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sen to paint his son's portrait when in his tenth year, and gave his child the widest and fullest literary eciucation. Let the reader try to picture this child, in the street (Bread Street) inhabited by merchants, in this citizen-like and scholarly, religious and poetical family, whose manners were regular and their aspira tions lofty, where they set the psalms to music, and wrote madrigals in honor of Oriana the queen, where vocal music, letters, painting, all the adornments of the beautiful Renaissance, decked the sustained gravity, the hard-working honesty, the deep Chris tianity of the Reformation. All Milton's genius springs from this; he carried the splendor of the Renaissance into the earnestness of the Reformation, the magnificence of Spenser into the severity of Calvin, and, with his family, found himself at the confluence of the two civilizations which he combined. Befors he was ten years old he had a learned tutor, a puritan, who cut his hair short;" after that he went to Saint Paul's school, then to the University of Cambridge, that he might be instructed in “polite literature;” and at the age of twelve he worked, in spite of his weak eyes and headaches, until midnight and even later His John the Baptist, a character resembling himself, says:
“When I was yet a child, no childish play
All righteous things.” 3 At school, afterwards at Cambridge, then with his father, he was strengthening and preparing himself with all his power, free from all blame, and loved by all good men; traversing the vast fields of Greek and Latin literature, not only the great writers, but all the writers, down to the half of the middle age; and studying simultaneously ancient Hebrew, Syriac and rabbinical Hebrew, French and Spanish, old English literature, all the Italian literature, with such zeal and profit that he wrote Italian and Latin verse and prose like an Italian or a Roman; in addition to this, music, mathematics, theology, and much besides. A serious thought regulated this great toil. “ The church, to whose service, by the intentions of my parents and friends, I was destined of a child, and in mine own resolutions : till coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the church, that he who would take orders must subscribe slave and take an oath withal, which unless he took with a conscience that would retch, he must either straight perjure, or split his faith; I thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking bought, and begun with servitude and forswearing." 1
1 "My father destined me while yet a little child for the study of humane letters."-Lif, by Masson, 1859, i 51.
? Queen Elizabeth. : The Poetical Works of John Milton, ed. Mitford, Paradise Regained, Book i. ! tor-206.
He refused to be a clergyman from the same feelings that he had wished it; the desire and the renunciation all sprang from the same source-a fixed resolve to act nobly. Falling back into the life of a layman, he continued to cultivate and perfect himself, studying passionately and with method, but without pedantry or rigor: nay, rather, after his master Spenser, in L' Allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus, he set forth in sparkling and variemited dress the wealth of mythology, nature, and fancy; then, sailing for the land of science and beauty, he visited Italy, made the acquaintance of Grotius and Galileo, sought the society of the learned, the men of letters, the men of the world, listened to the musicians, steeped himself in all the beauties stored up by the Renaissance at Florence and Rome. Everywhere his learning, his fine Italian and Latin style, secured him the friendship and attentions of scholars, so that, on his return to Florence, he
was as well received as if he had returned to his native country.” He collected books and music, which he sent to England, and thought of traversing Sicily and Greece, those two homes of ancient letters and arts. Of all the flowers that opened to the Southern sun under the influence of the two great Paganisms, he gathered freely the balmiest and the most exquisite, but without staining himself with the mud which surrounded them. “I call the Deity to witness," he wrote later, “ that in all those places in which vice meets with so little discouragement, and is practised with so little shame, I never once deviated from the paths of integrity and virtue, and perpetually reflected that, though my conduct might escape the notice of men, it could not elude the inspection of God.” 2
1 Milton's Prose Works, ed. Mitford, 8 vols., The Reason of Church Government, i. 150.
2 Milton's Prose Works (Bohn's edition, 1848), Second Defence of the People of England, i 257. See also his Italian Sonnets, with their religious sentiment.
Amid the licentious gallantries and inane sonnets like those which the Cicisbei and Academicians lavished forth, he retained his sublime idea of poetry: he thought to choose a heroic subject from ancient English history; and as he says, “ I was confirmed in this opinion, that he who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem; that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honourablest things; not presuming to sing high praises of heroic men, or famous cities, unless he have in himself the experience and the practice of all that which is praiseworthy." Above all, he loved Dante and Petrarch for their purity, telling himself that “if unchastity in a woman, whom St. Paul terms the glory of man, be such a scandal and dishonour, then certainly in a man, who is both the image and glory of God, it must, though commonly not so thought, be much more deflouring and dishonourable.”? He thought“ that every free and gentle spirit, without that oath, ought to be born a knight," for the practice and defense of chastity, and he kept himself virgin till his marriage. Whatever the temptation might be, whatever the attraction or fear, it found him equally opposed and equally firm. From a sense of gravity and propriety he avoided all religious disputes; but if his own creed were attacked, he defended it “without any reserve or fear,” even in Rome, before the Jesuits who plotted against him, within a few paces of the Inquisition and the Vatican. Perilous duty, instead of driving him away, attracted him. When the Revolution began to threaten, he returned, drawn by conscience, as a soldier who hastens to danger when he hears the clash of arms, convinced, as he himself tells us, that it was a shame to him leisurely to spend his life abroad, and for his own pleasure, whilst his fellow-countrymen were striving for their liberty. In battle he appeared in the front ranks as a volunteer, courting danger everywhere. Throughout his education and throughout his youth, in his profane readings and his sacred studies, in his acts and his maxims, already a ruling and permanent thought grew manifest—the resolution to develop and unfold within him the ideal man.
1 Milton's Prose Works, Mitford, Apology for Smectymnuns, i. 270.
See also his Treatise on Divorce, which shows clearly Milton's meaning.
II. Two powers chiefly lead mankind--impulse and idea: the one influencing sensitive, unfettered, poetical souls, capable of transformations, like Shakespeare; the other governing active, combative, heroic souls, capable of immutability, like Milton. The first are sympathetic and effusive; the second are concentrative and reserved. The first give themselves up, the others withhold themselves. These, by reliance and sociability, with an artistic instinct and a sudden imitative comprehension, involuntarily take the tone and disposition of the men and things which surround them, and an immediate counterpoise is effected between the inner and the outer man. Those, by mistrust and rigidity, with a combative instinct and a quick reference to rule, become naturally thrown back upon themselves, and in their narrow limits no longer feel the solicitations and contradictions of their surroundings. They have formed a model, and thenceforth this model like a watchword restrains or urges them on. Like all powers destined to have sway, the inner idea grows and absorbis to its use the rest of their being. They bury it in themselves by meditation, they nourish it with reasoning, they put it in communication with the chain of all their doctrines and all their experiences; so that when a temptation assails them, it is not an isolated principle which it attacks, but it encounters the whole combination of their belief, an infinitely ramified combination, too strong for a sensuous seduction to tear asunder. At the same time a man by habit is upon his guard; the combative attitude is natural to him, and he stands erect, firm in the pride of his courage and the inveteracy of his determination.
A soul thus fortified is like a diver in his bell; 2 it passes through life as he passes through the sea, unstained but isolated. On his return to England, Milton fell back among his books, and received a few pupils, upon whom he imposed, as upon himself, continuous toil, serious reading, a frugal diet, a strict behavior; the life of a recluse, almost of a monk. Suddenly, in a month, after a country visit, he married.3 A few weeks
1 “ Though Christianity had been but slightly taught me, yet a certain reservedlness of natural disposition and moral discipline, learnt out of the noblest philosophy, was enough to keep me in disdain of far less incontinences than this of the bordello."- pouqy for Smettymnuus, Mitford, i. 272.
? An expression of Jean Paul Richter. See an excellent article on Milton in the Nat Reriew, July 1859.
3 1643, at the age of 35. VOL. II.
afterwards, his wife returned to her father's house, would not come back to him, took no notice of his letters, and sent back his messenger with scorn. The two characters had come into collision. Nothing displeases women more than an austere and self-contained character. They see that they have no hold upon it; its dignity awes them, its pride repels, its preoccupations keep them aloof; they feel themselves of less value, neglected for general interests or speculative curiosities; judged, moreover, and that after an inflexible rule; at most regarded with condescension, as a sort of less reasonable and inferior beings, debarred from the equality which they demand, and the love which alone can reward them for the loss of equality. The “priest” character is made for solitude; the tact, ease, charm, pleasantness, and gentleness necessary to all companionship, is wanting to it; we admire him, but we go no further, especially if, like Milton's wife, we are somewhat dull and commonplace, adding mediocrity of intellect to the repugnance of our hearts. He had, so his biographers say, a certain gravity of nature, or severity of mind which would not condescend to petty things, but kept him in the clouds, in a region which is not that of the household. He was accused of being harsh, choleric; and certainly he stood upon his manly dignity, his authority as a husband, and was not so greatly esteemed, respected, studied, as he thought he deserved to be. In short, he passed the day amongst his books, and the rest of the time his heart lived in an abstracted and sublime world of which few wives catch a glimpse, his wife least of all. He had, in fact, chosen like a student, so much the more at random because his former life had been of "a well-governed and wise appetite.” Equally like a man of the closet, he resented her flight, being the more irritated because the world's ways were unknown to him. Without dread of ridicule, and with the sternness of a speculative man suddenly brought into collision with actual life, he wrote treatises on Dia vorce, signed them with his name, dedicated them to Parliament, held himself divorced de facto, because his wife refused to return,
i Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Mitford, ii. 27, 29, 32. "Mute and spiritless mate." "The bashful muteness of the virgin may oftentimes hide all the unliveliness and natural sloth which is really unfit for conversation.” “A man shall find himself bound fast to an image of earth and phlegm, with whom he looked to be the copartner of a sweet and gladsome society.” A pretty woman will say in reply: I cannot love a man who carries his head like the Sacrament.