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had been made upon him; and in order to do | this, enters upon some autobiographical notices, which, to later times, have been of unspeakable interest. Hardly less interesting are his noble eulogies on Bradshaw, Fleetwood, Overton, Fairfax, and Cromwell, especially the last, whom he apostrophizes at length, and lauds as the father and savior of his country. The principal object of his philippics is one unlucky Alexander More, or Morus, whom Milton was lead to regard as the author of the Clamor.' Him he scourges with a severity even exceeding that shown to Salmasius, and with a coarseness which contrasts strangely with the epic dignity of other parts of the "Defensio." Poor Morus ventured on a reply, entitled, "Fides Publica contra Calumnias Joannis Miltoni," in which he earnestly disclaims any share in, or knowledge of, the composition of the work imputed to him, and endeavors to clear himself from the scandalous imputations thrown upon his character and morals by Milton. To this the latter replied in a tract, entitled, Authoris pro se Defensio," in which he still persists in treating Morus as the author of the "Clamor," and in assailing him with ridicule and vituperation. A brief "Supplementum" from Morus, followed by a " sponsio" from Milton, closed this petty and undignified strife, in which Milton appears, perhaps, to less advantage than in any other of his many controversies.*
There have been some who have not been slow to insinuate that it was from love to strife, and a natural taste for the bitterness of controversy, that Milton gave so much of his time and energy to such compositions. A candid inquirer, however, will rather conclude that to a mind like his, it could not be otherwise than in itself irksome to be withdrawn from those pursuits to which his earlier years had been so assiduously devoted, and to which he had bound himself as the necessary means for securing the accomplishing of those spirited designs on which his soul was set. By such, therefore, credit will be given to his own avowal that it was even so; and that nothing but a deep sense of duty could have urged him to engage in such labors. In the famous introduction to
Is it for this reason that Mr. St. John has ex
cluded these tracts of Milton from his collection of his works? or because they have not yet been translated? We see in neither of these a sufficient reason for their absence. Of Milton's Works they as truly form a part as the Defensio Secunda itself, and it would have been worthy of Mr. St. John's scholarship to have put them in an English dress.
the second book of his " Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty," after giving an account of his previous studies, and his literary projects, he adds
Although it nothing content me to have disclosed thus much beforehand, but that I trust hereby to make it manifest with what small willingness I endure to interrupt the pursuits of no less hopes than these, and leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes, put from beholding the bright countenance of Truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies, to come into the dim reflection of hollow antiquities, sold by the seeming bulk, and there be fain to club quotations with men whose learning and belief lies in marginal stuff
Such was the noble self-denying spirit in
pure, the claims of the cause of truth and freedom. There was nothing he dreaded so much as that it should be said, "Thou hadst the diligence, the parts, the language of a man, if a vain subject were to be adorned and beautified, but when the cause of God and his Church was to be pleaded, for which purpose that tongue was given thee which thou hast, God listened if he could hear thy voice among his zealous servants, but thou wert dumb as a beast." He believed that "when God commands to take the trumpet and blow a sonorous or a jarring blast, it lies not in man's will what he shall say or what he shall conceal." The love of truth and liberty, the sense of responsibility, the conusefulness, were in him as an inspiration sciousness of power entrusted to him for which broke through all selfish restraint, and impelled him to speak, at whatever hazards, the message which he had to communicate,
"Yet I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
The conscience, friend, to have lost them over-
In liberty's defence, my noble task!
Of which all Europe rings from side to side; This thought might lead me through the world's
Content, though blind, had I no better guide."
He stopped not to strike a nice prudential | soon to fall from the vacillating grasp of the balance between duty and interest-between son. Along with this came the not-indistinct obedience and convenience. Determined to indications of a leaning on the part of the lay up as the best treasure and solace of multitude toward the royal cause, and the old age, if God should vouchsafe it to him, prospect of a return of the exiled Stuart. At the honest liberty of free speech, from his such a crisis, Milton was not the man to hold youth," it was enough for him to be assured his peace. "Few words," he exclaimed, in his own soul that the good cause demand-"will save us well considered; few and easy ed his service, to induce him to throw him- things now seasonably done;" and he set self into the ranks of its defenders, come of himself forthwith to speak what he deemed the conflict what might. Hence, when afflic- it necessary to be said, and to exhort his tion fell upon him, he had no sorrowful self- countrymen to perform what he thought it upbraidings, no tormenting remorse. Hear their interest to do. To the Parliament of his own noble words in reference to the loss the Commonwealth of England he addressed of his eyes, in his sonnet to Cyriac Skin- his "Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes," and his "Considerations touching the best means of removing Hirelings out of the Church," the object of both of which is to obviate any attempt to restore prelacy and a nationally endowed church. These appeared in 1659; and when shortly after the Parliament was dissolved by the army, and the supreme power seemed to be in the hands of General Monk, he addressed to him a tract, entitled, Brief Declaration of a Free Commonwealth easy to be put in practice and without delay." This was followed not long after by his "Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth," in which, as in the former, he argues against monarchy and pleads for a republic. In issuing this latter, he had a presentiment that it might prove "the last words of expiring liberty;" and so in all probability it would, so far as he was concerned, but for the officious zeal of Dr. Matthew Griffith, who was bold enough to proclaim from the pulpit the necessity of recalling Charles, which drew down upon him the lightning censures of the fearless Milton, in his " Brief Notes" on the Doctor's sermon. With this terminated his efforts for the establishment of his darling republic. L'Estrange published a Reply to his Notes under the insulting title, "No Blind Guides," and the people seemed to be, for the most part, of L'Estrange's opinion. They refused the counsels of Milton and his party; and in a tempest of loyal zeal cast themselves, and all that they had formerly fought for, at the feet of the returning mɔnarch. Retreating before a calamity with which he found he could not cope, the blind but dauntless patriot retired into concealment, carrying with him the proud consciousness of having done what he conceived to be his duty toward his country, and a mind as little broken by adversity as it had been elated by prosperity. Rescued by some means not very accurately ascertained from
All honor to the memory of the man who so steadfastly, courageously, and unrepiningly, alike amid storm and sunshine, abode by his integrity and hazarded himself in defence of what he thought the Truth!
For some time after the termination of the Salmasian controversy, Milton enjoyed a season of retirement and lettered repose. He seized the opportunity to carry out his longcherished project, and redeem his long-given promise of producing a work “which aftertimes would not willingly let die." It was during this interval that he began "Paradise Lost," but as if this was too little for his active and ardent mind, he conjoined with it the preparation of a copious Latin dictionary, and as has been said, though on very doubtful evidence, the composition of his "System of Divinity," the manuscript of which, so long supposed to be lost, was discovered a few years ago in the State Paper Office. Whilst he was immersed in these arduous undertakings-any one of them enough for an ordinary man-Cromwell died, and his son Richard assumed the Protectorate. Milton saw the times to be perilous. He soon discovered that the arm which now tried to wield the destinies of England was feeble and unsteadfast, and he sorrowfully foresaw that the power which it required all the gigantic energy of the father to maintain, was likely
the proscription designed for him by the restored government, he gave himself up to those pursuits which lay nearest his heart; and amid the tumultuous revelry and stunning licentiousness into which English society suddenly broke, he, as has been exquisitely said, “meditated, undisturbed by the obscene tumult which raged all around, a song so sublime and so holy that it would not have misbecome the lips of those ethereal Virtues whom he saw, with that inner eye which no calamity could darken, flinging down on the jasper pavement their crowns of amaranth and gold."*
In reviewing Milton's connection with the Commonwealth, it would be interesting in the highest degree could we adequately trace the influence which he exerted upon its fortunes and features. But on this head little can be said with any degree of certainty. It is clear that in his official connection with it, his influence was very slight and altogether subordinate. Though some have spoken as if in his office of Latin Secretary he possessed somewhat of the power which now belongs to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, it is evident that so far from this, he had no share whatever in the government, and was indeed in no sense a servant of the state, but merely a servant of the Council and of Cromwell. Nor does his personal influence with the rulers of the nation appear to have been at any time great. In one of his private letters he expresses his regret at being unable to assist his friend to a very secondary office on account of his very slight intimacy and infrequent intercourse with the grandees, (gratiosi.) Artists have frequently painted pictures of Cromwell and Milton in attitudes which would indicate familiarity of intercourse between them, but by Cromwell Milton seems always to have been kept at a distance, being probably regarded by that strong-willed and practical man as much too ethereal and speculative a genius to be of great use either in the closet or at the council. Nor does Milton seem to have been at any time a popular writer with the masses; and certainly there is no trace of his ever having formed a party or led the multitude in any of his controversies. For this many things may seem to account. For one thing, his style of writing was anything but popular; it is by much too involved in the construction of sentences, by much too foreign in the phraseology, and by much too elevated and stately in the march of the ideas, to be
appreciated by any but men of scholarly tastes and habits. Then again, the weak part of Milton's mind was his incapacity for calm, inductive, analytical ratiocination; with him all is assumed à priori, and reasoned from synthetically; and hence he is often inconsequent, often inconsistent, and often, we even dare to say, grandiloquently obscure. But the main source of his want of general influence was doubtless the utterly unpractical character of his mind. Upon the mass of men, abstract reasoning and splendid declamation are little better than thrown away. They cannot come up to it; they are lost in the attempt to follow it. Ten words setting forth a plain workable rule will be appreciated by them immensely beyond the most ably reasoned and eloquently enforced exposition of an abstract principle. What they want is, not to think, but to be advised and guided; and they will rather follow the man who does not ask them to think, than the man who does. They like, also, a leader who is in some sense one of themselveswho keeps by them and is guilty of no flights
who leads them by patiently going along with them, not by taking bold bounds forward and calling to them to follow. Now in all this Milton was utterly wanting. He could speculate and reason, and describe and satirize, and denounce and declaim; but to give a plain, straightforward piece of advice, did not belong to him. His genius was wholly idiosyncratic. As Wordsworth finely and justly expresses it, "His soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." The sphere in which his thoughts and fancies ranged was one into which only minds of the higher order dare or care to venture. When he spoke to others, he needed an interpreter-an offence which the vulgar never forgive. His church, his republic, his government, were all in theory. The visions in which he delighted had but little to do with the actual realities amidst which he lived and wrote. The people felt that he was amongst them, but not of them. They, perhaps, were proud of him—of his fame; but when he began to speak, they moved away, and left to him that which he, in his scornful pride, desired—“ fit audience, though few."
But let us not conclude from this that Milton exercised no influence upon the fate of his country by his matchless writings; or even that his influence was small. We should be nearer the truth were we to say, that his influence was, and will yet be, all the greater that in his own day he was so little followed. Had he been less of a thinker, less of a far
MILTON - AND THE COMMONWEALTH.
reaching speculator, less of an abstract and |
In this respect, as in many others, he strongly reminds us of Burke. The latter, it is well known, had but little personal influence, and exercised but little power directly by either his speeches or his writings in his own day. His rising to address the Speaker in the House of Commons was the signal for multitudes of the members to vacate their sets. "What!" said a member, entering the house one day, and meeting the retiring ?" "No," "No," crowd; "what! is the house up And so it was the reply, "but Burke is.' continued to the last. Burke was never popular in the ordinary sense of that term. He presumed to think and to teach; and he was left to those who cared to be his pupils. By the mass he was regarded in the light of And no a wearisome and unsafe man. wonder! He was imprudent enough to carry the lessons of philosophy into an assembly of practical debaters. Šimple old
"He went on refining,
To the masses in his own day, he was as a strange and uncongenial spirit; but from his towering height he spoke down to the loftier minds of his own and succeeding ages; and now, of the doctrines which he taught, many are incorporated with the substance of the British Constitution, whilst others of them are eagerly canvassed on the platform of popular discussion, and seem to be advancing toward possession of the general mind.
It forms no part of our present design to examine into the soundness of Milton's opinions; on this point there is room for much difference of sentiment, and probably we should dissent from as many of them as we should agree with. Nor can we attempt even to state his views at large on questions of a political and politico-ecclesiastical kind, as this would require greatly more space than remains at our disposal. It is impossible, however, to close this article without adverting, though it must be, of necessity, briefly, to the relation in which his published opinions place him to the Commonwealth, both in a political and religious point of view.
In politics, Milton was a republican. He had formed to himself an ideal Commonwealth, the features of which were partly borrowed from the lordly republics of ancient Greece and Italy, partly supplied by his own imagination. The establishment of such in England he thought easy and desirable, and for this he labored with all the energies of his mighty pen. He saw in such a constitution a security for national glory, for the extension of commerce and discovery, for the interests of learning, and above all, for the enjoyment by learned men of free speech and free writing, such as no form of hereditary monarchy seemed to him to promise: how it was to affect the welfare of the masses, Milton, we fear, thought and cared little. With the bold avowal of these sentiments, he had hailed the dawn of the Common
And thought of convincing, while they thought of wealth as an approximation at least to the dining."
And yet who of all that generation has so powerfully influenced the political genius of England during the succeeding age as Edmund Burke? Who of all his great compeers has left on the minds of his countrymen so broadly and deeply the stamp of his peculiar opinions and modes of thinking? Who has done so much to create what is now regarded as sound political science by the best thinkers on such subjects in Europe? And much such a fortune as this was that of Milton.
realization of his favorite dream. During the continuance of the Commonwealth, he advocated its cause by the reiteration of these sentiments; and when he saw it beginning to decay, he sought again to restore it to vigor by the utterance of the same doctrines he had preached during its rise and its progress. Who shall say that he who thus watched by the cradle and sat by the bier of the Commonwealth-its hearty friend and fearless defender throughout-was without a powerful influence upon its form and its working?
It is proper to notice here the charge which has been brought against Milton of inconsistency in that he, a republican, continued in the service of Cromwell after the latter had assumed the supreme power, and had in reality made himself sole master of the State. On this charge Milton's accusers have been fond of dwelling, and they have not hesitated in some cases to urge it so far as to impeach his general character for integrity, uprightness, and honor. We believe no charge was ever less deserved. We believe there was as little of self-seeking in Milton's official connection with Cromwell as ever characterized the conduct of any man who served a monarch. It has been usual with Milton's apologists to urge in his defence that being a mere servant, and not therefore responsible for the doings of his superior, there was no violation of uprightness or consistency in his continuing to serve his country under Cromwell as its solitary chief, in the same capacity in which he had served it under the Council of State. But this, though undoubtedly true, is only a small part of the vindication which may be justly offered of Milton's conduct in this particular. It was not more inconsistent in Milton to continue to serve Cromwell as Protector than it was in Cromwell to become Protector. The same defence which justifies Cromwell justifies Milton. Now no person imagines now-adays that it was from mere selfish motives, or from a desire to enslave his country, that Oliver took into his own hands the supreme power in the Commonwealth. Whatever it may have been fashionable for the wits and sycophants of the Restoration, or the Tories of a later age, to assert concerning his unprincipled ambition and unhallowed usurpation, the enlightened judgment of the present day pronounces him what the enlightened judgment of his own day pronounced himthe savior of his country. Affairs had come to such a pass in England, that the cause alike of liberty and of order demanded that Cromwell should do as he did. The conflict of parties and the force of circumstances had brought things to such a head that the only alternative for the nation was Cromwell or confusion-the Reign of a Protector or a Reign of Terror. Had Cromwell been a coward, or a man absorbed in seeking his own interests, he would have shrunk from the uneasy and perilous dignity which was forced upon him. He would have allowed the nation to embroil itself in a new strife; he would have suffered the energies of the people to expend themselves in the tumult
of parties; and he would have kept himself
in judging of Milton's conduct in this instance,