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is to strengthen and support that good old cause, which in my youth I embraced, and the principles whereof I will assert and maintain whilst I live.
The following letter to Milton, being very curious, and nowhere published perfect and entire, may be fitly preserved in this place.
A Letter from Mr. Wall to John Milton, Esq. SIR,- I received yours the day after you wrote, and do humbly thank you, that you are pleased to honour me with your letters. I confess I have (even in my privacy in the country) oft had thoughts about you, and that with much respect, for your friendliness to truth in your early years, and in bad times. But I was uncertain whether your relation to the court* (though I think a commonwealth was more friendly to you than a court) had not clouded your former light; but your last book resolved that doubt. You complain of the non-proficiency of the nation, and of its retrograde motion of late, in liberty and spiritual truths. It is much to be bewailed ; but yet let us pity human frailty. When those who made deep protestations of their zeal for our liberty both spiritual and civil, and made the fairest offers to be assertors thereof, and whom we thereupon trusted ; when those, being instated in power, shall betray the good thing committed to them, and lead us back to Egypt, and by that force which we gave them to win us liberty hold us fast in chains; what can poor people do? You know who they were, that watched our Saviour's sepulchre to keep him from rising.t
Besides, whilst people are not free, but straitened in accommodations for life, their spirits will be dejected and servile: and conducing to that end, there should be an improving of our native commodities, as our manufactures, our fishery, our fens, forests, and commons, and our trade at sea, &c. which would give the body of the nation a comfortable subsistence ; and the breaking that cursed yoke of tithes would much help thereto.
Also another thing I cannot but mention, which is, that the Norman conquest and tyranny is continued upon the nation without any thought of removing it ; I mean the tenure of lands by copyhold, and holding for life under a lord, or rather tyrant of a manor ; whereby people care not to improve their land by cost upon it, not knowing how soon themselves or theirs may be outed it; nor what the house is in which they live, for the same reason : and they are far more enslaved to the lord of the manor, than the rest of the nation is to a king or supreme magistrate.
We have waited for liberty, but it must be God's work and not man's, who thinks it sweet to maintain his pride and worldly interest to the gratifying of the flesh, whatever becomes of the precious liberty of mankind.
But let us not despond, but do our duty; and God will carry on that blessed work, in despite of all opposites, and to their ruin, if they persist therein.
Sir, my humble request is, that you would proceed, and give us that other member of the distribution' mentioned in your book ; viz. that bire doth greatly impede truth and liberty : it is like if you do, you shall find opposers; hut remember that saying, Beatius est pati quam frui ; or, in the apostle's words, James, v. 11, “We count them happy that endure.”
I have sometimes thought (concurring with your assertion of that storied voice that should speak from heaven) when ecclesiastics were endowed with
Milton was Latin Secretary.- BARON. + Soldiers : this is a severe insinuation against a standing army.-BARON.
worldly preferments, hodie venenum infunditur in ecclesiam : for, to use the
Your faithful friend and servant,
MILTON'S PREFACE. To descant on the misfortunes of a person fallen from so high a dignity, who hath also paid his final debt both to nature and his faults, is neither of itself a thing comm
mendable, nor the intention of this discourse. Neither was it fond ambition, nor the vanity to get a name, present or with posterity, by writing against a king, I never was so thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and means, better and more certain to attain it; for kings have gained glorious titles from their favourers by writing against private men, as Henry VIII. did against Luther ; but no man ever gained much honour by writing against a king,* as not usually meeting with that force
* Mr. D’Israeli the elder, is of a very different opinion. He almost seems to think that Luther owed his celebrity to the condescension of his crowned antagonist. « Luther," he says,
was no respecter of kings ; he was so fortunate, indeed, as to find among his antagonists a crowned head : a great good fortune for an obscure controversialist, and the very punctum saliens of controversy. Our Henry VIII. wrote his book against the new doctrine : then warm from scholastic studies, Henry presented Leo X. with a work highly creditable to his abilities, and no inferior performance according to the genius of the
age [How wonderful that a work "highly creditable to his abilities” should be “no inferior performance !”] “Collier, in his Ecclesiastical History, has analysed the book, and does not ill describe its spirit:
Henry seems superior to his adversary in the vigour and propriety of his style, in the force of his reasoning, and the learning of his citations. It is true he leans too much upon his character, argues in his garter-robes, and
of argument in such courtly antagonists, which to convince might add to his reputation. Kings most commonly, though strong in legions,* are but weak at argument; as they who ever have accustomed from their cradle to use their will only as their right hand, their reason always as their left. Whence unexpectedly constrained to that kind of combat, they prove but weak and puny adversaries : nevertheless, for their sakes, who through custom, simplicity, or want of better teaching, have not more seriously considered kings, than in the gaudy name of majesty, and admire them and their doings, as if they breathed not the same breath with other mortal men, I shall make no scruple to take up (for it seems to be the challenge both of him and all his party) to take up this gauntlet, though a king's, in the behalf of liberty and the commonwealth.
And further, since it appears manifestly the cunning drift of a factious and defeated party, to make the same advantage of his book which they did before of his regal name and authority, and intend it not so much the defence of his former actions, as the promoting of their own future designs; (making thereby the book their own rather than the king's, as the benefit now must be their own more than his;) now the third time to corrupt and disorder the minds of weaker men, by new suggestions and narrations, either falsely or fallaciously representing the state of things to the dishonour of this present government, and the retarding of a general peace, so needful to this afflicted nation, and so nigh obtained; I suppose it no injury to the dead, but a good deed rather to the living, if by better information given them, or, which is enough, by only remembering them the truth of what they themselves know to be here + misaffirmed, they may be kept writes as 'twere with his sceptre." (Curiosities of Literature, ii. 27, 28.) I hope Mr. D’Israeli has read these controversial pieces, since he adopts Collier's opinion of them : I candidly confess I have not.—ED.
* Milton here alludes to the following anecdote: “There was a philosopher that disputed with Hadrian the einperor, and did it but weakly. One of his friends, that had been by, afterwards said to him—Methinks you were not like yourself, last day, in argument with the emperor. I could have answered better myself. Why,' said the philosopher, would you have me contend with him that commands thirty legions ?!” (Apoph. thegms, New and Old, No. 160.) Mr. D’Israeli would have thought it some distinction for an obscure philosopher to be confuted by an emperor—by one who could argue with his sceptre.-ED.
+ That is, in the “Eikon Basilîkè,” the book he had undertaken to confute.
from entering the third time unadvisedly into war and bloodshed. For as to any moment of solidity in the book itself, (save only that a king is said to be the anthor, a name than which there needs no more among the blockish vulgar, to make it wise, and excellent, and admired, nay to set it next the Bible, though otherwise containing little else but the common grounds of tyranny and popery, dressed up the better to deceive, in a new protestant guise, trimly garnished over,) or as to any need of answering, in respect of staid and well-principled men, I take it on me as a work assigned* rather, than by me chosen or affected : which was the cause both of beginning it so late, and finishing it so leisurely in the midst of other employments and diversions.
And though well it might have seemed in vain to write at all, considering the envy
and almost infinite prejudice likely to be stirred up among the common sort,t against whatever can be written or gainsaid to the king's book, so advantageous to a book it is only to be a king's; and though it be an irksome labour, to write with industry and judicious pains, that which, neither weighed nor well read, shall be judged without industry or the pains of well-judging, by faction and
* In the Second Defence of the People of England, he thus alludes to the origin of the present work. “I had already finished four books, (of the History of England,) when after the subversion of the monarchy, and the establishment of a republic, I was surprised by an invitation from the council of state, who desired my services in the office for foreign affairs. A book appeared soon after, which was ascribed to the king, and contained the most invidious charges against the parliament. I was ordered to answer it; and opposed the Eikonoklastes to the Eikon.”--Ed.
1 Dr. Symmons, after dwelling on the impolicy of putting Charles I. to death, since such a transaction could not fail to excite, among so generous a people as the English, great commiseration for the sufferer, (see Clarendon's Hist. &c. vi. 240,) goes on, however, to characterize Milton's work, as fol. lows : “ The Eikonoklastes, or Image-breaker, which was the apposite title affixed to this refutation of the imputed work of royal authorship, may be regarded as one of the most perfect and powerful of Milton's controversial compositions. Pressing closely on its antagonist, and tracing him step by step, it either exposes the fallacy of his reasoning, or the falsehood of his assertions, or the hollowness of his professions, or the convenient speciousness of his devotion. In argument and in style compressed and energetic, perspicuous and neat, it discovers a quickness which never misses an advantage, and a keenness of remark which carries an irresistible edge. It cannot certainly be read by any man, whose reason is not wholly under the dominion of prejudice, without its enforcing a conviction unfavourable to the royal party.” (Life of Milton, p. 322, 323.)—ED.
easy literature of custom and opinion; it shall be ventured yet, and the truth not smothered, but sent abroad, in the native confidence of her single self, to earn, how she can, her entertainment in the world, and to find out her own readers : few perhaps, but those few, of such value and substantial worth, as truth and wisdom, not respecting numbers and big names, have been ever wont in all ages to be contented with.
And if the late king had thought sufficient those answers and defences made for him in his lifetime, they who on the other side accused his evil government, judging that on their behalf enough also hath been replied, the heat of this controversy was in all likelihood drawing to an end; and the further mention of his deeds, not so much unfortunate as faulty, had in tenderness to his late sufferings been willingly forborne; and perhaps for the present age might have slept with him unrepeated, while his adversaries, calmed and assuaged with the success of their cause, had been the less unfavourable to his memory.
But since he himself, making new appeal to truth and the world, hath left behind him this book, as the best advocate and interpreter of his own actions, and that his friends, by publishing, dispersing, commending, and almost adoring it, seem to place therein the chief strength and nerves of their cause ; it would argue doubtless in the other party great deficience and distrust of themselves, not to meet the force of his reason in any field whatsoever, the force and equipage of whose arms they have so often met victoriously, And he who at the bar stood excepting against the form and manner of his judicature, and complained that he was not heard ;* neither he nor his friends shall have that cause now
* See in Clarendon, (History, vol. vi. p.230 sqq.) the particulars of the trial as described by a most zealous partisan. This writer observes, that “when he was first brought to Westminster-hall, which was upon the twentieth of January, before their high court of justice, he looked upon them, and sat down, without any manifestation of trouble, never stirring his hat ; all the impudent judges sitting covered, and fixing their eyes upon him, without the least show of respect.”
." When the charge had been read, and the king was asked, “ What answer he had to make to that impeachment ?” he, “without any alteration in his countenance by all that insolent provocation, told them, he would first know of them by what authority they presumed by force to bring him before them, and who gave them power to judge of his actions, for which he was accountable to none but God : though they had been always such as he need not be ashamed to own them before all the world."