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lips, and also the sons of some of his friends. These he instructed in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, as well as in mathematics and astronomy. His scholars read to him every Sunday a portion of the New Testament in Greek, which he explained to them.

In the year 1641, all hopes of an accommodation between the king and the parliament being at an end, the opponents of Monarchy and Episcopacy became bold, and Milton wrote and published several treatises in opposition to the doctrines of what he called “ Prelaticall Episcopacy.”

In 1643, he married Mary Powell, the daughter of Mr. Richard Powell of Forest Hill in Oxfordshire. Mr. Powell was of the king's party (or, in the language of the times, a cavalier), and the strict and simple notions of Milton may have been distasteful to the daughter of a royalist and churchman. A few weeks after her marriage, she went to her father's house for a visit, and there remained, though repeatedly urged by her husband to return.

Milton was not of a temper to bear such an injury patiently, and his views with regard to the duty of obedience and subjection in a wife, as afterwards expressed in some passages of Paradise Lost, did not incline him to submission. He considered himself as having a right to divorce a wife so contumacious, and published several treatises on the subject of Divorce, which gave as great scandal to the Presbyterian clergy, then at the height of their influence, as his previous attacks upon Episcopacy had done to the Bishops and High Church party. In the same year, 1644, he published his Tractate on Education and the Areopagitica, a Speech for the liberty of unlicensed Printing, which is held to be in eloquence and dignity the first in rank among his prose works. In 1645, a reconciliation was brought about between Milton and his wife. His

forgiveness of her and her family seems to have been complete, for he soon after received Mr. Powell (who had suffered great losses in the civil war which was now going on), with his wife and children, into his own house, where they remained for some months. After this, nothing further was published by Milton on the subject of Divorce. His wife died, probably in the year 1653, leaving three daughters. The poet was afterwards twice married, and his third wife survived him. It is supposed that no descendants of the poet remain.

Charles I. was brought to trial and executed in 1649, and Milton, whose views coincided with those of the party at that time in power (the Independents 1 having succeeded the Presbyterians in influence), wrote a treatise to maintain the lawfulness of the king's execution. Royalty having been thus abolished, the government of the Commonwealth, as it was now called, was vested in a Council of State. The Latin language was used by them in their correspondence with foreign powers, and Milton was made their Secretary. The execution of Charles had excited the greatest indignation throughout Europe, and one of the most famous scholars of the time, best known by his Latinized name, Salmasius, published a famous treatise upholding the doctrine of the divine right of kings to rule without accountability to

Milton was ordered by the Council to prepare an answer to Salmasius, and in 1650 appeared his celebrated Defensio pro Populo Anglicano. But this labor caused the loss of his sight,” which had before been greatly impaired, and soon after he became totally blind. He continued, however, to hold the office of Secretary under Cromwell (who had possessed himself of the supreme power, and been made Lord Protector in 1653), and wrote state papers even up to the time of the Restoration.


1 The Independents (also known as Congregationalists) held that every body of Christians forming a church was competent to manage its own affairs, choose its own ministers, and decide disputed questions, without reference to bishops or presbyters.

2 See Sonnet to Cyriac Skinner, page 15.

When, after the death of Oliver Cromwell and the resignation of his son Richard, a return to monarchical government seemed unavoidable, Milton made a last effort in behalf of the republicanism to which he was always ardently attached, but it was of no avail. The tide had turned, and in 1660 Charles II. was restored to the throne. Milton was for a time obliged to conceal himself, but influential friends exerted themselves for him, and, though some of his books were burned, he was spared. Of the manner of his life after this time we have some account from Ellwood, a young Quaker who had become acquainted with the poet. He writes, “ John Milton, a gentleman of great note for learning throughout the learned world, having filled a public station in former times, lived now a private and retired life in London: and, having wholly lost his sight, kept always a man to read to him, which usually was the son of some gentleman of his acquaintance, whom in kindness he took to improve in his learning.” In 1665, when the plague was raging in London, Milton took a small house at Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, where he remained, with his wife and daughters, till it was safe to return to London. At Chalfont he showed to Ellwood the manuscript of Paradise Lost, which was published in 1667. Thirteen hundred copies of the poem were sold in two years, and in 1669 a second edition was printed. When we consider the circumstances of the time and the political disfavor in which Milton stood, we must regard this as a fair measure of success, and the poet could hardly have anticipated more when he wrote of the audience fit though few that would attend his song.

To more than few it must have been a delight, for, to quote the words of one of his biographers, “ As to the assertion of the poem being above the age in which it appeared, we cannot regard it as correct; the knowledge of the Scriptures, the classics, and the Italian poets, was probably greater at that time than it is at the present day; and this is the knowledge requisite for understanding the Paradise Lost. Criticism of this great poem would here be out of place; its beauties and its blemishes must carry their own commendation or condemnation. It was said by Dr. Johnson that Milton's “images and descriptions of the scenes or operations of Nature do not seem to be always copied from original form, nor to have the freshness, raciness, and energy, of immediate observation. He saw Nature, as Dryden expresses it, through the spectacles of books ; ” and, as has been maintained in our own times, described Nature like a blind man. But though blind he was destitute neither of memory nor of imagination, and we wonder as we read that a blind man could still have seen so much that living eyes fail to observe, and should also have the power to make us see, as in (to quote one of many passages) Book IX. lines 424 – 430 :

when to his wish,
Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,
Veiled in a cloud of fragrance, where she stood,
Half spied, so thick the roses bushing round
About her glowed, oft stooping to support
Each flower of slender stalk, whose head, though gay
Carnation, purple, azure, or specked with gold,

Hung drooping unsustained."
In 1671 Milton published Paradise Regained, a
poem generally regarded as inferior to Paradise
Lost. But Milton himself did not so esteem it, and

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was disturbed at the expression of such opinion. Coleridge says of it, “ In its kind it is the most perfect poem extant," and Wordsworth, that it is " the most perfect in execution of anything written by Milton.” Together with Paradise Regained was published Samson Agonistes, probably the last poem composed by Milton. It was after the manner of the ancient Greek drama, and contains many noble passages. In 1673 Milton published an edition of his collected poems. During the last three years of his life, he also published some of his earlier and later prose works.

Notwithstanding the strict temperance and regularity of life which the poet seems always to have observed, he had been for many years afflicted with the gout. We are told by one of his biographers that “ an ancient clergyman of Dorsetshire, Dr. Wright, found John Milton in a small chamber hung with rusty green, sitting in an elbow-chair, and dressed neatly in black; pale, but not cadaverous, his hands and feet gouty, and with chalk-stones... He used also to sit in a gray coarse cloth coat at the door of his house near Bunhill Fields, in warm sunny weather, to enjoy the fresh air; and so, as well as in his room, received the visits of people of distinguished parts as well as quality." His wife speaks of his dining alone with her in October, 1674, when he " talked and discoursed sensibly and well, and was very merry, and seemed to be in good health of body." On the 8th of the following month, November, he died quietly and without pain, having nearly completed his sixty-sixth year. He was buried in St. Giles's Church, and “the funeral was attended by all the author's learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar.” A monument was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey in 1737.

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