London: volume 2

Knight, Charles.


XXXII.-Milton's London.

XXXII.-Milton's London.




The best successor of Milton has described the character of the great poet's mind in celebrated line :

Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart.

It might at seem, looking at the accuracy of this forcible image, that the name of Milton could not be properly associated with the state of society during the times in which he flourished. It is true that in the writings of Milton we have very few glimpses of the familiar life of his day; no set descriptions of scenes and characters; nothing that approaches in the slightest degree to the nature of anecdote; no playfulness, no humour. Wordsworth continues his apostrophe:--

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea.

The sprightlier dramatists have the voices of

Shallow rivers, by whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals.

It is pleasant to sit in the sunshine and listen to the bubbling of the runnel over its pebbly bottom: but the times of Milton were for the most part dark and stormy, and with them the voice of the sea was in harmony. We can learn, while listening to that voice, when there was calm and when there was tempest. But Milton was not only the great literary name of his period-he was a public man, living in the heart of the mightiest struggle betwixt adverse principles that England ever encountered. Add to this he was essentially a Londoner. He was born in ; he died in Cripplegate. During a long life we may trace him, from School, through a succession of London residences which, taking their names with their ordinary associations, sound as little poetical as can well be imagined--St. Bride's Churchyard, , , , , , , Bunhill Fields. The houses which he inhabited have been swept away; their pleasant gardens are built


over. But the name of Milton is inseparably connected with these prosaic realities. That name belongs especially to London.

The portrait at the head of this article represents the Milton of . He has himself left us a picture of his mind at this period. His Latin elegy, addressed to Charles Deodati, is supposed by Warton to have been written about . The writer was born in . We shall transcribe a few passages from Cowper's translation of this elegy:--

I well content, where Thames with influent tide

My native city laves, meantime reside:

Nor zeal nor duty now my steps impel

To reedy Cam, and my forbidden cell;

Nor aught of pleasure in those fields have I,

That, to the musing bard, all shade deny.

»T is time that I a pedant's threats disdain,

And fly from wrongs my soul will ne'er sustain.

If peaceful days in letter'd leisure spent,

Beneath my father's roof, be banishment,

Then call me banish'd; I will ne'er refuse

A name expressive of the lot I choose.

I would that, exil'd to the Pontic shore,

Rome's hapless bard had suffer'd nothing more;

He then had equall'd even Homer's lays,

And, Virgil! thou hadst won but second praise.

For here I woo the Muse, with no control;

For here my books-my life-absorb me whole.

His father's roof was in , in the parish of Allhallows. The sign of the Spread Eagle, which hung over his father's door, was the armorial bearing of his family; but the sign indicated that the house was of business, and the business of Milton's father was that of a scrivener. Here, in some retired back room, looking most probably into a pleasant little garden, was the youthful poet surrounded by his books, perfectly indifferent to the more profitable writing of bonds and agreements that was going forward in his father's office. It was Milton's happiness to possess a father who understood the genius of his son, and whose tastes were in unison with his own. In the young poet's beautiful verses, , also translated by Cowper, he says,--

thou never bad'st me tread

The beaten path, and broad, that leads right on

To opulence, nor didst condemn thy son

To the insipid clamours of the bar,

The laws voluminous, and ill observ'd.

Of Milton's father Aubrey says,

He was an ingenious man, delighted in music, and composed many songs now in print, especially that of Oriana.

The poet thus addresses his father in reference to the same accomplishment:--


Art skilful to associate verse with airs

Harmonious, and to give the human voice

A thousand modulations, heir by right

Indisputable of Arion's fame.

Now say, what wonder is it, if a son

Of thine delight in verse; if, so conjoin'd

In close affinity, we sympathize

In social arts and kindred studies sweet?


There was poetry then, and poetical associations, within Milton's home in the close city. Nor were poetical influences wanting without. The early writings of Milton teem with the romantic associations of his youth, and they have the character of the age sensibly impressed upon them. In the epistle to Deodati we have an ample description of that love of the drama, whether comedy or tragedy, which he subsequently connected with the pursuits of his mirthful and his contemplative man. To the student of ,

The grave or gay colloquial scene recruits

My spirits spent in learning's long pursuits.

His descriptions of the comic characters in which he delights appear rather to be drawn from Terence than from Jonson or Fletcher. But in tragedy he pretty clearly points at Shakspere's and at and were probably written some or years after this epistle, when Milton's father had retired to Horton, and his son's visits to London were occasional. But

the well-trod stage

is still present to his thoughts. There is a remarkable peculiarity in all Milton's early poetry which is an example of the impressibility of his imagination under local circumstances. He is the poet, at and the same time, of the city and of the country. In the epistle to Deodati he displays this mixed affection for the poetical of art and of nature :

Nor always city-pent, or pent at home,

I dwell; but, when spring calls me forth to roam,

Expatiate in our proud suburban shades

Of branching elm, that never sun pervades.

But London is thus addressed:--

Oh city, founded by Dardanian hands,

Whose towering front the circling realms commands,

Too blest abode! no loveliness we see

In all the earth, but it abounds in thee.

Every reader is familiar with the exquisite rural pictures of


but the scenery, without the. slightest difficulty, may be placed in the immediate

suburban shades

which he has described in the epistle. It is scarcely necessary to remove them even as far as the valley of the Colne. The transition is immediate from the hedge-row elms, the russet lawns, the upland hamlets, and the nut-brown ale, to

Tower'd cities please us then,

And the busy hum of men,

Where throngs of knights and barons bold

In weeds of peace high triumphs hold,

With store of ladies, whose bright eyes

Rain influence, and judge the prize

Of wit, or arms, while both contend

To win her grace, whom all commend.

There let Hymen oft appear

In saffron robe, with taper clear,

And pomp and feast and revelry,

With mask and antique pageantry,--

Such sights as youthful poets dream

On summer-eves by haunted stream.

Then to the well-trod stage anon,



So, in

Il Penseroso,

there is a similar transition from the even-song of the nightingale, and the sullen roar of the far-off curfew, to

The bellman's drowsy charm

To bless the doors from nightly harm.

And there, in like manner, we turn from

Arched walks of twilight groves

And shadows brown,


the high embowed roof

With antic pillars massy proof,

And storied windows richly dight,

Casting a dim religious light.

No man,

says Thomas Warton,

was ever so disqualified to turn Puritan as Milton.

In these his early poems, according to this elegant critic, his expressed love of choral church music, of Gothic cloisters, of the painted windows and vaulted aisles of a venerable cathedral, of tilts and tournaments, of masques and pageantries, is wholly repugnant to the anti-poetical principles which he afterwards adopted. We doubt exceedingly whether Milton can be held to have turned Puritan to the extent in which Warton accepts the term. Milton was a republican in politics, and an asserter of liberty of conscience, independent of Church government, in religion. But the constitution of his mind was utterly opposed to the reception of such extreme notions of moral fitness as determined the character of a Puritan. There has been something of exaggeration and mistake in this matter. For example: Warton, in a note on that passage in the epistle to Deodati in which Milton is supposed to allude to Shakspere's tragedies, says,

His warmest poetical predilections were at last totally obliterated by civil and religious enthusiasm. Seduced by the gentle eloquence of fanaticism, he listened no longer to the

wild and native wood-notes of Fancy's sweetest child.

In his


he censures King Charles for studying

one, whom we well know was the closet-companion of his solitudes, William Shakespeare.

This remonstrance, which not only resulted from his abhorrence of a king, but from his disapprobation of plays, would have come with propriety from Prynne or Hugh Peters. Nor did he now perceive that what was here spoken in contempt conferred the highest compliment on the elegance of Charles's private character.

Mr. Waldron had the merit of pointing out, some or years ago, that the passage in the to which Warton alludes gives not the slightest evidence of Milton's listening no longer to

Fancy's sweetest child,

nor of reproaching Charles for having made Shakspere the

closet-companion of his solitudes.

Milton is arguing--with the want of charity certainly which belongs to an advocate--that

the deepest policy of a tyrant hath been ever to counterfeit religious;

and, applying this to the devotion of the

Icon Basilike,

he thus proceeds:--

The poets also, and some English, have been in this point so mindful of decorum as to put never more pious words in the mouth of any person than of a tyrant. I shall not instance an abstruse author, wherein the King may be less conversant, but


whom we well know was the closet-companion of his solitudes, William Shakespeare, who introduces the person of Richard III. speaking in as high a strain of piety and mortification as is uttered in any passage in this book


Icon Basilike

). He then quotes a speech of Shakspere's


Richard III., and adds,

The poet used not much licence in departing from the truth of history.

If Milton had meant to reproach Charles with being familiar with Shakspere, the reproach would have recoiled upon himself, in evidencing the same familiarity. There was, in truth, scarcely a greater disparity between the clustering locks of Milton and the cropped hair of the Roundheads, than between his abiding love of poetry and music and the frantic denunciations of both by such as Prynne. Prynne, for example, devotes a whole chapter of the


to a declamation against

effeminate, delicate, lust-provoking music,

in which the mildest thing he quotes from the Fathers is,

Let the singer be thrust out of thy house as noxious; expel out of thy doors all fiddlers, singing-women, with all this choir of the devil, as the deadly songs of syrens.

Compare this with Milton's sonnet, published in ,

To my Friend Mr. Henry Lawes,

--the royalist Henry Lawes:--

Harry, whose tuneful and well-measur'd song

First taught our English music how to span

Words with just note and accent, not to scan

With Midas' ears, committing short and long,

Thy worth and skill exempt thee from the throng,

With praise enough for envy to look wan;

To after age thou shalt be writ the man

That with smooth air couldst humour best our tongue.

Doubtless since was presented at Ludlow Castle in , and Lawes composed and sung some of its lyrics, up to the period when Milton wrote the


the elegancies, the splendours, the high triumphs, the antique pageantries, which so captivated the youthful poet, had given place to sterner things. In his own mind, especially, that process of deep reflection was going forward which finally made him a zealous partisan and a bitter controversialist; but which was blended with purer and loftier aspirations than usually belong to politics or polemics. But his was an age of deep thinkers and resolute actors. The leaders and the followers then of either party were sincere in their thoughts and earnest in their deeds. They were not a compromising and evasive generation. There was no mistaking their friendships or their enmities. Milton early chose his part in the great contention of his times. Amidst the classical imagery of Lycidas we have his bitter denunciations against the hirelings of the Church, who-

Creep and intrude and climb into the fold.

He would not enter the service of that Church himself lest he should be called upon to

subscribe slave.

To that vocation, however, he says,

I was destined of a child and in mine own resolutions.

That he was impatient of what he considered the tyranny which interfered between a service so suited to his character was to be expected from the ardour of his nature; but we can scarcely think that in those lines of Lycidas, written in -

But that two-handed engine at the door

Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more

he anticipates, as some have maintained, the execution of Archbishop Laud. Matters were scarcely then come to that pass. But yet Laud in had some unpleasant demonstrations of the temper of the times. In that year Bastwick, Burton, and Prynne were sentenced by the Star Chamber,

That each of the

defendants should be fined

five thousand pounds

; that Bastwick and Burton should stand in the pillory at


, and there lose their ears; and that Prynne, having lost his ears before by sentence of this court, should have the remainder of his ears cut off, and should be branded on both cheeks with the letters S. L., to signify a seditious libeller.

The execution to the tittle of this barbarous sentence maddened and disgusted those who looked upon the spectacle. Laud's Diary, for months after this revolting exhibition, contains some very significant entries, recording the libels which it produced. A short libel pasted on the cross in described him as the arch-wolf of Canterbury; another, on the south gate of , informed the people that the devil had let that house to the Archbishop; another, fastened to the north gate, averred that the government of the Church of England is a candle in the snuff going out in a stench. These were warnings; but power is apt to look upon its own pomp, and forget that the day of humiliation and weakness may arise. Howell, in of his letters written in the year of Laud's execution, says,

Who would have dreamt


years since, when Archbishop Laud did ride in state through London streets, accompanying my Lord of London, to be sworn Lord High Treasurer of England, that the mitre should have now come to such a scorn, to such a national kind of hatred?

In those eventful days such contrasts were not unfrequent; and they sometimes followed each other much more closely than the triumphal procession of Laud, and his execution. On the , the city of London welcomed Charles from Scotland with an entertainment of unusual magnificence; and the historian of the city, after revelling in his description of aldermen and liverymen, to the number of , mounted on horseback, with all the array of velvet and scarlet and golden chains,--of conduits running with claret,--of banquetings and loyal anthems, says,

the whole day seemed to be spent in a kind of emulation, with reverence be it spoken, between their Majesties and the City; the citizens blessing and praying for their Majesties and their princely issue, and their Majesties returning the same blessings upon the heads of the citizens.

In , not quite a year after these pleasant gratulations, Milton wrote the following noble sonnet:--

Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in arms,

Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize,

If deed of honour did thee ever please,

Guard them, and him within protect from harms.

He can requite thee, for he knows the charms

That call fame on such gentle acts as these.

And he can spread thy name o«er lands and seas,

Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms.

Lift not thy spear against the Muses' bow'r:

The great Emathian conqueror bid spare

The house of Pindarus, when temple and tow'r

Went to the ground: and the repeated air

Of sad Electra's poet had the pow'r

To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.

On the , the King erected his standard on Nottingham Castle. Essex, as Generalissimo of the Parliament forces, had already marched upon Northampton. The King's army was advancing towards the


capital; and London, with its vast suburbs, required to be put in a state of defence. It was on this occasion that the dogged resolution, the unflinching courage of the citizens of all ranks and all ages, manifested themselves in their willing labours to give London in some degree the character of a fortified city. The royalists ridiculed the citizens in their song of

Roundheaded cuckolds, come dig.

The battle of Edgehill was fought on the ; and on the Essex returned to London. While the Parliament was negotiating, the sound of Prince Rupert's cannon was heard in the immediate neighbourhood of the capital; and the citizens marched out to battle. But the bloody contest of Edgehill was rot to be renewed at Brentford and Turnham Green. The King's forces retired; and the trained-bands refreshed themselves and made merry with the good things which their careful wives had not forgotten to send after them in this hour of danger and alarm. It was upon this occasion that the sonnet which we have just transcribed was written. We might infer from the tone of this sonnet that Milton had little confidence that the arms of the citizens would be a sufficient protection for his

defenceless doors.

He was living then in ; in that sort of house which was common in Old London, and which Milton always chose--a garden-house. This house might unquestionably be called

the Muses' bower;

for here he was not only carrying on the education of his nephews and of the sons of a few intimate friends, but, as we learn from

The Reason of Church Government,

he was preparing for some high work which should be of power

to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility; to allay the perturbation of the mind, and set the affections in right tune--

a work not to be raised from the heat of youth or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite; nor to be obtained by the invocation of dame Memory and her syren daughters; but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit who 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.

Cherishing high thoughts such as these, Milton called upon the assaulting soldier,

Lift not thy spear against the Muses' bow'r.

Since his return from Italy, in , his principles had been too openly proclaimed for him to appeal to

Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in arms,

to spare the house of Milton the polemic. It was Milton the poet who left unwillingly

a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes,

that thus asked that the Muses' bower should be protected, as the house of Pindar and the city of Euripides had been spared. But London was saved from the assault; and a few months after the Common Council and the Parliament raised up much more formidable defences than invocations founded upon classical lore. All the passages and ways leading to the city were shut up, except those entering at , in the Fields, , , and Whitechapel. The ends of these streets were fortified with breastworks and turnpikes, musket proof; the city wall was repaired and mounted with artillery;


finally an earthen rampart, with bastions, and redoubts, and all the other systematic defences of a beleaguered city, was carried entirely round London, , and . The plan of the city and suburbs, thus fortified, in and , is copied below :--
An Explanation of the Several Forts in the Line of Communication.
1.A Bulwark and half on the hill at the north end of Gravel Lane.
2.A Hornwork near the Windmill in Whitechapel Road.
3.A Redoubt, with two flanks, near Brick Lane.
4.A Redoubt, with four flanks, in Hackney Road, Shoreditch.
5.A Redoubt, with four flanks, in Kingsland Road, Shoreditch.
6.A Battery and Breastwork at Mount Mill.
7.A Battery and Breastwork at St. John Street end.
8.A Small Redoubt near Islington Pound.
9.A Large Fort, with four half Bulwarks, at the New River Upper Pond.
10.A Battery and Breastwork on the hill east of Blackmary's Hole.
11.Two Batteries and a Breastwork at Southampton House, now the British Museum.
12.A Redoubt; with two flanks, near St. Giles's Pound.
13.A Small Fort at the east end of Tyburn Road.
14.A Large Fort, with four half Bulwarks across the Road, at Wardour Street.
15.A Small Bulwark at the place now called Oliver's Mount.
16.A Large Fort with four Bulwarks, at Hyde Park Corner.
17.A Small Redoubt and Battery on Constitution Hill.
18.A Court of Guard at Chelsea Turnpike.
19.A Battery and Breastwork in Tothill Fields.
20.A Quadrant Fort, with four half Bulwarks, at Vauxhall.
21.A Fort, with four half Bulwarks, at the Dog and Duck in St. George's Fields.
22.A Large Fort, with four Bulwarks; near the end of Blackman Street.
23.A Redoubt with four flanks, near the Lock Hospital in Kent Street.

In Milton married. Aubrey's account of this marriage and the subsequent separation is given with his characteristic quaintness:--



wife (Mrs. Powell, a Royalist) was brought up and lived where there was a great deal of company and merriment, dancing, &c.: and when she came to live with her husband at Mr. Russell's, in

St. Bride's

Churchyard, she found it very solitary; no company came to her, oftentimes heard his nephews beaten and cry. This life was irksome to her, so she went to her parents at Forest Hill. He sent for

her (after some time), and I think his servant was evilly entreated; but as for wronging his bed, I never heard the least suspicion, nor had he of that jealousy.

In another place he says,

She was a zealous Royalist, and went without her husband's consent to her mother in the King's quarters near Oxford:


opinions do not well on the same bolster.

Philips, Milton's relation, gives pretty much the same account of the matter. That such cases were not uncommon in an age distracted by controversial opinions in religion and politics may readily be imagined. The general argument of Milton's elaborate treatises on Divorce is, that disagreements in temper and disposition, which tend to produce indifference or dislike, are sufficient to set aside the bond of marriage. The company and merriment, dancing, &c., in the midst of which Milton's wife was brought up, were inconsistent with his notions of pleasure and propriety. Aubrey tells us,

he was of a very cheerful humour. He would be cheerful even in his goutfits, and sing.

In his sonnet to Lawrence, written most probably when he was , the same cheerfulness prevails:--

What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,

Of Attic taste, with wine, whence we may rise

To hear the lute well touch'd, or artful voice

Warble immortal notes and Tuscan air?

Again, in his sonnet to Cyriack Skinner:

To-day deep thoughts resolve with me to drench

In mirth, that after no repenting draws.

He adds, mild Heaven

disapproves that care, though wise in show,

That with superfluous burden loads the day,

And when God sends a cheerful hour refrains.

This was not Puritanism; but neither was it the tumultuous merriment nor the secret licentiousness of the Cavaliers. The example of Milton may instruct us that the society of London was not to be wholly divided into these extreme classes. His plan of an academy, which Johnson calls impracticable, was founded, we have little doubt, upon a careful consideration of the desires and capacities of the intellectual class amongst whom he lived. There were other Englishmen in those days than fanatics and reprobates. He has eloquently described, in

The Liberty of unlicensed Printing,

the thirst for knowledge, the ardent desire for truth, which prevailed in London even amidst the disorders of contending factions, the din of warfare, and the going forth of its sons and husbands to battle in a great cause:--

Behold now this vast city, a city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his (God's) protections. The shop of war hath not there more anvils and hammers waking to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions' and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation: others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement. What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and-so prone to seek after knowledge?

Yet in the same wonderful composition he tells us plainly


enough, and without any severity of rebuke, that London had its recreations and its lighter thoughts, amidst this

diligent alacrity in the pursuance of truth;

and that there were temptations which were only innocuous upon his principle that

`he that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian.

The following graphic description of some of the social aspects of London is a remarkable exception to Milton's usual style of writing; and it almost tempts us to withdraw the remarks with which we introduced this paper, in which we spoke too slightingly of Milton's power as a painter of manners :--

If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man. No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and Doric. There must be licensing dancers, that no gesture, motion, or deportment be taught our youth, but what by their allowance shall be thought honest; for such Plato was provided of. It will ask more than the work of


licensers to examine all the lutes, the violins, and the guitars in every house; they must not be suffered to prattle as they do, but must be licensed what to say. And who shall silence all the airs and madrigals that whisper softness in chambers? The windows also, and balconies, must be thought on; there are shrewd books, with dangerous frontispieces, set to sale; who shall prohibit them?--shall


licensers? The villages also must have their visitors, to inquire what lectures the bagpipe and the rebeck reads, even to the ballatry and the gammut of every [municipal fiddler; for these are the countryman's Arcadias, and his Monte Mayors. Next, what more national corruption, for which England hears ill abroad, than household gluttony? who shall be the rector of our daily rioting? and what shall be done to inhibit the multitudes that frequent those houses where drunkenness is sold and harboured? Our garments also should be referred to the licensing of some sober work-masters, to see them cut into a less wanton garb. Who shall regulate all the mixed conversation of our youth, male and female together, as is the fashion of this country? Who shall still appoint what shall be discoursed, what presumed, and no farther? Lastly, who shall forbid and separate all idle resort, all evil company? These things will be, and must be; but how they shall be least hurtful, how least enticing, herein consists the grave and governing wisdom of a state. To sequester out of the world into Atlantis and Utopian politics, which never can be drawn into use, will not mend our condition; but to ordain wisely as in this world of evil, in the midst whereof God hath placed us unavoidably.

Milton's reconciliation with his wife took place, it is recorded, in the house of a relation in . Committed as he was by his opinions on the general subject of divorce, he perhaps considered it fortunate that circumstances had prevented him acting upon them. He probably, had this trial been reserved to him, would have been an evidence of the hollowness of his own arguments. As it was, we hear no subsequent complaints; and his house afforded his wife's family a shelter when the advocates of the Royalist cause were exposed to persecution. It was in that Milton lived after his wife returned to him.

In Milton had again moved to a small house in , which opened


behind into . He here continued to work in the education of a few scholars:--

So didst thou travel on life's common way

In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart

The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

But within years Milton was called to higher occupation. In the Councilbooks at the State Paper Office, some extracts from which were published in the preface to Dr. Sumner's translation of Milton's

De Doctrina Christiana,

there is this entry, under date of :--

Ordered that Sir John Hippesley is spoken to that Mr. Milton may be accommodated with the lodgings that he hath at



And on the following :--

That Mr. Milton shall have the lodgings that were in the hands of Sir John Hippesley in


, for his accommodation, as being secretary to the Council for Foreign Languages.

Here, then, was Milton, after having written the

Tenure of Kings and Magistrates,

and the


fixed upon the very spot where, according to his own account, a

most potent King, after he had trampled upon the laws of the nation, was finally, by the supreme council of the kingdom, condemned to die, and beheaded before the very gate of the royal palace ;

[n.107.1]  but where, according to those who took a different view of the matter, a

black tragedy was acted, which filled most hearts among us with consternation and


[n.108.1]  After the sword was drawn and the scabbard thrown away, the which Milton must have had in his mind when he wrote of

Throngs of knights and barons bold In weeds of peace,

was deserted; its courts were solitary, its chambers were vacant; their hangings rotted on the walls; their noble pictures were covered with dust and cobweb. Howell tells a remarkable story about the desolation of the favourite palace of James and Charles:--

I send you these following prophetic verses of


, which were made above


years ago to my knowledge, upon a book called

Balaam's Ass,

that consisted of some invectives against King James and the court

in statu quo tuae

. It was composed by


Mr. Williams, a counsellor of the Temple, but a Roman Catholic, who was hanged, drawn, and quartered at

Charing Cross

for it; and I believe there be hundreds that have copies of these verses ever since that time about the town yet living. They were these:--

Some seven years since Christ rid to court, And there he left his ass, The courtiers kick'd him out of doors, Because they had no grass: The ass went mourning up and down, And thus I heard him bray,-- If that they could not give me grass, They might have given me hay: But sixteen hundred forty-three, Whosoc'er shall see that day, Will nothing find within that court But only grass and hay.

Which was found to happen true in


, till the soldiers coming to quarter there trampled it down.

Milton was settled in little more than years. Within months of his establishment there he received from the Council a warrant to the trustees and contractors for the sale of the King's goods, to deliver to him such hangings as should be sufficient for the furnishing of his lodgings. In the Council and the Committee of Parliament for were at issue with regard to Milton's remaining in these lodgings; and the Council appointed a Committee to endeavour with the Committee of Parliament,

that the said Mr. Milton may be continued where he is, in regard of the employment he is in to the Council, which necessitates him to reside near the Council.

But he left these lodgings. From , till within a few weeks of the restoration of Charles II. in , he resided in , , in the house

next door to the Lord Scudamore's, and opening into

St. James's Park


He held the office of Foreign Secretary till . In of that year the following entry is found in the Council-books:--

Ordered that the former yearly salary of Mr. John Milton, of

two hundred and eighty-eight pounds

, &c., formerly charged on the Council's contingencies, be reduced to

one hundred and fifty pounds

per annum, and paid to him during his life out of his Highness's Exchequer.

This reduced paymept was no doubt a retiring pension to Milton;


and the reasons for that retirement are sufficiently pointed out in his sonnet to Skinner, written in :--

Cyriack, this three years day these eyes, though clear,

To outward view, of blemish or of spot,

Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot;

Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear

Of sun, or moon, or star, throughout the year,

Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not

Against Heav'n»s hand or will, nor bate a jot

Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer

Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?

The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied

In liberty's defence, my noble task,

Of which all Europe rings from side to side.

This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask

Content, though blind, had I no better guide.

The European fame of the author of the

Defensio pro Populo Anglicano

was not overstated by the poet. Aubrey says,

He was mightily importuned to go into France and Italy; foreigners came much to see him and much admired him, and offered to him great preferments to come over to them; and the only inducement of several foreigners that came over into England was chiefly to see O. Protector and Mr. J. Milton; and would see the house and chamber where he was born. He was much more admired abroad than at home.

Milton must indeed have felt that, during the or years in which he communicated to foreign nations, in his own powerful and majestic style, the wishes and opinions of a strong and resolved government, he was filling a part which, however obnoxious might be his principles, could not forbear to command the respect of the highest-minded men of all countries. As Milton continued to reside in for several years after he had been compelled by blindness to resign his office, there is little doubt that his intimacy was close and confidential, not only with his own immediate friends, Marvell, and Skinner, and Harrington, who according to Anthony Wood belonged with him to the political club which met at the Turk's Head in Palace Yard-but with the more powerful leaders in the Commonwealth, and with

Cromwell, our chief of men.

The celebrity of the Rota Club gave rise probably to the assertion that

Milton and some other creatures of the Commonwealth had instituted the Calves' Head Club,

[n.109.1]  which met on the to revile the memory of Charles I. by profane ribaldry and mock solemnities. Milton, however stern a controversialist, was of too lofty a nature to stoop to such things. Pepys, in his Diary of , gives us a pretty adequate notion of the nature of the proceedings at this political club, the Rota, of which Harrington was the founder:--

I went to the Coffee Club, and heard very good discourse; it was in answer to Mr. Harrington's answer, who said that the state of the Roman government was not a settled government, and so it was no wonder that the balance of prosperity was in


hand, and the command in another, it being therefore always in a posture of war: but it was carried by ballot that it was a steady government, though it is true by the voices it had been carried before that it was an unsteady government; so to-morrow it is to be proved by the opponents that the balance lay in


hand and the government in another.

All this, after the real business of the Long Parliament, looks like boys' play; but it was mode by which the heat of political theorists quietly smouldered away without explosion. Wood says,

The discourses of the members about government and ordering a commonwealth were the most ingenious and smart that ever were heard; for the arguments in the Parliament House were but flat to them.

Yet these smart and ingenious things told for little when the genius of Cromwell was no more. While Harrington was declaiming, Monk was bringing in Charles II. The Rump Parliament, which had overthrown the feeble government of Richard Cromwell, was very shortly after cast down by the force of popular opinion. Pepys describes the following city scene on the , after Monk had bearded the Parliament :--



there was a great many bonfires; and Bow-bells and all the bells in all the churches were a-ringing. Hence we went homewards, it being about


at night. But the common joy that was everywhere to be seen! the number of bonfires! there being


between St. Dunstan's and

Temple Bar

; and at Strand Bridge I could at


time tell


fires. In

King Street




: and all along burning, and roasting, and drinking for rumps, there being rumps tied upon sticks and carried up and down. The butchers at the Maypole in

the Strand

rang a peal with their knives when they were going to sacrifice their rump. On

Ludgate Hill



turning of the spit that had a rump tied upon it, and another basting.

These were symptoms that could not be mistaken. In months after Charles was on the throne; and Milton was proscribed. Up to the last moment he had lifted up his voice against what he called

the general defection of a misguided and abused multitude.

In the

Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth

we have almost his last words of solemn exhortation in connexion with public affairs:--

What I have spoken is the language of that which is not called amiss, the good old cause: if it seem strange to any, it will not seem more strange, I hope, than convincing to backsliders: thus much I should perhaps have said, though I were sure I should have spoken only to trees and stones, and had none to cry to but with the prophet,

0 earth, earth, earth!

to tell the very soil itself what her perverse inhabitants are deaf to. Nay, though what I have spoke should happen (which Thou suffer not who didst create mankind free! nor Thou next who didst redeem us from being servants of men!)

to be the last words of our expiring liberty


This was prophetic. For years no such words were again heard; and in

Paradise Lost

there is but solitary allusion to his position, with reference to public affairs and public manners:--

More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchang'd

To hoarse or mute, though fall'n on evil days,

On evil days though fall'n, and evil tongues;

In darkness, and with dangers compass'd round,

And solitude; yet not alone, while thou

Visit'st my slumbers nightly, or when morn

Purples the east: still govern thou my song,

Urania, and fit audience find, though few.

But drive far off the barbarous dissonance

Of Bacchus and his revellers, the race

Of that wild rout that tore the Thracian bard

In Rhodope, where woods and rocks had ears

To rapture, till the savage clamour drown'd

Both harp and voice; nor could the Muse defend

Her son.

Milton, upon the Restoration, was in hiding, it is said, at a friend's house in . He was well concealed; for the proclamation

for his apprehension, and that of Goodwin, says,

The said John Milton and John Goodwin are so fled, or so obscure themselves, that no endeavours used for their apprehension can take effect, whereby they may be brought to legal trial, and deservedly receive condign punishment for their treasons and offences.

Johnson thinks that the escape of Milton was favoured. Unquestionably his judicial murder would have been the most disgraceful act of the restored government. It is said that in Milton saved the royalist Davenant, and that in Davenant saved the republican Milton. Milton's and were burnt by the common hangman; but he was rendered safe by the Act of Indemnity.

We have then very hastily and imperfectly traced Milton through his public life. In the remaining years he was perhaps happier than in the confident and cheerful thoughts of his active existence. He was then truly

like a star, and dwelt apart.

He was wholly devoted to the accomplishment of those great labours which he had shadowed forth in his youth. He clung to London with an abiding love, and from to he lived in and . During this period he completed When the great plague broke out he found a retreat at Chalfont. From this period his abode, up to the time of his death in , was in Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields. It was here that Dryden visited him. Aubrey records this visit; and amongst

his familiar

learned acquaintance


Jo. Dryden, Esq., Poet Laureat, who very much admired him, and went to him to have leave

to put his Paradise Lost into a drama in rhyme

. Mr. Milton received him civilly, and told him he would gives him leave

to tag his verses


This anecdote forms a link betwen Milton and his literary successors ;--and here we stop.

We subjoin a note on the subject of the burial-place of Milton which we have received from the very ingenious artist and antiquary, Mr. Fairholt, whose drawings have often contributed to enrich these pages-

In , Philip Neve, the antiquary, published a pamphlet entitled

A Narrative of the Disinterment of Milton's Coffin in the Parish Church of St, Giles, Cripplegate, on Wednesday, the

4th of August, 1790


After telling us that the particular spot of Milton's interment had for many years past been ascertained only by tradition, and that many of the principal parishioners had wished the coffin to be dug for,,that the real fact might be established, Neve adds-

The entry among the burials in the register-book,

12th of November, 1674

, is

John Milton, gentleman, consumpcon, chancell.

The church of St. Giles was built in


, was burnt down (except the steeple) and rebuilt in


; was repaired in


, and again in


, In the repair of


an alteration took place in the disposition of the inside of the church; the pulpit was removed from the


pillar, against which it stood,


of the chancel, to the


side of the present chancel, which was then formed, and pews were built over the old chancel. The tradition has always been that Milton was buried in the chancel, under the clerk's desk; but, the circumstance of the alteration in the church not having of late years been attended to, the clerk, sexton, and other officers of the parish have misguided inquirers by showing the spot under the clerk's desk

in its present position

as the place of Milton's interment.

The parish officers, digging then where the pulpit formerly stood, discovered the coffin, but disturbed not the remains; but this was afterwards done by other parties who heard of the discovery. Mr. Fairholt adds, In my drawing I have represented the sexton pointing out the spot to a lady and gentleman-a thing not done at present.


[n.107.1] Defensio pro Populo Anglicano.

[n.108.1] Howell's Letters.

[n.109.1] Secret History of the Calves' Head Club. Harleian Miscellany.