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to George IV.; and more especially must we exempt Dr. Symmonds, whose life, published as an introduction to the poet's works in 1806, was not only most elegantly, but most generously, written.
Milton is charged with indulging in coarseness and severity in his prose writings. Before this judgment is pronounced upon him, we should weigh his times, the character of those whom he refuted, and the events which called him into the field of political disputation. Our readers have not to be informed that he lived in the days of the Stuarts and the Protectorate, but they may not be aware of all the atrocious circumstances of ecclesiastical and civil despotism beneath which the country groaned, until they were cast off by the heroism of the people during the civil war.
Charles I. attempted to govern by absolute authority, without the sanction of parliament: he was a lawless king; he acknowledged no right in his people to remonstrate with him, or to refuse him subsidies of money. One of the first of the acts of his reign was to order all persons of £40 per year to receive knighthood; by this means the exchequer was reinforced.
Monopolies were granted beyond all precedent. The soap-boilers were incorporated; by these he received £10,000. Then the starchmakers, for their incorporation, paid the king, the first year £1,500, the next year, £2,500, and £3,500 yearly. The king then raised £30,000 by commissions appointed to inquire into the state of the land—fining very heavily those persons who encroached, or could by any pretext be said to have encroached upon the common or forest lands. Lord Salisbury was fined £20,000, Lord Westmorland .£19,000, Sir C. Hutton £ 12,000; and all this, in order that he might evade law, and do without his Commons House of Parliament. He levied a tax called ship-money, of tonnage and poundage, in contravention of all equity: and Alderman Chambers, because he said that merchants were more screwed up and wronged in England than in Turkey, was prosecuted by the Star Chamber, and fined £3,000.
We spoke of the profits of some of the monopolies; but monopoly and taxation fenced and fettered everything—no matter how insignificant.
"Nothing," says Forster, "that contributed unincumbered by monopoly to the comfort of the people, was permitted to continue."
For the atrocious instances of detestable civic tyranny we must content ourselves with referring to the chronicles of the time.* Milton lived in the times when Dr. Leighton, for writing a book against prelacy, was twice publicly whipped, stood two hours in the pillory, and had his ears cut off, his nose slit, and a cheek branded with the letters "S. S." (sower of sedition); was imprisoned for ten years, and released by the Long Parliament, but not before he had lost hii sight, his hearing, and the use of his limbs. Can we wonder that Milton was severe upon the bishops?
Those were the days when Prynne, Burton, and Bostwick stood in the pillory, and had their ears cut off for their criticisms upon the bishops.
They were the palmy days of despotism, when Sir Robert Berkley, for giving his opinion legally, as one of the judges of the Court of King's Bench, upon the subject of ship-money, was taken into custody on the bench, and borne away to prison .'
Those were the days of the cruel bigot Laud, the archbishop, who may be best described as a Bonner sanctified by a Dominican inquisitorial fierceness—a dreamer, whose religion was made up of mummeries and shows, and who was disposed to persecute to death all who would not Anglicise a Papacy, and make the History of the Church of England the same detestable record of blood and crime, which had marked Rome. Is the severity of Milton to be wondered at? Is it to be wondered at that Milton is severe upon the actions of the king, when Bishop Warburton declares, what all contemporary writers confirm,* that "his best friends dreaded his ending the war by conquest, as knowing his despotic disposition V Is it wonderful that Milton should deal severely with the queen, the beautiful Henrietta Maria, whom the king so unroyally and uxoriously loved—the woman who was in no slight degree the cause of all his miseries—who was, perhaps, the cause of his death, for "she dissuaded him from his attempt to escape from Carisbook Castle, in order that she might carry on her adulterous intrigue with Jermyn."— Charles I. is usually sheltered from the remarks of those who impeach his character, by eulogies upon his private virtues; but there is evidence enough that he, too, shared the character of Charles II., for licentiousness of conversation, if not of life. Milton, however, only glances at his social life, but he does spare his public and kingly.
* But if our readers would refer to documentary evidence acceptable to all, they will find abundant quotations in Foster's "Statesmen of the Commonwealth." Vol. I., pp. 64, 67, 68.
"Yet here he asks, 'whose innocent blood hath he shed, or what widows' or orphans' tears can witness against him V After the suspected poisoning of his father, not inquired into but smothered up, and him protected and advanced to the very half of his kingdom, who was accused in parliament to be the author of the fact; (with much more evidence than Duke Dudley, that false protector, is accused upon record to have poisoned Edward the Sixth;) after all his cruel rage and persecution—after so many years of cruel war on his people in three kingdoms! Whence the author of 'Truths Manifest,' a Scotsman, not unacquainted with affairs, affirms, that 'there hath been more Christian blood shed by the commission, approbation, and connivance of King Charles, and his father, James, in the latter end of their reign, than in the ten Roman persecutions.' Not to speak of those whippings, pillories, and other corporal inflictions, wherewith his reign also before this war was