Page images
PDF
EPUB

publick disgrace. It was the resolution of the Commons, on the 16th of June 1660, that his Majesty should be “ c humbly moved to call in Milton's two books, and that of John Goodwin, The Obstructors of Justice, 7 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.”

Dr. Johnson thinks that Milton was not very diligently pursued. It is certain that he very successfully concealed himself. The proclamation for apprehending him, and his bold compeer, particularly notices that “d the said John Milton and John Goodwin are so fled, or so obscure themselves, that no endeavours used for their apprehension can take effect, whereby they may be brought to legal tryal, and deservedly receive condign punishment for their treasons and offences.” Of the proscribed books several copies were committed to the flames on the 27th of August. Within three days after the burning these offensive publications, he found himself relieved, by the Act of Indemnity, from the necessity of concealment. Goodwin was incapacitated, as Dr. Johnson observes, with nineteen more, for any publick trust; but of Milton there was no exception. He was afterwards, however, in the custody of the Serjeant at arms; for on Saturday the 15th of De

- Journals of the House of Commons.

See the Proclamation printed at length in Kennet's Register and Chronicle, 1728, p. 189.

cember, 1660, it was ordered, by the House of Commons, “e that Mr. Milton, now in custody of the Serjeant at 'arms, attending this House, be forthwith released, paying his fees.And, on Monday the 17th, “a complaint being made that the Serjeant at arms had demanded excessive fees for the imprisonment of Mr. Milton; it was ordered, that it be referred to the Committee for Privileges to examine this business, and to call Mr. Mead the Serjeant before them, and to determine what is fit to be given to the Serjeant for his fees in this case.” Milton is supposed to have had powerful friends both in Council and Parliament; as Secretary Morice, Sir Thomas Clarges, and Andrew Marvell. But the principal instrument in obtaining Milton's pardon is said to have been Sir William Davenant, who, when he was taken prisoner in 1650, had been saved by Milton's interest, and who now, in grateful return for so signal an obligation, interceded for the life of Milton. This story has been related by Richardson upon the 'authority of Pope, who received it from Betterton, of whom Davenant was the patron. Aubrey, in his manuscript * life of Davenant, ascribes his safety, however, without mention of Milton, to two aldermen of York."

· Milton, having obtained his pardon, reappeared immediately in his literary character; and published

e Journals of the House of Commons.

" See the Hist. Account of the English Stage, Steevens's Shakspeare, ed. 1793, vol. ii. p. 431.

in 1661 his Accidence commenced Grammar. He had now taken a house in Holborn near Red-Lion Fields; but soon removed to Jewin Street, near Aldersgate. And there he married his third wife, in “ the year before the sickness," Aubrey says, which would be in 1664. She was Elizabeth Minshul, of a genteel family in Cheshire. Her father, Sir Edward Minshul, s received the honour of knighthood. She was also a relation of Dr. Paget, his particular friend, whom he had requested to recommend a proper consort for him. It may here be observed, that he chose his three wives out of the virgin state. Indeed he tells us that he entirely agreed “b with them who, both in prudence and elegance of spirit, would choose a virgin of mean fortunes, honestly bred, before the wealthiest widow." The very reverse was the fancy of another poet, of no mean fame, Sheffield, duke of Buckinghamshire; who, like Milton, was thrice married, but whose three wives had been all widows! Soon after Milton's last marriage, he is said to have been offered, and to have declined, the employment again of Latin Secretary. :

· While he lived in Jewin Street too, Ellwood the quaker was recommended to him as a person, who, for the advantage of his conversation, would read to him such Latin books as he thought proper; an em

& Communicated to me by the learned historian of Cheshire, Mr. Ormerod.

Prose-Works, vol. i. p. 191, ed. 1698.
See the note on the Nuncupative Will of Milton.

ployment to which he attended every afternoon, except on Sundays. “At my first sitting to him,” this ingenuous writer informs us in his Life of himself, “ 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 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

k « The early life of Ellwood,” Mr. Warton has remarked, “ exhibits exactly the progress of an enthusiast. Having been a profligate youth, and often whipped at school twice a day, he was suddenly reclaimed by accidentally hearing a Quaker's sermon. He then had the felicity of following the steps of St. Paul, in suffering bonds and imprisonment. But those slight èvils did not reach the spiritual man. He found the horrours of a jail to be green and lowery pastures, refreshed with the fountain of grace. He consoled himself as Shakspeare says, with a snuff in a dungeon.' The history of his desultory life, written by himself, and from which I collect these anecdotes, is filled with idle rambles and adventures, foolish scraps of poetry, and fanatical opinions. I except those passages which relate to Milton, as also the best and most curious part of the description of Bridewell and Newgate, then the usual receptacles of preaching apprentices, and frequently more full of saints than felons.”

as

what I read, and when I did not ; and accordingly he would stop me, and examine me, and open the most difficult passages to me.” The kind care bestowed by Milton upon the improvement of this young man was repaid by every mark of personal regard. The courtesy of the preceptor, and the gratitude of the disciple, are indeed alike conspicuous. After several adventures, which were no slight trials of patience, Ellwood found an asylum in the house of an affluent quaker at Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, whose children he was to instruct. This situation afforded him an opportunity of being serviceable to Milton. For, when the plague began to rage in London in 1665, Ellwood took a house for him at Chalfont St. Giles; to which the poet

Dr. Birch, in his Life of Milton, has printed a Sonnet, said to be written by Milton in 1665, when he retired to Chalfont in Buckinghamshire on account of the plague; and to have been seen inscribed on the glass of a window in that place. I have seen a copy of it written, apparently in a coeval hand, at the end of Tonson's edition of Milton's Smaller Poems in 1713, where it is also said to be Milton's. It is reprinted, from Dr. Birch's Life of the poet, in Fawkes and Woty's Poetical Calendar, 1763, vol. viii.. p. 67. But, in this Sonnet there is a scriptural mistake; which, as Mr. Warton has observed, Milton was not likely to commit. For the Sonnet improperly represents David as punished by pestilence for his adultery with Bathsheba. Mr. Warton, however, adds, that Dr. Birch had been informed by Vertue the engraver, that he had seen a satirical medal, struck upon Charles the second, abroad, without any legend, having a correspondent device. .“ Fair mirror of foul times! whose fragile sheen - “ Shall, as it blazeth, break; while Providence

Aye watching o'er his saints with eye unseen, i

« PreviousContinue »