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“Defence of the People of England,” were condemned to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman; but at this insult Milton could well afford a contemptuous smile, even through the “natural tears” which he shed over the grave of departed freedom.
MILTON'S CHANGES OF RESIDENCE HIS THIRD MARRIAGE-HIS CON
NEXION WITH ELLWOOD-REMOVAL TO CHALFONT-COMPLETES THE "PARADISE LOST"-EARLY HISTORY OF THIS POEM-LETTER TO HEIMBACH-“PARADISE REGAINED"-"SAMSON AGONISTES.”
As soon as Milton was delivered from the perils in which so many whom he honoured and loved were involved by the vindictive cruelty of Charles II., he established himself in a house in Holborn, not far from Red Lion Square. From this he removed, after an occupation of about two years, to a vicinity to which, for some reason, he seems to have been partial. He had in earlier years resided in Aldersgate Street, Barbican, and Bartholomew Close, and in 1662 we find him in Jewin Street. His last removal was to no great distance from this spot; this was to a small house in Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields, where he spent the remainder of his days.
One interval, however, requiring especial observation, occurred during the period embraced in these notices of his latest places of residence. During the time of his abode in Jewin Street, he felt that his solitary condition, aggravated by the cold inattention of his daughters, required the solace of conjugal life. He accordingly requested his friend Dr. Paget to recommend him a suitable partner, and, by his
Sir Edward Minshul, of Cheshire, a distant relation of Dr. Paget. Soon after this event Milton was offered the Foreign
Secretaryship, under the Government of Charles II., which he had filled with so much distinction in the time of the Commonwealth. His wife, dazzled by the prospect which this proposal opened before her, earnestly urged him to accede to it. This Milton peremptorily refused, adding, “You, as other women, would ride in your coach: my aim is to live and die an honest man.” The events of Milton's personal history for the few next years have been related without any material variation by all his biographers, and modern years have brought no accession of information respecting them. The statements of the best of these authors will therefore be collated in this place, with no other acknowledgment than a marginal reference. During his residence in Jewin Street, Ellwood the quaker was recommended to him as a person who, for the advantage of his conversation, would read to him such Latin books as he thought proper; an employment to which he attended every afternoon, except on Sundays. “At my first sitting to him,” this ingenious writer informs us in his Life of himself, “observing that I used the English pronunciation, he told me, if I would have the benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and understand Latin authors, but to converse with foreigners, either abroad or at home, I must learn the foreign pronunciation; to this I consenting, he instructed me how to sound the vowels: this change of pronunciation proved a new difficulty to me; but “labor omnia vincit improbus;’ and so did I; which made my reading the more acceptable to my master. He, on the other hand, perceiving with what earnest desire I pursued learning, gave me not only all the encouragement, but all the help, he could; for, having a curious ear, he understood by my tone when I understood what I read, and when I did not; and accordingly he would stop me, and examine me, and open the most difficult passages to me.” The kind care bestowed by Milton upon the improvement of this young man, was repaid by every mark of personal regard. The courtesy of the preceptor, and the gratitude of the disciple, are indeed alike conspicuous. After several adventures, which were no slight trials of patience, Ellwood found an asylum in the house of an affluent quaker at Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, whose children he was to instruct. This situation afforded him an opportunity of being serviceable to Milton : for, when the plague began to rage in London in 1665, Ellwood took a house for him at Chalfont, St. Giles; to which the poet retired with his family. He had not long before removed from Jewin Street to a house in Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields; but he is also said, by Richardson, on the authority of a person who was acquainted with Milton, and who had often met him with his host conducting him, to have lodged awhile before this last removal, with Millington, the famous auctioneer of books; a man whose occupation and whose talents would render his company very acceptable to Milton; for he has been described by a contemporary pen as “a man of remarkable elocution, wit, sense, and modesty.” On his arrival at Chalfont, Milton found that Ellwood, in consequence of a persecution of the quakers, was confined in the gaol of Aylesbury. But, being soon released, this affectionate friend made a visit to him, to welcome him into the country. “After some common discourses,” says Ellwood, “had passed between us, he called for a manuscript of his, which, being brought, he delivered to me, 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. When I came home, and set myself to read it, I found it was that excellent poem, which he entitled “Paradise Lost.’” “After I had with the best attention read it through,” says the respectable Ellwood, “I made him another visit, and returned him his book, with due acknowledgment of the favour he had done me in communicating it to me. He * Todd's Life of Milton, pp. 186 and 190.
asked me how I liked it, and what I thought of it: which I modestly and freely told him; and, after some further discourse, I pleasantly said to him, Thou hast said much here of Paradise lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise found? He made me no answer, but sat some time in a muse: then broke off that discourse, and fell upon another subject. After the sickness was over, and the city well cleansed, and become safely habitable again, he returned thither; and when afterwards I went to wait upon him, (which I seldom failed of doing when my occasions led me to London), he showed me his second poem, called • Paradise Regained, and in a pleasant tone said to me, “This is owing to you, for you put it into my head by the question you put to me at Chalfont, which before I had not thought of.'"
The term of Milton's residence at Chalfont has not been precisely specified; but from the circumstances to which it was accommodated, the prevalence and the extirpation of the plague in the capital, we may infer that extended from the June or the July of 1665 to the March or April of the following year.
It is not exactly ascertained when the “Paradise Lost" was commenced; but there is every reason to believe that it was completed during this brief sojourn at Chalfont. On the 26th of April, 1667,* he sold the manuscript of the " Paradise Lost” to Samuel Simmons, the bookseller, for the insignificant sum of £5. But the agreement with the bookseller entitled him to a conditional payment of five pounds more when thirteen hundred copies should be sold of the first edition ; of the like sum after the same number of the second edition; and of another five pounds after the same sale of the third. The number of each edition was not to exceed fifteen hundred copies. It first appeared in 1667, in ten books. The poem, in a small quarto form, and plainly but neatly bound, was advertised at the price of
* Symmons' Life of Milton, pp. 381, 382.