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don. Here Milton stayed in seclusion, absorbed in serious study and thought. His father readily fell in with his ambitions and Milton went through a systematic study of the Greek and Latin classics, of mathematics, music, and the science which we might now term cosmography. His poetical works were few but very choice — the fragment, Arcades, written at the request of Henry Lawes to be put to music for an entertainment; the more elaborate masque, Comus, again written at the musician Lawes's request, to be played by the children of the Earl of Bridgewater; the two fine rural idylls L'Allegro and Il Pensero80 ; and the magnificent Lycidas written for a little volume of commemorative verse gathered by the friends of Edward King, who in 1637 was drowned in the Irish Sea. His time was not wasted. To his friend Diodati be wrote: “I am growing my wings for a flight.”
In 1638 Milton left Horton for a continental tour. He spent most of his time in Italy where he was received cordially in the literary circles of the period. In Florence, Rome, and Naples he tarried for months, enriching his mind by his contact with art and literature and society. An especially noteworthy incident of his trip was his meeting in Florence with Galileo, at the time still held in confinement by the Inquisition. Milton's original plans seem to have included Greece and Palestine, but the news of King Charles's expedition against the Scotch led him to cut his journey short. He had too keen an insight into the political situation not to realize the importance of the struggle developing between the king and the people, and too sharp a conscience to allow himself to be absent from England at such a time. “The sad news of civil war in England," he says, “called me back; for I considered it base that, while my fellowcountrymen were fighting at home for liberty, I should be travelling at my ease for intellectual culture.”
The twenty years that followed Milton's return from Italy in 1639 were years of struggle and bitterness, both in his public and his private life, and years in which to all outward appearances the springs of poetic inspiration were choked within him. The poet of promise who had written L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, Lycidas, and Comus as a warrant of great things in the fue ture, who had told his friend Diodati that he was growing “his wings for a flight," who had impressed the Italian circles with his poetic genius, became notable in England and in contempo rary Europe by the fierceness of his Latin invective in polemic pamphlets and books. Poetry was laid aside to enable him to plunge into the politics of the time with all the power of his pen. His zeal in the performance of what he believed to be his duty and his undoubted success in what he did cannot but be admired, but to-day these efforts that cost him years of labor and his precious eyesight are all waste product.
Immediately upon his return from Italy he emerged into public attention by his pamphle teering. Between 1641 and 1643 he fulminated against the Episcopal church government in five pamphlets. His unhappy marriage inspired another series advocating divorce for incompatibility of temper. The death of the king and the shocked and stunned public inspired one of the most notable of his prose works, the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and, coming at a time when the Commonwealth most needed defenders, earned him the office of Latin Secretary to the Council of State. The Defensio Regia of the noted Latinist Salmasius inspired Milton's long Defense of the English People and involved him in a tedious literary quarrel. He was warned that his failing eyesight could not stand the strain, but with a belief in the great importance of his cause he persisted until he was entirely blind. He continued in his office, however, aided by deputies, and wasted his strength in long Latin messages to foreign powers up to the very close of Cromwell's reign. He was dismissed by General Monk in April, 1659, and a few months later, when the king returned, Milton went into hiding to save his life. The Act of Oblivion allowed him to emerge, a blind man over fifty years old, to take up the aspirations of his young manhood.
Even more sharp in their effects upon the man must have been the unhappiness of his private life during these years. In May of 1643 he wooed and won Mary Powell, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a gay Cavalier squire. A few months sufficed to show them both that they had made a great mistake. The light, careless girl could not bear the atmosphere of seriousness and quiet in which Milton was accustomed to live, and Milton on his part could not appreciate the whims and fancies of his young wife. Even before their honeymoon was well over, she fled to her parents' home and refused to return to Milton. Although later a formal reconciliation took place and she resumed her position in his house, the unhappiness of their married life must have weighed cruelly on them both. Of their marriage, three girls and a boy were born, the boy dying in infancy and the girls surviving to maturity. In March of 1646, Milton's devoted father died and was buried in the Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate. Milton's love for his father was intense and his acknowledgment of his father's care was always spontaneous and complete, so that this death must have affected him strongly. In 1652 his wife died, leaving him with three small girls. Although their married life had long been loveless, her death must have made some strong impression upon him. The gradual approach of blindness during these years made him helpless, a condition from which a man of such strong nature might especially suffer. In 1656 he married again, a Katherine Woodcock, of whom nothing is known except the testimony of Milton's fondness in his sonnet On his Deceased Wife, written after her death in 1657. In 1658 and 1659 the Commonwealth was tottering to its fall and all that Milton had done must have seemed to him lost. He dictated and published a perfect frenzy of pamphlets, remaining to the last true to his principles and trying to check by arguments at times almost incoherent in their earnestness the rising tide of royalism. June 16, 1659, an order was issued by the House of Commons for his arrest, and a few months later two of his pamphlets were burned by royal decree.
The fall of the Commonwealth spelled for Milton the ruin of what he had for twenty years labored to support. The loss of three fourths of his fortune and of bis office of Latin Secretary could not have affected a man of his nature so much as the overthrow of all that structure which politically, socially, and religiously represented his ideal. With singleness of purpose and devotion of heart and mind he had spent twenty years of his life and had irretrievably destroyed his eyesight in the support of the Commonwealth, and suddenly, within a single year, this Commonwealth was swept away and replaced by the open and shameless evils of the Restoration. It was a bitter and disappointed man who turned from a consideration of the wreck of his hopes to pick up the threads of his youthful ambitions of twenty years before.
He then threw all the energy of his strong nature into the work of poetry. Paradise Lost had been planned and actually begun before the fall of the Commonwealth, but his work upon it had been subject to continual interruptions. He resumed the composition of that poem. To overcome the terrible handicap of blindness he hired attendants to read to him and trained his daughters to pronounce for him the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages in which so much that he needed was written. His trials were severe. His daughters, forced against their will to the daily task of reading, gradually lost their natural feelings of respect and love. They conspired with the servants to cheat him at the market, they secretly sold bis books, they deserted him when he most needed them, they stooped to every mean and petty device to escape their hated tasks. Milton is, of course, not blameless in this sordid picture, for the tasks he imposed upon them were wholly unsuited to the character and abilities of the girls. The domestic tragedy was closed about 1663. Milton in that year married Elizabeth Minshull, a capable, active woman of twenty-five who devoted herself to making him comfortable. Shortly afterwards the daughters, for whom conditions had become unbearable, were sent forth to learn embroidery as a means of earning their livelihood. Few people visited the gloomy house and those few — as Andrew Marvel and Thomas Ellwood the Quaker — he often utilized to read to him or to write from his dictation. Through such unhappiness as this he pressed on to the completion of his epic. In the spring of 1665 he handed the manuscript to Ellwood, “bidding me take it home with me, and read it at my leisure, and when I had so done, return it to him with my judgment thereupon.”
Paradise Lost was published by Samuel Symons, printer, and the contract, April 27, 1667, between poet and publisher is still preserved in the British Museum. Milton was to receive five pounds down, a second five when the first edition of thirteen bundred copies was exhausted, a third five when the second edition was exhausted, and a fourth five when the third edition was exhausted. The first edition was in the hands of the public in the autumn of 1667. At the time of his death, Milton had actually received ten pounds under this contract.
It is conventional to cite the reception of Milton's epic as an example of the neglect accorded to a great work upon its appearance, but the sale of thirteen hundred copies of such a poem in less than a year and a half shows a reasonably wide circle of readers. Its publication restored his fame among a generation with whom he had become almost a stranger. His house became the resort of the notables of the time, his group of friends broadened, his eminence as man of letters and poet was acknowledged.
In the mean while, he did not cease from his labors upon the publication of Paradise Lost. A remark of Ellwood when he returned the manuscript to the poet —“Thou hast said much here of Paradise lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise found ?" — is said to have started him upon the composition of Paradise Regained. This sequel to Paradise Lost, together with Samson Agonistes, was published in the autumn of 1670.
His years were numbered now, but his work continued, although, except for the editions of his early poems, he published no more poetry. He issued his Latin letters to his foreign friends, he labored over a Compendium of Theology, a History of Britain, and a new type of geography textbook. He could not bear to be idle.
His life during these latter years was simple. His daughters had left him in 1669 and the modest household consisted of himself, his wife, a single maidservant, and an amanuensis who came in by day. One account tells how Milton "used to sit in a gray, coarse cloth coat, at the door of his house in Bunhill Fields, in warm, sunny weather, to enjoy the fresh air; and so, as well as in his room, received the visits of people of distinguished parts as well as quality"; and another tells us how he “rose commonly in the summer at four, and in the winter at five in the morning. ... At his first rising he had usually a chapter read to him out of the Hebrew Bible; and he commonly studied all the morning till twelve." It was a quiet, sober, regular household in which Milton passed his last years.
Milton died November 8, 1674, of gout. He was buried on the 12th in the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, beside his father.
A Few years before Milton's death, he was visited by a young poet of rising renown who requested Milton's permission to put Paradise Lost into rhyme for public performance as an opera. Milton granted the request with a contemptuous, “Yes, you may tag my verses.” This meeting between John Milton and John Dryden has a peculiar interest in setting before us the sharp contrast between the aged giant of an age that had passed and the vigorous young representative of the new age. Dryden's character suffers from the contrast. The stern and inflexibly moral Puritan, faithful to his religious and political principles amid the ruin of all that he had labored to upbuild, compels our admiration, whereas the pliant and morally loose Dryden, with weak political and religious convictions, adapting himself to the changing spirit of his time, lays himself open to charges of hypocrisy and time-serving.
John Dryden was born in the little village of Aldwincle, in Northamptonshire, August 9, 1631. His family was a notable one in the country, his grandfather being Sir Erasmus Dryden, Bart., and his mother, Mary Pickering, the daughter of the Reverend Henry Pickering, pastor of Aldwincle All Saints'. His childhood was passed amid Puritan influences, for both his father's and mother's family sided with the Parliament.
Of his youth we know little. He studied at the famed Westminster School in London and matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1650. We catch only two fleeting glimpses of him at college, on one occasion when he was disciplined for “disobedience" and "contumacy," and on another when he received his bachelor's degree in 1654. There is some ground for believe ing that he did not look back with pleasure upon his own university career, for in later years he seems actually to have preferred Oxford to his own university:
Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
Dryden's father died in 1654 and Dryden's share of the estate has been estimated to have yielded him the equivalent to-day of a thousand dollars a year. He was thus, at an early age, freed from the fear of starvation while he sought to make a place for himself in literature.
Dryden left the university some time between 1654 and 1658 and went to London. His family's politics and the ascendancy of Cromwell would naturally lead the stranger to ally himself with the Puritans, and we know that at first he was under the patronage of his uncle, Sir Gilbert Pickering, a great favorite with Cromwell, and that upon Cromwell's death he actually wrote his notable heroic stanzas on the Death of His Late Highness Oliver, Lord Protector. His sojourn in London as a bookseller's hack, however, threw him into contact with men of royalist sympathies. The prominent writers of the day were all Cavaliers. Hobbes, Cowley, Herrick, Denham, the fickle Waller, and the preëminent Davenant all looked forward to a restoration of literary taste with a restoration of Charles. Dryden's religious and political convictions, never apparently very deep, speedily succumbed to his environment and he celebrated the return of Charles in three poems (Astræa Redux, To His Sacred Majesty, To My Lord Chancellor) between 1660 and 1662.
By birth, by nature, and by education Dryden was fitted to associate with the aristocracy of the time, and his change of politics threw him among the Cavalier nobles. His status was fully established by his marriage, in 1663, to Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of a royalist earl. Dryden never refers to his wife with any special marks of affection, and he is known to have carried on a long intrigue with the actress Anne Reeve, but there is no decisive proof that the marriage and his mode of life were different from those of other men of fashion in his age. Three sons were born of this marriage and survived to maturity.
Dryden made his bid for literary fame in the field of the drama, not apparently because he felt a special inspiration toward that literary form, but because he foresaw with the return of Charles a demand for plays. For twenty years, until 1681, he wrote almost solely for the stage, achieving great success. His Conquest of Granada and All for Love stand foremost among the plays of their respective types. During this period he also produced his greatest prose works of criticism, of importance now, not because of the principles set forth, but because of the prose style. In his critical essays is found the beginning of modern clear vigorous simple prose.
His success during these years established his fame and financial position on seemingly sure foundations. He was elected (1662) a member of the Royal Society; he was, at the king's recommendation, given the degree of Master of Arts by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1668; he became (1668) a shareholder in the King's Company, agreeing to supply to the company three plays a year; he was appointed (1670) Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal; he was given a pension of one hundred pounds a year; he was recognized throughout England as the most eminent man of letters of the day, and must have been in receipt of an annual income equivalent to-day to fifteen thousand dollars. His personal associates were among the most conspicuous literary men of the court circles.
At the age of fifty, Dryden turned from the field in which he had achieved his success to write poetry. In the dedication to Aureng-Zebe (1676) he hints at the change: “I never thought myself very fit for an employment where many of my predecessors have excell'd me in all kinds; and some of my contemporaries, even in my own partial judgment, have outdone me in comedy. Some little hopes I have yet remaining, and those, too, considering my abilities, may be vain, that I may make the world some part of amends for many ill plays, by an heroic poem.” The “heroic poem”to which he alludes was never written, but upon the poetry which he produced after 1680 rests his reputation to-day as one of the leading English poets.
According to tradition, Dryden received from Charles personally the encouragement to take up the cudgels of party strife in England. Party feeling was intense. A great Popish plot had been unearthed in 1678; the Whigs, led by the Earl of Shaftesbury, stood in opposition to the Tories, led by Charles himself; the question at issue was the English throne, the Whigs favoring the exclusion of the Duke of York for the Duke of Monmouth, and Charles using his influence and French subsidies to favor his brother, the Duke of York. Civil war seemed imminent. In March of 1681 Charles dissolved the Oxford Parliament and appealed to the nation. On the charge of high treason the Earl of Shaftesbury was arrested and confined in the Tower of London. In November his case was taken up by the London grand jury. Just a week before the decision in Shaftesbury's case appeared Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, the finest political satire in English. Absalom represented the Duke of Monmouth, Achitophel was Shaftesbury, and Zimri was the Duke of Buckingham.
Dryden's entrance into politics was the signal for attacks by the Whig writers. Envy had been busy with his career before, but partisanship added a new sting to the utterances of the poetasters. Goaded by the scurrilous lines of a former friend, Shadwell, Dryden in the autumn of 1682 published MacFlecknoe, in which he pilloried Shadwell before the London world as the heir to the abilities of a dull and stupid Irishman by the name of Flecknoe. For biting satire this short poem has no equal. Shadwell lives in literature to-day by virtue of Dryden's attack.
In sharp contrast to the violence of these satires appeared from Dryden's pen in 1682 Religio Laici, a defense of the doctrines of the Established Church from the layman's standpoint. This didactic poem, called by Scott one of the most admirable poems in English, was written in a style very effective for its purpose, simple and almost conversationally easy-going. Its view of religion is that of the ordinary Englishman. Its arguments are not novel or deep, it shows no grand inspiration or power of thought, but it reveals a kindly, honest nature endowed with much sound common sense.
It is curious that this worldly poet and man of letters should have lived to be fifty before his interest in the pregnant political and religious problems of his time developed, but our wonder is stirred by the versatility of the man in his poetic treatment of them. In his youth and young manhood he had written a few poems; then for twenty years he devoted himself to the stage, and when over fifty he turns to political and religious discussion and produces unrivaled satirical and didactic poetry.
February 6, 1685, Charles II, Dryden's patron and friend, died, and James II, an avowed Catholic, took the throne. The influence of the king and of his supporters in spreading Catholicism reached Dryden among the first. Never steadfast in his convictions, Dryden was early converted, and in the very year that James acceded to the throne, Dryden professed the Catholic faith. This easy thinker, bred up in Puritan surroundings, converted to the Established Church and the Cavalier movement at the first contact with the London world, now with easy grace adopted the professed faith of the new court circles. Excuses a-plenty have been offered for him, — for example, lack of any real religious emotion and hence a failure to attribute any importance to the change; sincere conversion to Catholic tenets as proved by his not changing back to the Established Church after the Revolution of 1688, — but they are not convincing. The stigma of time-serving has clung to Dryden to this day.
A curious immediate literary result of his conversion was the long poem The Hind and the Panther (April, 1687) in which the gentle Catholic Church (the Hind) discusses divinity with the fierce Church of England (the Panther). The contrast of attitude between this poem and the Religio Laici, published five years before, brings inevitably to mind the somewhat similar contrast at the beginning of his career between his verses to Cromwell and his subsequent welcome to the restored Charles.
To a certain extent Dryden's character was retrieved by the events following the Revolution of 1688. His well-known professed Catholicism caused him to be deprived of all the official positions and pensions he had enjoyed under Charles II and James II. He had the bitterness of seeing the laureateship pass to Shadwell, whom he had held up to ridicule in MacFlecknoe. He himself, living the life of his circle, had saved nothing. At the age of fifty-seven he was