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make his addresses to a young Lady of great wit and beauty, one of the daughters of Dr. Davis; but before he had engaged her affections to conclude the narriage-treaty, in a visit at one of his relations, of the name of Blackborough in St. Martin's Le Grand, he found his wife, who
in the Primitive Church, of famousest Reformed Divines; and, lastly, by an intended Act of the Parliament, and Church of England, in the last Year of Edward the Sixth.” The cavils of the interested clergy were loud and vehement against these writings; but their dissatisfaction served only to cause others to examine the subject more closely than they hitherto had done; by which they became convinced that the arguments and right reasoning employed by Milton on the occasion, were not only just, but perfectly agreeable to the dictates of the Scriptures. Mr. Wood informs us, that upon Milton's publishing his three books of Divorce, the Assembly of Divines, then sitting at Westminster, took particular notice of them, and, notwithstanding his former services in writing against the Bishops, caused him to be summoned before the House of Lords; but that house, whether approving his doctrine, or not favouring his accusers, soon dismissed him. He was attacked in a pamphlet entitled “ Divorce at Pleasure," and in “An Answer to the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce ;" which latter was licensed and recommended by Mr. Joseph Caryl, the famous commentator on Job. These occasioned Milton to publish, in 1645, (4.) “Collasterion: a Reply to a nameless Answer against the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. Wherein the trivial Author of that Answer is discovered, the Licencer conferred with, and the Opinion which they traduce defended." These provocations, says Bishop Newton, I suppose, contributed not a little to make him such an enemy to the Presbyterians, to whom he had before distinguished himself a friend. He composed likewise two of his Sonnets on the reception his book of divorce met with; but the latter is much the better of the two. They are here inserted :
And woven close, both matter, form, and style;
Cries the stall-reader, Bless us! what a word on
A title-page is this! and some in file
End Green. Why is it harder, Sirs, than Gordon,
Those rugged names to our like mouths grow sleek,
That would have made Quintilian stare and gasp.
Hated not learning worse than toad or asp;
I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient liberty,
Of Owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs.
Rail'd at Latona's twin-born progeny
But this is got by casting pearl to hogs;
And still revolt when truth would set them free.
Licence they mean when they cry liberty ;
But from that mark how far they rove we sec,
fell prostrate before him, imploring forgiveness and reconciliation. It is not to be doubted but an interview of that nature, so little expected, must wonderfully affect him; and though at first he showed signs of aversion, yet he did not long remain inexorable : his wife's intreaties, and the intercession of friends on both sides, soon wrought upon his generous nature, and procured a happy reconciliation, with an act of oblivion for all that was past *.
Soon his heart relented
Par. Lost, B. x. 940.
And after this re-union, so far was he from retaining an unkind memory of the provocations which he had received from her ill conduct, that when the King's cause was entirely oppressed, and her father, who had been active in his loyalty, was exposed to sequestration, Milton received both him and his family to protection and free entertainment in his own house till their affairs were accommodated by his interest in the victorious party.
* Perhaps the impressions made on Milton's imagination by this affecting interview, contributed to the painting of that pathetic scene in Paradise Lost, in which Eve addresses herself to Adam for pardon and peace, Book x. ver. 909. See our Notes on that Book. VOL. I.
But while Milton was engaged in the controversy concerning divorce, he paid attention to other matters, as appears from several epistles which passed between him and the famous Mr. Mede and others. His letter to Mr. Samuel Hartlib on Education, has been already mentioned. In 1644 was published Areopagitica: a Speech of John Milton, for the Liberty of Unlicenced Printing. To the Parliament of England.” As a suitable Motto to this speech, Milton chose the following passage from Euripides :
Τα λευθερον δ'εκεινο ει τις θελει πολει
This is true liberty, when free-born men,
Bishop Newton observes, that this tract “was written at the desire of several learned men, and is perhaps the best vindication, that has been published, at any time or in any language, of that liberty which is the basis and support of all other liberties, the Liberty of the Press : but alas, it had not the desired effect! for the Presbyterians were as fond of exercising the licencing
power, when they had got it into their own hands, as they had been clamorous before in inveighing against it, while it was in the hands of the prelates."
In 1645 was published a collection of Milton's Poems, Latin and English ; the principal of which are, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Lycidas, the Mask of Comus, &c. &c. If, says Bishop Newton, he had left no other monuments of his poetical genius behind him, these would have been sufficient to have rendered his name immortal.
Notwithstanding the studious disposition of Milton, and his inclination to lead the life of a private gentleman, it was intended to draw him forth into a more active and busy scene. A commission to constitute him Adjutant-General to Sir William Waller was actually promised; but soon superseded by Waller's being laid aside when the new modelling of the army took place.
On the death of the King several of the Presbyterians declaimed against the execution; and asserting that the person of the king was sacred and inviolable, provoked Milton to write and publish, in 1649, “ The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates : proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through all Ages, for any, who have the power to call to account a Tyrant, or