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Had the prose works of Milton no merit but that of occasionally affording us little sketches of his sentiments, his manners, and occupations, they would on this account be highly valuable to every reader, whom a passionate admiration of the poet has induced to wish for all possible acquaintance with the man. To gratify such readers, I felect very copiously from his various works those passages that display, in the strongest point of view, his moral and domestic character. It is my firm belief, that as this is more known, it will become more and more an object of affection and applausei; yet I am far from surveying it with that blind idolatry, which sees no defect, or with that indiscreet partiality, which labours to hide the failing it discovers; a biographer must have ill understood the nature of Milton, who could suppose it possible to gratify his {pirit by homage so unworthy; for my own part, I am perfuaded his attachment to truth was as sincere and fervent as that of the honest Montaigne, who says, “I would come

again with all my heart from the other world to give any

one the lię, who should report me other than I was, " though he did it to honour me."

I shall not therefore attempt to deny. or to excuse the fatiguing heaviness or the coarse asperity of his ecclesiastical disputes. The fincereft friends of Milton may here agree with Johnson, who speaks of his controversial merriment as difgufting ; but when the critic adds, such is his malignity, that “ Hell grows darker at his frown,” they must abhor


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this base misapplication, I had almost said, this profanation, of Miltonic verse.

In a controversial treatise that gave rise to such an imputation, we should expect to find the polemic savagely thirsting for the blood of his adversaries : it is just the reverse. Milton's antagonist had, indeed, suggested to the public, with infernal malignity, that he was a miscreant, “ who

ought, in the name of Christ, to be stoned to death.” This antagonist, as Milton supposed, was a son of bishop Hall,” and scrupled not to write thus outrageously against one, who (to use the milder words: of our author) " in all his “ writing spake not that any man's skin should be razed.”

“ The style of his piece,” says Johnson, in speaking of this apology, “is rough, and such, perhaps, is that of his an

tagonist.”. The different degrees of roughness that the two writers displayed give a singular effect to this observation of the critic, who confounds the coarse and intemperate vehemence of the one with the outrageous barbarity of the other. Milton sometimes wrote with the unguarded and ungraceful asperity of a man in wrath; but let equity add, that when he did so, he was exasperated by foes, who exerted against him all the persecuting ferocity of a fiend. The incidents of his life were calculated to put his tem

and his fortitude to the most arduous trials, and in the severest of these he will be found constant and exemplary in the exercise of gentle and beneficent virtue. From the thorns of controversy, he was plunged into the still sharper shorns of connubial diffenfion. During the Whitsuntide of



year 1643, at the

age of thirty-five, he married Mary, the daughter of Richard Powell, a gentleman who resided at Forest Hill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire. This ill-starr'd union might arise from an infantine acquaintance, as the grandfather of Milton had probably lived very near the seat of the Powells. What led to the connection we can only conje&ure, but we know it was unhappy, as the lady, after living only a few weeks with her husband in London, deserted him, under the decent pretence of passing the summer months on a visit to her father, with whom the indulgent poet gave her permission to remain till Michaelmas : during the interval he was engaged in kind attention to his father, whom he now established under his own roof. The old man had been settled at Reading, with his younger fon; Christopher, a lawyer and a royalist, but thought it expedient to quit that place on its being taken by. Effex, the parliamentary general, and found a comfortable asylum for the residue of his long life in the filial piety and tender protection of the poet. :

At the time appointed, Milton solicited the return of his wife ; she did not condescend even to answer his letter : he repeated his request by a messenger, who, to the best of my remembrance (says Philips ) reported, that he was dismissed with some sort of contempt. This proceeding, in all probability (continues the biographer, whose situation made him the best judge of occurrences so extraordinary) was grounded “ upon no. other cause but this, namely, that the

family, being generally addicted to the cavalier party, as " they called it, and some of them possibly engaged in the


“ king's service, who by this time had his head-quarters « at Oxford, and was in some prospect of success, they “ began to repent them of having matched the eldest daugh“ ter of the family to a person so contrary to them in opi“nion, and thought it would be a blot in their escutcheon “ whenever that Court came to Aourish again; however, " it so incensed our author, that he thought it would « be dishonourable ever to receive her again after such a “ repulse.”

Milton had too tender and too elevated a spirit not to feel this affront with double poignancy, as it affected both his happiness and his dignity ; but it was one of his noble characteristics to find his mental powers rather invigorated than enfeebled by injury and affliction : he thought it the prerogative of wisdom to find remedies against every evil, however unexpected, by which vice or infirmity can embitter life. In reflecting on his immediate domestic trouble, he conceived the generous design of making it subfervient to the public good. He found that in discordant marriage there is misery, for which he thought there exifted a very cafy remedy, and perfectly consistent both with reason and religion : with these ideas he published, in 1644, the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. He addresses the work to the Parliament, with great spirit and eloquence, and after afferting the purity of his precepts, and the beneficence of his design, he says, with patriotic exultation, “ let not

England forget her precedence of teaching nations how

to live.”


Sanguine as Milton was in the hope of promoting the virtue and happiness of private life by this publication, the Prefbyterian clergy, notwithstanding their paft obligations to the author, endeavoured to persecute him for the novelty and freedom of his sentiments.” The assembly of divines,

fitting at Westminster, impatient, '“ says Antony Wood, “ of having the clergy's jurisdiction, as they reckoned it, “invaded, did, instead of answering dr disproving what " those books had afferted, cause him to be fummoned be“ fore the House of Lords; but that house, whether approva

ing the doctrine, or not favouring his accufers, did foon “ dismiss him.”

Milton, whom no oppofition could intimidate when he believed himself engaged in the cause of truth and juftice, endeavoured to support his doctrine by subfequent publications; first, “ The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce ;” this also he addresses to the Parliament, and fays, with his usual spirit, “ God, it seems, intended to prove

me, whether I durft alone take up a rightful cause “ against a world of disesteem, and found I durft. My name “ I did ng publish, as not willing it should fway the

reader either for me or against me; but when I was told “ that the stile (which what it ails to be so foon distin“ guishable I cannot tell) was known by moft men, and “ that some of the clergy began to inveigh and exclaim on “ what I was credibly informed they had not read, I took “ it then for my proper season, both to shew them a name " that could easily contemn such an indiscreet kind of cen“ sure, and to reinforce the question with a more accurate “ diligence ; that if any of them would be so good as to

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