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gravity of political importance, to settle an equal government by rotation; and Milton, kicking when he could strike no longer, was foolish enough to publish, a few weeks before the restoration, notes upon a sermon preached by one Griffiths, entitled, the Fear of God and the King. To these notes an answer was written by L'Estrange, in a pamphlet, petulantly called, No Blind Guides.
But whatever Milton could write, or men of greater activity could do, the king was now about to be restored with the irresistible approbation of the people. He was, therefore, no longer secretary, and was, consequently, obliged to quit the house which he held by his office; and, proportioning his sense of danger to his opinion of the importance of his writings, thought it convenient to seek some shelter, and hid himself, for a time, in Bartholomew close, by West Smithfield.
I cannot but remark a kind of respect, perhaps unconsciously, paid to this great man by his biographers: every house in which he resided is historically mentioned, as if it were an injury to neglect naming any place that he honoured by his presence.
The king, with lenity of which the world has had, perhaps, no other example, declined to be the judge or avenger of his own or his father's wrongs; and promised to admit into the act of oblivion all, except those whom the parliament should except; and the parliament doomed none to capital punishment, but the wretches who had immediately cooperated in the murder of the king. Milton was certainly not
one of them; he had only justified what they had done.
This justification was, indeed, sufficiently offensive; and, June 16, an order was issued to seize Milton's Defence, and Goodwin's Obstructors of Justice, another book of the same tendency, and burn them by the common hangman. The attorneygeneral was ordered to prosecute the authors; but Milton was not seized, nor, perhaps, very diligently pursued.
Not long after, August 19, the flutter of innumerable bosoms was stilled by an act, which the king, that his mercy might want no recommendation of elegance, rather called an act of oblivion, than of grace. Goodwin was named, with nineteen more, as incapacitated for any publick trust; but of Milton there was no exception".
Of this tenderness shown to Milton, the curiosity of mankind has not forborne to inquire the reason. Burnet thinks he was forgotten; but this is another instance which may confirm Dalrymple's observation, who says, that whenever Burnet's narrations are examined, he appears to be mistaken."
Forgotten he was not; for his prosecution was ordered; it must be, therefore, by design that he
u Philips says expressly, that Milton was excepted and disqualified from bearing any office; but Toland says he was not excepted at all, and consequently included in the general pardon, or act of indemnity, passed the 29th of August, 1660. Toland is right, for I find Goodwin and Ph. Nye, the minister, excepted in the act, but Milton not named. However, he obtained a special pardon in December, 1660, which passed the privy seal, but not the great seal. MALONE.
was included in the general oblivion. He is said to have had friends in the house, such as Marvel, Morrice, and sir Thomas Clarges: and, undoubtedly, a man like him must have had influence. A very particular story of his escape is told by Richardson' in his Memoirs, which he received from Pope, as delivered by Betterton, who might have heard it from Davenant. In the war between the king and parliament, Davenant was made prisoner and condemned to die; but was spared at the request of Milton. When the turn of success brought Milton into the like danger, Davenant repayed the benefit by appearing in his favour. Here is a reciprocation of generosity and gratitude so pleasing, that the tale makes its own way to credit. But, if help were wanted, I know not where to find it. The danger of Davenant is certain, from his own relation; but of his escape there is no account". Betterton's narration can be traced no higher; it is not known that he had it from Davenant. We are told that the benefit exchanged was life for life; but it seems not certain that Milton's life ever was in danger. Goodwin, who had committed the same kind of crime, escaped with incapacitation; and, as exclusion from publick trust is a punishment which the power of government can commonly inflict, without the help of a particular law, it required no great interest to exempt
It was told before by A. Wood in Ath. Oxon. vol. ii. p. 412. second edition.
w That Milton saved Davenant, is attested by Aubrey, and by Wood, from him; but none of them say that Davenant saved Milton: this is Richardson's assertion merely. MALONE.
Milton from a censure little more than verbal. Something may be reasonably ascribed to veneration and compassion; to veneration of his abilities, and compassion for his distresses, which made it fit to forgive his malice for his learning. He was now poor and blind; and who would pursue with violence an illustrious enemy, depressed by fortune, and disarmed by nature*?
The publication of the act of oblivion put him in the same condition with his fellow subjects. He was, however, upon some pretence, not now known, in the custody of the serjeant, in December; and when he was released, upon his refusal of the fees demanded, he and the serjeant were called before the house. He was now safe within the shade of oblivion, and knew himself to be as much out of the power of a griping officer, as any other man. How the question was determined is not known. Milton would hardly have contended, but that he knew himself to have right on his side.
He then removed to Jewin street, near Aldersgate street; and being blind, and by no means wealthy,wanted a domestick companion and attendant; and, therefore, by the recommendation of Dr. Paget, married Elizabeth Minshul, of a gentleman's
* A different account of the means by which Milton secured himself, is given by an historian lately brought to light: “Milton, Latin secretary to Cromwell, distinguished by his writings in favour of the rights and liberties of the people, pretended to be dead, and had a publick funeral procession. The king applauded his policy in escaping the punishment of death, by a seasonable show of dying." Cunningham's History of Great Britain, vol. i. p. 14. R.
family in Cheshire, probably without a fortune. All his wives were virgins; for he has declared that he thought it gross and indelicate to be a second husband: upon what other principles his choice was made cannot now be known; but marriage afforded not much of his happiness. The first wife left him in disgust, and was brought back only by terrour; the second, indeed, seems to have been more a favourite, but her life was short. The third, as Philips relates, oppressed his children in his lifetime, and cheated them at his death.
Soon after his marriage, according to an obscure story, he was offered the continuance of his employment, and, being pressed by his wife to accept it, answered: “You, like other women, want to ride in your coach; my wish is to live and die an honest man.” If he considered the Latin secretary as exercising any of the powers of government, he that had shared authority, either with the parliament or Cromwell, might have forborne to talk very loudly of his honesty; and, if he thought the office purely ministerial, he certainly might have honestly retained it under the king. But this tale has too little evidence to deserve a disquisition; large offers and sturdy rejections are among the most common topicks of falsehood.
He had so much either of prudence or gratitude, that he forbore to disturb the new settlement with any of his political or ecclesiastical opinions, and, from this time, devoted himself to poetry and literature. Of his zeal for learning, in all its parts, he