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A CONSPECTUS OF MILTON'S PROSE WORKS, WITH A NOTE ON THE TEXT OF THE POEMS.
It has been thought that, considering the number of these prose works, and the fact that there are very few modern editions of them, something more than merely bibliographical notice and the critical remarks in the text should be supplied.
1641. Of Reformation touching Church-Discipline in England. (English.)
Generally against Episcopacy: monarchy not attacked, although some stress is laid on the liberty of the subject. No small part occupied by instances of bishops being troublesome to rulers.
Of Prelatical Episcopacy. (English.)
Against the patristic arguments for it; 'James Archbishop of Armagh' (Ussher) being expressly cited in the title, but not definitely named or very specially attacked in the text.
Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's defence against Smectymnuus. (English.)
Milton's temper here 'gets ruffled by fighting,' and the tract (in form of dialogue between the Remonstrant [Bishop Hall] and an Answerer) is, on the Answerer's side, entirely written in a savage and jeering tone. Not completely intelligible without the previous documents in the Smectymnuus controversy.
The Reason of Church-Government urg'd against Prelaty. (English.)
The argument against Episcopacy continued, chiefly on Biblical grounds. Tone more personal; 'bishop Andrews' and 'the primate of Armagh' named and both of them roughly handled; Milton's peculiar form of dialectic sarcasm here appearing, with invective against some of his poetic contemporaries and exaltation of his own studies and purposes. 1642. An Apology against a Pamphlet call'd a Modest Confutation of the Animadversions of the Remonstrant against Smectymnuus. (English.)
Begins with something in the more good-natured sense of its title, but quickly turns to an attack on Hall more violent than the former, diversified by fierce vindications of Milton himself, and bitter criticisms of the bishop's earlier literary work.
(Of Education, 1644, and Areopagitica, same year, are generally accessible, and are discussed in the text. They are in a more dignified tone of controversy, and are mentioned here in anticipation of their strict chronological order.)
1643-4. The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. (English.)
The first of the Divorce Tracts, and much the longest. Deals with the subject from various points of view, and is written with evidently restrained passion, but without avowing a personal interest.
1644. The Judgement of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce. (English.)
A sort of appendix to Doctrine and Discipline. Milton here sometimes translates bodily, and sometimes summarises his author, of whose agreement with his own views he represents himself as having been ignorant when he wrote the larger tract.
1644-5. Tetrachordon. (English.)
This, more widely known from the sonnet upon it than in itself, is the third divorce pamphlet and deals (whence its name) with four passages or batches of passages from Genesis, Deuteronomy, the Gospel of St Matthew and the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
1645. Colasterion. (English.)
The fourth and last piece on divorce, replying, touchily and with much abuse, to a critic of Doctrine and Discipline. 1649. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. (English.)
Milton's first defence (thongh begun before the event) of the execution of Charles I. Being addressed to those members of the parliamentary and presbyterian party who had stopped short of regicide, it is, with a few outbreaks, for the most part written civilly and in a tone of sober argument. Observations upon the Articles of Peace with the Irish Rebels. (English.)
The articles themselves and some documents appurtenant are first printed. Milton's comment is not long; and, like The Tenure, seems to have been written with some self-restraint, which, however, breaks down with relatively greater frequency than in the earlier piece. Eikonoklastes. (English.)
In this reply to Eikon Basilike (the effect of which was greatly disturbing the regicides) a very few lines at the beginning seem to promise a continuance of the comparative moderation of the two previous pamphlets. But this is soon dropped, and every opportunity is taken of invective and innuendo furnished by a continuous analysis of Eikon, from the king's reading of Shakespeare and Sidney, through his political conduct, to his affection for his wife, and the ill-hap of his grandmother; from his 'writing Oglio for Olla' to his repentance for the death of Strafford. Except in the preface, this line of bit-by-bit comment with hostile discussion is preserved throughout: there is no summary or peroration. As to Eikon Basilike, see post, chap. VI.
(It is supposed that, during 1651, Milton may have written some articles for the Mercurius Politicus which he apparently censured; but they have never been authoritatively identified. See post, chap. xv.)
1651. Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio. (Latin.) On this and the next three or four items, see text.
1654. Defensio Secunda. (Latin.) Followed by Pro se Defensio, 1655, and a Supplementum.
1658-9. A Treatise on Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes. (English.) 1659. Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings out of the Church. (English.)
A Letter to a Friend concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth. (English.)
1660. The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth. (English.)
Preceded by a letter on the same subject to Monck, and in the later printed form acknowledging that 'since the writing... the face of things hath had some change.' Argument against monarchy, with a good deal about the Areopagus and the Ephors.
1660. Brief Notes upon a late Sermon... by Matthew Griffith. (English.) Opens with a reference to the last-named piece, and comments on the text in the style (a little softened) of the Answer to the Remonstrant and the Eikonoklastes.
1670. Written at uncertain dates.
The History of Britain. History of Moscovia. Both English; see text. 1673. Of True Religion, etc. against the growth of Popery. (English.)
Very brief and rather ambiguous in its attitude to 'toleration.' 'Popery... is not to be tolerated in public or private.' But, later, it seems that Papists may write 'at least in Latin.'
1674. Letters Patents of the Election of this present King of Poland, John the third. (Translated from Latin.)
1649-59. Letters of State. (Latin.) Published 1694.
1655. A Manifesto of the Lord Protector. (Latin.)
1625-66. Familiar Epistles (published 1674), including Milton's college Prolusiones. (Latin.)
(Posthumous.) De Doctrina Christiana. (Latin.)
Further light was thrown on the curious history of this after Sumner's publication of it (see post and ante) by Smith's Letters of Pepys, David Skinner, the depositary who handed over the MS to Williamson, having been one of the diarist's numerous clients.
Besides these, Milton made collections, utilised by Phillips, for a Latin dictionary. He also issued the following compilations:
1669. Accedence commenc't Grammar (English, but on Latin, not English, grammar).
1672. Artis Logica Plenior Institutio. (Latin, and based on Ramus.)
With regard to the text of the poems, it may be useful to enumerate the sources. The whole (except the four sonnets to Fairfax, Cromwell, Vane and Cyriack Skinner (2), which were kept back for political reasons) was printed in Milton's lifetime; but the vast majority of the verses did not appear till after his blindness and, therefore, cannot possibly have been corrected by his own hand. For, however carefully he may have had read to him his dictated matter, the fair copies of it and the proofs, is it reasonably possible that every word can have been spelt to him at length and his alterations (if any) automatically and infallibly recorded? The importance, therefore, which was attached to the censor's copy (see ante) of Paradise Lost, Bk. 1, recently sold by descendants of Tonson, could be hardly more than an importance of curiosity.
On the other hand, the Cambridge MS, already referred to, is of the highest possible interest: for, with very few exceptions (and those almost entirely subsequent to the blindness), it is in Milton's own hand. There are also large corrections in that hand: so that, altogether, it is invaluable-not least so in regard to questions of versification and spelling. It gives us the whole of Arcades, Comus and Lycidas; all the sonnets except four (the 'O Nightingale," On the late Massacher in Piemont,' 'When I consider' and the one to Lawrence), one or two minor things and the valuable notes of early planned or suggested subjects, to which reference has been made above. This is, practically, the only document of the kind that we have for the text of a very great English poet before the eighteenth century: and it can hardly be prized too highly.
Perhaps it should be added that, in some editions, translations, not Milton's own, of scraps of Latin verse in the pamphlets have been included without warning.
IN the earlier years of Charles I, when, according to the view of intelligent contemporaries, there was the rare and happy union of imperium and libertas and few perceived the approach of the troubles which should lead to civil war, the English interest in preaching was, perhaps, at its greatest. The stormiest controversies of the reformation seemed, for a time, to have spent themselves. The church of England was in settled possession, with a king who was her devoted son. The wide interests of the Elizabethan age, which inspired theologians as well as men of affairs, had tuned the pulpits to themes of universal concern. As men thought and wrote, so men preached, of matters beyond the ken of the cloister; and the massive dignity of their fathers' prose was reflected from the lips and the pens of those who were set to give God's message to men. Nothing is more remarkable in an age of fading literary excellence than the way in which the thoughts and methods of the great poets and prose writers of the preceding generation were taken up and handled by the clergy of the national church. The earlier age of the Caroline divines was especially an age of great preachers.
For the most part, this development was confined to the church of England. Roman Catholics, obscure when they were not persecuted, did not seriously affect the national literature. Their training as theologians was exclusive and foreign. They did not write English very easily; and what they wrote had not a large audience. Roman Catholic writers, where they had influence at all, influenced English authors directly, as the Spanish school influenced Crashaw and Vaughan. In every sense, their English writings were exotic. But, apart though this influence stands, it has not a little interest and charm, as may be seen in Sancta Sophia, or Holy Wisdom... extracted out
of more than forty Treatises written by the Venerable Father Augustin Baker by Father Cressy, first published in 1657. Augustin Baker was a Welshman, who was taught at Christ's hospital and at Broadgates hall in Oxford and who, after a few years in practice as a country lawyer, became a Roman Catholic and, at the age of thirty-one, a Benedictine. In England and while he was at Cambridge, he wrote a number of ascetic treatises which, after his death, the more famous Father Cressy (an Englishman, and, at one time, chaplain to Falkland) collected and 'extracted' into a devotional treatise of much beauty, to which he gave the name Sancta Sophia, a study of contemplation and prayer. The style is involved, and yet it is not cumbrous. There is a certain exactness, as it were of legalism, which affects the language with an obvious restraint. But, on the other hand, there are felicities of thought, and, more rarely, of expression, which give the book a definite place in the literature of devotion. Yet it is only necessary to compare it with the Meditations of Traherne to see how much the wider outlook of the English churchman has affected the literary expression given to thoughts that were common to meditative souls. The matter of Sancta Sophia is an instruction in the method of meditation, or the prayer of contemplation, owing a good deal to foreign mystics, whether orthodox like Saint Teresa or quietist, and, by a systematic rule, proceeding at last
unto the top of the mountain, where God is seen: a mountain, to us that stand below, environed with clouds and darkness, but to them who have their dwelling there it is peace and serenity and light. It is an intellectual heaven, where there is no sun nor moon, but God and the Lamb are the light of it.
The nearest parallel, in the English literature of the time, to the Sancta Sophia of Baker is the Centuries of Meditations of Thomas Traherne1; yet Traherne, above all things, is an Anglican. His residence at the university in times of puritan dominance did not give him any tincture of Calvinism. He set himself to supply a private friend (as it appears) with thoughts for divine contemplation, in his Centuries of Meditations, a book which had the strange fortune to remain in manuscript for nearly two hundred and fifty years. What strikes the reader most, after the spiritual intensity of this remarkable volume, is the wide scope of the writer's survey. All heaven and earth he takes for the province of the pious soul, and the 1 See ante, pp. 42–44.