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From the British Quarterly Review.


The Prose Works of John Milton. With a Preface, Preliminary Remarks, and Notes. By J. A. ST. JOHN. 3 vols. small 8vo. London: Henry G. Bohn.


THESE Volumes form part of the Standard | Library issued by Mr. Bohn. No series of books has ever appeared which, taken as a whole, equals this in value; and no part of the series are we disposed to estimate more highly than the volumes now before us. It has often been matter of regret with the admirers of Milton that his prose writings should be so little known by the reading part of the English public; for, of that rich inheritance of mental treasure which the genius, the thoughtfulness, and the learning of former ages have bequeathed to us, there are few portions which it would more advantage the people of these realms to be familiar with than this. But hitherto this part of our hereditary wealth has been almost inaccessible to the great mass of the people, owing to the inconvenient or expensive forms in which Milton's Prose Works have been published. Mr. Bohn has at length removed this obstacle. He has rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and we hope many will hasten to fill their pitchers at this copious and healthful spring.

Mr. St. John has done the part assigned to him for the most part well. He rightly appreciates in general Milton's true character and sentiments, and shows a worthy sympathy with both. His Preliminary Remarks and Notes often supply very needful information, and place the reader in the right point of view for apprehending and justly estimating Milton's statements; but his Notes are sometimes irrelevant, and sometimes frivolous. If some he has inserted have a just claim to be there, we do not see why he might not with equal reason have inserted a thousand such besides.

It is not our purpose at present to offer any remarks on Milton's Prose Writings in general. The theme is tempting-as what theme connected with Milton is not?—and

though it has already engaged some illustrious pens, it is by no means so exhausted as to render another survey of it presumptuous or hopeless. But our object at present is more limited. We wish to write the history of a section of Milton's life which has not, we think, received due attention from any of his biographers, and to take note of the works which during that period he composed. We wish to survey his connection with the Commonwealth, to describe the services he rendered to it, and to estimate the worth of his relation to it.

On the 30th of January, 1649, the protracted struggle between arbitrary sovereignty and popular liberty which, for more than twenty years, had agitated England, was brought to a solemn close by the execution of the infatuated prince, who, despising the claims of equity, the auguries of wisdom, and the lessons of experience, had resolved at all hazards to govern a high-minded people according to his sole pleasure. With the life of Charles terminated, for the time, the kingly form and name in Britain. Whilst the snow was yet falling on the velvet pall that covered the headless trunk of the once haughty representative of an imperious line, and whilst the few faithful adherents, who still persisted in showing their allegiance to his memory, were comforting themselves around his bier by interpreting "this sudden whiteness" into a token from heaven of their master's innocence, the bold men, who had fearlessly done the deed, were engaged in drawing up a proclamation in which they forbade all persons whatsoever to presume to declare "Charles Stuart, son of the late Charles, or any other person to be king or chief magistrate of England or Ireland, or of any dominions belonging thereunto," on pain of "being deemed and adjudged a traitor," and made to "suffer accordingly." Seven

days later, they abolished the House of Lords; the next day, they passed a solemn decree abolishing forever the office of king in this nation; and the day following, they gave orders that a new great seal should be engraved, bearing, in place of the effigies of the monarch, a representation of the House of Commons in full session, with this inscription, "The first year of liberty restored, by the blessing of God, 1648."* (o. s.) At the same time, a council of state, consisting of forty persons, was appointed to conduct the government of the nation.

This Council of State, now virtually the Sovereign of England, had, amongst other duties, that of watching over the relations subsisting between this country and foreign powers. Here, as in other departments, they, from the first, took high and manly ground. Little inclined to provoke a rupture with any of the continental powers, they nevertheless resolved not to allow in the least degree the honor or the interest of their country to be abated in their hands. They would do as England had ever donechoose their own allies and deal with them on equal terms. They had not smitten the crown from the head of their own king, to truckle to any of the crowned heads of the Continent. They meant England, now that she was a republic, to be as independent and as mighty amongst the powers of Europe as she had ever been whilst governed by kings. Accordingly, before they had been many weeks in existence as a council, they appointed a committee of their number, consisting of Mr. Whitelocke, Sir Henry Vane, Lord Lisle, the Earl of Denbigh, Mr. Martyn, and Mr. Lisle, or any two of them, "to consider what alliances the Crowne hath formerly had with forreigne states, and what those states are; and whether it will be fit to continue those allyances, or with how many of the said states; and how farr they should be continued, and upon what grounds; and in what manner applications and addresses should be made for the said continuance." In such lofty style and with such conscious dignity did these republicans set about their work! We may augur that the honor of England is in safe keeping in such hands.

But the Council did not stop here.


* Guizot, English Revolution, p. 436; Clarendon, Book xi. sub fine.

+ Book of Orders of the Council of State, cited from the MS. in the State Paper Office, by Mr. Todd, in his Life of Milton, p. 107.

was not enough for them to assert their country's ancient right to choose her own allies and deal with foreign powers in general as she deemed best. A high-minded prince would have done as much; these patriotic republicans determined to do more. They had a mind not only to say to the continental powers what they judged right, but to say it in a tongue which was as much theirs as it was that of any of the powers they addressed. Hitherto, from the time of the Conquest, all foreign correspondence had been conducted in French. But to the thorough English feeling of the republican council this practice seemed a degradation. The French was a good enough tongue for Frenchmen; and for purposes of diplomacy only perhaps too good; but what was that to them who were free Englishmen, and had a tongue of their own of which they were not ashamed, and meant to pursue a straightforward course with all men, and at all times to say with their lips what they purposed in their hearts? They resolved, therefore, to discard the French in their writings to foreign states, and to employ in its stead the lingua communis of Christendom, the Latin. Nor were they content to have their thoughts clothed in any sort of Latin which hireling scholarship might supply to them. They would have Latin of the best. Under their sway, England was to be a true Aristocracy

a Reign of the Best; and they resolved that even in the interchange of courtesies or the chafferings of diplomacy with foreign states, their thoughts should be clothed in such a garb that not so much as a dog should move his tongue against it.

Of those who had sate in the high places of learning during the reign of Charles, the greater part had followed the fortunes of the exiled prince; or were hiding their discontent and their scholarship in lonely retreats-doctores umbratici against their will; or, like worthy Jeremy Taylor, having escaped ashore upon a plank, and not knowing whether they owed most to "the courtesies of their friends or the gentleness and mercies of a noble enemy," were trying to make the best of a bad business by "gathering a few sticks to warm them, a few books to entertain their thoughts;' all of them occupied after a fashion, yet for the interests of their country in the meantime utterly profitless. Still there were a few of the riper scholars of the day whose principles allied them to the victorious party. One

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*Discourse of the Liberty of ProphesyingEpist. Dedic. p. 2.

there was especially, whose attachment to the republican cause was enthusiastic, who, from his youth up, had given himself to literature, "taking labor and intense study to be his portion in this life," and who, though he had " applied himself to the resolution to fix all the industry and art he could unite to the adorning of his native tongue," was nevertheless so addicted to the languages of Greece and Rome, that, whilst yet a youth, he had "not merely wetted the tip of his lips in the stream of these languages, but, in proportion to his years, had swallowed copious draughts," and was now, in his maturer age, acknowledged to be one of the first classical scholars of his day. This was Milton, and as he, in virtue of his scholarship, was master of a pure and copious Latinity, being, as one of his critics remarks, "purioris dicendi generis vehementer studiosus," the attention of the Council was directed to him as the fittest person to act as their Latin secretary. The same committee which had been appointed to consider the subject of Foreign Alliances was accordingly instructed to "speak with Mr. Milton, to know whether he will be employed as secretary for Forraigne tongues." According to the testimony of Phillips, Milton's nephew, the attention of the Council of State had been drawn to Milton by the recent publication of his work, entitled, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates." Wood asserts, and Mr. St. John adopts the assertion, that this treatise was written before the execution of Charles, though it now contains many passages afterward inserted. But this appears to us more than doubtful. It is true, indeed, that the treatise, as we now have it, contains additions to the original text, but these were made between the first and second editions, not, as the words we have quoted would seem to imply, between the writing of the work and its first publication.* As for its being written before the king's death, there is no evidence for that except Wood's assertion; and worthy Anthony was not so minutely exact in all that he uttered, especially when a sectary was in question, that we should allow his bare word to weigh against the internal evidence of the treatise itself, which is all on the side of the opinion that Milton wrote this tract, as well as published




it, in order to justify the Parliament and the Army for their treatment of Charles. deed, in his Second Defence, he expressly says as much as that such was the case: "That book," says he, referring to this treatise, "did not make its appearance till after the death of Charles; and was written rather to reconcile the minds of the people to the event, than to discuss the legitimacy of that particular sentence which concerned the magistrates, and which was already executed."*

The main design of the treatise is to assert the responsibility of kings, and the right of subjects to punish tyrants or wicked kings, if need be, with death. It is not, as some have asserted, a plea for regicide in the general, as if Milton, in a rabid and indiscriminating hatred of the very name and office of king, had contended for the extirpation of the entire race of such functionaries. Still less is it an attack on the unhappy monarch whose execution it by implication justifies; for in referring to it in a subsequent publication, Milton distinctly disavows any intention of attacking Charles in it, or even of directly determining anything in reference to his case; and there is nothing in the treatise itself that is in the least incompatible with this disavowal. Milton was prompted to write it by the unreasonable censures pronounced upon Cromwell and his friends by the Presbyterian party, who, formerly the most bitter enemies of Charles, had become jealous of the growth of the Independents, and of their ascendency in the Parliament, and were clamoring against the sentence pronounced on the king as abhorrent from the doctrine of Protestants, and of all the reformed churches. This conduct Milton ascribed to mere party spite: he regarded their anger as excited, not by "the act itself, but because it was not the act of their party;" and the assertion they made against it he denounced as a glaring falsehood," (falsitas asserta.) Hence, in order to compose men's minds, he wrote this tract

*Works, vol. i. p. 260.

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See his Second Defence of the People of England, passim. "How happy am I," he exclaims, in reference to the favorable reception of his first Defence by Christina, Queen of Sweden, “that when the critical emergencies of my country demanded that I should undertake the arduous and invidious task of impugning the rights of kings, I should meet with so illustrious, so truly a royal evidence to my integrity, and to this truth, that I had not written a

On the title-page of the second edition, published in 1650, we read that it is "published now the second time, with some additions, and many Testi-word monies also added out of the best and learnedest among Protestant Divines asserting the position of this Book."

against kings, but only against tyrants, the spots and pests of royalty."

Def. Secunda, p. 68, edit. 1654. Hagae-Comitum. Works, vol. i. p. 260, of Mr. St. John's edit.

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for the purpose of showing "in an ab- | powers addressed to the rulers of the Comstract consideration of the question, what may be lawfully done against tyrants.' It is one of the most condensed and closely reasoned of all Milton's writings, and satisfactorily establishes those great points of constitutional law which at an earlier period had been advocated by the classic pen of Buchanan, which, in the age succeeding that of Milton, were so logically demonstrated by Locke, and which may now be considered as incorporated with the constitution of our country. Appearing at a time when men's minds were deeply occupied with the question it discusses, public attention was naturally drawn toward it, and through means of it to previous publications of its author. "This treatise," says Phillips, "reviving the fame of other things Milton had formerly published, he was more and more taken notice of for his excellency of style, and depth of judgment; was courted into the service of the Commonwealth; and at last prevailed with (for he never hunted after preferment, nor affected the hurry of public business) to take upon him the office of Latin Secretary."t This fully bears out Milton's own account of the matter:-"No one ever knew me either soliciting anything myself, or through the medium of my friends, no one ever beheld me in a supplicating posture at the doors of the senate, or the levees of the great. I usually kept myself secluded at home, where my own property, part of which had been withheld during the civil commotions, and part of which had been absorbed in the oppressive contributions which I had to sustain, afforded me a scanty subsistence. . . . I was surprised by an invitation from the Council of State, who desired my services in the office for foreign affairs."‡

Milton entered upon the office to which he was thus honorably called on the 15th March, 1649. The duties which he was here appointed to discharge were somewhat multifarious. Besides those more especially belonging to his office, such as the translating into English of the state papers of foreign

* Ibid.

Cited by Todd, Life of Milton, p. 97.

Second Defence, p. 261. Works, vol. i. We have given the above from the English translation, as it stands in Mr. St. John's edition; but it is rather an imperfect version of the original, and in the concluding part quite wrong. Milton was never in the Foreign Office. What he says is, "Me . . . Concilium Status . . . ad se vocat, meaque opera ad res præsertim externas uti voluit,"-the Council of State summoned me, and desired the use of my ervices chiefly in foreign affairs.


monwealth, and conducting their correspondence in return, many other tasks were imposed upon him by those whom he served. They seem, indeed, to have committed to him the whole of what may be called the literary and controversial interests of the government. Hence we find him enjoined to examine papers found on certain suspected enemies of the Commonwealth, or such attacks upon it as appeared in print, and to report to the Council thereon; to reply to some of these attacks; to defend the policy of the Council against those "designers against the peace of the Commonwealth, by whom it had been impugned; and even to arrange for the printing of such works as the Council saw meet to issue at the public expense. To a mind like Milton's, delighting to luxuriate in the banquet of letters, and even revolving high thoughts of the additions he was himself to make to that rich repast, it must have been unspeakably irksome to be compelled to attend to all the petty and vexatious duties which were thus imposed upon him. But he bore the yoke cheerfully, and seems to have toiled on with the patience of the veriest drudge in his appointed work. Nay, his heart even appears to have been in his duties, for when he might, without censure, have retired from the office, he spurned the idea as unworthy of his patriotism. It was no paltry love of the gains of office which thus chained him to the oar; for his salary at the highest never exceeded £200 per annum, and to this the only additional perquisite he ever received was permission to reside at Whitehall, a permission which was only given to be soon after recalled.§ It is a sight worth looking at this man of supernal genius thus taming himself down to the drudgeries of an inferior station, and discharging the dull and irksome tasks of office with a cheerfulness which the merest red-tapist could hardly exceed-and all from a sense of duty, and love for what he esteemed a good and just cause.

The writings which Milton was either directly or indirectly led by his office as

* Order of Council, May 30, 1649. Ibid. June 28. Ibid. June 25, 1650.

Ibid. 26th March, 1649; 28th March.
Ibid. 8th January, 1649-50.

Milton went to reside in Scotland Yard in the early part of 1651, and he removed from it in the summer of the same year, in consequence of an order of Parliament which deprived him of that residence. He then went to the "pretty garden house," in Petty France, Westminster, where he remained till with. in a few weeks of the return of Charles II.


Latin Secretary to indite, form a very important part of his prose works. Of these, the least interesting, perhaps, to us now, in reference at least to himself, are the Letters of State which he addressed from time to time in the name of the government of the Commonwealth, to the different European powers. In an historical point of view, indeed, these are valuable, as indicating the footing on which Cromwell and his party stood with the princes and states of the Continent, and as containing an authentic record of the foreign policy of the Commonwealth; but, in relation to Milton, they possess only an inferior interest. It is his pen that indites the words, but the thoughts are the property of others, and chiefly of that imperial intellect which seems to have dazzled and commanded the mind even of Milton, and made him look up to its possessor as the "chief of men.' Viewed as the joint production of Oliver Cromwell and John Milton, these letters, even the least important of them, must ever possess a strong attraction; and some of them, especially those which relate to the sufferings of the Waldenses, in which both Cromwell and his Secretary took so thrilling an interest, will ever remain as monuments at once of the high-toned dignity with which England's greatest ruler upheld her rights and the rights of humanity, and of the fitting utterance which England's greatest poet gave to that ruler's will.

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The first publication into which Milton's office indirectly led him, was that which appeared under the following title:" Iconoclastes. In answer to a Book, entitled Icon Basilike: the portraiture of his Sacred Majesty in his Solitude and Sufferings."" The work to which Milton here replies, and which is now pretty generally believed to have been the production of Dr. Gauden, successively Bishop of Exeter and of Worcester after the Restoration, purports to be the composition of the deceased king, and its manifest design is to produce an impression in his favor, by not only defending his conduct to his subjects, but also representing him in the light of a mild, devout, and heavenly martyr. It was published a very short time after the death of Charles, and though there were several who saw through the imposition, and were satisfied it was not the work of the king, (Milton among the rest,) by the country at large, it was received as genuine, and extensively and eagerly perused. To counteract the effect which it was everywhere producing, Milton wrote his

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"Iconoclastes;" in which, with great minuteness and vigor, he replies to all that is advanced in the "Icon," in defence of the policy, and in honor of the character of Charles. Written for popular effect, it is much simpler in style, quieter in manner, and more homely in conception, than was usual with its author. Here and there an expression occurs which betrays the poet,* and not seldom the fire of an ardent temper breaks forth in indignant flashes; but for the most part, the "Iconoclastes" is a sober, minute, closely-reasoned, and unimpassioned refutation of the statements of the "Icon." The author's purpose in writing it, he tells us, was "not a desire to descant on the misfortunes of a person fallen from so high a dignity," nor "by fond ambition, or the vanity to get a name, present or with posterity, by writing against a king," but 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 air with other mortal men." Hence he scrupled not to take up the gauntlet which had been thrown down, though a king's, in defence of liberty and the Commonwealth. That the work was written at the request of the Council of State, we know from Milton's own statement; but that it was a piece of mere hireling service, for which he received. a pecuniary reward from the Councilthough it has been confidently asserted, and though on the strength of this assertion Milton has been called a mercenary Iconoclast,"-is altogether untrue. We have the author's own solemn statement to the contrary: "My hands," says he to Morus, were never soiled with the guilt of peculation; I never was even an obolus the richer by those exertions which you most vehemently traduce." We have the corroborative evidence afforded by the fact that the books of the Council retain no trace of any remuneration having been made to him

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*One of his expressions has been borrowed, without acknowledgment, by a poet of our own of opposing the royal will, he describes it as day. In speaking of a parliament without power "struck as mute and motionless as a parliament of tapestry in the hangings." What Milton here applies to tapestry, Campbell applies to painting

"And Painting mute and motionless
Steals but a glance of time."
Valedictory Stanzas to Kemble.

+ Second Def. Work, vol. i. p. 268.
Second Def. p. 243.

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