Page images

Mark now and register him! How many are there of ten thousand who have such a fee-simple in their sconce, as to take a lease of their own lands from another? So that this inconvenience lights upon scarce one in an age, and by his own default; and the law of enjoying each man his own is good to all others. But on the contrary, this prohibition. of divorce is good to none, and brings inconvenience to numbers, who lie under intolerable grievances without their own default, through the wickedness or folly of another; and all this iniquity the law remedies not, but in a manner maintains. His other cases are directly to the same purpose, and might have been spared, but that he is a tradesman of the law, and must be borne with at his first setting up, to lay forth his best ware, which is only gibberish.

I have now done that, which for many causes I might have thought could not likely have been my fortune, to be put to this underwork of scouring and unrubbishing the low and sordid ignorance of such a presumptuous lozel. Yet Hercules had the labour once imposed upon him to carry dung out of the Augean stable. At any hand I would be rid of him: for I had rather, since the life of man is likened to a scene, that all my entrances and exits might mix with such persons only, whose worth erects them and their actions to a grave and tragic deportment, and not to have to do with clowns and vices. But if a man cannot peaceably walk into the world, but must be infested, sometimes at his face with dorrs and horseflies, sometimes beneath with bawling whippets and shin-barkers, and these to be set on by plot and consultation with a junto of clergymen and licensers, commended also and rejoiced in by those whose partiality cannot yet forego old papistical principles; have I not cause to be in such a manner defensive, as inay procure me freedem to pass more unmolested hereafter by those encumbrances, not so much regarded for themselves, as for those who incite them? And what defence can properly be used in such a despicable encounter as this, but either the slap or the spurn? If they can afford me none but a ridiculous adversary, the blame belongs not to me, though the whole dispute be strewed and scattered with ridiculous. And if he have such an ambition to know no better who are his mates, but among those needy thoughts, which

though his two faculties of serving-man and solicitor should compound into one mongrel, would be but thin and meagre, if in this penury of soul he can be possible to have the lustiness to think of fame, let him but send me how he calls himself, and I may chance not fail to endorse him on the backside of posterity, not a golden, but a brazen ass. Since my fate extorts from me a talent of sport, which I had thought to hide in a napkin, he shall be my Batrachomuomachia, my Bavius, my Calandrino, the common adagy of ignorance and overweening: nay, perhaps, as the provocation may be, I may be driven to curl up this gilding prose into a rough sotadic, that shall rhyme him into such a condition, as instead of judging good books to be burnt by the executioner, he shall be readier to be his own hangman. Thus much to this nuisance.

But as for the subject itself, which I have writ and now defend, according as the opposition bears; if any man equal to the matter shall think it appertains him to take in hand this controversy, either excepting against aught written, or persuaded he can shew better how this question, of such moment to be thoroughly known, may receive a true determination, not leaning on the old and rotten suggestions whereon it yet leans; if his intents be sincere to the public, and shall carry him on without bitterness to the opinion, or to the person dissenting; let him not, I entreat him, guess by the handling, which meritoriously hath been bestowed on this object of contempt and laughter, that I account it any displeasure done me to be contradicted in print, but as it leads to the attainment of anything more true, shall esteem it a benefit; and shall know how to return his civility and fair argument in such a sort, as he shall confess that to do so is my choice, and to have done thus was my chance.


HAVING Completed his different works on Divorce, which led him deeply to investigate the subject of marriage, love, and whatever relates to the happiness o. domestic life, Milton, in 1644, produced his brief treatise on Education. In addition to those high intellectual endowments which raised him above all the men of his age, he had here the advantage of experience, having been himself engaged in the instruction of youth. His opinions, therefore, are entitled to the greatest respect: for he had put in practice what he recommends. Johnson, and many others, who have treated his vast plan as visionary, scarcely comprehended its drift, which was not to impart scanty learning to vulgar or needy students, whom their necessities call away into the world before their minds are half furnished; but to create, from among the youth of ampler leisure and fortune, able and accomplished senators, judges, and generals. How much may be effected when the teacher's skill and knowledge are seconded by the industry and emulative ardour of ingenuous pupils, they are best able to judge who, having children of their own, have themselves undertaken the sacred duty of spreading before them the vast map of science. Most commonly they have to check or moderate the passion for labour, which, by exciting the mind. to a preternatural activity, might undermine the health, or wholly destroy the body. Milton himself, while a boy, fell into this error. During several years he sat up reading until midnight; which, as he relates, debilitated the organs of sight, and thus laid the foundation of that calamity which constituted the chief source of bitterness in his old age.


I AM long since persuaded, Master Hartlib,* that to say or do aught worth memory and imitation, no purpose or respect should sooner move us than simply the love of God, and of mankind. Nevertheless to write now the reforming of education, though it be one of the greatest and noblest designs that can be thought on, and for the want whereof this nation perishes; I had not yet at this time been induced, but by your earnest entreaties and serious conjurements; as having my mind for the present half diverted in the pursuance of some other assertions, the knowledge and the use of which cannot but be a great furtherance both to the enlargement of

* Of Hartlib little more is known than that he was a friend of Milton, who had studied with peculiar diligence the science of education, and to whom Sir William Petty subsequently dedicated one of his earliest works. From several expressions in this and the following paragraphs, he would appear to have been a foreigner; for he is spoken of as one sent hither from a far country, and allusion is made to his labours beyond the seas.—ED.

truth, and honest living with much more peace. Nor should the laws of any private friendship have prevailed with me to divide thus, or transpose my former thoughts, but that I see those aims, those actions, which have won you with me the esteem of a person sent hither by some good providence from a far country to be the occasion and incitement of great good to this island.

And, as I hear, you have obtained the same repute with men of most approved wisdom, and some of the highest authority among us; not to mention the learned correspondence which you hold in foreign parts, and the extraordinary pains and diligence which you have used in this matter, both here and beyond the seas; either by the definite will of God so ruling, or the peculiar sway of nature, which also is God's working. Neither can I think that so reputed and so valued as you are, you would, to the forfeit of your own discerning ability, impose upon me an unfit and overponderous argument; but that the satisfaction which you profess to have received, from those incidental discourses which we have wandered into, hath pressed and almost constrained you into a persuasion, that what you require from me in this point, I neither ought nor can in conscience defer beyond this time both of so much need at once, and so much opportunity to try what God hath determined.

I will not resist, therefore, whatever it is, either of divine or human obligement, that you lay upon me; but will forthwith set down in writing, as you request me, that voluntary idea, which hath long, in silence, presented itself to me, of a better education, in extent and comprehension far more large, and yet of time far shorter, and of attainment far more certain, than hath been yet in practice. Brief I shall endeavour to be;* for that which I have to say, assuredly this nation hath

*It is this brevity, however, that has probably laid open his system to so many objections. Dr. Symmons, usually the apologist of Milton, deserts him here; remarking that, although his plan of education was magnificent, it appeared "to be calculated only to amuse the fancy, while it would be found by experience to disappoint the expectation."-Life, &c., p. 257. Sir Egerton Brydges, as was to be expected, passes over the tractate without a single observation; but Mr. Mitford, with that modesty and good sense for which his memoir is generally distinguished, questions the justice of Dr. Symmons's decision, without, however, expressly referring to it. "The system of education which he adopted was deep and comprehensive; it promised to teach science with language, or rather to make the study of languages subservient

extreme need should be done sooner than spoken. To tell you, therefore, what I have benefited herein among old renowned authors, I shall spare; and to search what many modern Januas and Didactics, more than ever I shall read, have projected, my inclination leads me not. But if you can accept of these few observations which have flowered off, and are as it were the burnishing of many studious and contemplative years, altogether spent in the search of religious and civil knowledge, and such as pleased you so well in the relating, I here give you them to dispose of.

The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection. But because our understanding cannot in this body found itself but on sensible things, nor arrive so clearly to the knowledge of God and things invisible, as hy orderly conning over the visible and inferior creature, the same method is necessarily to be followed in all discreet teaching. And seeing every nation affords not experience and tra dition enough for all kinds of learning, therefore we are chiefly taught the languages of those people who have at any time been most industrious after wisdom; so that language is but the instrument conveying to us things useful to be known. And though a linguist should pride himself to have all the tongues that Babel cleft the world into,* yet if he have not studied the solid things in them, as well as the words and lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteemed a learned man, as any yeoman or tradesman competently wise in his mother dialect only.

to the acquisition of scientific knowledge Dr. Johnson has severely censured this method of instruction, but with arguments that might not unsuc cessfully be met. The plan recommended by the authority of Milton seems to be chiefly liable to objection from being too extensive."—Life, &c., p. 28. The remark immediately following is perhaps erroneous; but he has doubt. ess entered properly into the views of Milton, and ably defends that portion of his plan which refers more particularly to the teaching of science. -ED. Though he himself understood many languages, and appears to have possessed a peculiar aptitude for this kind of learning, no one could be fur ther than he from pedantry. In his view, language was merely the instru ment of knowledg-ED.

« PreviousContinue »