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Let me not be censured for this digression as pedantick or paradoxical; for if I have Milton against me, I have Socrates on my side, It was his labour to turn philosophy from the study of nature to speculations upon life, but the innovators whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They feem to think, that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars. Socrates was rather of opinion, that what we had to learn was, how to do good, and avoid
"οτι τοι εν μεγάροισι κακόν, αγαθόντε τέτυκλαι.
Of institutions we may judge by their effects, From this wonder-working academy, I do not know that there ever proceeded any man very eminent for knowledge: its only genuine product, I believe, is a small History of Poetry, written in Latin by his nephew, of which perhaps none of my readers has ever heard.
That in his school, as in every thing else which he undertook, he laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for doubting. One part of his method deserves general imitation. He was careful to instruct his scholars in religion. Every Sunday was spent upon theology; in which he dictated a short system, gathered from the writers that were then fashionable in the Dutch universities.
He fet his pupils an example of hard study and spare diet; only now and then he allowed himself to pass a day of festivity and indulgence with some gay gentlemen of Gray's Inn,
He now began to engage in the controverfies of the times, and lent his breath to bļow the flames of contention. In 1641 he pub
hshed a treatise of Reformation in two books, against the established Church; being willing to help the Puritans, who were, he says, inferior to the Prelates in learning.
Hall bishop of Norwich had published an Humble Remonstrance, in defence of Episcopacy; to which, in 1641, fix ministers, of whose names the first letters made the celebrated word - Smectymnus, gave their Answer. Of this An
fwer'a Confutation was attempted by the learned Usber; and to the Confutation Milton published a Reply, intituled, Of Prelatical Epifcopacy, and whether it may be deduced from the Apostolical Times, by virtue of thosè testimonies which are alledged to that purpose in some late treatises, one whereof goes under the name of James lord bishop of Armagh.
I have transcribed this title to shew, by his contemptuous mention of Usher, that he had now adopted the puritanical savageness of manners. His next work was, The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, by Mr. John Milton, 1642. In this book he discovers, not with ostentatious exultation, but with calm confidence, his high opinion of his own powers; and promises to undertake something, he yet knows not what, that may be of ule and honour to his country. “ This,” says he, “ is not to be obtained but by devout prayer “ to that Eternal Spirit that can enrich “ with all utterance and knowledge, and sends “ out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of “ his altar, to touch and purify the lips of “ whom he pleases. To this must be added, “ industrious and select reading, steady obser“vation, and insight into all seemly and ge“ nerous arts and affairs; till which in some “ measure be compast, I refuse not to sustain “ this expectation.” From a promise like this, at once fervid, pious, and rational, might be expected the Paradise Lost.
He published the same year two more pamphlets, upon the same question. To one of his antagonists, who affirms that he was vomited out of the univerkty, he answers, in general terms; " The Fellows of the College " wherein I spent some years, at my parting,
after I had taken two degrees, as the man“ ner is, signified many times how much bet« ter it would content them that I should “ stay.—As for the common approbation or “ dislike of that place, as now it is, that I “ should esteem or disesteem myself the more " for that, too simple is the answerer, if he “ think to obtain with me. Of small practice “ were the physician who could not judge, by “ what she and her fister have of long time " vomited, that the worfer stuff she strongly " keeps in her stomach, but the better she is “ ever kecking at, and is queasy; she vomits “ now out of fickness; but before it be well “ with her, she must vomit by strong physick. “ – The university, in the time of her better " health, and my younger judgement, I never “ greatly admired, but riow much less.".
This is surely the language of a man who thinks that he has been injured. He proceeds to describe the course of his conduct, and the train of his thoughts; and, because he has been suspected of incontinence, gives an açcount of his own purity : “ That if I be justi
" ly charged,” says he, “ with this crime, it “ may come upon me with tenfold shame..
The stile of his piece is rough, and such perhaps was that of his antagonist. This roughness he justifies, by great examples, in a long digression. Sometimes he tries to be humorous : “ Left I should take him for « fome chaplain in hand, fome squire of the « body to his prelate, one who serves not at « the altar only but at the Court-cupboard, “ he will bestow on us a pretty model of him► self; and sets me out half a dozen ptificat “ mottos, wherever he had them, hopping “ short in the measure of convulsion fits; in « which labour the agony of his wit having “ scaped narrowly, instead of well-sized pe“ riods, he greets us with a quantity of thumb“ ring posies.---And thus ends this section, « or rather diffection of himself.” Such is the controversial merriment of Milton: his gloomy seriousness is yet more offensive. Such is his malignity, that hell grows darker at bis frown.
His father, after Reading was taken by Essex, came to reside in his house; and his school increased. At Whitsuntide, in his thirty-fifth years, he married Mary, the daughter of Mr, Powel, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. He brought her to town with him, and expected all the advantages of a conjugal life. The lady, however, seems not much to have delighted in the pleasures of spare diet and hard study; for, as Philips relates, “ having “ for a month led a philosophical life, after “ having been used at home to a great house, " and much company and joviality, her friends,
“ possibly by her own desire, made earnest “ suit to have her company the remaining “ part of the summer ; which was granted, “ upon a promise of her return at Michaels mas.”
Milton was too busy to much miss his wife: he pursued his ftudies; and now and then visited the lady Margaret Leigh, whom he has mentioned in one of his sonnets. At last Michaelmas arrived; but the lady had no inclination to return to the sullen gloom of her husband's habitation, and therefore very willingly forgot her promise. He sent her a letter, but had no answer; he sent more with the same success. It could be alledged that letters miscarry; he therefore dispatched a messenger, being by this time too angry to go himself. His messenger was sent back with some contempt. The family of the lady were Cava
In a man whose opinion of his own merit was like Milton's, less provocation than this might have raised violent resentment. Milton foon determined to repudiate her for disobedience; and, being one of those who could easily find arguments to justify inclination, published in 1044) The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce ; which was followed by The Judgement of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce ; and the next year, his Tetrachordon, Expofitions upon the four chief Places of Scripture which treat of Marriage.
This innovation was opposed, as might be expected, by the clergy; who, then holding their famous assembly at Westminster, procured that the author should be called before the