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other and sufficient reasons for divorce besides adultery, and that to prohibit any sort of divorce but such as are accepted by Moses is unjust, and against the reason of the law.
These innovations brought upon Milton's head a storm of ridicule and denunciation at the time. The wits of the court and the thunders of the pulpit united their terrors to affright and daunt him. He was even summoned before the bar of the House of Lords; but he was quickly dismissed, and all efforts to excite the Lords and Commons of the Parliament against him signally failed. Perhaps they foresaw the time when they should require him to wield his mighty pen in their defence, and thus were cautious not to treat with harshness one beneath the ægis of whose glittering rhetoric they might be driven to hide.
Whether the Parliament accepted his theories or not, his writings gave birth to a sect called Miltonists, who did indorse him.
Dr. Symmons, a clergyman of the Established church in England, and one of Milton's ablest biographers, thinks that he “has made out a strong case, and fights with arguments
not easily to be repelled."* And Mr. Godwin says, “The books on divorce are written with the most entire knowledge of the subject, and with a clearness and strength of argument that it would be difficult to excel.” Selden also, one of the profoundest lawyers in English jurisprudence, fully indorsed Milton's principles, writing his “Uxor Hebraica" on that side of the question; while in America a number of the states have enacted analogous precepts into law.
This proves that those critics who charge that Milton wrote the divorce pamphlets hastily and ignorantly, in order to vent his spite, falsify the record. The pamphlets breathe, in the main, making fair deductions on account of the heated controversial period in which they were written—an age when polemical writers were far from nice in their choice and bestowal of epithetsa pure and Christian spirit, and show their author's desire and effort to lean prayerfully and unhesitatingly upon the Scriptures. If he erred, it was not intentionally, or because he did not seek the truth.
Symmons' Life of Milton, p. 202.
The lesson which may safely be drawn from this unhappy episode in Milton's life is, that marriage should be based upon something better than mere fancy, upon which Milton's choice seems only to have rested; and that persons should not “marry in haste,” if they do not wish "to repent at leisure.”
About this time Milton's little academy was reinforced by the arrival of several new pupils whom he had consented to receive into his family. His father also, upon the capture of Reading by the Earl of Essex in 1643, left his son Christopher, with whom he had been residing in that town, and came to form part of the establishment in Aldersgatestreet.
In conformity with his tenets on the subject of divorce, and to exhibit his consciousness of freedom, Milton, in 1644, began to address a beautiful and accomplished young lady, a daughter of a Mr. Davis, with a view to matrimony. It has been asserted somewhat loosely, that Miss Davis was averse to the union; but if she entertained any objections, they were overcome, and the match would have
taken place but for the occurrence of a somewhat remarkable circumstance.
The desperate situation of the king's cause in 1644, caused by the utter rout of the royal “army at Naseby, made the family of Milton's wife reluctantly sensible of the folly of their conduct in alienating a man so powerful with the Parliament, and selfishly anxious to propitiate his resentment. They foresaw that his active countenance would soon be necessary for their protection, and possibly for their actual subsistence. "With no resemblance to the elevated equanimity of the man who had honored them with his alliance, they rose or fell, like the mob of their species, with the flow or the ebb of fortune, and were insolent or abject as their unstable power visited or deserted them.” They therefore determined to effect a reconciliation between Milton and his wife.
“Their plan," says Dr. Symmons, conceived and executed with successful ingenuity.” When on a visit to a relative in the lane of St. Martin's-le-grand, he was surprised to see his wife come from another room and
beg forgiveness on her knees. Fenton remarks, * “It is not to be doubted but an interview of that nature, so little expected, must wonderfully affect him; and perhaps the impression it made upon his imagination contributed much to the painting of that pathetic scene in ‘Paradise Lost,' in which Eve addresses herself to Adam for pardon and peace. At the intercession of his friends who were present, after a short reluctance, he generously sacrificed all his resentment to her tears:
“Soon his heart relented
Such was Milton's generous and Christian spirit, that, banishing all remembrance of his wife's ill-conduct, and also of her family's provocation, he received them all into his own house, where he freely entertained and protected them until their affairs were accommodated by his interest with the victorious Puritans. His wife continued to reside with him happily and affectionately until her death some
* In the preface to his edition of “Paradise Lost,” first published in London, in 1725.