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gags, and to muzzle the press. Nor was it until the year 1694 that the license was definitely abolished, and the press, shaking off its locks and shackles, became really free in England.*
* Blackstone's Commentaries, 11th ed., Vol. IV., p. 152.
AT Whitsuntide, in 1643, he being then thirty-five years of age, Milton married Mary, a daughter of Mr. Powell, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire, and a gentleman of property and position. After spending the honeymoon among his bride's relatives, Milton brought her to town with him, in the expectation of living comfortably and happily with her. His bright hopes were, however, speedily blasted, and his wife held to his lips a goblet of mortification which he was obliged to drain to the very dregs.
Many circumstances combined to render this match exceedingly unequal and ill-advised; it certainly proves that the wisest of men are at times the most foolish. The Powells were stanchly cavalier in their politics; Miss Powell had been reared in the gay, frivolous circles of the "love-locked” gentry of that loose epoch, was used to much company, merriment, and dancing, held her austere husband's democratic principles in utter contempt, and was not fitted either by nature or training to sympathize with his magnificent projects, and studious, philosophical pursuits.
To a lady thus bred, nothing could be more odiously uninviting than the solitary study of a recluse scholar, where no company whose tastes were similar to hers ever came, where spare diet and a house full of pupils constantly galled one who had been spoiled, petted, and lapped in luxury. Sighing for the old life of mirth and joviality, she urged Milton, after passing some few weeks with him in London, to permit her to visit her friends in Oxfordshire for a while; with which request her husband complied, only stipulating that she should return to him at Michaelmas.
This visit was in fact only a pretence for conjugal desertion.* Philips, Milton's nephew, at the time a pupil in his uncle's house, tells us that her relations "being generally addicted to the cavalier party, and some of them possibly engaged in the king's service, (who by this time had his head-quarters at Oxford, and was
* Todd's Life of Milton, p. 48.
in some prospect of success,) they began to repent them of having matched the eldest daughter of the family to a person so contrary to them in opinion; and thought it would be a blot in their escutcheon, whenever that court should come to flourish again."
However this may be, certain it is that she did not make her appearance at the appointed time, and that she yielded no obedience to her husband's repeated requests that she should resume her place at his side. “After receiving several of his letters without sending him any answer,” says Tolland, “she did at length positively refuse to come, dismissing his messenger with contempt.”
It may easily be imagined what the result of such keenly insulting conduct would be upon a man of John Milton's high, proud, and honorable spirit. Exasperated beyond measure, he resolved to repudiate his wife; and in defence of this resolution, he published his four celebrated treatises on divorce, the two first in 1644, the others in 1645.
The first pamphlet on this subject was called the “Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce,”
and was dedicated to the Parliament and the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. This provoked much comment; and several answers to it being penned by his opponents, Milton shortly after, in order to show that he did not stand alone in his opinion, published his second tract, “The judgment of the Famous Reformer Martin Bucer, Touching Divorce,” in which he proved that that worthy exactly agreed with him.
In response to an elaborate attack upon his theory in 1645, Milton published another tract in its defence: "Tetrarchordon; or, Excpositions upon the Four Chief Places of Scripture which treat of Marriage or Nullities in Marriage.” Some months later, being provoked thereto by continued denunciation and misrepresentation, he issued the “Colasterion," in which he closed the controversy.
It is not within the purview of this Life to : speak at any length or with any oracularness upon the momentous question of divorce. Perhaps however it is but fair to state that Milton's design in the pamphlet he wrote upon the subject was, to show that there may be