« PreviousContinue »
have seemed to have brought the darkness upon us, so much by inducing a dimness of the eyes, as by the overshadowing of heavenly wings. Besides, as I am not grown torpid by indolence, since my eyes have deserted me, but am still active, still ready to advance among the foremost to the most arduous struggles for liberty; I am not therefore deserted by men even of the first rank in the state. Thus, while I can derive consolation in
blindness both from God and man, let no one be troubled that I have lost my eyes in an honourable cause : and far be it from me to be troubled at it; far be it from me to possess so little spirit as not to be able without difficulty to despise the revilers of my blindness, or so little placability as not to be able with still less difficulty to forgive them.' The treatise, after a succession of passages of great eloquence and animation, ends with an earnest and solemn address to the people of England to prove themselves worthy of the victory they have gained, and the position they have secured. He warns them to derive their liberty not from arms, but from piety, justice, temperance; in fine, from real virtue, not to make war alone their virtue, or highest glory, or to neglect he arts of peace. To banish avarice, ambition, luxury, and all excess from their thoughts; such is the warfare of peace. Victories hard, it is true, but blameless, more glorious far than the warlike or the bloody. “As for myself,' he says (speaking with something of a prophetic sorrow), “to whatever state things may return, I have performed, and certainly with good will, I hope not in vain, the service which I thought would be of most use to the commonwealth. It is not before our doors alone that I have borne my arms in defence of liberty. I have wielded them in a field so wide that the justice and reason of those which are no vulgar deeds, shall be explained and vindicated alike to foreign natures and our own countrymen. If after achievements so magnanimous, ye barely fall from your duty, if ye are guilty of any thing unworthy of you, be assured, posterity will speak, and thus pronounce its judgment. The foundation was strongly laid. The beginning, nay, more than the beginning, was excellent, but it will be inquired, not without a disturbed emotion, who raised the superstructure, who completed the fabric? To undertakings so grand, to virtues so noble, it will be a subject of grief that perseverance was wanting. It will be seen that the harvest of glory was abundant; but that men were not to be found for the work. Yet that there was not wanting one who could give good counsel, who could exhort, encourage : who could adorn and celebrate in immortal praises the transcendent deeds, and those who performed them.' Another piece in which he defends himself personally against More, and repeats his accusations, is all which is necessary to notice in this remarkable controversy.s
Milton was now removed by an order of council from his lodgings at Whitehall, and took a garden house in Petty France, in Westminster, opening into St. James's Park: in this house he • In noticing Milton's mistake in the use of the word
Vapulandus,' Johnson has observed that Ker, and some one before him had remarked it. This person was Vavassor. de Epig. cxxii. p. 144. See Crenii Animad. Philolog. 12mo, p. 77. • Illud mirum pariter et festivum quod is quo loco et quibus plane verbis attribuit Salmasio solæcismos, iisdem ipse solæ. cismum, aut solæcismo flagitium non minus admittat.'
* Previously to his going to live in Scotland Yard, Whitehall, Milton lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the Bull Head Tavern, Charing Cross. See Birch's Life, p. xxxviii. In Scotland Yard his infant son died.
continued till within a few weeks of the Restoration. In 1651 he was suffering under the approach of total blindness. He had lost the entire use of one eye: and his nephew, Edward Philips, was supposed to have greatly assisted him in the affairs of secretary. In 1652 his sight was totally gone. His enemies, as we have seen, considered his blindness as a judgment for writing against the king; and one of the prebendaries of Exeter reproached him, even from the pulpit, with the severe visitation.
But he himself more truly accounted for the affliction by the wearisome labours and studious watchings wherein he spent, and almost tired out, a whole youth. His letter to his Athenian friend, Leonard Phileras, gives an account of the gradual approach of the disease; Philips says that Milton was always tampering with physic: to which he attributes the loss of his sight, as well as to his continual studies, and the headaches to which he had been subject from his youth.
It is supposed that in 1653 Milton lost his first wife, who died in childbed, leaving him three daughters. He remained a widower for three years, when he was again united in marriage to a daughter of Captain Woodcock of Hackney. She also died within a year after her marriage, in the same manner; and in one of his sonnets he has paid an affectionate tribute to her memory. Soon
* His eyesight was decaying about twenty years before his death. His father read without spectacles till eighty-four. His mother had very weak eyes, and used spectacles presently after she was thirty years old. Aubrey Lett. iii. p. 449. He lost the use of his left eye in 1651; and it is supposed, of the other, in 1654. See Todd's Life (1st ed.), p. 85, but the period of the complete affliction is not known with exactness.
after this event, he retired from his office of secretary5 on an allowance for life, of one hundred and fifty pounds a year. His name does not again occur in the books of the council of state; his friends Andrew Marvell had been associated with him.
As we are now arrived at the close of Milton's public life, it may be as well for a moment to look back, and recollect the system upon which he asserts his political career to have been conducted, and the end to which his writings were directed. He says, when the outcry against the bishops commenced, and the model of our reformed church was to its disadvantage compared to others, he saw that a way was opening for the establishment of real liberty. That he perceived there were three species of liberty essential to the happiness of social life—religious, domestic, and civil. To promote the first, he wrote his Treatise on Reformation, &c.; and as he saw that the magistrates were active in obtaining the third, he therefore turned his attention to the second, or domestic. This included three material questions, first, the conduct of the conjugal tie; secondly, the education of children; and, thirdly, the free publication of the thoughts. These questions were severally considered by him in his Treatise on Divorce, his Tractate on Education, and his Areopagitica, or Liberty of unlicensed printing. With regard to civil affairs, he left them in the hands of the magistrates, till it became necessary to vindicate the right of lawfully dethroning, or destroying tyrants (without any immediate or personal application to Charles), against the doctrine of the presbyterian ministers.
s But see Mr. Todd's Life (ed. 2.), p. 158, who says some official documents were written by him after 1655. The last payment of his salary was Oct. 22, 1659, when he was sequestered from the office.
6 “ His familiar learned acquaintance were A. Marvell Lawrence, Needham, Harilib, Mr. Skinner, Dr. Paget, M. D Mr. Skinner was his disciple.—His widow assures me that Mr. Hobbes was not one of his acquaintance. That her husband did not like him at all; but he would acknowledge him to be a man of great parts, and a learned man.” Aubrey Lett. iii. 444. He had no intimacy with Cromwell, nor with those in power. He tells Heimbach that he cannot serve him, “ Propter paucissimas familiaritates meas cum gratiosis.” Ep. Fain. Dec. 18, 1657.
Such were the fruits of his private studies, which he had gratuitously presented to church and state, and for which he was recompensed by nothing but impunity. Though the actions themselves (he says) procured me peace of conscience, and the approbation of the good; while I exercised that freedom of discussion which I loved.
Disencumbered of the duties of secretary, disyusted with the treachery of parties, and the failure of his fondest wishes, Milton at length retreated from the changes and turbulence of the times, and had now leisure to resume the great works which he had long destined for his future employment. He commenced a history of his native country, a dictionary of the Latin language,7 more copious and correct than that of Stephens; he framed a body of divinity out of the Bible; and, lastly, he sketched the first out
? These collections consisted of three large volumes in folio. They were much discomposed and deficient, but were used by the editors of the Camb. Dict. in 1693, 4to. See the Pref. to Ainsworth's Lat. Thesaurus. It was said that Philips was the last possessor of these collections. I have an extract from a bookseller's catalogue by me—Dictionary, Latin and English, compiled from the works of Stephens, Cooper, Littelton, a large MS. in three volumes, of Mr. John Milton, 15s. 4to.