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in mere narrative than when, as in his controversial writings, they are mingled with vigorous reasoning, lofty declamation, or keen invective. Milton in effect was not an historian ; he had not the requisite talent and frame of mind, and he never could have formed his style to the dignified simplicity belonging to the true historian; and though his work, of course, contains my noble passages, we doubt if any one ever read it through with pleasure. One reason is, he did not possess that historic tact and feeling, which would have made him discern, as it were by instinct, what was of real, what merely of apparent, importance; and so, what should be omitted, what retained, in order to interest and instruct. He has on the contrary jumbled together all that he found in the annalists. We see nothing remarkable in the passage alluded to by Warburton, and we regard the Iconoclastes as a far nearer approach to ease and simplicity of style. In the commencement of the third book of his history, Milton, who had witnessed public and suffered private wrong from them, took occasion to draw a true, but most unfavourable, portrait of the Long Parliament and of the Assembly of Divines. Strange as it may seem, this passage was expunged by the licenser when the work was published in 1670. Modern critics have been perplexed by this circumstance; yet Toland had intimated the real cause,_namely, that the description would answer for the Parliament and hierarchy of the Monarchy as well as for those of the Commonwealth. In fact, with the requisite modifications and limitations, it will answer for those of all times and countries, for man is always the same, self-interest always his moving power; civil and religious assemblies, boards and commissions, and public men in general, are always alike, and those who have de
spotic power will use it like despots. Few reflect how much of the public virtue of the present day is owing to the freedom of the press and the extensive circulation of our political journals. Were it not for them, public men would be far different from what they are. Still the knowledge and the power of the press is limited, and many have to endure the tyranny, the caprice, and the injustice of men in authority,+
The insolence of office, and the spurns
The following is Milton's account of the Parliament and Assembly —
A Parliament being called to address [rectify] many things, as it was thought, the people—with great courage and expectation to be eased of what discontented them—chose to their behoof in Parliament such as they thought best affected to the public good; and some indeed men of wisdom and integrity, the rest, to be sure the greater part, whom wealth, or ample possessions, or bold and active ambition, rather than merit, had recommended to the same place.
But, when once the superficial zeal and popular fumes that acted [actuated] their new magistracy were cooled and spent in them, straight every one betook him, setting the commonwealth behind, his private ends before, to do as his own profit or ambition led him. Then was justice delayed, and soon after denied; spite and favour determined all. Hence faction; thence treachery, both at home and in the field; everywhere wrong and oppression; foul and horrid deeds committed daily or maintained, in secret or in open. Some who had been called from shops and warehouses, without other merit, to sit in supreme councils and committees, as their breeding was, fell to huckster the commonwealth: others did thereafter as men could sooth and humour them best; so that he who would give most, or, under covert of hypocritical zeal, insinuate basest, enjoyed unworthily the rewards of learning and fidelity, or escaped the punishment of his crimes and misdeeds. Their votes and ordinances, which men looked should have contained the repealing of bad laws and the immediate constitution of better, resounded with nothing else but new impositions, taxes and excises, yearly, monthly, weekly; not to reckon the offices, gifts, and preferments bestowed and shared among themselves. They, in the meanwhile, who were ever faithfullest to this cause, and freely aided them in person or with their substance, when they durst not compel either, slighted and bereaved after of their just debts by greedy sequestrations, were tossed up and down after miserable attendance from one committee to another with petitions in their hands; yet either missed the obtaining of their suit, or, though it were at length granted,—mere shame and reason ofttimes extorting from them at least a shew of justice,—yet, by their sequestrators and subcommittees abroad, men for the most part of insatiable hands and noted disloyalty, those orders were commonly disobeyed; which for certain durst not have been without secret compliance [complicity] if not compact with some superiors able to bear them out. Thus were their friends confiscate in their enemies, while they forfeited their debtors to the State, as they called it, but indeed to the ravening seizure of innumerable thieves in office; yet were withal no less burdened in all extraordinary assessments and oppressions than those whom they took to be disaffected; nor were we happier [i. e. more fortunate] creditors to what we called the State, than to them who were sequestered as the State's enemies.” For that faith which ought to have been kept as sacred and inviolate as anything holy, the Public Faith, after infinite sums received and all the wealth of the Church not better employed [sc. than heretofore], but swallowed up into a private gulf, was not ere long ashamed to confess bankrupt. And now, beside the sweetness of bribery and other gain, with the love of rule, their own guiltiness and the dreaded name of Just Account, which the people had long called for, discovered plainly that there were of their own number who secretly contrived and fomented those troubles and combustions in the land, which openly they sat to remedy; and would continually find such work as should keep them from being ever brought to that terrible stand of laying down their authority for lack of new business, or not drawing it out to any length of time, though upon the ruin of a whole nation.
* In what precedes he had plainly his own case in view; see above, page 126. What he says of debtors and creditors alludes clearly to him. self and the property of Mr. Powell.
And if the State were in this plight, Religion was not in much better. To reform which a certain number of divines were called, neither chosen by any rule or custom ecclesiastical, nor eminent for either piety or knowledge above others left out; only as each member of Parliament in his private fancy thought fit, so elected one by one. The most part of them were such as had preached and cried down with great shew of zeal the avarice and pluralities of bishops and prelates; that one cure of souls was a full employment for one spiritual pastor, how able soever, if not a charge rather above human strength. Yet these conscientious men—ere any part of the work done for which they came together, and that on the public salary, wanted not boldness, to the ignominy and scandal of their pastorlike profession, and especially of their boasted reformation, to seize into their hands or not unwillingly to accept—beside one, sometimes two or more, of the best livings, —collegiate masterships in the universities,” rich lectures in the city, setting sail to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoms: by which means these great rebukers of non-residence were not ashamed to be seen so quickly pluralists and nonresidents themselves, to a fearful condemnation doubtless by their own mouths. And yet the main doctrine for which they took such pay, and insisted upon with more vehemence than gospel, was but to tell us in effect that their doctrine was worth nothing and the spiritual power of their ministry less available than bodily compulsion; persuading the magistrate to use it, as a stronger means to subdue and bring in conscience than evangelical persuasion; distrusting the virtue of their own spiritual weapons, which were given them, if they be rightly called, with full warrant of sufficiency to pull down all thoughts and imaginations that exalt themselves against God. But while they taught compulsion without convincement—which not long before they complained of as executed unchristianly against themselves—their intents are clear to have been no better than antichristian; setting up a spiritual tyranny by a secular power, to the advancing of their own authority above the magistrate, whom they would have made their executioner, to punish Church-delinquencies, whereof civil laws have no cognizance.
* This very thing appears to have been done by Milton's old master and friend Thomas Young: see above, page 99.
MILTON AS A WRITER.
As a general quality of Milton's writings in verse, as well as in prose, we may observe the logical order and sequence in which his thoughts and arguments are arranged. It was this secret love of order and method that led him so often to occupy himself with works apparently so alien from the lofty pursuits and aspirations of a poet; such as his Christian Doctrine, a Latin Dictionary, and treatises on grammar and logic; for a mind so constituted finds an inexpressible pleasure in tracing analogies, bringing together parts which lie scattered and dispersed, and forming out of them one harmonious whole. Dante seems to have had a similar turn of mind; but we doubt if it is to be found in any other great poet.
In his earliest poems the language of Milton, while highly poetic, is simple and idiomatic ; but in those written toward the close of his academic career, we may discern some tendency to that artificial, unnatural style so prevalent among the most polished nations of Europe in the early part of the seventeenth century, the Marin. ism of Italy, the Cultismo or Gongorism of Spain, the Précieux of France, and the Euphuism of England. From this however he soon emancipated himself, and there is not a trace of it to be found in the poems written at Horton. In those poems also may be discerned the first