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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 offen. sive; and (June 16) an order was issued to seize Milton's“ Defence,” and Goodwin's “ Obstructor's of Justice,” another book of the same tendency, and burn them by the common hangman. The at. torney-general 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 were stilled by an act, which the King, that his mercy might want no recommendation of elegance, rather called an Act of Oblivi. on than of Grace. Goodwin was named, with nineteen more, as incapacitated for any public trust; but of Milton there was no exception.*
* Philips says expressly, that Milton was excepted
of this tenderness shewn to Milton, the curiosie ty of mankind has not forborn 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 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, undoubt. edly, a man like him must bave had influence. A very particular story of his escape is told by Rich. ardson* 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 repaid 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
and disqualified from bearing any office; but Toland says, he was not excepted at all, and consequently excluded 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.
* It was told before by A. Wood in Ath. Oxon. vol. ii. p. 412, 2d edit.-C.
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 public trust is a punishment which the power of government can cominonly inflict without the help of a particular law, it required no great interest to exempt 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 for: tune, 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 now not known, in the custody of the sergeant in December; and
• That Milton sared Davenant is attested by Au. brey and by Wood from him; but none of them say that Davenant saved Milton. This is Richard. son's assertion merely.-MALONE.
+ 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 public funeral procession. The King applauded his policy in escaping the punishment of death, by a seasonable shew of dying.”—Cunningham's History of Great Britain, vol. i. p. 14.-R.
when he was released, upon his refusal of the fees demanded, he and the sergeant 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 domestic companion and attendant; and therefore, by the recommendation of Dr. Paget, married Elizabeth Minshul, of a gentle. man's 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 terror; 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 einployment, 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 forborn 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 deserve a disquisition; large offers and sturdy rejections are among the most common tópics 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 literam ture. Of his zeal for learning in all its parts, he gave a proof by publishing, the next year (1661), “Accidence commenced Grammar;" a little book which has nothing remarkable, but that its author, who had been lately defending the supreme powers of his country, was then writing “Pa radise Lost,” could descend from his elevation to rescue children from the perplexity of grammatical confusion, and the trouble of lessons unnecessarily repeated.*
About this time, Elwood, the quaker, being recommended to him as one who would read Latin to him for the advantage of his conversation, attended him every afternoon except on Sundays. Milton, who, in his letter to Hartlib, had declared, that “to read Latin with an English mouth is as ill a hearing as Law French,” required that Elwood should learn and practise the Italian pronunciation, which, he said, was necessary, if he would talk with foreigners. This seems to have been task troublesome without use. There is little reason for preferring the Italian pronunciation to our own, except that it is more general; and to teach it to an Englishman is only to make him a fo. reigner at home. He who travels, if he speaks Latin, may so soon learn the sounds which every pative gives it, that he need make no provision before his journey; and if strangers visit us, it is their business to practise such conformity to our modes
* Yelden in his continuation of Langbaine's account of the Dramatic Poets, 8vo. 1693, says, that he had been told that Milton, after the Restoration, kept a school at op near Greenwich. The publicae tion of an Accidence at that period gives some coun, tenance to this tradition.-MALONE.