Birthplace: London, England
Location of death: Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, England
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, St. Giles Cripplegate Churchyard, London
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: Paradise Lost
John Milton, the English poet, was born in Bread Street, Cheapside, London, on the 9th of December 1608. His father, Mr. John Milton, was a scrivener as well as a composer of some renown, having contributed a madrigal to Thomas Morley's Triumph of Oriana (1601), four motets to Sir William Leighton's Tears and Lamentations of a Sorrowful Soul (1614), and some hymn tunes in Thomas Ravenscroft's Whole Book of Psalms (1621) -- one of which, "Yor", is still in common use. Again and again Milton speaks with gratitude and affection of the ungrudging pains bestowed by his father on his early education. When Milton was ten years of age his tutor was Thomas Young (1587–1655), a Scottish divine, who afterwards became master of Jesus College, Cambridge. Young's tutorship lasted until 1622, when he accepted the pastorship of the congregation of English merchants in Hamburg. Already, however, for a year or two his teaching had been only supplementary to the education which the boy was receiving by daily attendance at St. Paul's public school, close to Bread Street.
Milton was then hardly sixteen years old, yet was as scholarly, as accomplished and as handsome a youth as St. Paul's school had sent forth. In April 1625, Milton matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge. The master of Christ's was Dr. Thomas Bainbrigge; and among the thirteen fellows were Joseph Meade, still remembered as a commentator on the Apocalypse, and William Chappell, afterwards an Irish bishop. It was under Chappell's tutorship that Milton was placed when he first entered the college.
Milton's academic course lasted seven years and five months. The first four years were his time of undergraduateship. It was in the second of these -- the year 1626 -- that there occurred the quarrel between him and his tutor, Chappell, which in his biography Samuel Johnson, making the most of a lax tradition from Aubrey, magnified into the supposition that Milton may have been one of the last students in either of the English universities that suffered the indignity of corporal punishment. The legend deserves no credit, but it is certain that Milton, on account of some disagreement with Chappell, left college for a time, though he did not lose his term; and that when he did return, he was transferred from the tutorship of Chappell to that of Nathaniel Tovey. From the first of the Latin elegies one infers that the cause of the quarrel was some outbreak of self-assertion on Milton's part. We learn indeed, from words of his own elsewhere, that it was not only Chappell and Bainbrigge that he had offended by his independent demeanor, but that, for the first two or three years of his undergraduateship, he was generally unpopular, for the same reason, among the younger men of his college. They had nicknamed him "the Lady" -- a nickname which the students of the other colleges took up, converting it into "the Lady of Christ's"; and, though the allusion was chiefly to the peculiar grace of his personal appearance, it conveyed also a sneer at what the rougher men thought his unusual prudishness, the haughty fastidiousness of his tastes and morals. A change in this state of things had certainly occurred before January 1629, when, at the age of twenty, Milton took his B.A. degree. By that time his intellectual pre-eminence had come to be acknowledged. His reputation for scholarship and literary genius, extraordinary even then, was more than confirmed during the remaining years of his residence in Cambridge. In July 1632, Milton completed his career at the university by taking his M.A. degree. Tradition still points out Milton's rooms at Christ's College. They are on the first floor on the first stair on the north side of the great court.
Just before Milton quitted Cambridge, his father, then verging on his seventieth year, had practically retired from his Bread Street business, leaving the active management of it to a partner, and had gone to spend his declining years at Horton in Buckinghamshire, a small village near Colnbrook, and not far from Windsor. Here, in a house close to Horton church, Milton mainly resided for the next six years, from July 1632 to April 1638.
Although when Milton had gone to Cambridge, it had been with the intention of becoming a clergyman, that intention had long been abandoned. His reasons were that "tyranny had invaded the church", and that, finding he could not honestly subscribe the oaths and obligations required, he "thought it better to preserve a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking, begun with servitude and forswearing." In other words, he was disgusted with the system which Laud was establishing and maintaining in the Church of England. "Church -- outed by the prelates", as he emphatically expresses it, he seems to have thought for a time of the law, but he decided that the only life possible for himself was one dedicated wholly to scholarship and literature. There were gentle remonstrances also from his excellent father, against this persistence in a life of mere dream and study. Yet father and son were easily reconciled, as demonstrated in Milton's Latin poem Ad patrem (1632), and the younger Milton had soon become the master of his father's means and the chief person in the Horton household. For the six years from 1632 this, accordingly, was Milton's position. In perfect leisure, and in a pleasant rural retirement, with Windsor at the distance of an easy walk, and London only about 17 miles off, he went through a systematic course of reading in the Greek and Latin classics, varied by mathematics, music, and cosmography.
Milton's very first public appearance in the world of English authorship was in the second folio edition of Shakespeare in 1632. His enthusiastic eulogy on Shakespeare, written in 1630, was one of three anonymous pieces prefixed to that second folio. Among the poems written by Milton at Horton was Comus (1634), the largest and most important of all Milton's minor poems, originally comissioned by John Earl of Bridgewater on the event of his appointment as president of the council of Wales. The year 1637 was marked by the death of Milton's mother on 3 April. Milton himself spent the following summer and fall in London, mostly to escape the plague which was ravaging the Horton neighborhood that year. In November 1637, he wrote his matchless pastoral monody Lycidas, his contribution to a collection of obituary verses inscribed to the memory of Edward King, a friend of his from his boyhood.
Milton was then on the wing for a foreign tour. Before the end of April 1638 Milton was on his way across the channel, taking one English man-servant with him. Through Paris he moved on rapidly to Italy, by way of Nice. After visiting Genoa, Leghorn and Pisa, he arrived at Florence, in August 1638. Enchanted by the city and its society, he remained there two months, frequenting the chief academies or literary clubs, and even taking part in their proceedings. Among the Florentines with whom he became intimate were Jacopo Gaddi, founder of an academy called the Svogliati, young Carlo Dati, author of Vite de' pittori antichi, Pietro Frescobaldi, Agostino Coltellini, the founder of the Academy of the Apatisti, the grammarian Benedetto Buommattei, Valerio Chimentelli, afterwards professor of Greek at Pisa, Antonio Francini and Antonio Malatesti. It was in the neighborhood of Florence also that he "found and visited" the great Galileo, then old and blind, and still nominally a prisoner to the Inquisition for his astronomical heresy.
By way of Florence and Siena, he reached Rome sometime in October, and spent about another two months there, not only going about among the ruins and antiquities and visiting the galleries, but mixing also, as he had done in Florence, with the learned society of the academies. Among those with whom he formed acquaintance in Rome were the German scholar, Lucas Holstenius, librarian of the Vatican, and three native Italian scholars, named Alessandro Cherubini, Giovanni Salzilli and a certain Selvaggi. There is record of his having dined once, in company with several other Englishmen, at the hospitable table of the English Jesuit College. The most picturesque incident, however, of his stay in Rome was his presence at a great musical entertainment in the palace of Cardinal Francesco Barberini. Here he had not only the honor of a specially kind reception by the cardinal himself, but also, it would appear, the supreme pleasure of listening to the marvellous Leonora Baroni, the most renowned singer of her age.
Late in November he left Rome for Naples, but he had hardly been there a month when there came news from England of a civil war. In December 1638, therefore, he set his face northwards. His return journey, however, probably because he learned that the news he had first received was exaggerated or premature, was broken into stages. He spent a second January and February (1639) in Rome, in some danger, he says, from the papal police, because the English Jesuits in Rome had taken offense at his habit of free speech, wherever he went, on the subject of religion. From Rome he went to Florence, his second visit to the city, including an excursion to Lucca, extending over two months; and not until April 1639 did he take his leave, proceeding to Venice. About a month was given to Venice; and thence, having shipped for England the books he had collected in Italy, he went on, by Verona and Milan, over the Alps, to Geneva. In this Protestant city he spent a week or two in June, forming interesting acquaintanceships there too, and having daily conversations with the great Protestant theologian Dr. Jean Diodati, the uncle of his friend Charles Diodati. From Geneva he returned to Paris, and so to England. He was home again in August 1639, having been absent in all fifteen or sixteen months.
Milton's Continental tour, and especially the Italian portion of it, which he describes at some length in his Defensio secunda, remained one of the chief pleasures of his memory through all his subsequent life. Nor was it without fruits of a literary kind. Besides two of his Latin Epistolae familiares, one to the Florentine grammarian Buommattei, and the other to Lucas Holstenius, there were his three Latin epigrams Ad Leonoram Romae canentem, his Latin scazons Ad Salsillum poet am romanum aegrotantem, his fine Latin hexameters entitled Mansus, addressed to Giovanni Battista Manso, and his five Italian sonnets, with a canzone, in praise of a Bolognese lady.
His bosom friend and companion from boyhood, Charles Diodati, died in Blackfriars, London, in August 1638, not four months after Milton had gone away on his tour. The intelligence did not reach Milton until some months afterwards, probably not until his second stay in Florence; and, though he must have learned some of the particulars from his friend's uncle in Geneva, he did not know them fully until his return to England. How profoundly they affected him appears from his Epitaphium Damonis, then written in memory of his dead friend. The importance of this poem in Milton's biography cannot be overrated. It is perhaps the noblest of all his Latin poems; and, though written in the artificial manner of a pastoral, it is unmistakably an outburst of the most passionate personal grief. In this respect Lycidas, artistically perfect though that poem is, cannot be compared with it; and it is only the fact that Lycidas is in English, while the Epitaphium Damonis is in Latin, that has led to the notion that Edward King of Christ's College was peculiarly and pre-eminently the friend of Milton in his youth and early manhood.
Not long after Milton's return the house at Horton ceased to be the family home. His brother Christopher Milton and his wife went to reside at Reading, taking the old gentleman with them, while Milton himself preferred London. He had first taken lodgings in St. Bride's Churchyard, but soon moved into a "pretty garden house" of his own in Aldersgate Street. His sisterarranged that her two sons by her first husband should go to live with their uncle and be educated by him. Gradually a few other boys, the sons of well-to-do personal friends, joined the two Phillipses, whether as boarders or for daily lessons, so that the house in Aldersgate Street became a small private school.
Having briefly considered writing an epic based on the Arthurian legend, his mind was roving among many other subjects, and balancing their capabilities. How he wavered between Biblical subjects and heroic subjects from British history, and how many of each kind suggested themselves to him, one learns from a list in his own handwriting among the Milton manuscripts at Cambridge. It contains jottings of no fewer than fifty-three subjects from the Old Testament, eight from the Gospels, thirty-three from British and English history before the Conquest, and five from Scottish history. It is curious that all or most of them are headed or described as subjects for "tragedies", as if the epic form had now been abandoned for the dramatic. There are four separate drafts of a possible tragedy on the Greek model under the title of Paradise Lost, two of them merely enumerating the dramatis personae, but the last two indicating the plot and the division into acts. But the fulfilment of these plans was indefinitely postponed. Milton became absorbed in the ecclesiastical controversies following on the king's attempt to force the episcopal system on the Scots.
Of the first proceedings of the Long Parliament, including the trial and execution of Strafford, the impeachment and imprisonment of Laud and others, and the breakdown of the system of Thorough by miscellaneous reforms and by guarantees for parliamentary liberty, Milton was only a spectator. It was when the church question emerged distinctly as the paramount issue, and there had arisen divisions on that question among those who had been practically unanimous in matters of civil reform, that he plunged in as an active adviser. There were three parties on the church question. There was a high-church party, contending for episcopacy by divine right, and for the maintenance of English episcopacy very much as it was; there was a middle party, defending episcopacy on grounds of usage and expediency, but desiring to see the powers of bishops greatly curtailed, and a limited episcopacy, with councils of presbyters round each bishop, substituted for the existing high episcopacy; and there was the root-and-branch party, as it called itself, desiring the entire abolition of episcopacy and the reconstruction of the English Church on something like the Scottish Presbyterian model. Since the opening of the parliament there had been a storm of pamphlets from these three parties. The manifesto of the high-church party was a pamphlet by Joseph Hall, bishop of Exeter, entitled "Humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament." In answer to Hall, and in representation of the views of the root-and-branch party, there had stepped forth, in March 1640-1641, five leading Puritan parish ministers, the initials of whose names, clubbed together on the title-page of their joint production, made the uncouth word "Smectymnuus." These were Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen and William Spurstow. Thomas Young was the Scottish divine who had been Milton's tutor in Bread Street; he had returned from Hamburg in 1628, and had been appointed to the vicarage of Stowmarket in Suffolk. What is more interesting is that his old pupil Milton was secretly in partnership with him and his brother-Smectymnuans. Milton's hand is discernible in a portion of the original Smectymnuan pamphlet; and he continued to aid the Smectymnuans in their subsequent rejoinders to Hall's defenses of himself. In May 1641 he put forth a defense of the Smectymnuan side in Of Reformation touching Church Discipline in England and the Causes that hitherto have hindered it. He reviewed English ecclesiastical history, with an appeal to his countrymen to resume that course of reformation which he considered to have been prematurely stopped in the preceding century, and to sweep away the last relics of papacy and prelacy. Among all the root-and-branch pamphlets of the time it stood out, and stands out still, as the most thorough-going and tremendous. It was followed by four others in rapid succession, the principal among which was The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty (1641). It is there that Milton takes his readers into his confidence, speaking at length of himself and his motives in becoming a controversialist. Poetry, he declares, was his real vocation; it was with reluctance that he had resolved to "leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes"; but duty had left him no option. The great poem or poems he had been meditating could wait; and meanwhile, though in prose-polemics he had the use only of his "left hand", that hand should be used with all its might in the cause of his country and of liberty.
The parliament had advanced in the root-and-branch direction so far as to have passed a bill for the exclusion of bishops from the House of Lords, and compelled the king's assent to that bill, when, in August 1642, the further struggle between Charles I and his subjects took the form of civil war. The Long Parliament moved on more and more rapidly in the root-and-branch direction, until, by midsummer 1643, the abolition of episcopacy had been decreed, and the question of the future non-prelatic constitution of the Church of England referred to a synod of divines, to meet at Westminster under parliamentary authority. In the summer of 1643, however, there was a great change in the Aldersgate Street household. About the end of May, Milton went away on a country journey, without saying whither or for what purpose; and, when he returned, about a month afterwards, it was with a young wife, and with some of her sisters and other relatives in her company. He had, in fact, been in the very headquarters of the king and the Royalist army in and round Oxford; and the bride he brought back with him was a Mary Powell, the eldest daughter of Richard Powell, of Forest Hill, near Oxford. She was the third of a family of eleven sons and daughters, of good standing, but in rather embarrassed circumstances, and was seventeen years and four months old, while Milton was in his thirty-fifth year. However the marriage came about, it was a most unfortunate event. The Powell family were strongly Royalist, and the girl herself seems to have been frivolous, and entirely unsuited for the studious life in Aldersgate Street. Hardly were the honeymoon festivities over, when, her sisters and other relatives having returned to Forest Hill and left her alone with her husband, she pined for home again and begged to be allowed to go back on a visit. Milton consented, on the understanding that the visit was to be a brief one. This seems to have been in July 1643. Soon, however, the intimation from Forest Hill was that he need not look ever to have his wife in his house again. The resolution seems to have been mainly the girl's own; but, as the king's cause was then prospering in the field, Edward Phillips was probably right in his conjecture that the whole of the Powell family had repented of their sudden connexion with so prominent a Parliamentarian and assailant of the Church of England as Milton. While his wife was away, his old father, who had been residing for three years with his younger and lawyer son at Reading, came to take up his quarters in Aldersgate Street.
Milton's conduct under the insult of his wife's desertion was most characteristic. Always fearless and speculative, he converted his own case into a public protest against the existing law and theory of marriage. The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Restored to the good of both Sexes from the Bondage of Canon Law and other Mistakes was the title of a pamphlet put forth by him in August 1643, without his name, but with no effort at concealment, declaring the notion of a sacramental sanctity in the marriage relation to be a clerically invented superstition, and arguing that inherent incompatibility of character, or contrariety of mind, between two married persons is a perfectly just reason for divorce. If the date, the 1st of August, is correct, the pamphlet must have been written almost immediately on his wife's departure and before her definite refusal to return. There was no reference to his own case, except by implication; but the boldness of the speculation roused attention and sent a shock through London. It was a time when the authors of heresies of this sort, or of any sort, ran considerable risks. The famous Westminster Assembly of Divines, called by the Long Parliament, met on 1 July 1643. Whether Milton's divorce tract was formally discussed in the Assembly during the first months of its sitting is unknown, but it is certain that the London clergy, including not a few members of the Assembly, were then angrily discussing it in private. That there might be no obstacle to a more public prosecution, Milton put his name to a second and much enlarged edition of the tract, in February 1644, dedicated openly to the parliament and the assembly. Then, for a month or two, during which the gossip about him and his monstrous doctrine was spreading more and more, he turned his attention to other subjects.
Among the questions in agitation in the general ferment of opinion brought about by the Civil War was that of a reform of the national system of education and especially of the universities. To this question Milton made a contribution in June 1644, in a small treatise, Of Education, in the form of a letter to Samuel Hartlib, a German then resident in London and interesting himself busily in all philanthropic projects and schemes of social reform. In the very next month, however, July 1644, he returned to the divorce subject in a pamphlet addressed specially to the clergy and entitled The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce. The outcry against him then reached its height. He was attacked in pamphlets; he was denounced in pulpits all through London, and especially by Herbert Palmer in a sermon preached on before the two Houses of Parliament; strenuous efforts were made to bring him within definite parliamentary censure. In the cabal formed against him for this purpose a leading part was played, at the instigation of the clergy, by the Stationers' Company of London, which had a plea of its own against him on the ground that his doctrine was not only immoral, but had been put forth in an illegal manner. His first divorce treatise, though published immediately after the "Printing Ordinance" of the parliament of the 14th of June 1643, requiring all publications to be licensed for press by one of the official censors, and to be registered in the books of the Stationers' Company, had been issued without license and without registration. Complaint to this effect was made against Milton, with some others liable to the same charge of contempt of the printing ordinance, in a petition of the Stationers of the House of Commons in August 1644; and the matter came before committee both in that House and in the Lords.
It is to this circumstance that the world owes the most popular and eloquent, if not the greatest, of all Milton's prose writings, his famous Areopagitica, a Speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, to the Parliament of England. It appeared on the 25th of November 1644, deliberately unlicensed and unregistered, and was a remonstrance addressed to the parliament, as if in an oration to them face to face, against their ordinance of June 1643 and the whole system of licensing and censorship of the press. Nobly eulogistic of the parliament in other respects, it denounced their printing ordinance as utterly unworthy of them, and of the new era of English liberties which they were initiating, and called for its repeal. Though that effect did not follow, the pamphlet virtually accomplished its purpose. The licensing system had received its death-blow; and, though the Stationers returned to the charge in another complaint to the House of Lords, Milton's offense against the press ordinance was condoned. He was still assailed in pamphlets, and found himself "in a world of disesteem"; but he lived on through the winter of 1645 undisturbed in his house in Aldersgate Street.
Through the latter part of 1644, Milton had been saved from the penalties which his Presbyterian opponents would have inflicted on him by the general championship of liberty of opinion by Cromwell and the army Independents. Before the middle of 1645 he, along with others who were on the black books of the Presbyterians as heretics, was safer still. Milton's position after the battle of Naseby may be easily understood. Though his first tendency on the Church question had been to some form of a Presbyterian constitution for the Church, he had parted utterly now from the Scots and Presbyterians, and become a partisan of Independency, having no dread of "sects and schisms", but regarding them rather as healthy signs in the English body-politic. He was, indeed, himself one of the most noted sectaries of the time, for in the lists of sects drawn out by contemporary Presbyterian writers special mention is made of one small sect who were known as Miltonists or Divorcers.
So far as Milton was concerned personally, his interest in the divorce speculation came to an end in July or August 1645, when, by friendly interference, a reconciliation was effected between him and his wife. The ruin of the king's cause at Naseby had suggested to the Powells that it might be as well for their daughter to go back to her husband after their two years of separation. It was not, however, in the house in Aldersgate Street that she rejoined him, but in a larger house, which he had taken in the adjacent street called Barbican, for the accommodation of an increasing number of pupils.
The house in Barbican was tenanted by Milton from about August 1645 to September or October 1647. Among his first occupations there must have been the revision of the proof sheets of the first edition of his collected poems. It appeared as a tiny volume, copies of which are now very rare, with the title, Poems of Mr John Milton, both English and Latin (1646). Whether because his pedagogic duties now engrossed him or for other reasons, very few new pieces were added in the Barbican to those that the little volume had thus made public. In English, there were only the four sonnets now numbered XI-XIV, the first two entitled "On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises", the third "To Mr. Henry Lawes on his Airs", and the fourth "To the Religious Memory of Mrs. Catherine Thomson", together with the powerful anti-Presbyterian invective or "tailed sonnet" entitled "On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament"; and in Latin there were only the ode Ad Joannem Rousium, the Apologus de Rustico et Hero, and one interesting "Familiar Epistle" (April 1647) addressed to his Florentine friend Carlo Dati.
Some family incidents of importance belong to this time of residence in Barbican. The fall of Oxford in 1646 compelled the whole of the Powell family to seek refuge in London, and most of them found shelter in Milton's house. His first child, a daughter named Anne, was born there on 29 July 1646; on 1 January 1647 his father-in-law Richard Powell died there, leaving his affairs in confusion; and in the following March his own father died there, at the age of eighty-four, and was buried in the adjacent church of St. Giles, Cripplegate.
From Barbican Milton removed, in September or October 1647, to a smaller house in that part of High Holborn which adjoins Lincoln's Inn Fields. His Powell relatives had now left him, and he had reduced the number of his pupils, or perhaps kept only his two nephews. But, though thus more at leisure, he did not yet resume his projected poem, but occupied himself rather with three works of scholarly labor which he had already for some time had on hand. One was the compilation in English of a complete history of England, or rather of Great Britain, from the earliest times; another was the preparation in Latin of a complete system of divinity, drawn directly from the Bible; and the third was the collection of materials for a new Latin dictionary. Milton had always a fondness for such labors of scholarship and compilation. Of a poetical kind there is nothing to record, during his residence in High Holborn, but an experiment in psalm-translation, in the shape of Ps. LXXX—LXXXVIII done into service meter in April 1648, and the sonnet to Fairfax, written in September of the same year.
The crushing defeat of the Scottish army by Cromwell in the three days' battle of Preston (1648) and the simultaneous suppression of the English Royalist insurrection in the south-east counties by Fairfax's siege and capture of Colchester, left King Charles at the mercy of the victors. Milton's sonnet "On the Lord General Fairfax, at the siege of Colchester", attested the exultation of the writer at the triumph of the parliamentary cause. His exultation continued through what followed. When the king was beheaded (1649) the first Englishman of note outside of parliament to attach himself openly to the new republic was John Milton. This he did by the publication of his pamphlet entitled Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, "proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so in all ages, for any who have the power, to call to account a Tyrant or wicked King, and, after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary Magistrate have neglected or denied to do it." It was out within a fortnight after the king's death, and was Milton's last performance in the house in High Holborn. The chiefs of the new republic could not but perceive the importance of securing the services of a distinguished man who had so opportunely and so powerfully spoken out in favor of their tremendous act. In March 1649, accordingly, Milton was offered, and accepted, the secretaryship for foreign tongues to the council of state of the new Commonwealth. To be near his new duties in attendance on the council, which held its daily sittings for the first few weeks in Derby House, close to Whitehall, but afterwards regularly in Whitehall itself, he removed at once to temporary lodgings at Charing Cross. In the very first meetings of council which Milton attended he must have made personal acquaintance with President Bradshaw, Fairfax, Cromwell himself, Sir Henry Vane, Whitelocke, Henry Marten, Haselrig, Sir Gilbert Pickering and the other chiefs of the council and the Commonwealth, if indeed he had not known some of them before. After a little while, for his greater convenience, official apartments were assigned him in Whitehall itself.
At the date of Milton's appointment to the secretaryship he was forty years of age. His special duty was the drafting in Latin of letters sent by the council of state, or sometimes by the Rump Parliament, to foreign states and princes, with the examination and translation of letters in reply, and with personal conferences, when necessary, with the agents of foreign powers in London, and with envoys and ambassadors. As Latin was the language employed in the written diplomatic documents, his post came to be known as the secretaryship for foreign tongues or the Latin secretaryship. In that post, however, his duties, more particularly at first, were very light in comparison with those of his official colleague, Walter Frost, the general secretary. Foreign powers held aloof from the English republic as much as they could; and, while Frost had to be present in every meeting of the council, keeping the minutes, and conducting all the general correspondence, Milton's presence was required only when some piece of foreign business turned up. Hence, from the first, his employment was in very miscellaneous work. The council looked to him for everything in the nature of literary vigilance and literary help in the interests of the struggling Commonwealth. He was employed in the examination of suspected papers, and in interviews with their authors and printers; and he executed several great literary commissions expressly entrusted to him by the council. The first of these was his pamphlet entitled Observations on the Articles of Peace (between Ormonde and the Irish). It was published in May 1649, and was in defense of the republic against a complication of Royalist intrigues and dangers in Ireland. A passage of remarkable interest in it is one of eloquent eulogy on Cromwell. More important still was the Eikonoklastes (which may be translated "Image-Smasher"), published by Milton in October 1649, by way of counterblast to the famous Eikon Basilike ("Royal Image"), which had been in circulation in thousands of copies since the king's death, and had become a kind of Bible in all Royalist households, on the supposition that it had been written by the royal martyr himself. In the end of 1649 there appeared abroad, under the title of Defensio regia pro Carolo I, a Latin vindication of the memory of Charles, with an attack on the English Common-wealth. As it had been written, at the instance of the exiled royal family, by Salmasius, or Claude de Saumaise, of Leiden, then of enormous celebrity over Europe as the greatest scholar of his age, it was regarded as a serious blow to the infant Commonwealth. Milton threw his whole strength into a reply through the year 1650, interrupting himself only by a new and enlarged edition of his Eikonoklastes. His Latin Pro populo anglicano defensio (1651), ran at once over the British Islands and the Continent, and was received by scholars as an annihilation of Salmasius. Through the rest of 1651 the observation was that the two agencies which had co-operated most visibly in raising the reputation of the Commonwealth abroad were Milton's books and Cromwell's battles.
Through the eventful year 1651, in addition to the other duties of his secretaryship, Milton acted as licenser and superintending editor of the Mercurius politicus, a newspaper issued twice a week, of which Marchamont Nedham was the working editor and proprietor. Milton's hand is discernable in some of the leading articles.
About the end of 1651 Milton left his official rooms in Whitehall for a "garden house" he had taken on the edge of St. James's Park in what was then called Petty France, Westminster, but is now York Street. The house, afterwards 19 York Street, was occupied by James Mill and William Hazlitt in succession, and was not pulled down until 1877. Milton had now more to do in the special work of his office, in consequence of the increase of correspondence with foreign powers. But he had for some time been in ailing health; and a dimness of eyesight which had been growing upon him gradually for ten years had been settling rapidly, since his labor over the answer to Salmasius, into total blindness. Before or about May 1652, when he was but in his forty-fourth year, his blindness became total, and he could go about only with some one to lead him. Hence a rearrangement of his secretarial duties. Such of these duties as he could perform at home, or by occasional visits to the Council Office near, he continued to perform; but much of the routine work was done for him by an assistant, a well-known German, George Rudolph Weckherlin, succeeded later by Philip Meadows and, eventually, by Andrew Marvell. Precisely to this time of a lull in Milton's secretaryship on account of his ill-health and blindness we have to refer his two great companion sonnets "To the Lord General Cromwell " and "To Sir Henry Vane the Younger."
In 1652 died his only son, who had been born at Whitehall in the March of the preceding year. His wife died in 1654, just after she had given birth to his third daughter, Deborah. With the three children thus left him -- Anne, but six years old, Mary, not four, and the infant Deborah -- the blind widower lived on in his house in Petty France in such desolation as can be imagined. He had recovered sufficiently to resume his secretarial duties; and the total number of his dictated state letters for the single year 1652 is equal to that of all the state letters of his preceding term of secretaryship put together. To the same year there belong also three of his Latin "Familiar Epistles." In December 1652 there was published Joannis Philippi Angli responsio ad apologiam anonymi cujusdam tenebrionis, being a reply by Milton's younger nephew, John Phillips, but touched up by Milton himself, to one of several pamphlets that had appeared against Milton for his slaughter of Salmasius. In December 1653 Cromwell's formal sovereignty began under the name of the Protectorate, passing gradually into more than kingship. This change from Government by the Rump and its council to government by a single military lord protector and his council was regarded by many as treason to the republican cause, and divided those who had hitherto been the united Commonwealth's men into the "Pure Republicans", represented by such men as Bradshaw and Vane, and the "Oliverians", adhering to the Protector. Milton, whose boundless admiration of Cromwell had shown itself already in his Irish tract of 1649 and in his recent sonnet, was recognized as one of the Oliverians. He remained in Oliver's service and was his Latin secretary through the whole of the Protectorate. For a while, indeed, his Latin letters to foreign states in Cromwell's name were but few -- Thurloe, as general secretary, officiated as Oliver's right-hand man in everything, with a Philip Meadows under him as deputy for the blind Milton in foreign correspondence and translations. The reason for this temporary exemption of Milton from routine duty may have been that he was then engaged on an answer to the pamphlet from the Hague entitled Regii sanguinis clamor ad coelum ad versus parricidas anglicanos (March 1652). Salmasius was now dead, and the Commonwealth was too stable to suffer from such attacks; but no Royalist pamphlet had appeared so able or so venomous as this in continuation of the Salmasian controversy. All the rather because it was in the main a libel on Milton himself did a reply from his pen seem necessary. It came out in May 1654, with the title Joannis Miltoni Angli pro populo anglicano defensio secunda (Second Defense of John Milton, Englishman, for the People of England). The author of Regii sanguinis clamor was Dr. Peter du Moulin the younger, a naturalized French Presbyterian minister, then moving about in English society, close to Milton; but, as that was a profound secret, and the work was universally attributed on the Continent to an Alexander More or Morris, a French minister of Scottish descent then a professor at Middelburg, who had certainly managed the printing in consultation with the now deceased Salmasius, and had contributed some portion of the matter -- Milton made More the responsible person and the one object of his invective. The savage attack on More's personal character, however, is but part of the Defensio secunda. It contains passages of singular autobiographical and historical value, and includes laudatory sketches of such eminent Commonwealth's men as Bradshaw, Fairfax, Fleetwood, Lambert and Overton, together with a long panegyric on Cromwell himself and his career, which remains to this day unapproached for elaboration and grandeur by any estimate of Cromwell from any later pen.
From about the date of the publication of the Defensio secunda to the beginning of 1655 the only specially literary relics of Milton's life are his translations of Ps. I-VIII in different metres, done in August 1654, his translation of Horace's Ode, i. 5, done probably about the same time, and two of his Latin "Familiar Epistles." The most active time of his secretaryship for Oliver was from April 1655 onwards. In that month, in the course of a general revision of official salaries under the Protectorate, Milton's salary was reduced by nearly a third with a kind of redefinition of his office, recognizing it, we may say, as a Latin secretaryship extraordinary. Philip Meadows was to continue to do all the ordinary Foreign Office work, under Thurloe's inspection; but Milton was to be called in on special occasions. Hardly was the arrangement made when a signal occasion did occur. In May 1655 all England was horrified by the news of the massacre of the Vaudois Protestants (Waldenses) by the troops of Emanuele II, duke of Savoy and prince of Piedmont, in consequence of their disobedience to an edict requiring them either to leave their native valleys or to conform to the Catholic religion. Cromwell and his council took the matter up with all their energy; and the burst of indignant letters on the subject despatched in that month and the next to the duke of Savoy himself, Louis XIV of France, Cardinal Mazarin, the Swiss cantons, the states-general of the United Provinces, and the kings of Sweden and Denmark, were all by Milton. His famous sonnet "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont" was his more private expression of feeling on the same occasion. This sonnet was in circulation, and the case of the Vaudois Protestants was still occupying Cromwell, when, in August 1655, there appeared the last of Milton's Latin pamphlets. It was his Pro se defensio in answer to an elaborate self-defense which More had put forth on the Continent since Milton's attack on his character. In that year also appeared Milton's Scriptum domini protectoris... contra hispanos.
Through the rest of Cromwell's Protectorate, Milton's life was of comparatively calm tenor. He was in much better health than usual, bearing his blindness with courage and cheerfulness; he was steadily busy with important dispatches to foreign powers on behalf of the Protector, then in the height of his great foreign policy; and his house in Petty France seems to have been, more than at any previous time since the beginning of his blindness, a meeting-place for friends and visitors and a scene of pleasant hospitalities. The four sonnets now numbered XIX-XXII, one of them to young Lawrence, the son of the president of Cromwell's council, and two of the others to Cyriack Skinner, once his pupil, belong to this time of domestic quiet, as do also no fewer than ten of his Latin "Familiar Epistles." His marriage to Katherine Woodcock on 12 November 1656 brought him a brief period of domestic happiness; but, after only fifteen months, he was again a widower, by her death in childbirth in February 1658. The child dying with her, only the three daughters by the first marriage remained. The touching sonnet which closes the series of Milton's Sonnets is his sacred tribute to the memory of his second marriage and to the virtues of the wife he had so soon lost. Even after that loss we find him still busy for Cromwell. Andrew Marvell, in September 1657 succeeded Meadows, much to Milton's satisfaction, as his assistant secretary; but this had by no means relieved him from duty. Some of his greatest dispatches for Cromwell, including letters, of the highest importance, to Louis XIV, Mazarin and Charles Gustavus of Sweden, belong to the year 1658.
There is, unfortunately, no direct record to show what Cromwell thought of Milton; but there is ample record of what Milton thought of Cromwell. "Our chief of men", he had called Cromwell in his sonnet of May 1652; and the opinion remained unchanged. He thought Cromwell the greatest and best man of his generation, or of many generations; and he regarded Cromwell's assumption of the supreme power, and his retention of that power with a sovereign title, as no real suppression of the republic, but as absolutely necessary for the preservation of the republic, and for the safeguard of the British Islands against a return of the Stuarts. Nevertheless, under this prodigious admiration of Cromwell, there were political doubts and reserves. Milton was so much of a modern radical of the extreme school in his own political views and sympathies that he cannot but have been vexed by the growing conservatism of Cromwell's policy through his Protectorate. To his grand panegyric on Oliver in the Defensio secunda of 1654 he had ventured to append cautions against self-will, over-legislation and over-policing; and he cannot have thought that Oliver had been immaculate in these respects through the four subsequent years. The attempt to revive an aristocracy and a House of Lords, on which Cromwell was latterly bent, cannot have been to Milton's taste. Above all, Milton dissented in Coto from Cromwell's church policy. It was Milton's fixed idea, almost his deepest idea, that there should be no such thing as an Established Church, or state-paid clergy, of any sort or denomination or mixture of denominations, in any nation, and that, as it had been the connection between church and state, begun by Constantine, that had vitiated Christianity in the world, and kept it vitiated, so Christianity would never flourish as it ought until there had been universal disestablishment and disendowment of the clergy, and the propagation of the gospel were left to the zeal of voluntary pastors, self-supported, or supported modestly by their flocks. He had at one time looked to Cromwell as the likeliest man to carry this great revolution in England. But Cromwell, after much meditation on the subject in 1652 and 1653, had come to the opposite conclusion. The conservation of the Established Church of England, in the form of a broad union of all evangelical denominations of Christians, whether Presbyterians, or Independents, or Baptists, or moderate Old Anglicans, that would accept state-pay with state-control, had been the fundamental notion of his Protectorate, persevered in to the end. This must have been Milton's deepest disappointment with Cromwell's rule.
Cromwell's death on 3 September 1658 left the Protectorship to his son Richard. Milton and Marvell continued in their posts, and a number of the Foreign Office letters of the new Protectorate were of Milton's composition. In October 1658 appeared a new edition of his Defensio prima; and, early in 1659, a new English pamphlet, entitled Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes showing that it is not lawful to compel in Matters of Religion, in which he advocated the separation of Church and State. To Richard's Protectorate also belongs one of Milton's Latin "Familiar Epistles."
The last of his known official performances in his Latin secretaryship are two letters in the name of William Lenthall, as the speaker of the restored Rump, one to the king of Sweden and one to the king of Denmark, both dated 15 May 1659. Under the restored Rump, if ever, he seemed to have a chance for his notion of church-disestablishment; and accordingly, in August 1659, he put forth, with a prefatory address to that body, a pamphlet entitled Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove Hirelings out of the Church. The restored Rump had no time to attend to such matters. They were in struggle for their own existence with the army chiefs; and to prevent the restoration of the monarchy, to argue against it and fight against it to the last, was the work to which Milton set himself; the preservation of the republic in any form, and by any compromise of differences within itself, had become his one thought, and the study of practical means to this end his most anxious occupation. In A Letter to a Friend concerning the Ruptures of the Common-wealth, written in October 1659, he had propounded a scheme of a kind of dual government for reconciling the army chiefs with the Rump; through the following winter, marked only by two of his Latin "Familiar Epistles", his anxiety over the signs of the growing enthusiasm throughout the country for the recall of Charles II had risen to a passionate vehemence which found vent in a pamphlet entitled The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof compared with the Inconveniences and Dangers of readmitting Kingship to this Nation. An abridgment of this pamphlet was addressed by him to General Monk in a letter entitled "The Present Means and Brief Delineation of a Free Commonwealth" (March 1660). Milton's proposal was that the central governing apparatus of the British Islands for the future should consist of one indissoluble grand council or parliament, which should include all the political chiefs, while there should be a large number of provincial councils or assemblies sitting in the great towns for the management of local and county affairs.
Not even when the king's cause was practically assured would Milton be silent. In Brief Notes upon a late Sermon, published in April 1660, in reply to a Royalist discourse by a Dr. Matthew Griffith, he made another protest against the recall of the Stuarts, even hinting that it would be better that Monk should become king himself; and in the same month he sent forth a second edition of his Ready and Easy Way, more frantically earnest than even the first, and containing additional passages of the most violent denunciation of the royal family, and of prophecy of the degradation and disaster they would bring back with them. This was the dying effort. On 25 April 1660 the Convention Parliament met; on the 1st of May they resolved unanimously that the government by King, Lords and Commons should be restored; and on the 29th of May, Charles II made his triumphal entry into London. The chief republicans had by that time scattered themselves, and Milton was hiding in an obscure part of the city.
How Milton escaped the scaffold at the Restoration is a mystery now, and was a mystery at the time. The Commons voted that he should be taken into custody by the serjeant-at-arms, for prosecution by the attorney-general on account of his Eikonoklastes and Defensio prima, and that all copies of those books should be called in and burnt by the hangman. There was a story that Milton had once protected Davenant and now owed his immunity to him; but it is more likely that he was protected by the influence of Marvell, by Arthur Annesley, afterwards earl of Anglesey, and by other friends who had influence at court. At all events, on 29 August 1660, when the Indemnity Bill did come out complete, with the king's assent, Milton did not appear as one of the exceptions on any ground or in any of the grades. From that moment, therefore, he could emerge from his hiding, and go about as a free man. Not that he was yet absolutely safe: there were several public burnings by the hangman at the same time of Milton's condemned pamphlets, and the appearance of the blind man himself in the streets, though he was legally free, would have caused him to be mobbed and assaulted. Though the special prosecution ordered against him by the Commons had been quashed by the subsequent Indemnity Bill, the serjeant-at-arms had taken him into custody. Entries in the Commons journals of the 17th and 19th of December show that Milton complained of the exorbitant fees charged by the serjeant-at-arms for his release, and thate matter was referred to a committee at the insistance of Andrew Marvell.
Milton did not return to Petty France. For the first months after he was free he lived as closely as possible in a house near what is now Red Lion Square, Holborn. Thence he removed, apparently early in 1661, to a house in Jewin Street, in his old Aldersgate Street and Barbican neighborhood. In Jewin Street Milton remained for two or three years, or from 1661 to 1664. This is the time of which he writes: "More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchanged / To hoarse or mute, though fallen on evil days, / On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues, / In darkness, and with dangers compassed round, / And solitude." The "evil days" were those of the Restoration in its first or Clarendonian stage, with its revenges and reactions, its return to high Episcopacy and suppression of every form of dissent and sectarianism, its new and shameless royal court, its open proclamation and practice of anti-Puritanism in morals and in literature no less than in politics. For the main part of this world of the Restoration Milton was now nothing more than an infamous outcast, the detestable blind republican and regicide who had, by too great clemency, been left unhanged. The friends that adhered to him still, and came to see him in Jewin Street, were few in number, and chiefly from the ranks of those nonconforming denominations, Independents, Baptists or Quakers, who were themselves under similar obloquy. Besides his two nephews, the faithful Andrew Marvell, Cyriack Skinner and some others of his former admirers, English or foreign, we hear chiefly of a Dr. Nathan Paget, who was a physician in the Jewin Street neighborhood, and of several young men who would drop in upon him by turns, partly to act as his amanuenses, and partly for the benefit of lessons from him, one of them a Quaker youth, named Thomas Ellwood. With all this genuine attachment to him of a select few, Milton could truly enough describe his condition after the Restoration as one of "solitude." Nor was this the worst. His three daughters, on whom he ought now to have been able principally to depend, were his most serious domestic trouble. The poor motherless girls, the eldest in her seventeenth year in 1662, the second in her fifteenth and the youngest in her eleventh, had grown up, in their father's blindness and too great self-absorption, ill-looked-after and but poorly educated; and the result now appeared. They "made nothing of neglecting him"; they rebelled against the drudgery of reading to him or otherwise attending on him; they "did combine together and counsel his maid-servant to cheat him in her marketings"; they actually "had made away some of his books, and would have sold the rest."
It was to remedy this state of things that Milton consented to a third marriage. The wife found for him was Elizabeth Minshull, of a good Cheshire family, and a relative of Dr. Paget. They were married on 24 February 1663, the wife being then only in her twenty-fifth year, while Milton was in his fifty-fifth. She proved an excellent wife; and the Jewin Street household, though the daughters remained in it, must have been under better management from the time of her entry into it. Meanwhile, he had found some solace in renewed industry of various kinds among his books and tasks of scholarship, and more particularly he had been building up his Paradise Lost. He had begun the poem in earnest, we are told, in 1658 at his house in Petty France, not in the dramatic form contemplated eighteen years before, but deliberately in the epic form. He had made but little way when there came the interruption of the anarchy preceding the Restoration and of the Restoration itself; but the work had been resumed in Jewin Street and prosecuted there steadily, by dictations of twenty or thirty lines at a time to whatever friendly or hired amanuensis chanced to be at hand. Considerable progress had been made in this way before his third marriage; and after that the work proceeded apace, his nephew, Edward Phillips, who was then out in the world on his own account, looking in when he could to revise the growing manuscript.
It was not in the house in Jewin Street, however, that Paradise Lost was finished. Not very long after the third marriage, probably in 1664, he removed to another house, with a garden, in "Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields." Here Paradise Lost was certainly finished before July 1665 -- Aubrey says in 1663 -- for when Milton and his family, to avoid the Great Plague of London, went into temporary country-quarters in a cottage in Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, the finished manuscript was taken with him, in probably more than one copy. This we learn from Thomas Ellwood, who had taken the cottage for him, and was allowed to take a copy of the manuscript away with him for perusal, during Milton's stay at Chalfont (Life of Thomas Ellwood, 1714). The delay in the publication of the poem may be explained partly by the fact that the official licenser hesitated before granting the necessary imprimatur to a book by a man of such notorious republican antecedents, and partly by the paralysis of all business in London by the Great Fire of September 1666. It was not until 27 April 1667 that Milton concluded an agreement, still preserved in the British Museum, with Samuel Simmons, printer, of Aldersgate Street, London, to dispose of the copyright for £5 down, the promise of another £5 after the sale of the first edition of 1300 copies, and the further promise of two additional sums of £5 each after the sale of two more editions of the same size respectively. The poem was duly entered by Simmons as ready for publication in the Stationers' Registers on the l0th of the following August; and shortly after that date it was out in London as a neatly printed small quarto, with the title Paradise Lost: A Poem written in Ten Books: By John Milton. The reception accorded to Paradise Lost has been quoted as an example of the neglect of a great work, but the sale of an edition of 1300 copies in eighteen months proves that the poem found a wide circle of readers. "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too" is the saying attributed to Dryden on the occasion; and it is the more remarkable because the one objection to the poem which at first, we are told, "stumbled many" must have "stumbled" Dryden most of all. Except in the drama, rhyme was then thought essential in anything professing to be a poem; blank verse was hardly regarded as verse at all; Dryden especially had been and was the champion of rhyme, contending for it even in the drama. That, notwithstanding this obvious blow struck by the poet at Dryden's pet literary theory, he should have welcomed the poem so enthusiastically and proclaimed its merits so emphatically, says much at once for his critical perception and for the generosity of his temper. According to Aubrey, Dryden requested Milton's leave to turn the poem into a rhymed drama, and was told he might "tag his verses if he pleased." The result is seen in Dryden's opera, The State of Innocence and the Fall of Man (1675). One consequence of Milton's renewed celebrity was that visitors of all ranks again sought him out for the honor of his society and conversation. His obscure house in Artillery Walk, Bunhill, we are told, became an attraction now, "much more than he did desire", for the learned notables of his time.
Accounts have come down to us of Milton's personal appearance and habits in his later life. They describe him as to be seen every other day led about in the streets in the vicinity of his Bunhill residence, a slender figure, of middle stature or a little less, generally dressed in a grey cloak or overcoat, and wearing sometimes a small silver-hilted sword, evidently in feeble health, but still looking younger than he was, with his lightish hair, and his fair, rather than aged or pale, complexion. He would sit in his garden at the door of his house, in warm weather, in the same kind of grey overcoat, "and so, as well as in his room, received the visits of people of distinguished parts, as well as quality." Within doors he was usually dressed in neat black. He was a very early riser, and very regular in the distribution of his day, spending the first part, to his midday dinner, always in his own room, amid his books, with an amanuensis to read for him and write to his dictation. Music was always a chief part of his afternoon and evening relaxation, whether when he was by himself or when friends were with him. His manner with friends and visitors was extremely courteous and affable, with just a shade of stateliness. In free conversation, either at the midday dinner, when a friend or two happened, by rare accident, to be present, or more habitually in the evening and at the light supper which concluded it, he was the life and soul of the company, from his "flow of subject" and his "unaffected cheerfulness and civility", though with a marked tendency to the satirical and sarcastic in his criticisms of men and things. This tendency to the sarcastic was connected by some of those who observed it with a peculiarity of his voice or pronunciation. "He pronounced the letter r very hard", Aubrey tells us, adding Dryden's note on the subject: "litera canina, the dog-letter, a certain sign of a satirical wit." He was extremely temperate in the use of wine or any strong liquors, at meals and at all other times; and when supper was over, about nine o'clock, "he smoked his pipe and drank a glass of water, and went to bed." He suffered much from gout, the effects of which had become apparent in a stiffening of his hands and finger-joints, and the recurring attacks of which in its acute form were very painful. His favorite poets among the Greeks were Homer and the Tragedians, especially Euripides; among the Latins, Virgil and Ovid; among the English, Spenser and Shakespeare. Among his English contemporaries, he thought most highly of Cowley. He had ceased to attend any church, belonged to no religious communion, and had no religious observances in his family. His reasons for this were a matter for curious surmise among his friends, because of the profoundly religious character of his own mind; but he does not seem ever to have furnished the explanation. The matter became of less interest perhaps after 1669, when his three daughters ceased to reside with him, having been sent out "to learn some curious and ingenious sorts of manufacture that are proper for women to learn, particularly embroideries in gold or silver." After that the household in Bunhill consisted only of Milton, his wife, a single maid-servant, and the amanuensis who came in for the day.
The remaining years of Milton's life, extending through that part of the reign of Charles II which figures in English history under the name of the "Cabal Administration", were by no means unproductive. In 1669 he published, under the title of Accedence Commenced Grammar, a small English compendium of Latin grammar that had been lying among his papers. In 1670 there appeared, with a prefixed portrait of him by Faithorne, done from life, his History of Britain... to the Norman Conquest, being all that he had been able to accomplish of his intended complete history of England; and in the same year a Latin digest of Ramist logic, entitled Artis logicae plenior institutio, of no great value, and doubtless from an old manuscript of his earlier days. In 1671 there followed his Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, bound together in one small volume, and giving ample proof that his poetic genius had not exhausted itself in the preceding great epic. In 1673, at a moment when the growing political discontent with the government of Charles II and the conduct of his court had burst forth in the special form of a "No-Popery" agitation and outcry, Milton ventured on the dangerous experiment of one more political pamphlet, in which, under the title "Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and what best means may be used against the growth of Popery", he put forth, with a view to popular acceptance, as mild a version as possible of his former principles on the topics discussed. In the same year appeared the second edition of his Poems... both English and Latin, which included, with the exception of the Sonnets to Cromwell, Fairfax, Vane and the second address to Cyriack Skinner, all the minor poems.
##48## Thus we reach the year 1674, the last of Milton's life. One incident of that year was the publication of the second edition of Paradise Lost, with the poem rearranged as now—into twelve books, instead of the original ten. Another was the publication of a small volume containing his Latin Epistolae familiares, together with the Prolusiones oratoriae of his student-days at Cambridge—these last thrown in as a substitute for his Latin state-letters in his secretaryship for the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, the printing of which was stopped by order from the Foreign Office. A third publication of the same year, and probably the very last thing dictated by Milton, was a translation of a Latin document from Poland, relating to the recent election of the heroic John Sobieski to the throne of that kingdom, with the title A Declaration or Letters Patents of the Election of this present King of Poland, John the Third. It seems to have been out in London in August or September 1674. On Sunday the 8th of the following November Milton died, in his house in Bunhill, of "gout struck in", at the age of sixty-five years and eleven months. He was buried, the next Thursday, in the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, beside his father; a considerable concourse attending the funeral.
Before the Restoration, Milton -- what with his inheritance from his father, what with the official income of his Latin secretaryship -- must have been a man of very good means indeed. Since then, however, various heavy losses, and the cessation of all official income, had greatly reduced his estate. By a word-of-mouth will, made in presence of his brother Christopher, he had bequeathed the whole to his widow, on the ground that he had done enough already for his "undutiful" daughters, and that there remained for them his interest in their mother's dowry, which had never been paid, but which their relatives, the Powells of Forest Hill, were legally bound for, and were now in circumstances to make good. The daughters, with the Powells probably abetting them, went to law with the widow to upset the will. The widow, after some further stay in London, retired to Nantwich in her native Cheshire. There, respected as a pious member of a local Baptist congregation, she lived until 1727, having survived her husband fifty-three years. By that time all the three daughters were also dead. The eldest, Ann Milton, who was somewhat deformed, had died not long after her father, having married "a master-builder", but left no issue; the second, Mary Milton, had died, unmarried, before 1694; and only the third, Deborah, survived as long as her step-mother. Having gone to Ireland, as companion to a lady, shortly before her father's death, she had married an Abraham Clarke, a silk-weaver in Dublin, with whom she returned to London about 1684, when they settled in the silk-weaving business in Spitalfields, rather sinking than rising in the world, though latterly some public attention was paid to Deborah, by Addison and others, on her father's account. One of her sons, Caleb Clarke, had gone out to Madras in 1703, and had died there as "parish-clerk of Fort George" in 1719, leaving children, of whom there are some faint traces to as late as 1727, the year of Deborah's death. Except for the possibility of further and untraced descent from this Indian grandson of Milton, the direct descent from him came to an end in his grand-daughter, Elizabeth Clarke, another of Deborah's children. Having married a Thomas Foster, a Spitalfields weaver, but afterwards set up a small chandler's shop, first in Holloway and then in Shoreditch, she died at Islington in 1754, not long after she and her husband had received the proceeds of a performance of Comus got up by Dr. Johnson for her benefit. All her children had predeceased her, leaving no issue. Milton's brother Christopher, who had always been on the opposite side in politics, rose to the questionable honor of a judgeship and knighthood in the latter part of the reign of James II. He had then become a Roman Catholic, which religion he professed until his death in retirement at Ipswich in 1692. Descendants from him are traceable a good way into the 18th century. Milton's two nephews and pupils, Edward and John Phillips, both of them known as busy and clever hack-authors before their uncle's death, continued the career of hack-authorship, most industriously and variously, though not very prosperously, through the rest of their lives: Edward in a more reputable manner than John, and with more of enduring allegiance to the memory of his uncle. Edward died about 1695; John lived until 1706. Their half-sister, Ann Agar, the only daughter of Milton's sister by her second husband, had married, in 1673, a David Moore, of Sayes House, Chertsey; and the most flourishing of all the lines of descent from the poet's father was in this Agar-Moore branch of the Miltons.
Of masses of manuscript that had been left by Milton, some portions saw the light posthumously. Prevented, in the last year of his life from publishing his Latin State Letters in the same volume with his Latin Familiar Epistles, he had committed the charge of the State Letters, prepared for the press, together with the completed manuscript of his Latin Treatise of Christian Doctrines, to a young Cambridge scholar, Daniel Skinner, who had been among the last of his amanuenses, and had, in fact, been employed by him especially in copying out and arranging those two important manuscripts. Negotiations were on foot, after Milton's death, between this Daniel Skinner and the Amsterdam printer, Daniel Elzevir, for the publication of both manuscripts, when the English government interfered, and the manuscripts were sent back by Elzevir, and thrown aside, as dangerous rubbish, in a cupboard in the State Paper Office. Meanwhile, in 1676, a London bookseller, named Pitt, who had somehow got into his possession a less perfect, but still tolerably complete, copy of the State Letters, had brought out a surreptitious edition of them, under the title Literae pseudo-senatus anglicani, Cromwellii... nomine et jussu conscriptae a Joanne Miltono. No other posthumous publications of Milton's appeared until 1681, when another bookseller put forth a slight tract entitled Mr John Milton's Character of the Long Parliament and Assembly of Divines, in 1641, consisting of a page or two of rather dubious authenticity, said to have been withheld from his History of Britain in the edition of 1670. In 1682 appeared A Brief History of Moscovia, and of other less-known Countries lying Eastward of Russia as far as Cathay undoubtedly Milton's, and a specimen of those prose compilations with which he sometimes occupied his leisure. Of the fate of his collections for a new Latin Dictionary, which had swelled to three folio volumes of manuscript, all that is known is that, after having been used by Edward Phillips for his Enchiridion and Speculum, they came into the hands of a committee of Cambridge scholars, and were used for that Latin dictionary of 1693, called The Cambridge Dictionary, on which Ainsworth's Dictionary was based. In 1698 there was published in three folio volumes, under the editorship of John Toland, the first collective edition of Milton's prose works, professing to have been printed at Amsterdam, though really printed in London. A very interesting folio volume, published in 1743 by "John Nickolls, junior", under the title of Original Letters and Papers of State addressed to Oliver Cromwell, consists of a number of intimate Cromwellian documents that had somehow come into Milton's possession immediately after Cromwell's death, and were left by him confidentially to the Quaker Ellwood. Finally, a chance search in the London State Paper Office in 1823 having discovered the long-lost parcel containing the manuscripts of Milton's Latin State Letters and his Latin Treatise of Christian Doctrine, as these had been sent back from Amsterdam a hundred and fifty years before, the Treatise on Christian Doctrine was, by the command of George IV, edited and published in 1825 by the Rev. C. R. Sumner, keeper of the Royal Library, and afterwards bishop of Winchester, under the title of Joannis Miltoni Angli de doctrina christiana libri duo josthumi. An English translation, by the editor, was published in the same year. Those state papers of Milton which had not been already printed were edited by W. D. Hamilton for the Camden Society, in 1859.
Father: John Milton, Sr. (scrivener)
Mother: (d. 1637)
Sister: Anne (older)
Brother: Christopher (lawyer, younger)
Wife: Mary Powell (m. 1642, d. 1652)
Daughter: Anne (b. 1646)
Daughter: Mary (b. 1648)
Daughter: Deborah (b. 1652)
High School: St. Paul's School, London
University: BA, Christ's College, Cambridge University (1625-29)
University: MA, Christ's College, Cambridge University (1629-32)
Risk Factors: Gout
Author of books:
Of Reformation Touching Church Discipline in England (1641, tract)
The Reason of Church-Government Urg'd Against Prelaty (1642, tract)
Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643, tract)
Of Education (1644, pamphlet)
Areopagitica (1644, pamphlet)
The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649, tract)
A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes (1659, tract)
The Readie and Easie Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660, pamphlet)
Paradise Lost (1667, poetry)
The History of Britain (1670, history)
Paradise Regained (1671, poetry)
Samson Agonistes (1671, poetry)
A Brief History of Moscovia (1682, history)
Do you know something we don't?
Submit a correction or make a comment about this profile
Copyright ©2015 Soylent Communications