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Mr. John Milton, their Secretarie for ForreigneLanguages, to this State and Commonwealth, particularlie for his booke in vindication ‘of the Parliament and people of England against the cahimnies and invectives of Salmasins, have thought fit to declare their resentment and good acceptance of the same, and that the thanks of the Councell bee returned to Mr. Mylton, and their sense
represented in that behalfe.”*
We find nothing more of any importance respecting Milton till the 2nd of May, 1652, when his wife lay-in of her fourth child, a daughter, named Deborah, at his
house in Petty France. Mr. Godwinj asserts, without any authority, that it was on this occasion that he became a widower; but as Milton registered the birth of his daughter with his own hand,I it is probable that if
* It would seem, from the difference of the orthography and the more ambitious style, that the change of mind in the Council had been effected by some person or persons who was not present when the fit of liberality was on them. A report may hence have been spread that Milton got a solid reward for his work. The word resentment is used in the French sense.
1' Lives of Edward and John Phillips. Mr. Hunter (Milton, p. 34) makes a similar assertion. He supposes Mrs. Milton to have been about thirty years of age at the time.
I Dr. Birch transcribed the following account of the births of Milton’s children, “thus registered,” says he, “by himself in the blank leaf of his wife’s Bible :”—
“ Anne, my daughter, was born July the 29th, the day of the monthly fast, between six and seven, or about half an hour after six in the evening, 1646. Mary, my daughter, was born on Wednesday, October the 25th, on the fast-day, in the morning, about six of the clock, 1648. My son John was born on Saturday, March the 16th, about half an hour past nine at night, 1650. My daughter Deborah was born the 2nd of May, being Sunday, somewhat before three or four of the clock in the morning, 1652.”
It is strange that this curious document is unnoticed by the biographers subsequent to Birch; Symmons took dates from it without giving
it had been followed by the death of his wife, he would have noticed that event also. On the other hand however, it may be objected that he has not noted the death of his infant son. The matter therefore must remain in obscurity.
Some time in this year (1652) there was published a work named Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Coelum, etc., full of the most virulent invective against the English nation, and of the foulest calumnies of Milton personally. Its author was Peter Du Moulin, a Frenchman by birth, but settled in England. Being afraid to publish it in his own name, he transmitted his manuscript to Salmasius, who committed the charge of putting it through the press to a man of some literary eminence named Moore, or Latinized Morus, of Scottish origin, and then Principal of the Protestant College of Castres, in Languedoc. The work did not bear Morus’ name any more than Du Moulin’s. He only wrote a dedication to the exiled King, in the name of Adrian Ulac, the printer. Milton however heard of Morus’ connection with the work, and he naturally supposed him to be the author. In his Defensio Secunda, which did not appear till 1654, he lashes him in a merciless manner, on account of the failings of his private character. At the same time he enters into a noble defence of his own, which had been assailed with such virulence ; and in his vindication
of that of his country, he makes a splendid panegyric of some of the most distinguished servants of the Parlia
ment. Morus attempted a reply in his Fides Publica, which was answered by Milton in his Author’s Pro se Defensio, in 1655. To this Morus rejoined in a Supplementum, and a Responsio from Milton terminated
the controversy. r_
In the year 1652, or the following year, two important events occurred in the life of Milton,——the death of his wife, and the total loss of his sight. As to the former, if the supposition above-mentioned be incorrect, Mrs. Milton, who probably nursed Deborah, as she may be presumed to have nursed all her children, did not probably lie-in again till the end of 1653, or the early part of 1654, at which time she lost her life in giving birth to a fifth child; and Milton thus was deprived of a helpmate, ill-suited to him no doubt, but one who probably had managed his household concerns well, and who was therefore no small less to him, now that he was bereaved of vision.
The date of his total blindness is also uncertain. We have seen that in May, 1652, he was able to write ; and
' if, as seems to be the case, the letter written by him to
Bradshaw in favour of Andrew Marvell, dated February the 21st, 1652—3, be in his own handwriting, he could not have been totally blind in the early part of 1653. His biographers however with tolerable unanimity assert that his sight was wholly gone in 1652, because Du Moulin in his work published that year upbraids him with his blindness, and that, in a letter from the Hague, dated 20th June, 1653, in Thurloe’s State Papers, he is spoken of as “un aveuyle nommé Milton.” This last authority however goes for nothing, as he may have been blind at the time it was written ; and as to the former, we may observe that a charge of blindness does not imply a total want of vision, for even short-sighted people are sometimes termed blind. .
In a letter dated September 28, 1654, and addressed to Leonard Philares, a learned Athenian, envoy from the Duke of Parma at the Court of France,—who had re
quested a statement of his case, that he might lay it before Thevenot, who was then in great repute for his treatment of diseases of the eye,—Milton says that, about ten years before, he had felt his sight beginning to decay, while at the same time he was troubled with flatulence and indigestion, and whenever he looked at a candle he saw an im's about it. Soon after, the left side of his left eye, the one first affected, became so clouded that he could discern nothing at that side; and when he closed his right eye, objects appeared to him with their magnitude reduced. His right eye also had been declining for three years before he became quite blind, and during the latter months of that period objects used to swim before him, and he felt, especially after his meals, a sense of oppression and drowsiness, and when he retired to bed and closed his eyes, a copious light used to flash in them, followed by vivid colours; but all this ceased as soon as his sight was entirely gone. It is quite plain then that his disease was the paralysis of the optic nerve, named yutta serena, from an erroneous idea of its cause.
We now have Milton in the year 1654 totally blind, with three little‘ girls, the eldest not eight, the youngest not two years old, while his time was in a great measure engrossed by his public avocations. It is strange that it never seems to have entered into the mind of his nephew to inform us, or of his biographers to_ inquire, how he managed his domestic concerns under these circumstances. The most natural supposition would be, that he got some respectable matron to take the charge of his family; but we fear that the truth is that he did not act so prudently, but, to the manifest injury of his daughters, dd as well as he could with ordinary servants.
He probably soori grew weary of this unpleasant mode of life, and perhaps was anxious to give his daughters the advantage of a mother’s care; 'for on the 12th of November, 1656, he entered a second time into the bands of matrimony. His wife’s name was Catherine, daughter of Captain Woodcock, of Hackney. The marriage was performed according to the civil service then in use, “by Sir John Dethieke, knight and alderman, by the then Act of Parliament, after the publications of ' their agreement and intention on three market-days.”* It is possible that on this occasion also Milton, like his Samson, married out of his own tribe; for among those arrested for a Royalist conspiracy against Cromwell in 1658, we find the name of Captain Woodcock. He may however have been a different person from Milton’s father-in-law, and we doubt if a Royalist or a Presbyterian+ would have been content with a merely civil marriage. With his new wife however Milton seems to have enjoyed connubial bliss; but his enjoyment was of brief duration, for only fifteen months after her marriage, she also died in childbed of a daughter, who did not survive her. This melancholy event occurred in the beginning of February, 1657—8. A beautiful sonnet by her husband embalms her memory, and ever, we are confident, will preserve it from decay; for even the tasteless John
son, though grudgingly, gives it praise.
We may here pause and inquire a little into Milton’s office of Foreign Secretary. \Ve have seen that he was appointed to it early in 1649, and that toward the end of that year he was assigned apartments at Whitehall,
* Gentleman’s Magazine, 1840, June, p. 598, quoted by Todd. _
1' “ The only Captain Woodcock of the Civil War times, with whose name I am acquainted, is a Captain John Woodcock, who, on October 6, 1653, gives a receipt to the Treasurer-at-War on the disbanding of his troop.”—Hunter, Z1/filton, p. 35.