« VorigeDoorgaan »
book intitled the Obstructors of justice, written in : justification of the murder of the late King, and to
order them to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman. At the same time it was ordered, that the Attorney General should proceed by way of indictment or information against Milton and Goodwyn in respect of their books, and that they themselves should be sent for in custody of the Serjeant at arms attending the House. On Wednesday June 27th an order of Council was made agreeable to the order of the House of Commons for a proclamation against Milton's and Goodwyn's books; and the proclamation was issued the 13th of August following, wherein it was said that the authors had fled or did abscond: and on Monday August 27th Milton's and Goodwin's books were burnt according to the proclamation at the Old Baily by the hands of the common hangman. On Wednesday August 29th the act of indemnity was pafled, which proved more favorable to Milton than could well have been expected; for tho' John Goodwyn Clerk was excepted among the twenty persons, who were to have penalties inflicted upon them, not extending to life, yet Milton was not excepted at all, and consequently was included in the general pardon. We find indeed that afterwards he was in custody of the Serjeant at arms; but the time, when he was taken into custody, is not certain. He was not in custody on the 12th of September, for that day a list of the prisoners in custody of the Serjeant at arms was read in the House, and Milton is not among them ; and on the 13th of September the House adjourned to the 6th of November. It is most probable there
fore, fore, that after the act of indemnity was passed, and after the House had adjourned, he came out of his concealment, and was afterwards taken into custody of the Serjeant at arms by virtue of the former order of the House of Commons : but we cannot find that he was prosecuted by the Attorney General, nor was he continued in custody very long : for on Saturday the 15th of December 1660, it was ordered by the House of Commons, that Mr. Milton now in custody of the Serjeant at arms should be forthwith released, paying his fees; and on Monday the 17th of December, a complaint being made that the Sérjeant at arms had demanded excessive fees for his imprisonment, it was referred to the Committee of privileges and elections to examin this business, and to call Mr. Milton and the Serjeant before them, and to determin what was fit to be given to the Serjeant for his fees in this case; fo courageous was he at all times in defense of liberty against all the encroachments of power, and tho' a prisoner, would yet be treated like a freeborn Englishman. This appears to be the matter of fact, as it may be collected partly from the Journals of the House of Commons, and partly from Kennet's Historical Register : and the clemency of the government was Turely very great towards him, considering the nature of his offenses; for tho' he was not one of the King's judges and murderers, yet he contributed more to murder his character and reputation than any of them all; and to what therefore could it be owing, that he was treated with such lenity, and was so easily pardoned? It is certain, there was not wanting powerful interceffion for him both in
Council and in Parlament. It is said that Secretary Morrice and Sir Thomas Clargis greatly favored him, and exerted their interest in his behalf; and his old friend Andrew Marvel, member of Parlament for Hull, formed a considerable party for him in the House of Commons; and neither was Charles the Second (as Toland fays) such an enemy to the Muses, as to require his destruction. But the principal in ftrument in obtaining Milton's pardon was Sir William Davenant, out of gratitude for Milton's having procured his release, when he was taken prisonner in 1650. It was life for life. Davenant had been faved by Milton's interest, and in return Milton was faved at Davenant's interceffion. This story Mr. Richardson relates upon the authority of Mr. Pope;' and Mr. Pope had it from Betterton the famous actor, who was first brought upon the stage and patronized by Sir William Davenant, and might therefore derive the knowledge of this transaction from the fountain.
Milton having thus obtained his pardon, and be ing set at liberty again, took a house in Holborn near Red Lion Fields; but he removed foon into Jewen Street near Aldersgate Street: and while he lived there, being in his 53d or 54th year, and blind and infirm, and wanting some body better than servants to tend and look after him, he employed his friend Dr. Paget to choose a proper confort for him ; and at his recommendation married his third wife, Elizabeth Minshul, of a gentleman's family in Cheshire, and related to Dr. Paget. It is said that an offer was made to Milton, as well as to Thurloe, of holding the same place of Secretary under the King,
which he had discharged with so much integrity and ability under Cromwell; but he persisted in refusing it, tho' the wife pressed his compliance; “ Thou « art in the right, says he; you, as other women, « would ride in your coach; for me, my aim is to s live and die an honest man.” What is more certain is, . that in 1661 he published his Accedence commenced Grammar, and a tract of Sir Walter Raleigh intitled Aphorisms of State ; as in 1658 he had published another piece of Sir Walter Raleigh intitled the Cabinet Council discabinated, which he printed from a manuscript, that had lain many years in his hands, and was given him for a true copy by a learned man at his death, who had collected several such pieces: an evident sign, that he thought it no mean employment, nor unworthy of a man of genius, to be an editor of the works of great authors. It was while he lived in Jewen Street, that Elwood the quaker (as we learn from the history of his life written by his own hand) was first introduced to read to him; for having wholly lost his fight, he kept always some body or other to perform that office, and usually the son of some gentleman of his acquaintance, whom he took in kindness, that he might at the same time improve him in his learning. Elwood was recommended to him by Dr. Paget, and went to his house every afternoon except Sunday, and read to him such books in the Latin tongue, as Milton thought proper. And Milton told him, that if he would have the benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and understand Latin authors, but to converse with foreigners either abroad or at home, he must learn the foreign pro
nunciation; and he instructed him how to read accordingly. And having a curious ear, he understood by my tone, says Elwood, when I understood what I read, and when I did not; and he would stop me, and examin me, and open the most difficult passages, to me. But it was not long after his third marriage, that he left Jewen Street, and removed to a house in the Artillery Walk leading to Bunhill Fields : and this was his last stage in this world; he continued longer in this house than he had done in any other, and lived here to his dying day: only when the plague began to rage in London in 1665, he removed to a small house at St. Giles Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, which Elwood had taken for him and his family; and there he remained during that dreadful calamity; but after the sickness was over, and the city was cleansed and made fafely habitable again, he returned to his house in London.
His great work of Paradise Lost had principally engaged his thoughts for some years past, and was now completed. It is probable, that his first design of writing an epic poem was owing to his conversations at Naples with the Marquis of Villa about Taffo and his famous poem of the delivery of Jerusalem; and in a copy of verses presented to that nobleman before he left Naples, he intimated his intention of fixing upon King Arthur for his hero. And in an eclogue, made foon after his return to England upon the death of his friend and schoolfellow Deodati, he proposed the same design and the same subject, and declared his ambition of writing something in his native language,