity and late reception. But has the case been truly stated? Have not lamentation and wonder been lavished on an evil that was never felt?
That in the reigns of Charles and James, the "Paradise Lost" received no public acclamations, is readily confessed. Wit and literature were on the side of the court: and who that solicited favour or fashion would venture to praise the defender of the regicides? All that he himself could think his due, from evil tongues in evil days, was that reverential silence which was generously preserved. But it cannot be inferred, that his poem was not read, or not, however unwillingly, admired.
The sale, if it be considered, will justify the public. Those who have no power to judge of past times but by their own, should always doubt their conclusions. The call for books was not in Milton's age what it is in the present. To read was not then a general amusement; neither traders, nor often gentlemen, thought themselves disgraced by ignorance. The women
house supplied with a closet of knowledge. Those, indeed, who professed learning, were no less learned than at any other time; but of that middle race of students who read for pleasure or accomplishment, and who buy the numerous products of modern typography, the number was then comparatively small. To prove the paucity of readers, it may be sufficient to remark, that the nation had been satisfied from 1623 to 1664, that is, forty-one years, with only two editions of the works of Shakspeare, which probably did not together make one thousand copies.
The sale of thirteen hundred copies in two years, in opposition to so much recent enmity, and to a style of versification new to all, and disgusting to many, was an uncommon example of the prevalence of genius. The demand did not immediately increase; for many more readers than were supplied at first the nation did not afford. Only three thousand were sold in eleven years; for it forced its way without assistance; its admirers did not dare to publish their opinion; and the opportunities now given of attracting notice by advertisements were then very few; the means of proclaiming the publication of new books have been produced by that general literature which now pervades the nation through all its ranks.
But the reputation and price of the copy stilk advanced, till the Revolution put an end to the secrecy of love, and "Paradise Lost" broke into open view with sufficient security of kind reception.
Fancy can hardly forbear to conjecture with what temper Milton surveyed the silent progress of his work, and marked its reputation stealing its way in a kind of subterraneous current through fear and silence. I cannot but conceive him calm and confident, little disappointed, not at all dejected, relying on his own merit with steady consciousness, and waiting without impatience the vicissitudes of opinion, and the impartiality of a future generation.
In the mean time he continued his studies, and supplied the want of sight by a very odd expedient, of which Philips gives the following account:
Mr. Philips tells us, "that though our Author had daily about him one or other to read, some persons of man's estate, who, of their own accord, greedily catched at the opportunity of being his readers, that they might as well reap the benefit of what they read to him, as oblige him by the benefit of their reading; and others of younger years were sent by their parents to the same end; yet excusing only the daughter by reason of her bodily infirmity and difficult utterance of speech (which, to say truth, I doubt was the principal cause of excusing her) the other two were condemned to the performance of reading