« السابقةمتابعة »
Hide their diminish'd heads; to thee I call,
There is another very remarkable passage in the composure of this poem, which I have a particular occasion to remember, for where:s I had the perusal of it froin the very beginning-for some years as I went from time to time to visit him-in a parcel 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 showed any for a considerable while, and desiring the reason thereof, was answered that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinoctial to the vernal, and that whatever he attempted was never to his satisfaction, though he courted his fancy never so much; so that in all the years he was about this poem, he may be said to have spent but half his time therein. It was but a little before the king's restoration that he wrote and published his book in defence of a commonwealth-so undaunted he was in declaring his true sentiments to the world, and not long before, his power of the civil magistrate in ecclesiastical affairs; and his treatise against Hirelings, just upon the king's coming over. Having a little before been sequestered from his office of Latin Secretary, and the salary thereunto belonging, he was forced to leave his house also, in Petty France, where all the time of his abode there, which was eight years, as abovementioned, he was frequently visited by persons of quality, particularly my Lady Ranala, whose son for some time he instructed; all learned foreigners of note, who could not part out of this city without giving a visit to a person so eminent; and, lastly, by particular friends that had a high esteem for him, viz., Mr. Andrew Mariel, young Laurence (the son of him that was president of Oliver's counsel), to whom there is a sonnet among the rest in his printed poems; Mr. Marchamont Needham, the writer of Politious; but, above all, Mr. Syriak Skinner, whom he honored with two sonnets-one long since public among his poems, the other but newly printed. His next removal was by the advice of those that wished him well and had a concern for his preservation, into a place of retirement and abscondence, till such time as the current of affairs for the future should instruct him what farther course to take. It was a friend's house, in Bartholomew Close, where he lived till the act of oblivion came forth, which it pleased God proved as fa
vorable to him as could be hoped or expected, through the intercession of some that stood his friends both in council and parliament: particularly in the House of Commons, Mr. Andrew Marvel, a member for Hull, acted vigorously in his behalf, and made a considerable party for him; so that, together with John Goodwin, of Coleman-street, he was only so far excepted as not to bear any office in the commonwealth. Soon after appearing again in public, he took a house in Holborn, near Red Lion Fields, where he stayed not long before his pardon having passed the seal, he removed to Jewin-street; there he lived when he married his third wife, recommended to him by his old friend Dr. Paget, in Coleman-street. But he staid not long after his new marriage ere he removed to a house in the Artillery-walk, leading to Bunhill Fields. And this was his last stage in this world, but it was of many years' continuance, more perhaps than he had had in any other place besides. Here he finished his noble poem, and published it in the year 1666. The first edition was printed in quarto, by one Simons, a printer, in Aldersgate-strect; the cther in a large octavo, by Starky, near Temple Bar, amended, enlarged, and differently disposed as to the number of books, by his own hand—that is, by his own appointment; the last set forth many years since his death in a large folio, with cuts, added by Jacob Tonson. Here it was also that he finished and published his history of our nation till the conquest-all complete so far as he went; some passages only excepted, which, being thought too sharp against the clergy, could not pass the hand of the licencer, were in the hands of the late Earl of Anglesey while he lived, where at present is uncertain. It cannot certainly be concluded when he wrote his excellent tragedy entitled Samson Agonistes, but sure enough it is that it came forth after his publication of Paradise Lost, together with his other poem called Paradise Regained, which doubtless was begun and finished and printed after the other was published, and that in a wonderful short space, considering the sublimeness of it. However, it is generally censured to be much inferior to the other, though he could not hear with patience any such thing when related to him : possibly, the subject may not afford such variety of invention; but it is thought by the most judicious to be little or nothing inferior to the other for style and decorum. The said Earl of Anglesey, whom he presented with a copy of the unlicensed papers of his history, came often here to visit him, as very much coveting his society and converse, as likewise others of the nobility, and many persons of eminent quality: nor were the visits of foreigners ever more frequent than in this place, almost to his dying day. IIis treatise of true Religion, Her. esy, Schism, and Toleration, &c., was doubtless the last thing of his writing that was published before his death. He had, as I remember, prepared for the press an answer to some little scribing quack in London, who had written a scurrilous libel against him, but whether by the dissuasion of friends, as thinking him a fellow not worth his notice, or for whatever cause I know not, this answer was never published. He died in the year 1673, towards the latte end of the summer, and had a very decent interment according to his quality, in the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, being attended from his house to the church by several gentlemen then in town, his principal well-wishers and admirers. He had three daughters, who survived him many years (and a son), all by his first wife (of whom sufficient mention hath been made). Anne, his eldest, as above said, and Mary, his second, who were both born at his house in Barbican; and Debora, the youngest, who is yet living, born at his house in Petty France, between whom and his second daughter, the son, named John, was born, as above mentioned, at his apartment in Scotland Yard. By his second wife, Catharine, the daughter of Captain Woodcock, of Hackney, he had only one daughter, of which the mother, the first year after her mar
iage, died in childbed, and the child also within a month after. By his third wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of one Mr. Minshal, of Che
hire (and kinswoman to Dr. Paget), who survived him, and is said 1be yet living, he never had any child. And those he had by the first he made serviceable to him in that very particular in which he nost wanted their service, and supplied his want of eyesight by their eyes and tongue : for though he had daily about him one or other to read to him, some person of man's estate, who of their own accord greedily catched at the opportunity of being his readers, that they might as well reap the benefit of what they read to him, as oblige him by the benefit of their reading ; others, of younger years, sent by their parents to the same end; yet excusing only the eldest daughter by reason of her bodily infirmity and difficult utterance of speech (which, to say the truth, I doubt was the principal cause of excusing her), the other two were cor. demned to the performance of reading, and exactly pronouncing otala the languages of whatever book he should at one time or other think fit to peruse; viz., the Hebrew (and I think the Syriac), the Greek, the Latin, the Italian, Spanish, and French. All which sorts of books to be confined to read, without understanding one word, must needs be a trial of patience, almost beyond endurance ; yet it was endured by both for a long time. Yet the irksomeness of this employment could not be always concealed, but broke out more and more into expressions of uneasiness; so that at length they were all (even the eldest also) sent out to learn some curious and ingenious sorts of manufacture, that are proper for women to learn, particularly embroideries in gold or silver. It had been happy indeed if the daughters of such a person had been made in some measure inheritrixes of their father's learning ; but since fate otherwise decreed, the greatest honor that can be ascribed to this now living (and so would have been to the others had they lived), is to be daughter to a man of his extraordinary character.
He is said to have died worth £1,500 in money, a considerable estate, all things considered, besides household goods; for ho sustained such losses as might well have broke any person less frugal and temperate than himself. No less than £2,000, which he had put for security and improvement into the excise office; but neglecting to recall it in time, could never after get it out, with all the power and interest he had in the great ones of those times; besides another great sum, by mismanagement and want for of good advice.
Thus I have reduced into form and order whatever I have been able to rally up, either from the recollection of my own memory, of things transacted while I was with him, or the information of others equally conversant afterwards, or from his own mouth, by frequent visits to the last.
I shall conclude with two material passages, which, though they relate not immediately to our author, or his own particular concerns; yet in regard they happened during his public employ, and, consequently, fell more especially under his cognizance, it will not be amiss here to subjoin them. The first was this;
Before the war broke forth between the states of England and the Dutch, the Hollanders sent over three ambassadors, in order to an accommodation, but they returning re infecta, the Dutch sent away a plenipotentiary to offer peace upon much inilder terins, or at least to gain more time.
But this plenipotentiary could not make such haste, but that the parliament had procured a copy of their instructions in Holland, which were delivered by our author to his kinsmen that was then with him, to translate for the council to view, before the said plenipotentiary had taken shipping for England; an answer to all he had in charge lay ready for him, before he made his public entry into London.
In the next place, there came a person with a very sumptuous train, pretending himself an agent from the Prince of Conde, then in arms against Cardinal Mazarine; the parliament mistrusting him, set their instrument so busily at work, that in four or five days they had procured intelligence from Paris, that he was a spy from King Charles; whereupon, the very next morning, our author's kinsman was sent to him, with an order of council, commanding him to depart the kingdom within three days, or expect the punishment of a spy.