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joviality, her friends, possibly by her own desire, made earnest suit to have her company the remaining part of the summer; which was granted, upon a promise of her return at Michaelmas.”
Milton was too busy to much miss his wife: he pursued his studies; and now and then visited the lady Margaret Leigh, whom he has mentioned in one of his sonnets. At last Michaelmas arrived; but the lady had no inclination to return to the sullen gloom of her husband's habitation, and, therefore, very willingly forgot her promise. He sent her a letter, but had no answer: he sent more with the same success. It could be alleged that letters miscarry; he, therefore, despatched a messenger, being by this time too angry to go himself. His messenger was sent back with some contempt. The family of the lady were cavaliers.
In a man whose opinion of his own merit was like Milton's, less provocation than this might have raised violent resentment. Milton soon determined to repudiate her for disobedience; and, being one of those who could easily find arguments to justify inclination, published, in 1644, the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce; which was followed by the Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce; and the next year, his Tetrachordon, expositions upon the four chief places of scripture which treat of marriage.
This innovation was opposed, as might be expected, by the clergy, who, then holding their famous assembly at Westminster, procured that the author should be called before the lords; but “that house,” says Wood, “whether approving the doctrine, or not favouring his accusers, did soon dismiss him."
There seems not to have been much written against him, nor any thing by any writer of eminence'. The antagonist that appeared, is styled by him “a serving man turned solicitor.” Howell, in his Letters, mentions the new doctrine with contempt”: and it was, I suppose, thought more worthy of derision than of confutation. He complains of this neglect in two sonnets, of which the first is contemptible, and the second not excellent.
From this time it is observed, that he became an enemy to the presbyterians, whom he had favoured before. He that changes his party by his humour, is not more virtuous than he that changes it by his interest: he loves himself rather than truth.
His wife and her relations now found that Milton was not an unresisting sufferer of injuries; and, perceiving that he had begun to put his doctrine in practice, by courting a young woman of great accomplishments, the daughter of one doctor Davis, who was, however, not ready to comply, they resolved to endeavour a reunion. He went sometimes to the house of one Blackborough, his relation, in the lane of St. Martin-le-grand, and at one of his usual visits was surprised to see his wife come from another
1 It was animadverted upon, but without any mention of Milton's name, by bishop Hall, in his Cases of Conscience, Decade 4, Case 2. J.B.
m He terms the author of it a shallow-brained puppy; and thus refers to it in his index: “Of a noddy who wrote a book about wiving." J. B.
room, and implore forgiveness on her knees. He resisted her entreaties for awhile; “but partly,” says Philips, “his own generous nature, more inclinable to reconciliation than to perseverance in anger or revenge, and partly the strong intercession of friends on both sides, soon brought him to an act of oblivion and a firm league of peace.” It were injurious to omit, that Milton afterwards received her father and her brothers in his own house, when they were distressed, with other royalists.
He published, about the same time, his Areopagitica, a speech of Mr. John Milton, for the liberty of unlicensed printing. The danger of such unbounded liberty, and the danger of bounding it, have produced a problem in the science of government, which human understanding seems, hitherto, unable to solve. If nothing may be published but what civil authority shall have previously approved, power must always be the standard of truth; if every dreamer of innovations may propagate his projects, there can be no settlement; if every murmurer at government may diffuse discontent, there can be no peace; and if every skeptick in theology may teach his follies, there can be no religion. The remedy against these evils is to punish the authors; for it is yet allowed that every society may punish, though not prevent, the publication of opinions which that society shall think pernicious; but this punishment, though it may crush the author, promotes the book; and it seems not more reasonable to leave the right of printing unrestrained, because writers may be afterwards censured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted, because by our laws we can hang a thief.
But whatever were his engagements, civil or domestick, poetry was never long out of his thoughts. About this time (1645) a collection of his Latin and English poems appeared, in which the Allegro and Penseroso, with some others, were first published.
He had taken a large house in Barbican, for the reception of scholars; but the numerous relations of his wife, to whom he generously granted refuge for awhile, occupied his rooms. In time, however, they went away; "and the house again,
says Philips, “now looked like a house of the muses only, though the accession of scholars was not great. Possibly his having proceeded so far in the education of youth may have been the occasion of his adversaries calling him pedagogue and schoolmaster; whereas, it is well known he never set up for a publick school, to teach all the young fry of a parish; but only was willing to impart his learning and knowledge to his relations, and the sons of gentlemen who were his intimate friends, and that neither his writings, nor his way of teaching, ever savoured in the least of pedantry.'
Thus laboriously does his nephew extenuate what cannot be denied, and what might be confessed without disgrace. Milton was not a man who could become mean by a mean employment. This, however, his warmest friends seem not to have found; they, therefore,shift and palliate. He did not sell literature to all
comers, at an open shop; he was a chamber milliner, and measured his commodities only to his friends.
Philips, evidently impatient of viewing him in this state of degradation, tells us that it was not long continued; and, to raise his character again, has a mind to invest him with military splendour: “He is much mistaken,” he says, “if there was not about this time, a design of making him an adjutantgeneral in sir William Waller's army. But the new modelling of the army proved an obstruction to the design.” An event cannot be set at a much greater distance than by having been only “ designed about some time,” if a man "be not much mistaken." Milton shall be a pedagogue no longer; for, if Philips be not much mistaken, somebody at some time designed him for a soldier.
About the time that the army was new-modelled, (1635,) he removed to a smaller house in Holborn, which opened backward into Lincoln's inn fields. He is not known to have published any thing afterwards, till the king's death, when, finding his murderers condemned by the presbyterians, he wrote a treatise to justify it, and “to compose the minds of the people.”
He made some Remarks on the Articles of Peace between Ormond and the Irish Rebels. While he contented himself to write, he, perhaps, did only what his conscience dictated; and if he did not very vigilantly watch the influence of his own passions, and the gradual prevalence of opinions, first willingly admitted, and then habitually indulged; if