fith's sermon, L'Estrange wrote a sharp reply, of which I know nothing more than its title of " No blind Guides:" and with this skirmish terminated the political controversies of the author of Paradise Lost.

Charles was now advancing, with the acclamations of the people, to sit upon the throne of his ancestors; and the Latin Secretary had acted too conspicuous a part in

opposition to him and to his family not to be endangered by the event. By his friends therefore, who were solicitous for his safety, Milton was hurried from his house in PettyFrance, where during some years he had been visited with respect by the great, the opulent, and the learned, and was secreted under the roof of a friend in St. Bartholomew's Close, near to West Smithfield.' Here his concealment was perfect; till the passing of the act of oblivion, in the exceptions of which he was not comprehended, ascertained his safety and re-instated him in society.

y Mr. Warton, who occasionally collects curious anecdotes, relates, on the authority of Mr. Tyers, (whose authority also ought to have been stated,) that Milton's friends, for the purpose of suspending the pursuit of his enemies, made a mock funeral for him on the present interesting occasion; and that the trick, when it was afterwards discovered, became an object of the king's mirth. See Warton's Edit. of Milton's Juvenile Poems, p. 358. In Cunningham's History of Great Britain, the same fact is mentioned, and it is said that “ the king applauded his policy in escaping the punishment of death by a seasonable show of dying." When he could not murder, this facetious monarch could still laugh.

To whom he was indebted on this emergency for his preservation, has frequently been inquired, and has variously been explained. The forgetfulness or the clemency of Charles must necessarily be thrown out of the question; for of the former his benefactors only were the objects, and of the latter, those alone whom his prudence or his want of

power prohibited him to punish. To what cause, then, are we to ascribe the impunity of Milton? In some points of view, his offence might be regarded as greater even than that of the immediate regicides ; for they had only murdered the king, while he had insulted the office; their act was confined in its consequences to a small compass of time and of place, while his extended to unborn generations and touched the extremities of Europe. His guilt therefore, as we may be certain,

This story reminds us of the following lines of the Epigrammatist: but the suicide of Fannius was real, while that of Milton was happily fictitious.

Hostem cum fugeret, se Fannius ipse peremit.
Hic, rogo, non furor est ne moriare mori?

Mart. ii. 80.

could not be pardoned without powerful intercession. We may conclude that his friend, Andrew Marvell, the member for Hull, made what interest for him he could in the House; and we are told that Sir Thomas Clarges united his exertions with those of Secretary Morrice for the preservation of this valuable life. But Milton seems to have been saved principally by the earnest and grateful interposition of Sir William D’Avenant. When D'Avenant, who had been captured by the fleet of the Commonwealth on his passage from France to America, had been ordered by the Parliament, in 1651, to his trial before the High Court of Justice, the mediation of Milton had essentially contributed to snatch him from his danger; and, urged by that generous benevolence which shone conspicuously in his character, he was now eager to requite with a gift of equal value the life which he had received. For the existence of D'Avenant's obligation to Milton we have the testimony of Wood ;” and for the subsequent part of a story, so interesting in itself and so honourable to human nature, the evidence is distinctly and directly to be traced in its ascent from Richardson to Pope, and

2 Athenæ Oxon. ii. 412.

from Pope to Betterton, the immediate client and intimate of D'Avenant.

On the passing of the Act of Oblivion," in the full grace of which he found himself included, Milton left the retirement, where he had continued for nearly four months; and in which he had heard himself made by a vote of the Commons the object of a public prosecu

. On the 29th of August.

b John Goodwin, a divine and a writer of no celebrity, who had justified, without ability or effect, the murder of the king, was not beneath the condescension of this act of the legislature. He was incapacitated by it from holding any public office: and he is said to have owed his life only to the circumstance of his Arminian principles, which had conciliated the favour of some of the leading clergy of the church of England. His obnoxious work, which was called “ The Obstructors of Justice," had the honour of burning with Milton's superior publications,

Verum idem ex animo, (says Isaac Vossius speaking of Salmasius, in a letter to N. Heinsius, from Stockholm, dated on the 5th of April, 1651) gaudet librum Miltoni Lutetiæ publicè a carnifice esse combustum. Non opus est ut meum de hoc scripto interponam judicium: interiin hoc scio, fatum esse bonorum ferè librorum, ut hoc modo vel pereant vel periclitentur. Homines ple. rumque propter scelera et pravitatem manus carnificum subeunt, libri vero virtutis et præstantiæ ergo. Soli fatuorum labores tales non metuunt casus, Sed sanè frustrà sunt, qui se hoc modo exstirpare posse existimant Miltoni et aliorum scripta, cum potius flammis istis mirum quantum clarescant et illustrentur. [Burm. Syll. iii. 621.]. These are the remarks of a man who was sensible not only of the merit of Milton's work, but of the impo. tence of that vengeance, which the enemies of its great author attempted by this measure to inflict on it. By what caprice or mistake could Isaac Vossius be promoted in our church by the same hands which raised the dirty Du Moulin to one of its dignities?

tion, and his two great political works, the “ Iconoclastes" and the “ Defence of the People of England,” condemned to be burnt by the hands of the hangman. By this last species of insult, he was probably no more affected on the present occasion than he had formerly been by its infliction on one of the same publications at Toulouse and at Paris: and he probably also only smiled when, for the purpose of increasing his unpopularity and, of course, his danger at this delicate crisis of his fortune, the malignity of his enemies published the abuse and calumnies which had been vented against him by the dying Salmasius. But those scenes of sanguinary execution,

c I must here, with some shame and much regret, remark a circumstance which favourably distinguished the usurping government from the regular monarchy. During the usurpation men had been convicted of high treason, (for the Courts had properly determined that attempts against the actual representative of the state, (by whatever title he was called,) were high treason,-but simple death was the utmost infliction; and the axe or the halter put the speediest period to the existence of the criminal. But on the restoration of the monarchy, the old barbarity of the law was admitted in its full horror. Men were quartered alive: the bowels were torn from the yet breathing sufferer, and the public feeling was either disgusted or hardened by the spectacle of torture and ferocious punishment. The infliction of this abominable sentence in its full rigour is now, in fact, prohibited by the general sense of the community: but much, of course, must still be left to the discretion of the sheriff and the executioner. The correspondent punishment for females, that I mean of burning alive, has very properly been abolished by an act of

« VorigeDoorgaan »