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for this labor, whilst they do not fail to record the "fitt reward" which the Council awarded to John Durie for translating the work into French. And we have the fact that he was permitted to make the writing of this book suit his own convenience, beginning it late, and finishing it leisurely in the midst of other employments and diversions"*a favor which, as Mr. Todd justly reasons, would hardly, in the case of a work, the early appearance of which was of importance, have been conceded to a mere hireling scribe.
The "Iconoclastes" appeared in the closing part of the year 1649. The same period witnessed the publication of a work which was destined to involve Milton in the most protracted and the most violent controversy in which he ever embarked. This was the "Defensio Regia pro Carolo I.," by Claude Saumaise, better known as Salmasius.
the English constitution, the English history, and the temper of the English people. Worst of all, he was ignorant of his own ignorance, and addressed himself to his task with all the confidence and self-sufficiency which learned ignorance is apt to assume. His temper also was bad; he was overbearing and insolent; and he indulged to its full extent in that license of vituperation which the scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries seem to have regarded as their peculiar privilege; judging, apparently, that there was no excess of Scommatism to which a writer might not resort, provided always he kept the peace with Priscian, and clothed his anger in Ciceronian Latin. In his scholarship, moreover, there was all that painful attention to trifles, that "insanum minutiarum studium," which Ruhnken tells us is peculiar to otiose litterateurs.* His mind had nothing great in it, nothing comprehensive, nothing original. He was a successful scholar, and nothing
What Pope has most unjustly put into the mouth of Richard Bentley, was to the letter true of Salmasius:
"Like buoys, that never sink into the flood, On Learning's surface we but lie and nod.
For thee we dim the eyes and stuff the head
Charles II. was at this time residing at the Hague, "living with and upon the Prince of Orange," as Clarendon tells us; poor enough and dispirited enough, yet inclined to make an effort or two more to regain the splendid patrimony from which he had been driven. The impression which had been produced in England by the publication of the "Icon Basilike" probably suggested the idea of following it up by a still more energetic attack upon the Commonwealth party. The poor king had one hundred Jacobusses in his purse, and these When such a man undertook to arraign he resolved to sacrifice in order to procure the people of England, and defend the such a publication. A ready instrument memory of the beheaded king, what could was found in Salmasius, then one of the he do but make pedantry supply the place Professors at Leyden, and who enjoyed the of intelligence, and substitute effrontery for reputation of being one of the most learned argument? The "fortiter in re" was men of his age. He was unquestionably a beyond his reach, the "suaviter in modo" man of abilities. His memory was pro- was contrary to his taste and habits. The digious; his reading was unbounded; and only course open to him was that which his ingenuity considerable. His linguistic he followed. His linguistic he followed. Shutting himself up in his attainments and his philological writings library, he set himself to quote all sorts of still command respect; in his own day he authors in support of the sacredness of was deemed such a prodigy, that people kings, and the inviolability of their persons. were wont to say that what Salmasius did He starts from the loftiest position of not know was not knowable. But there Divine Right! A king!-what is a king? were many things he did not know, and many literary qualifications he did not possess; and these, unhappily for him, were the very things and the very qualifications especially requisite for the work to which the exiled prince summoned him. He was He was ignorant of political science and the principles of social ethics. He was ignorant of
* Preface to the Iconoclastes.
Plainly he who is the supreme power in the state, a power beholden to none but God, to whom alone the king is obliged to render a reason of his acts, and to none besides he who may do what he likes, who is exempt from laws, who gives laws, but receives none, and hence judges all, but
* Orat. de Doctore Umbrat. p. 13. Opusc. Ruhnken, ed. Kidd.
is himself judged of no one." This high doctrine he proceeds, by an immense farrago of authorities, to defend as the doctrine held in all ages and by all peoples. "So of old judged the whole East, so the West. In the regions of the North and the South, wherever kings reigned, their subjects had no other opinion, no other custom. Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Romans, Jews, Greeks, Pagans, Christians, thought thus." All this is shown at great length, and with an immense parade of learning. It is not till we reach the eighth chapter, that we find the author preparing to deal with the only really important question in this department of his inquiry viz., what was the opinion, what the custom of the people of England respecting kings? Here, having neither Talmuds nor classics to quote from, he is sadly puzzled to keep up appearances; still he makes a manful effort, and by help of William of Malmesbury, Matthew of Paris, Gervasius, &c., illustrated here and there by Aristotle, Tacitus, Mela, Juvenal, and others of the ancients, he manages very respectably to fill up a goodly number of pages. In the concluding chapters (x.-xii.) he discusses the character and proceedings of the party by whom the king had been beheaded, and defends the character and conduct of Charles. This is by much the ablest part of his work; it is written with less stiffness and much greater vigor than the preceding parts; and when one compares its animated eloquence and hearty vituperation with the dreary pedantry of the earlier chapters, it is hard to resist the suspicion that some such pen as that of Hyde was at work, and that Salmasius had no other hand in this part of the "Defensio" than that of translating into Latin the thoughts and words of a greatly more vigorous mind than his own.
The publication of this work appears to have produced no great sensation either on the Continent or in England. This is not surprising. Few except unoccupied scholars were likely to toil through its heavy pages; and whilst its main purpose possessed only a secondary interest to the continental nations, its fundamental thesis was one which few Englishmen of any party then in England were prepared to adopt. Those theories of government on which the Divine right of kings is based, were unknown in this country before the days of Laud, and when propounded, they had received little welcome
* Def. Reg. c. 2, sub init.
even from those who afterward periled all in their efforts to support the throne. On the great mass of the people they never made any impression. Among them it had, ever since England was England, been held as a settled thing, that there was a point beyond which no prince could urge his prerogative and no freeborn people could submit; and their history presented to them too many instances in which the haughtiest of their sovereigns had been compelled to respect the popular will, and too many instances in which the reigning dynasty had been changed by force of domestic arms, for them to be very overwhelmingly impressed with a sense of "the divinity that doth hedge about a king." Had Salmasius been more modest-had he assumed lower ground
had he followed up the impression produced by the "Icon Basilike," by, like it, dwelling rather on the personal merits and sufferings of the late king, than by mooting great political and constitutional questions, in which he assumed positions to which few good and no thoughtful men could assent, he would better have served the cause of his employer, and if not in quantity, certainly in quality, rendered a fairer equivalent for his hundred Jacobusses. As it was, he, like many a hired pleader, both before and since, spoiled his cause by overdoing it.
But though the work of Salmasius created no remarkable sensation, it yet contained enough to render it desirable that it should not be left unanswered. Milton was accordingly enjoined, by an order in Council, of the date January 8th, 1849-50, to "prepare something in answer to the booke of Salmasius, and when he hath done itt, bring itt to the Councell." His answer was ready by the close of the year, and on the 23d of December, 1650, it was "ordered that Mr. Milton doe print the treatise which he hath written, in answer to a late booke written by Salmasius against the proceedings of this Commonwealth." The work appeared in the early part of the following year, under the title "Joannis Miltoni Angli pro Populo Anglicano Defensio contra Claudii Anonymi, alias Salmasii Defensionem Regiam."
On this production Milton put forth all his strength. He seems to have entered upon it with the design not merely of defending the Commonwealth, but of crushing the presumptuous pedant by whom it had been assailed. For Salmasius he evidently felt no respect, and to him he shows no pity. With a learning equal at least to his
own, and an energy far beyond any he ever | possessed, Milton follows him step by step through his book, and does battle with him for every inch of the ground. No weapon of defence or assault that could be pressed into his service does he refuse. Quotations, criticism, sarcasm, puns, nicknames, vituperation, mingle with the acutest reasoning and the loftiest eloquence, in the strange tissue of his Discourse. From gravely discussing a question in history or political science, he suddenly passes to some stern joke upon his antagonist, or some vehement philippic upon the cause he had set himself to advocate. Now he weighs some dictum of Aristotle, or expounds some passage in the Bible, and then he darts away to pounce upon some unlucky solecism in his opponent's Latinity, or to make himself merry over his opponent's domestic thraldom. In reading this treatise, one cannot help thinking of the grim hilarity of the cat, as she tosses and plays with the mouse, which ever and anon she wounds with her talons, and at last utterly devours.
Hobbes is said to have remarked of the two "Defences," that he knew not which contained the best Latin or the worst logic. But there can be no candid and competent judge of either who will hesitate to assign the palm in both to Milton. Such certainly was the verdict of the best judges in his own day. As soon as his work appeared, it was circulated all over the Continent, and everywhere commanded the highest eulogies for its splendid diction, its acute and vigorous reasoning, and its immeasurable superiority to the work in reply to which it was issued. Congratulations poured in upon the author from all quarters; the ambassadors of foreign courts then resident in London paid him formal visits of compliment; and letters from the most distinguished scholars of Europe, expressive of their admiration of his production, were continually reaching him. His book was translated into Dutch, and apparently also into French. Certain it is that it was burnt in France, first at Paris and then at Toulouse; an evidence that it was both hated and feared in that country. Even royalty itself, in the person of Christina of Sweden, perused it with admiration, and gave unmistakeable evidence of approbation by dismissing, if not with indignity, at least
without honor, Salmasius from the court. Beyond this general applause, however, the author had no remuneration for his labor, except the thanks of the Council and the gratitude of the best part of his countrymen.
Toland, indeed, has asserted that he received a present of £1000 from the Council. But this is a mistake, as Milton's own assertion in his "Second Defence," and the books of the Council attest.
It is not to be denied that the "Defence
of the People of England against Salmasius" is disfigured by many and grievous faults. It must be admitted that it is needlessly prolix, and that much on which its author elaborately dwells is altogether irrelevant to the main question at issue between him and his antagonist. It must be admitted that his retaliation often exceeds the bounds of severity and becomes fierce and truculent. It must be admitted that many of his attempts at wit are miserably abortive, that his puns are, for the most part, about the worst ever perpetrated, and that he is often indelicate and coarse in his sarcasms and allusions. It must be admitted that many of his criticisms are hypercritical, that what he triumphantly holds up to scorn as the barbarisms and blunders in grammar of his antagonist, are not always such; and that sometimes his own pen drops solecisms as gross and unpardonable as any of which he accuses Salmasius.* But whilst all this is
A famous instance of this occurs in Milton's merciless taunting of Salmasius for saying that the English had committed parricide in persona regisin the person of the king. What is this," exclaims Milton-"what Latinity ever spoke thus! putting on the mask of the king, perpetrated 1 unless, indeed, you refer to some pretender who, know not what parricide among the English," &c. Milton here evidently assumes that persona is never used by Latin writers in the sense in which we use person" when we say, "the person of the king;" but always retains its primary meaning of mask, or personation. But this is a mistake. Johnson cites a passage from Juvenal, Sat. iv., v. 14, which clearly establishes the usage; unless, indeed, persona there means "character" in the sense in But a better authority than Juvenal, no less than which we speak of a man being a “bad character.” Cicero, is indubitably on the side of Salmasius here In one passage, indeed, he uses the very formula employed by Salmasius; speaking of Caesar's conduct to Pompey, he says, "in ejus persona multa Salmasius's "parracidium in persona regis" may fecit asperius."-Epist. ad Fam. By the side of this, stand without blushing. Whilst thus over-zealous to find fault with his adversary, Milton falls into a blunder himself. "I will leave you," says he, "to the tender mercies of your own grammaticists;
quibus ego tu deridendum et vapulandum propino
to whom I propose you to be laughed at and whipped." Milton had probably Terence's expression, "Ego hunc comedendum et deridendum vobis propino," (Eunuch, v. 9, 47) in his mind when he wrote this; but in substituting a word for "comedendum," he unfortunately used one which has no existence! This verb "vapulo" signifying
The position maintained by Milton through this "Defence" is substantially that which he had already defended in the "Iconoclastes" the responsibility of kings to their people, the necessary limits of royal prerogative, and the right of the people to resist tyrannical, oppressive, and unjust sovereigns, and even, if need be, to bring them to trial, and when convicted, to punish them. This doctrine he shows to have always been held by the English people, and to have been tacitly acknowledged by the most hasty Plantagenet and the most imperious Tudor that ever filled the English throne. But not content with this, he ascends to a higher region than that of prescription and usage. He appeals to that which is above all statute and contract-the law written on the hearts of men-the code whose edicts embody the great fundamental principles on which all society and all social institutions rest. This is the only line of argument worth the pursuing in such a case. To appeal to statute law and constitutional usage in defence of an act which was virtually the removal of the basis on which statutes and usages rest, seems but a needless waste of logic. The responsibility of kings can never be etablished by law, because to summon them to an account is, on the part of their subjects, a superseding for the time being of all law-a suspension of the constitution. Nor is the right of a nation to liberty a question of usage or of statute. It is not because our ancestors were free, that we have a title to freedom; any more than it is because our ancestors were clothed, that we have a right to put on clothing. All such rights are natural rights, and when they are to be vindicated, it must be by an appeal, not to regal precedents and constitutional authorities, but to the eternal principles of reason, equity, and common sense.
admitted, it must still with justice be affirm- | ton's performance was received tended to ed, that for rich and varied learning, acute- minister dangerously to his love of fame, ness of reasoning, soundness of principle, that last infirmity of noble minds," Proviand rhetorical effect, few efforts of human dence was preparing for him a counteractive genius are entitled to rank by the side of discipline, in one of the severest calamities Milton's Defence of his countrymen. which can befall humanity. His eyesight, which had never been very strong, had, through severe and unseasonable study, been gradually becoming weaker; and though his medical attendants warned him of the danger he was incurring, his determination to serve his country was so resolute, that he persisted in preparing his reply to Salmasius, notwithstanding the increasing failure of his visual organs. The consequence was total blindness, which came upon him in 1652, the year after the publication of his "Defence of the People of England." By his enemies this was eagerly laid hold of, as a proof of the vengeance of Heaven upon the defender of those who had slain the king; but by Milton himself it was regarded in a very different light. With that strong religious feeling, which so remarkably distinguished him, he traced the affliction, indeed, to God; but he viewed it not as a token of the Divine vengeance, but as an act of paternal discipline through which it was deemed needful by the Almighty and the Allwise that he should pass. His conscience bare him witness that "neither in the more early nor in the later periods of his life," had he committed any enormity which might deservedly have marked him out as a fit object for such a calamitous visitation. And when his enemies taunted him with it, his appeal was from their inhumanity and injustice to the Searcher of hearts. "I invoke the Almighty to witness," are his words, "that I never at any time wrote anything which I did not think agreeable to truth, to justice, and to piety. This was my persuasion then, and I find the same persuasion now. Nor was I ever prompted to such exertions by the influence of ambition, by the lust of lucre or of praise; it was only by the conviction of duty, and the feeling of patriotism, a disinterested passion for the extension of civil and religious liberty."* He goes on to state, that though laboring under sickness, and though warned by the physicians that if he did not desist from studious pursuits, his sight would be irreparably lost, "their premonitions caused no hesitation, and inspired listened even to the voice of Esculapius himno delay. I would not," he adds, "have self from the shrine of Epidauris, in prefer
If the general applause with which Mil
not to whip, but to be whipped, it cannot, of course,
* Second Defence, p. 238. Works, vol. i.
ence to the suggestions of the heavenly monitor within my breast." These declarations
are worthy of all belief; they are in perfect keeping with that antique severity, that stern, inflexible obedience to the voice of duty, which formed one of the characteristic features of Milton.
Some of his biographers have fixed upon the date of Milton's blindness as marking the period of his retirement from the office of Secretary for Foreign Tongues. But this is a mistake. Milton retained the office by successive reappointments till the close of the Protectorate, in 1659. Neither did his employers deem it necessary to remove him, nor did he yield to his misfortune so as to relinquish a post where he could still serve his country. Speaking of the former, he says:-"They do not strip me of the badges of honor which I have once worn; they do not deprive me of the places of public trust to which I have been appointed; they do not abridge my salary or emoluments; which, though I may not do so much to deserve as I did formerly, they are too considerate and too kind to take away; and, in short, they honor me as much as the Athenians did those whom they determined to support at the public expense in the Prytaneum."* As for himself, though his affliction was such as would have disqualified most men for service in such a post, it was not sufficient either to disqualify or dishearten him. "His mind," says Johnson, "was too eager to be diverted, and too strong to be subdued." This is true; but his piety had probably as much to do with his fortitude as either his zeal or his strength. Viewing his affliction as coming from the hand of God, he devoutly believed that He who had sent the trial was able to support him under it. In a remarkable letter which he wrote to his friend Leonard Philaras, a native of Athens, who had held out to him some hopes of benefit, if he would consult Thevemot, the celebrated Parisian oculist, he thus writes:
"If, as it is written, man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, why should not a man acquiesce even in this? not thinking that he can derive light from his eyes alone, but esteeming himself sufficiently enlightened by the conduct and providence of God. As long, therefore, as He looks forward, and provides for me as He does, and leads me backward and forward by the hand, as it were, through my whole life, shall I not cheerfully bid my eyes keep holiday, since such appears to be
* Second Defence. Works, vol. i., p. 240.
Thus "regulating and tranquilizing his mind," Milton resolved to abide at his post, and only so far succumbed to his calamity as to receive a colleague in his office. The first with whom he was associated was Philip Meadows; but afterward the famous Andrew Marvell was, through his influence and solicitation, appointed to be his colleague. These distinguished men continued to officiate together until the end of 1659, on the 25th of October in which year, the last payment of salary they received is entered in the books of the Council. The amount of this salary was £200 to each; and, as already remarked, Milton seems to have received no more when the entire duties of the office rested upon him.
Triumphant as was Milton's position after his reply to Salmasius, it could not be expected that he would be long allowed to occupy it in peace. Salmasius himself, though confuted, was not silenced; and smarting under the disgrace of his defeat, and the severity of the chastisement he had received, he set himself to the preparation of a reply, in which he should fully avenge himself upon his adversary. In the midst of this, however, a still more implacable foe assailed him, and summoned him to the dread tribunal of a higher sovereign than him whose cause he had sought to plead. His unfinished work was published by his son, but not till 1660, when the immediate interest of the controversy had long since passed away. meantime, other pens, both at home and on the Continent, were pointed against Milton. To enumerate all the publications which were at this time issued in reply to him would be irksome. Suffice it to say, that of these, the "Animadversions" of Sir Robert Filmer is the ablest, in a logical point of view, and the "Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Coelum adversus Parricidos Anglicanos," of Peter du Moulin, the most famous. The latter was published anonymously, and its fame is derived from its having provoked Milton to utter his "Defensio Secunda," which appeared in 1654.
The remarks we have made on the "First Defence" apply in great measure also to the Second. There is, however, this difference : in the latter, it is chiefly persons whom the author attacks or defends; in the former, it is chiefly principles and acts. He defends, at great length, himself from the attacks that