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Sonnet "On the Religious Memory of Mrs. Catherine Thomson, my Christian Friend" (Sonnet XIV.) 1646.
On the New Forcers of Conscience (among the Sonnets). 1646. Ad Joannem Rousium, Oxoniensis Academia Bibliothecarium 1646-7.
(among the Sylvæ).
Apologus de Rustico et Hero (appended to Elegiarum Liber).
LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, HIGH HOLBORN, LONDON.
It was just after the entry of the Army into London, Phillips tells us,-i.e. it was in September or October 1647, —that Milton, tired by this time of the drudgery of teaching, and desiring quiet for his own pursuits, "left his great house in Barbican, and betook himself to a smaller in High Holborn, among those that open backward into Lincoln's Inn Fields." The house cannot be distinguished, and is probably not now extant; but its site was somewhere in the present block between Great Turnstile and Little Turnstile. That was then a pleasant and airy neighbourhood.
Of Milton's occupations during the eighteen months or so of his residence in this house we know little else than that he was busy over three prose enterprises he had projected long ago and had prosecuted at intervals. One was the collection of materials for a Latin Dictionary; a second was the preparation of a System of Divinity directly from the Bible; the third was the compilation of a History of Britain. It was while he was thus studiously engaged that the tragedy of the Reign of Charles came to a conclusion.
After Cromwell and the other Army chiefs had persisted in negotiating with Charles at Hampton Court till the Army had grown impatient, and had begun to suspect their chiefs, and to call out for a pure Democracy as the only fit consummation, Charles had himself precipitated matters by escaping from the negotiation and the Army at the same time, and taking refuge in the Isle of Wight (November 1647). Committed to safe keeping in Carisbrooke Castle, he was followed thither by commissioners from Parliament, charged to treat with him peremptorily on a severe recast of the old terms. He was still obdurate on the essential points, and Parliament formally decreed all negotiation with him at an end (January 1647-8). By that time he had made a
secret treaty with the Scots, from which he expected vast results. On his promise to confirm the Covenant and Presbyterian government in England, and to suppress Independency and all Sects and Heresies, the Scottish Government then in power had undertaken to invade England in his behalf, rouse the English Presbyterians, and restore him to his royal rights. Thus in May 1648 began the SECOND CIVIL WAR. Masses of the English Presbyterians, including the Londoners, forgetting all the past, and exulting only in the prospect of subduing the Independents, the Army, and the Sectaries, were hurried into a frenzy of Royalism in common with the Old Royalists or Cavaliers. There were risings in various districts, and threats of rising everywhere; and, when the Scots did invade England under the Duke of Hamilton (July 1648), even the Parliament began to falter. Cromwell's marvellous defeat of the Scots in the three days' battle of Preston (August 17-19), and Fairfax's extinction of the insurrection in the South-Eastern Counties by the capture of Colchester after a six weeks' siege (August 28), ended the brief tempest and brought Charles to his doom. There was still a farther treaty with him in the Isle of Wight on the part of the Parliament, the Army looking on with anger, but reserving its interference to the last. The treaty having failed like all the rest, the Army, which had resolved in no case to be bound by it, did interfere. They brought Charles from the Isle of Wight; they purged the Parliament of some scores of its members, so as to reduce it to a body fit for their purposes; they compelled the Parliament so purged to set up a Court of High Justice for the trial of the King; and, though many even of the Independents shrank at the final moment, the sentence of this Court was executed, Jan. 30, 1648-9, in front of Whitehall. England then passed into the condition of a Republic, to be governed by the Rump of the Long Parliament,—i.e. by that fragment of the Commons House which the Army had left in existence, -in conjunction with a Council of State, consisting of forty.. one members of the Rump chosen as a Ministry or Executive. Scotland, monarchical still, proclaimed Charles II., and sent envoys to him in Holland.
The pieces from Milton's pen in High Holborn during this rapid rush of events are few enough, but are character. istic :
Nine of the Psalms (Psalms LXXX.-LXXXVIII.) done into Metre. April 1648.
Sonnet "On the Lord General Fairfax at the Siege of Colchester " (Sonnet xv.) Sept. 1648.
AT CHARING CROSS, AND IN SCOTLAND YARD,
1649-1652 ætat. 41—44.
Milton at once adhered to the Republic, and in a very open and emphatic manner, by the publication (Feb. 1648-9) of his "Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through all ages, for any who have the power, to call to account a Tyrant, or Wicked King, and, after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary Magistrate have neglected to do it." It was a thoroughgoing Republican pamphlet, defending in every particular the recent proceedings of the English Army, and containing also a severe invective against the whole life and reign of Charles. It had been begun and almost finished before the King's death.
What more natural than that the Government of the new Commonwealth should seek to attach to its official service the author of such a pamphlet, who was moreover a man of such merits and antecedents otherwise? Hardly, in fact, had the first Council of State been constituted, with Bradshaw for its President, when Milton was offered, and accepted (March 1649), the post of Secretary for Foreign Tongues to the Council. The salary was to be about £300 a year in the money of that day; which was equivalent to about £1050 a year now. The General Secretary to the Council, at a somewhat higher salary, was a Mr. Walter Frost, appointed by the Parliament; under whom was his son, Walter Frost, junior, as Assistant-Secretary, with the necessary clerks. The Secretaryship for Foreign Tongues, called also the Latin Secretaryship, was a special and independent office, instituted by the Council itself, chiefly in view of expected correspondence between the Commonwealth and Foreign Powers. It had been agreed that all letters from the Commonwealth to Foreign States and Princes should be in Latin; but, as the replies might be in various foreign tongues, a knowledge of such tongues would be useful in the
Secretary. Altogether Mr. Milton was thought the very man for the post. While Mr. Frost, as the General Secretary, would be always present at the Council meetings, and engrossed in their ordinary and multifarious business, Mr. Milton would have to give attendance for the most part daily, but only for portions of the day. His duties were to be very much those of the head of our present Foreign Office next under the Minister for that department, with the difference that the Council of State then managed the Foreign Ministry as well as every other department of State, and that the diplomatic correspondence of the Commonwealth was not likely to be so extensive but that one official head, with a clerk or two, could manage it all.
The duties, at all events, made it convenient that Milton should reside near to the Council, the meetings of which were for the first month or two in Derby House, close to the Houses of Parliament, but afterwards permanently in Whitehall. Accordingly, immediately on his appointment, he left his house in High Holborn, and took lodgings one Thomson's, next door to the Bull Head Tavern at Charing Cross, opening into the Spring Garden." This was only till official apartments could be prepared for him in Whitehall; and in November 1649, seven or eight months after he had begun his Secretaryship, such apartments were assigned him by the Council. They were in that end of the extensive palace of Old Whitehall which was called Scotland Yard. Not a few members of the Council of State, with others of the Parliament, were similarly accommodated in Whitehall; which had, in fact, been converted into a range of Government - offices. Milton occupied his Whitehall or Scotland Yard rooms for a little more than two years, or till near the end of the third year of his Secretaryship. After he had been in them for some time the Council voted him some of the late King's hangings, or curtains and tapestry, for the better furnishing of the rooms.
To give the details of Milton's life in the first years of his Latin Secretaryship to the Council of State would be really, in some measure, to narrate the history of the English Commonwealth, so exactly at the centre of affairs was he by his official position, and with so many of the public proceedings of the time was he personally concerned. It would be a mistake to suppose that his sole employment was in drafting
letters in Latin to foreign Governments. Among the State Documents of English history, indeed, from 1649 onwards, there is a long series of Latin letters to Foreign Courts and Princes, all of Milton's penning, and some of them, though Milton only embodied his instructions, unmistakeably his own in form and expression. It was part of his duty, however, not only to prepare such letters for the approbation of the Council or of Parliament (for some of them had to be read in Parliament and approved there before the Speaker signed and despatched them), but also to translate foreign papers and be in attendance at interviews of the Council, or of Committees of the Council or of Parliament, with foreign ambassadors and envoys. Indeed, sometimes he had himself to wait on such ambassadors or envoys, and convey delicate messages to them, in the name of the Council. In this way his acquaintanceship among eminent foreigners living in London, or visiting London, came gradually to be very extensive. Gradually only; for in the first years of his official life, while Foreign Powers as yet, with few exceptions, held aloof from the Commonwealth, the particular duties of the Foreign Secretaryship were far from onerous. A despatch once in two months to the King of Spain, the King of Portugal, the Hamburg Senate, etc., is about the measure of the preserved Foreign Correspondence for the years 16491651. From the first, therefore, the Council had availed themselves of Milton's services in very miscellaneous work. If they wanted a book, or a set of dangerous papers, reported on, with a view to a prosecution for sedition, they referred the task to Mr. Milton; if there were any dealing with an author or a printer about something to be published, Mr. Milton was requested to see to it ; everything, in short, involving literary knowledge or judgment went to Mr. Milton rather than to Mr. Frost. Occasionally he brought some matter of his own accord before the Council, or used his influence in behalf of some scholar or man of letters, such as Davenant, who had got into difficulties through his Royalism. One would hardly have expected to find the author of the Areopagitica acting as an official licenser of the press; but, for a whole year, I have distinctly ascertained, Milton was the official licenser of the newspaper called Mercurius Politicus. As it was, in fact, a Government organ, conducted by Mr. Marchamont Needham, who had formerly been a