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have been exposed to injurious influence from those around them. But, however it may be accounted for, their treatment of their father is proved to have been most heartless and cruel
The will was set aside from some technical objection, and owing to the litigation consequent on its being disputed, a collection of evidence relating to its author has been preserved of an unusually minute and interesting character. A servant gives evider.ce that her deceased master, a little before his marriage, had lamented to her the ingratitude anıl cruelty of his children; and it is shown they had defrauded him in a way that must have been doubly felt by him, not only overreaching him in the economy of the house, but disposing of his books, and often bartering them with the hucksters at the door for any trifle they might offer.
We have already seen the dangers to which Milton was exposed at the Restoration, and abundant evidence exists to show that the rancorous feelings of the royal. ists followed him till his death; that they insulted over him in his poverty, and rejoiced at his sufferings, as marks of the special vengeance of God, and a doom worse han the axe he had escaped.
The following story has been preserved, exhibiting this in a very characteristic manner.
The Duke of York, afterwards James II., expressed one day to the king, bis brother, a great desire to see old JIilton, of whom he had heard so much. The king replied that he had not the slightest objection to the duke's satisfying his curiosity; and, accordingly, soon after. wards, James went privately to Milton's house, where, after an introduction, which explained to the old republican the rank of his guest, a free conversation ensued between these very dissimilar and discordant cha racters. In the course, however, of the conversation the duke asked Milton whether he did not regard the loss of his eye-sight as a judgment inflicted on him for what he had written against the late king. Milton's reply was to this effect: “If your Highness thinks that the calamities which befall us here are indications of the wrath of Heaven, in what manner are we to account for the fate of the king, your father? The displeasure of Heaven must, upon this supposition, have been much
greater against him than mo-for I have only lost my eyes, but he lost his head."
Vuch discomposed by this answer, the duke speedily took his leave. On his return to court, the first words which he spoke to the king were, “Brother, you are greatly to blame that you don't have that old rogue Milton hanged.” “Why, what is the matter, James? Have you seen Milton ?" "Yes," answered the duke, “I have seen him.” “Well," said the king, “in what condition did you find him ?" “ Condition? why he is old and very poor.” “Old and poor! Well, and he is blind, too—is he not?" "Yes, blind as a beetle" "Why, theu," observed the king. "you are a fool, James, to have him hanged as a punishment: to hang him will be doing him a service; it will be taking him out of his miseries. No-if he is old, poor, and blind, he is miserable enough; in all conscience let him live."
The story is so consistent throughout, and so characteristic of the different dispositions of the parties, that It bears internal evidence of authenticity, and exhibits very strikingly the gay and gloomy malignity of the two royal brothers, Charles and James.
THE labours of Milton, altogether independent of his great Epic, were such as must have rendered his memory an object of interest to after-ages; but his immortal poem, as we have seen, was the object of his life, from which he turned only at the call of duty, and when the circumstances of his country summoned him to enlist his gifted mind in the cause of freedom.
His last wife, who survived him, in a state of widowhood, nearly fifty-five years, has recorded interesting information as to its progress. She states that her husband composed principally in the winter; and on his waking in the morning, would make her write down sometimes twenty or thirty verses. His natural disposition inclined him to deep and earnest study, and the loss of his sight must have greatly increased his proneness to contemplation, and indeed compelled him to find
therein his chief enjoyment. His circumstances latterly precluded him from engaging a permament assistant in the capacity of a private secretary, which was the only means that could have supplied in any measure his great loss. We find him, accordingly, subjected to many difficulties, and compelled to treasure his compositions in his memory until chance afforded him the aid of some friendly transcriber. The petty calls of daily domestic duties in his scanty household must have frequently broken in upon the rapt fervour of poetic thought, when he sought the aid of his wife's willing pen. A lively illustration is afforded of these difficulties, in the postscript to a Latin letter addressed to Heimbach, an accomplished German: “Let me obtain from you this favour, that if you find any parts of this incorrectly written, you will impute it to the boy who writes for me, who is utterly ignorant of Latin, and to whom I am forced (wretchedly enough) to repeat every single syllable that I dictate."
He often made considerable pauses in the progress of his great work, doubtless sometimes occasioned by such difficulties, but also from that preference for the winter season to which his wife alludes. His nephew Philips, to whom we are indebted for an interesting and incidental narrative, remarks, “I had the perusal of the Paradise Lost from the very beginning—for some years as I went from time to time to visit him—in parcels of ten, twenty, or thirty verses at a time; which, being written by whatever hand came next, might possibly want correction as to the orthography and pointing. Having, as the summer came on, not been shown any for a considerable while, and desiring the reason thereof, I was apswered that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal."
It is a curious fact in the history of the great Epic, that, when completely prepared for the press, it narrowly escaped suppression from the ignorance or malice of the Licenser. This office, which had been abolished during the Protectorate, was restored by Charles II. Under the new regulations, poetry came within the province of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the fate of the Paradise Lost was accordingly committed to the judg. ment of the Rev, Thomas Tomkyns, one of his chaplains The reverend Licenser was doubtless prepared to find
treason in every line, and speedily pounced on a wellknown passage in the first book, as wntaining treason in its most malignant form :
As when the sun new risea
Perplexea monarche" The particulars of this fortunate escape from so dan. gerous an obstruction have not been preserved; but much as we may now be disposed to smile at the absurd objection, the world has cause to rejoice that party malice and rancour did not succeed in strangling the immortal poem in its birth.
Milton was accustomed, as we have already mentioned, to employ his daughters to read to him, as well as to transcribe from his dictation, but on their expressing dislike to such occupations in the service of their blind father, he at once dispensed with their assistance, and set them to learn the working of embroidery in gold and silver—an art which, at that time, formed one of the chief employments of females of rank and fortune. From that time forward, he always engaged some young man for this honourable service. Shortly after his last marriage, his kind friend Dr. Paget, who had been his adviser in the choice of a wife, introduced to him the amiable but singular Thomas Ellwood, who added to the most conscientious adherence to the tenets and practices of the Quakers, an ardent thirst for learning, and a keen relish for poetry.
We are indebted to him for some interesting notices of Milton, which occur in his minute history of his own life. Ellwood, at this time about three-and-twenty, was the son of a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire, who, from motives of economy, took him early from school. After several years had been wasted in this forced idleness, he adopted with great zeal the novel tenets of Quakerism, submitting to much cruel treatment from his father, as well as to long and severe imprisonments at fferent periods of his life, on of his religious opinions. By the mediaton of Dr. Paget, he obtained access to Milton, and engaged to read to him such authors as he desired,
The object of Ellwood in seeking this introduction.
was to increase the scanty share of learning his father's mercenary conduct had permitted him to acquire. He accordingly devoted a portion of each day to reading aloud such Latin authors as Milton wished to hear read; and the gentleness and courtesy with which the latter condescended to all his difficulties, and sought to make their intercourse profitable to his young friend, manifest how strangely the native kindness of his disposition has been falsified by those who represent him as harsh and morose, But their intercourse experienced many painful interruptions; long sickness, on one occasion, and successive arbitrary imprisonments afterwards, separated them, so that learning, as the poor youth remarks, was almost a forbidden fruit to him.
During the prevalence of the plague in London in 1665, Ellwood manifested his gratitude to his instructor, by obtaining for him a pleasant little cottage at Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, near to which he was then engaged in the capacity of tutor in a wealthy Quaker's family. On his first visit to Milton in this new retreat, he was shown the manuscript of the Paradise Lost.
On their next interview after Ellwood had “modestly and freely" expressed his opinion, he adds, “I pleasantly said to him, Thou hast said much here of Paradise Lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise Found ?" Nothing more was said on subject at the time; but when, at a later period, in London, Milton showed him the Paradise Regained, he added, "This is owing to you, for you put it into my head, by the question you put to me at Chalfont, which, before I had not thought of."
The first edition of the Paradise Lost was published in 1665, the author receiving, as is well known, the sum of five pounds for his immortal work, with a further condition of receiving fifteen pounds more, should it reach a third edition! Whatever be the feelings of sorrow or indignation with which his admirers may now regard this fact, it is to the honour of his countrymen, that in defiance of the prejudices and personal enmity of his contemporaries, its sale was rapid, and the admiration it excited almost universal. Some of the most eminent men of his time addressed to him the highest eulogies, and its first announcement to the world, as related by Richardson, was worthy of its pre-eminent worth.