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Charles for restoration of Episcopacy among the Scots. It had ended in collapse on the King's side. Charles had advanced to the Scottish border with a reluctant English army ; but, met there by an army of the Scottish Covenanters, he had not risked a battle, but had agreed to terms, granting the Scots their Presbyterian Kirk, and substantially all else they asked (June 18, 1639). That war, therefore, had been begun and ended while Milton was still abroad. But Charles had again broken with the Scots, and resolved on their subjugation and chastisement. In his straits for money and means for that purpose he had even ventured, after eleven years of uninterrupted absolutism, to call another English Parliament. That Parliament, which met April 13, 1640, proved as stubbornly Puritan as its predecessors, and, instead of yielding supplies against the Scots, with whom it was in secret sympathy, fell on the question of English grievances. It was, therefore, dismissed, after little more than a fortnight (May 5), and is remembered as the Short Parliament. Milton, who had been observing all this, with the feelings of an English Puritan, then saw Charles plunge, nevertheless, with resources otherwise raised, into the Second Bishops' War. In August 1640 he was at York, with the Irish Viceroy Wentworth, now Earl of Strafford, in his company, on his way to Scotland, and with an English army between him and the doomed country.
But the Scots did not wait this time on their own side of the border. They invaded England, August 20; they beat a detachment of the English at Newburn, near Newcastle, August 28; they entered that town, August 29; and they spread themselves thence over the northern counties. With the Puritans of England all in sympathy with them, and welcoming their invasion rather than resenting it, they had thus, by one bold push and but small effort besides, utterly checked the King. His army disorganized and deserting, he summoned a Great Council of Peers to meet at York, September 24, and help him
in his negotiation with the Scots; but, some of the leading Peers themselves petitioning for a Parliament, and petitions to the same effect arriving from the city of London, he was obliged to yield. A preliminary treaty with the Scots, agreed upon by commissioners of the two nations, was signed by him at York, October 27 ; and thence he hastened to London, to open the new Parliament. It was to be known as the Long Parliament, the most famous Parliament in the annals of England. It met Nov. 3, 1640.
ALDERSGATE STREET, LONDON.
1640–1645: ætat. 32–37. The lodgings in St. Bride's Churchyard, Fleet Street, were but a temporary arrangement. Looking round," says Milton, “where best I could, in the midst of “affairs so disturbed and fluctuating, for a place to “ settle in, I hired a house in the city sufficiently large “ for myself and my books." His nephew Edward Phillips, who soon went to be a fellow-boarder in the new house with his younger brother John, describes it more particularly as a pretty garden-house in Aldersgate Street, at the end of an entry, and therefore the
fitter for his turn by reason of the privacy, besides that " there are few streets in London more free from noise " than that." Aldersgate Street is very different now, and not a vestige of Milton's house remains. It stood at the back of that part of the street, on the right hand as you go from St. Martin's-le-Grand, where there is now Maidenhead Court.
The Aldersgate Street house, which Milton entered some time in 1640, probably before the meeting of the Long Parliament, was to be a very memorable one in his biography. “There, in tolerable comfort,” he says, “I betook myself to my interrupted studies, trusting “ the issue of public affairs to God in the first place, “and to those to whom the people had committed that
charge." In other words, his hope was that now at last he might begin in real earnest that life of sustained literary exertion in his own English speech, after a higher and nobler fashion than England had hereto fore known, to which he had secretly pledged himself. Especially, during his Italian journey, he had been revolving the project of some one great English poem, to be begun on his return, and to be his occupation through as many years as might be necessary.
As we learn from his poem to Manso, and still more distinctly from his Epitaphium Damonis (see Introds. to these poems), an epic on the subject of Arthur, involving the whole cycle of Arthurian or ancient British Legends, was the scheme that had principally fascinated him. Within the first year after his return, however, the Arthurian subject had been set aside, and Milton's mind, weighing and balancing the comparative advantages of the epic form and the stately tragedy of the Greeks with its lyrics and choruses, was at sea among a great number of possible subjects, suitable for either, collected from Biblical History and the History of Britain before the Conquest (see Introd. to Par. Lost : Section II.). Paradise Lost, in the form of a tragedy, was already the favourite ; but all was uncertain. To end this uncertainty, by actually choosing a subject and setting to work, was the business which Milton, while daily teaching his young nephews, and showing them “an example of hard study and spare diet,” had prescribed for himself in Aldersgate Street.
Alas! it had to be postponed, and for a longer series of years than could have been anticipated. Milton, at this juncture of his life, was whirled into politics ; and for nearly twenty years (1640-1660), with but moments of exception, he had to cease to be “ a Poet soaring in the high region of his fancies with his garland and singingrobes about him," and to “sit below in the cool element of Prose.” It was not only Milton's life, indeed, that was so affected by the great Puritan Revolution. The lives of almost all his English literary contemporaries were similarly affected, and through the twenty years
between 1640 and 1660 there was an almost total cessation of Pure Literature in England in consequence of the drafting of the literary intellect of the country into the service of the current controversies. In no life, however, is the phenomenon more marked than in Milton's; and there are some to whom its exhibition in that life in particular is matter for regret. They judge, I believe, poorly and wrongly. It may be admitted that in controversial prose, though such prose with Milton was to be far from a “cool element,” he had, as he himself expresses it, “the use but of his left hand.” To lend even that hand, however, with all its force, to what he deemed the cause of God, Truth, Liberty, and his Country, seemed to him a more important duty, so long as there should be need, than scheming and writing poems.
It was on the Church question that Milton first spoke out. The Long Parliament had, with singular rapidity, in the first months of its sitting, swept away accumulated abuses in State and Law, brought Strafford to trial and execution, impeached and imprisoned Laud and others of the chief ministers of Thorough, subjected Charles to constitutional checks, made a satisfactory treaty with the Scots, and sent them home with thanks for their great services to England. They had also taken measures for their own security and the permanence of English Parliamentary government. All this having been done unanimously or nearly so, the Church question had at length emerged as the most difficult of all, and that in which there was most difference of opinion. That the Laudian Episcopacy must no longer exist in England all, with hardly an exception, were agreed; but, for the rest, people divided themselves into two parties. There were the advocates of a Limited Episcopacy, excluding the Bishops perhaps from the House of Lords and from other places of political and judicial power, and also surrounding them even in Church matters with Councils of Presbyters; and there were the Root-and-Branch Reformers, who were for abolishing Episcopacy utterly, and re-constructing the Church of England after some Presbyterian model like that of the Scots. Into this controversy Milton, in May 1641, flung his first pamphlet, entitled “Of Reformation touching Church Discipline in England and the Causes that have hitherto hindered it.” It was a Root-andBranch pamphlet of most tremendous earnestness, and was followed within a year by four more of the same sort, viz.“ Of Prelatical Episcopacy” (June 1641), “ Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence against Smectymnuus” (July 1641), “ The Reason of Church government urged against Prelaty” (about Feb. 1641-2), “ Apology against a Pamphlet called A modest Confutation of the Animadversions upon the Remonstrant against Smectymnuus” (March 1641-2). These five pamphlets of Milton are to be remembered in a group by themselves, and may be called his “AntiEpiscopal Pamphlets.” The first of them is general ; in the others there are replies to defenders of Episcopacy, and especially to Bishop Hall and Archbishop Usher. The “Remonstrant” is Bishop Hall, whose Humble Remonstrance was regarded as the chief manifesto of High Prelacy; Smectymnuus” was the fancy name put on the title-page of a large reply to Hall by five leading Puritan Divines, whose initials put together made up the odd word (one of them Thomas Young, Milton's old tutor, now Vicar of Stowmarket in Suffolk); and there were other pamphlets, of retort and rejoinder, between Hall and the Smectymnuans, in all of which Milton advised and assisted the five Smectymnuans. Altogether, by the power of his Anti-Episcopal pamphlets, and especially by his vehement invectives against Hall, Milton became a man of public note, admired by the Root-and-Branch Puritans, but detested by those who wanted to see Episcopacy preserved.