« ПретходнаНастави »
Rhymed Declamation ; the syntax of English prose was to be neater and easier than it had been; and the English metrical ear was to be tuned to stricter and more regular rhythms. Over this rising popular literature of the Restoration the nominal president was Davenant, the reinstated Laureate ; but the robust Dryden was making his way to the chief place in the drama and in other departments, with Buckinghams, Dorsets, and Howards about him, and Ethereges, Wycherlys, and Shadwells appearing on the horizon. Butler's Hudibras was out, and Charles and his courtiers were laughing over it.
On the verge of this new world of the Restoration, disowned by it, and disdaining it, the blind Milton lived
“On evil days now fallen, and evil tongues,
Șuch friends as did still come about him were chiefly Nonconformists of the more devout and extreme sects, Independents, Baptists, or Quakers. One was Alderman Isaac Pennington, once Lord Mayor of London, and recently, as member of the Long Parliament and of the Council of State, a prominent man in the Commonwealth. Andrew Marvell, young Lawrence, Marchamount Needham, Cyriack Skinner, and the highminded Lady Ranelagh, sister of Robert Boyle, who had been among his most frequent visitors in the house in Petty France, would find their way occasionally as far as Jewin Street. Dr. Paget, a physician of that neighbourhood, was very intimate with him ; and his old friend Hartlib would appear sometimes, bringing some foreigner who desired to be introduced. Such visits to Milton by foreigners, it seems,'had become customary : they did not like to leave London without having seen him, and even the house in Bread Street where he had been born. Still “solitude," the word which Milton himself uses, describes his condition too truly. The house in Jewin Street must have been a
small one ; and, as Milton had now no official income, and had lost by the Restoration several thousands of pounds, invested in Commonwealth securities, or others as bad, the economy of his household must have been very frugal. He had always a man or a boy to read to him, write to his dictation, and lead him about in his walks ; one or other of his two nephews, now shifting for themselves in or near London by tutorship and literary hackwork, would sometimes drop in, and yield him superior help ; and there were young men ready to volunteer their occasional services as amanuenses for the privilege of his conversation or of lessons from him. The young Quaker, Thomas Ellwood, recommended to him by Alderman Pennington and Dr. Paget, made his acquaintance this way in Jewin Street in 1662, valuing the privilege much, and taking a lodging near on purpose. For the management of his house and of his daily life, however, Milton had to depend on his daughters, and the dependence was a sad one. The poor girls, the eldest in her seventeenth year in 1662, the next in her fifteenth, and the youngest in her eleventh, had been growing up ill looked-after, and, though one does hear of a governess, but slenderly educated. The eldest, the deformed one, could not write ; the other two could write but indifferently. But, though he can therefore hardly have employed them as amanuenses, he did exact from them attendance which they found irksome. When no one else was at hand, he would make them, or at least the two younger, read to him ; and by some extraordinary ingenuity in his method, or by sheer practice on their part, they came at last to be able to read sufficiently well for his purpose in Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, and even Hebrew, without themselves understanding a word. This drill, as far as the youngest daughter was concerned, can have been little more than begun in the Jewin Street house ; but there all three were already in rebellion. They “made nothing of deserting him ;” “they did combine together and
counsel his maid-servant to cheat him in her marketings ;” they “had made away with some of his books, and would have sold the rest to the dunghill-women.” Things had at last come to such a pass that, on the recommendation of Dr. Paget, Milton; Feb. 12, 1662-3, married a third wife. She was an Elizabeth Minshull, from Cheshire, a relation of Dr. Paget's, and not more than twenty-five years of age, Milton being fifty-four. A very excellent and careful wife she was to prove to him through the rest of his life. When Mary, the second daughter, heard of the intended marriage, she said that that was no news, to hear of his wedding, but, if she could hear of his death, that was something." This, which is certified on oath, is almost too horrible for belief.
A small elementary Latin Grammar, published in 1661 under the title of “ Accedence Commenced Grammar," is all of a literary kind that came from Milton while he was in Holborn or Jewin Street. It had doubtless been long lying by him. Other works, however, had been in progress, especially Paradise Lost.
ARTILLERY WALK, BUNHILL FIELDS.
1664-1674 : cetat. 56-66. Not long after his third marriage (possibly in 1663, though I make it 1664) Milton left Jewin Street for what was to be the last of all his London houses. It was in “ Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields,”i.e., as has been ascertained with some trouble, in that part of the present Bunhill Row where there is now a clump of newer houses “to the left of the passenger who turns northward from Chiswell Street towards St. Luke's Hospital and Peerless Pool.” It was close to the Artillery Ground, or exercising-place of the old London Trained Bands; and hence the name. Bunhill Fields Burying Ground, long the place of sepulture for London Dissenters, and where Bunyan and Defoe are buried, did not exist when Milton went to the
neighbourhood. On the whole, the remove, though it did not take him far from his former residence, was into greater privacy and obscurity. The three daughters still accompanied him, better managed now that the third wife had the charge of the housekeeping, but naturally in warfare with her.
Of Milton's habits, in his house near Bunhill Fields, through the last ten years of his life, we have pretty distinct accounts from various persons, as follows :He used to get up very early, generally at four o'clock in summer and five in winter. After having a chapter or two of the Hebrew Bible read to him, he worked, first in meditation by himself, and then, after breakfast, by dictation to his amanuensis for the time being, interspersed with farther readings to him from the books he wanted to consult, till near his mid-day dinner. A good part of the afternoon was then given to walking in the garden (and a garden of some kind had been always a requisite with him), or to playing on the organ, and singing, or hearing his wife sing, within doors. His wife, he said, had a good voice, but no
Later in the afternoon he resumed work ; but about six o'clock he was ready to receive evening visitors, and to talk with them till about eight, when there was a supper of “olives or some light thing." He was very temperate at meals, drinking very little
wine or strong liquors of any kind ”; but his conversation at dinner and supper was very pleasant and cheerful, with a tendency to the satirical. This humour for satire was connected by some of his hearers with his strong way of pronouncing the letter r : “ litera canina, the dog-letter, the certain sign of a satirical wit,” as Dryden said to Aubrey when they were talking of this personal trait of Milton. After supper, when left to himself, he smoked his pipe and drank a glass of water before going to bed; which was usually at nine o'clock. “He was visited by the learned,” says Aubrey, “much more than he did desire,” Aubrey himself and Dryden being latterly among those who VOL I.
went sometimes to see him. He attended no church, and belonged to no communion ; nor had he any regular prayers in his family, having some principle of his own on that subject which his friends did not understand. His favourite attitude in dictating, was sitting somewhat aslant in an elbow-chair, with his leg thrown over one of the arms. He would dictate his verses, thirty or forty at a time, to any one that happened to be at hand; but his two younger daughters, Mary and Deborah, whom he had by this time perfected in the art of reading to him in all languages without understanding what they read, had more than their share in such daily drudgery with him over his books. His poetical vein, Phillips tells us, flowed most happily “from the autumnal equinox to to the vernal,” i.e. from the end of September to the end of March, so that, with all his exertions through the other half of the year, he was never so well satisfied with the results. His poor health, and frequent headaches and other pains, were another interference with his work, but less than might have been supposed. Gout was his most confirmed ailment, and it had begun to stiffen his hands.
And so at last, before Milton had been two years in the house in Artillery Walk, Paradise Lost had been completed. For, when the Great Plague broke out in London in 1665, and Milton (perhaps driven from his house by the fact that Bunhill Fields had been chosen
pest-field” where the dead could be buried in pits) went to spend the summer in a cottage which Ellwood had taken for him at Chalfont-St.-Giles, Buckinghamshire, he took the finished manuscript with him (see Introduction to Par. Lost, Section 11.). That country-cottage, therefore, has to be remembered, in this exact place, and with this interesting association, as one of Milton's residences. It still exists, a very small cottage indeed, with a very small garden, standing on the slope of the public road at one end of the quiet old village of Chalfont; and, when it