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honourably the while by teaching a school. In this we see no disgrace and no cowardice; but, on the contrary, recognise in it the conduct of a man as brave and honest as he was wise.
The mode of education be established was strict and peculiar. Occasionally, however, he relaxed in the hard study and spare diet which he had allotted to his pupils and himself; and spent with them a general day of harmless enjoyment in the country. In 1641, he published his Treatise on Reformation, in two books, strongly and eloquently defending the Puritanic side. He was moved to this the more, that he knew that the Puritans were inferior in learning to their opponents. His opinions on the controverted questions had been made up long before. The accession of such a man to the party of the movement, was of the utmost importance. Its other writers had courage, determination, and talent; but Milton and Howe alone had genius; and Milton had, what Howe wanted, the ear of Europe and an imperial command over the purest Latinity, to which only that ear was then willing to hearken. This treatise, indeed, was in English, but contained some of the most magnificent passages of prose in the language-passages, according to Coleridge, as distinctly prophetic of the "Paradise Lost," as the red clouds of dawn are of the rising of the sun. In the same year, he issued, in reply to Bishop Usher's Confutation of Smectymnuus, a treatise of Prelatical Episcopacy. Usher, that “ Usher, that "great luminary of the Irish. Church," as Dr Johnson calls him, had at last met his match, not perhaps to the full in learning, but certainly in fervid sincerity, acute intellect, and powerful eloquence. One is reminded of Milton's own
"Two black clouds
With heaven's artillery fraught, come rattling on
To join their dark encounter in mid-air.”
We cannot add, however, in this case, although Johnson does in another, that "Hell grew darker at their frown." Milton treats Usher, on the whole, respectfully, and compliments him on his learning, in his next publication. That was the Reason
of Church Government urged against Prelacy, and it was followed by Animadversions on Bishop Hall's Defence of the Humble Remonstrance. In the former occurs the celebrated passage in which he announces his intention of writing a Heroic Poem, "not to be raised from the heat of youth or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist, or the trencher fury of a riming parasite, nor to be obtained by the invocation of Dame Memory and her siren daughters; but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases." He finally closed this controversy with an Apology for Smectymnuus, confessing ingenuously, however, that he was "led by the genial power of nature to another task;" and that in this he had but the "use, as it were, of his left hand." He panted for beholding the "bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies," and had yet long enough to pant.
Hitherto, Milton had remained alone-and his life, on the whole, had been a monologue. He was now to enter upon the married state. About Whitsuntide 1643, when he had reached his thirty-fifth year, he, to use the words of his nephew, Phillipps, "took a journey into the country, nobody about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was more than a journey of recreation, till after a month's stay, home he returns a married man, that went out a bachelor." His bride was Mary, the eldest daughter of Mr Powell, formerly mentioned as a squire residing at Forest Hill. Hastily got up, this match turned out miserably ill; contradicting for once the common notion that marriages made in middle life are the happiest. His wife seems to have been a gay, commonplace girl, fond of dancing and other trifling amusements-in short, the last person fitted to be the companion of an austere and lofty-souled scholar like Milton. At the end of a month, wearied with the monotony of his life, terrified at the statuesque precision of his habits and character, and sighing after the parties and pleasures of the gay corner from which she came, under pretext of a visit to her friends, she
left him, and when asked to return at the time appointed, positively refused. He sent letter after letter to induce her to alter her resolution,-they were returned unopened; he even despatched a messenger, he was dismissed from her father's house with contempt. His grief and surprise were soon changed into fury; he determined to repudiate her, and proceeded to justify the step by writing four treatises, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce; The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce; Tetrachordon; and Colasterion. Without defending the loose and dangerous doctrines advocated in these treatises, we must say that Milton's conduct admits of more excuse than that of other celebrated men who have been in a similar domestic predicament. Coleridge's irregularities would have tried the patience of any woman that ever lived. Shelley married too young, and it was not much wonder that such "calf-love" did not continue. Byron seems to have behaved badly, if not brutally, to his lady, and was, we fear, unfaithful ere the one year of their connexion had elapsed. But Milton's wife had nothing to complain of except his austere manners and life, and of these she might have been aware before the marriage. "Hearing his nephews cry sometimes under his severe discipline" is the only fact alleged in her excuse. The truth simply is, they were uncongenial, and had, in the mysterious providence of God, met for mutual misery. But it had been braver and nobler, and in the long run better far for both, had they submitted in silence, instead of kicking against what was their fixed and forefated lot. His principal defence is, that she was the aggressor.
These treatises, new in doctrine, uncompromising in spirit, and bold in language, could not fail of attracting attention, and of exciting controversy. Many sneered at them; some replied in print; others attacked them from the pulpit; and a few rallied around them, who gained the name of Divorcists or Miltonists. It was unfortunate for their effect that they so manifestly sprung from the bitterness of personal disappointment. The fox had lost his tail, and must persuade all future foxes to claim the liberty of cutting off theirs when
ever they chose! The Presbyterians were especially inimical to his views. They had him summoned before the House of Lords, by whom, however, he was speedily dismissed; and one of their leading clergy, Herbert Palmer, abused his book in the bitterest terms. These facts seem to have determined the balance of Milton's mind against Presbyterianism and in favour of the Independent party. Meanwhile, he was carrying out the principles of his work, by paying his addresses to the daughter of Dr Davis, described as a lady of great beauty and intelligence. He had apparently not heard the Scottish proverb, "It is best to be off with the old love, before you are on with the new." A short time afterwards, he was startlingly reminded of its truth.
Although agonised and almost "driven to atheism" by this distressing event, his mind continued as active and powerful as ever. In 1644, he published his Tractate on Education, developing a plan of training rather Utopian, and which seems scarcely worth being realised. Any student subjected to it would have turned out a curious mixture; one-third farmer, one-third pedant, and one-third poet. In the same year, Milton wrote a far nobler production; indeed, his grandest in prose, The Areopagitica; a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing. The most elaborate speeches or treatises of the ancients, the Philippics of Demosthenes and the orations of Cicero, seem but the discourses of Lilliput compared to this. It had suited an audience of " giant angels" better than even that stately senate to which it was addressed. It is almost entirely free from the quaintness, stiffness, and involution which mark his ordinary prose-style, and rises more easily into its altitudes. mingled with clear echoes;" and amid strong argument, its sounding-march, the "deep organ-tone" of its diction, there is nothing more remarkable about it than its sustained, cheerful, and majestic calmness. One wonders how it could be written by one so strangely widowed as its author had been, and is tempted to suspect that the bright eyes of Miss Davis had in part inspired it. Like almost all first-rate speeches, such as Burke's, and Fox's, and
It is as
Chatham's best, it failed in gaining its object, and would have failed even had Milton been permitted to read it in person to the Parliament. The Presbyterians when they got the press into their hands were as unfriendly to its unrestricted freedom as the Prelatists had been.
His father had now come to reside with him, and the number of his pupils increasing, he took a larger house. Before removing to it, he was astonished, upon one of his usual visits to a relation in St Martin's le Grand, to see his wife coming in from another room and beseeching forgiveness. A scene followed, at which some will be disposed to laugh, and others to cry. She fell on her knees, she bathed him with her tears, and he, overpowered by her solicitations, took her once more to his bosom. It was magnanimous conduct, although undoubtedly the scheme was pre-concerted on the part of her friends, who felt the declining state of the royal cause, who foresaw that Milton's star was soon to culminate, and had heard that he was paying his addresses to another lady. This sets, we think, their conduct in a very mean light, and reminds us of that of the Armour family, who persecuted poor Burns when "hungry ruin had him in the wind,” but fawned on him, and made him welcome to visit Jean, after his triumphant return from Edinburgh. What became of Miss Davis we are not informed. The Poet removed soon after to Barbican, where he received, besides his wife, his pupils and his own father, his wife's father and mother, after they were impoverished by the success of the Roundheads. Todd has discovered some curious documents, which shew that Powell had been in debt to Milton's father, and that after his death, Milton, to reimburse himself, took possession of his mortgaged property, and so Powell's widow and eight children were left destitute. This is not a story much to Milton's credit, and constitutes, in fact, the one small thing recorded against him. But we are not acquainted with all the circumstances. In 1646-7, Powell died a brokenhearted bankrupt; and soon after, Milton's own father expired. Before this, he had published, for the first time in a collected form, his juvenile poems in Latin and English.