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tors of Justice, by Goodwin, were ordered to be burnt by the common hangman. The republican chiefs, who were yet living, suffered either death or imprisonment; and it is astonishing,' Mr. Godwin thinks,
that Milton was not made one of the victims in this sanguinary scene, and that the ministers of Charles the second did not consummate their treachery in the extinction of the future author of Paradise Lost."* We might, perhaps, quiet Mr. Godwin's astonishment, by suggesting, that these wicked ministers did not probably anticipate the commission of such a political enormity as Paradise Lost.
But, why he should be astonished at all, we are at a loss to conceive. He has himself told us, that Milton took no active part in the crimes of the independents;, and we leain, from numberless other sources, that he was considered as a person of little consequence during all the time of the commonwealth. He had not imbrued his hands in the blood of his sovereign. He had only offended in his books, and vengeance was taken upon his books, by ordering them to be publicly committed to the flames. As soon as the destruction of the leading rebels had made the royalists secure, they began to feel generous; and Milton, to use the expressive language of Toland, had kept himself hid till the worst of the storm was over. We cannot but admire, indeed, the simplicity of Mr. Godwin, in wondering that the future author of Paradise Lost was not hung, when it is so well known that he was not to be found. No sooner had Charles become firmly seated on his throne, than he gave himself the oblivious pleasures, for which his father's court had been so distinguished; and “some,' says Toland, • are of opinion, that Milton was more obliged to that prince's forgetfulness than to his clemency.'t. It was not, according to Dr. Johnson's round period,
up to all
. Godw. Phh. p. 80.
+ Tol. p. 116.
because he had been depressed by foriune and disarmed by nature.' Others were equally depressed by fortune, who yet were not spared; and, so far as Milton was terrible at all, the loss of sight had, by no means, deprived him of his arms. Almost all his invectives against kings and kingship were written after he became blind; and he still possessed the same disposition and strength of mind, with the same keenness and volubility of language.
We have two stories about the mode, in which he is said to have eluded punishment. According to one account, he pretended to be dead, and had a funeral procession; and “the king, we are told,
applauded his policy, in escaping the punishment of death by a seasonable show of dying.'* We know not how to contradict, nor why we should believe, this tale. Again, during the war between the king and parliament, Davenant was taken prisoner, and condemned to death: Milton's intercession is said to have preserved his life; and, when fortune had brought Milton into similar danger, Davenant, it is added, was glad to repay the benefit. 'Here,' says Dr. Johnson, 'is a reciprocation of generosity and gratitude so pleasing, that the tale makes its own way to credit. But, if help were wanted, I know not where to find it.' It was his creed, that 'seldom any splendid story is wholly true;'ť and, accord. ingly, though, a little before, we were told that “Mil. ton saw himself and his cause in equal danger,' .it seems not certain,' now, that his life was ever in danger.' The story here repeated was first delivered by Richardson; who received it from Pope, as he had it from Betterton, the player. The 'narration,' says Dr. Johnson, can be traced no higher;' and we are left to conclude, therefore, that it is al. together unworthy of credit. But it is almost impos
* Cunningham's Hist. G. B. vol. i. p. 14. Wart. 2d edit. Smaller Poems, p. 358.
* Life of Dorset.
sible, in the nature of things, that the story should be traced any higher. Betterton was set up and patronised by Davenant; was, of course, in habits of intimacy with him; and, unless we are ready to pronounce him a liar, must have derived his account from Davenant himself.*
That Milton's life was at first in danger, we have the clearest evidence. The attorney general was ordered to indict him; and the king, in his proclamation, says, that ‘no endeavours used for his apprehension can take effect, whereby he might be brought to legal tryal, and deservedly receive condign punishment for his treasons and offences.'t This proclamation was dated August 13, 1660. Milton was in the hands of the sergeant at arms in December of the same year. But three months had cooled the resentment of his enemies: the act of indemnity had been past; and, on Saturday, Decem. 15, it was ordered, by the house of commons, that Mr. Milton, now in custody of the sergeant at arms, be forth with released, paying his fees.'+ He had powerful friends in the house; particularly Sir Thomas Clarges, Secretary Morice, and Mr. Andrew Marvel. But he struggled to the last: he refused to pay the sergeant's fees; and, both being called before the house, the question was referred to the committee of privileges and elections.ll How it was determined, we know not.
This is the time for Milton's worshippers to ejaculate their lamentations over his fallen and undone condition; more especially as the time draws near, when the wretchedness of his circumstances will so aptly enhance the glory of his great poetical achievment. Mr. Godwin is chief mourner; and he whines after the following manner: Blind-robbed, I sup; pose, of the principal part of his property-hunted
Newt. Life of Milt.
Ibid. p. 115, note. Todd, vol. i. p. 97.
+ Ap. Tol. p. 113, note.
out of society-sheltered, according to one account, by the device of a mock-funeral-hidden in a name. less corner from the pursuers of the law-hearing from day to day of the legal insults and murders committed on his dearest friends-surrounded on all sides by the shouts, the acclamations, and the drunken riots of the frantic royalists-apprehended, and at length with difficulty permitted to escape with liberty and life.'* That he was blind, we do not dispute: that he was robbed of his property, Mr. Godwin gratuitously "supposes:' that he was hunted out of society, is not true: that he was shel. tered by the device of a mock-funeral, is only be. lieved for the sake of a climax: that he was hidden in a nameless corner, is a mistatement; for it was Bartholomew Close: that he heard on all sides, and from day to day, such terrific news, is merely a romance; and that he was apprehended, and with difficulty escaped with liberty and life, is only half true; for he voluntarily came forth from his hiding place, under the act of oblivion; and, though for a time in the custody of the sergeant at arms, we hear of no opposition to his final release.
Milton's situation was not half so deplorable as that of many others; and, indeed, this very Mr. God. win has, in another place, expressed his astonishment at the lenity of his victorious enemies. He was blind, it is true; and, as this was the only particular which distinguished his case from that of his associates, it is exaggerated into a calamity equal to all the rest put together. If Milton had followed a trade, in which his
eyes were peculiarly necessary, if, for instance, he was to handle the pencil or the graver, the loss of sight would have been an inconsolable misfortune: but, as his business was chiefly confined to reflection and composition, he had little use for any other eyes than those of the
* Godw. Phh. p. 127.
mind. It is a little singular, that, while his biographers make so many moans for him, he never utters one for himself; and that, when writing an especial ode upon his own blindness, he feels so little inclined to be sorrowful, that he falls, like Antipater, to making puns. For our own parts, we are willing to take his own words for his feelings ;-we will not believe a man wretched when he tells us he is happy. Me sortis meæ,' says he to one who taunted him with blindness and imbecility, 'neque piget, neque poenitet. Amici officiosius nunc etiam quam solebant, colunt, observant, adsunt. Neque ego cæcis, afflictis, mocrentibus, imbicillis, tametsi vos id miserum ducetis, aggregari me discrucior. Est quod. dam
per imbecilitatem, præcunto Apostolo, ad maximas vires iter: sim ego debilissimus, dummodo in mea imbicilitate immortalis elle et milior vigor eò se efficacius exerat; dummodo in meis tenebris divini vultus lemen eó clarius elucet; tum enim infirmissimus ero simul et validissimus, cæcus eodem tempore et perspicacissimus."* We will add a passage from Cicero.
• Democritus,' says he, lumi. nibus amissis, alba scilicet, et atra discernere non poterat: at vero bona, mala; æqua, iniqua; honesta, turpia; utilia, inutilia; magna, parva poterat: et sine varietate, colorum licebat vivere beate; sine notione rerum non licebat. Atque hic vir,' he adds, what we think equally applicable to Milton, impediri etiam animi aciem adspectu occulorum arbitrabitur.'t
But Mr. Godwin has not made Milton wretched enough from his public misfortunes. He must complete the picture by showing a conspiracy among his own children to disturb his quiet, and destroy his happiness. The two eldest daughters, we are told, upon the authority of a nuncupative will, and the annexed depositions, which Mr. Godwin never stops to examine, 'found their favourite relaxation
+ Tusc. Quæst. 1, v. g 39.