[ocr errors]

of England” and the two subsequent replies to Morus, Milton closed his great controversial labours; and endeavoured among his studies to retire from the mortification and disappointment, which he necessarily must have felt in consequence of the fuller exhibition of his hero's perfidy and despotism. He continued indeed to serve his country, in the character of her Latin secretary, on the same principle, as we may fairly conclude, which induced Blake to extend her dominion upon the ocean, and Sir Matthew Hale to be the interpreter of her laws at the head of the Common Pleas : but his disapprobation of the present state of things is evident from more than one of his familiar letters; and he seems to have acquiesced under the existing evil only as it was irremediable, or as it was temporary, or as it appeared to be inferior in degree to that of the return of the royalists into power with their exiled and exasperated monarch.

He was now engaged in the prosecution of three great works, a history of England, a thesaurus of the Latin language on the plan of that by Stephens, and an epic poem. Of the first of these literary labours we have already said so much, that little is now left

to be remarked,-unless it be that, previous to its publication in 1670, it was mutilated by the barbarian caprice of the licenser, and deprived of one of its most spirited and brilliant passages. In 1681, this reprobated part was separately printed, and it was afterwards re-admitted to its proper place in that edition of the author's prose-works, which was published in 1738. As it obtains a kind of peculiar interest from its rejection by the licenser, and as it offers to us the observations of a great contemporary mind on the conduct of the Long Parliament and the Assembly of Divines, a portion of it shall be laid before our readers, to whom it will at the same time supply a specimen of the author's historic composition.

“ For a parliament being called, to redress many things as it was thought, the people with great courage, and expectation to be eased of what discontented them, chose to their behoof in parliament such as they thought best affected to the public good, and some indeed men of wisdom and integrity; the rest, (to be sure the greater part,) whom wealth or ample possessions, or bold and active ambition (rather than merit) had commended to the same place.

But when once the superficial zeal and

popular fumes that acted their new magistracy were cooled and spent in them, strait every one betook himself (setting the commonwealth behind, his private ends before) to do as his own profit or ambition led him. Then was justice delayed, and soon after denied : spite and favour determined all: hence faction, thence treachery, both at home and in the field: every where wrong, and oppression: foul and horrid deeds committed daily, or maintained, in secret or in open. Some who had been called from shops and warehouses, without other merit, to sit in supreme councils and committees, (as their breeding was) fell to huckster the commonwealth. Oihers did thereafter as men could sooth and humour them best; so he who would give most, or under covert of hypocritical zeal insinuate basest, enjoyed unworthily the rewards of learning and fidelity; or escaped the punishment of his crimes and misdeeds. Their votes and ordinances, which men looked should have contained the repealing of bad laws and the immediate constitution of better, resounded with nothing else but new impositions, taxes, excises; yearly, monthly, weekly. Not to reckon the offices, gifts, and preferments bestowed and shared among themselves: they in the mean

tossed up

while, who were ever faithfullest to this cause, and freely aided them in person or with their substance, when they durst not compel either, slighted and bereaved after of their just debts by greedy sequestrations, were

and down after miserable attendance from one committee to another with petitions in their hands, yet either missed the obtaining of their suit, or though it were at length granted, (mere shame and reason ofttimes extorting from them at least a show of justice,) yet by their sequestrators and subcommiltees abroad, men for the most part of insatiable hands and noted disloyalty, those orders were commonly disobeyed: which for certain durst not have been, without secret compliance, if not compact with some superiors able to bear them out. Thus were their friends confiscate in their enemies, while they forfeited their debtors to the state, as they called it, but indeed to the ravening seizure of innumerable thieves in office; yet were withal no less burdened in all extraordinary assessments and oppressions, than those whom they took to be disaffected: nor were we happier creditors to what we called the state, than to them who were sepuestered as the state's enemies.

For that faith which ought to have been

kept aś sacred and inviolable as any thing holy, the Public Faith,' after infinite sums. received, and all the wealth of the church not better employed, but swallowed up into a private gulf, was not ere long ashamed to confess bankrupt. And now beside the sweetness of bribery and other gain, with the love of rule, their own guiltiness and the dreaded name of Just Account, which the people had long called for, discovered plainly that there were of their own number, who secretly contrived and fomented those troubles and combustions in the land, which openly they sat to remedy; and would continually find such work, as should keep them from being ever brought to that Terrible Stand of laying down their authority for lack of new business, or not drawing it out to any length of tiine i though upon the ruin of a whole nation. Apa -110 And if the state were in this plight, re-l ligion was not in: much better; to reform which,' a' certain number of divines were called, neither chosen by any rule or custom ecclesiastical, nor eminent for either piety or knowledge above others left out; only as each member of parliament in his private fancy thought fit, so elected one by one. The most part of them were such as had

« VorigeDoorgaan »