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more quietly, gave up his large establishment in Barbican, and retired to a small house in High Holborn, near which I long resided. It may not be amiss here to repeat an observation which I made at the beginning of this work :-“ A view of literature,” I said, “ apart from the history of nations, would produce a prodigious fallacy: to hear the successive poets calmly singing their loves and their sheep, you would figure to yourself the uninterrupted existence of the golden age on the earth...... In
In every nation, even at the moment of the direst catastrophes and of the greatest events, there will always be a priest who prays, a poet who sings,” &c.
We see Milton marry, engage in the study of languages, instruct boys, publish compositions in prose and verse, as if England were enjoying the most profound peace ; and yet civil war was kindled, a thousand parties were tearing one another in pieces, and people walked amidst blood and ruins.
In 1644 the battles of Marstonmoor and Newbury were fought; and the head of the aged Archbishop Laud fell beneath the axe of the executioner. The years 1645 and 1646 beheld the battle of Naseby, the taking of Bristol, the defeat of Montrose, and the retreat of Charles I. to the Scotch army, who delivered up their sove
reign to the English for the sum of four hundred thousand pounds.
The years 1647, 1648, and 1649, were still more tragic. They comprise within their fatal period the rising of the army, the seizure of the King by Joyce, the oppression of the Parliament by the soldiery, the second civil war, the escape of the King, his second apprehension, the violent sifting of the Parliament, the trial and death of Charles I.
Let the reader refer to these dates, and place under the successively the works of Milton which I am about to treat of.
Milton was probably present as a spectator at the decapitation of his sovereign; he returned home perhaps to write some verses, or to arrange for boys a paragraph of his Latin grammar : “ Genders are three ; masculine, feminine, and neuter.” The fate of empires and of men is of no more account than this in the movement by which societies are carried along.
In France, too, there were, in 1793, poets who sang of Thyrsis, one of the characters of the Masque, and who were no Miltons; people went to plays, the dramatis personæ of which were honest country folk; shepherds trod the stage, while tragedy ran about the streets.
We know that the Terrorists were remarkably mild in their manners : these gentle swains were particularly fond of little children. Fouquier Tinville and his man Sampson, who smelt of blood, amused themselves at night in the theatre, and wept at the delineation of innocent country life.
No sooner was Charles I. executed, than the Presbyterians raised the outcry of murder, and of the inviolability of the royal person; though these Girondins of England had powerfully contributed to the catastrophe, they did not at least vote, like the French Girondins, for the death of the prince whose fate they deplored. To answer their clamour, Milton wrote his * Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.” He had no difficulty to demonstrate that those who were loudest in their lamentations for the fate of Charles were the very people who had brought him to the scaffold. It is the case in all revolutions, that the different parties try to stop at certain limits at which they have fixed right and justice; but those who follow push them down and pass those marks, as, in a charge of cavalry, the last squadron tramples down the first, if it happens to stop.
Milton strives to prove that, in all ages and under all forms of government, it was legal to try a bad king, and to depose him or sentence him to death. “ What can be more just and legal, if a subject, for certain crimes, be to forfeit by law from himself and posterity all his inheritance to the king, than that a king, for crimes proportional, should forfeit all his title and inheritance to the people ? unless the people must be thought created all for him, he not for them, and they all in one body inferior to him single; which were a kind of treason against the dignity of mankind to affirm.
“ To say that kings are accountable to none but God is the overturning of all law and government. For, if they may refuse to give account, then all covenants made with them at coronation, all oaths are in vain and mere mockeries; all laws which they swear to keep made to no purpose.
In these doctrines Milton went no further than Mariana, and he supported them by texts of Scripture : the English revolution, in this point the very reverse of ours, was essentially religious.
MILTON, LATIN SECRETARY TO THE COUNCIL
OF STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH.
THE political writings of Milton at length recommended him to the notice of the heads of the government; he was called to office, and appointed Latin secretary to the council of state of the Commonwealth : when the latter was transformed into a Protectorate, Milton naturally becaine secretary for the same language to the Protector. No sooner had he entered upon his new functions, than he was ordered to answer the “Eikon Basilike,” published in London after Charles's death, as the will of Louis XVI. was circulated in Paris after the death of the martyr king A French translation of the “ Eikon" appeared with this title: Pourtraict de sa sacrée Majesté durant sa Solitude et ses Souffrances.
Milton wittily entitled his answer to this Pourtraict,“ Eiconoclastes,” the Image-breaker. Whilst