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At the time of Milton's reconciliation with his wife, the enlargement of his family, had obliged him to change his residence to a more commodious mansion in Barbican, whither he now transported his household.
" When it is considered that Milton cheerfully opened his doors to those who had treated him with indignity and breach of faith: to a father who, according to the poet's nuncupative will, never paid him the promised marriage portion of a thousand pounds; and to a mother who, according to Wood, had encouraged the daughter in her perverseness, we cannot but accede to Mr. Hayley's conclusion, that the records of private life exhibit not a more magnanimous example of forgiveness and benefi
Notwithstanding these domestic embarrassments, and the engrossing interest of the civil war, then rising to its triumphant climax, Milton did not permit his attention to be wholly diverted from other important considerations. He published during this period, in addition to the “Plea for Unlicensed Printing," and the pamphlets on divorce, his elaborate “ Treatise on Education," and several sonnets. His leisure hours he filled up pleasantly, either in visiting his friends, and especially one lady, a daughter of the Earl of Marlborough, who was possessed of rare talents, and to whom, as to her husband, Captain Hobson, an accomplished gentleman, his company was peculiarly acceptable; or in collecting and correcting his early poems, both Latin and English, an edition of which was first published under the auspices of Humphrey Moseley, the general publisher of the poets of that epoch, in 1645.
* Todd's Life of Milton, p. 58.
Mosely says, in his “Address to the Reader," "The author's more peculiar excellence in these studies was too well known to conceal his papers, or to keep me from attempting to solicit them from him. Let the event guide itself which way it will, I shall deserve of the age, by bringing into the light as true a birth as the muses have brought forth since our famous Spenser wrote; whose poems in these English ones are as rarely imitated, as sweetly excelled.”
Moseley's discernment did indeed "deserve
of the age,” and though these poems did not win much applause on their first appearance, it is only another proof that great works in literature are seldom appreciated by the generation which witnesses their birth. Bunyan's immortal writings were long treated with the shabbiest neglect.
In 1647, Milton again removed his residence, taking a smaller house in Holborn; the Powells having left him, he no longer required so much room as was contained in the spacious Barbican dwelling. Philips tells us that "he is much mistaken, if there was not about this time a design of making him an adjutantgeneral in William Waller's army. But the new modelling of the army proved an obstruction to the design.”
It was in this year that Milton's father died, ending happily and peacefully a long and useful life, whose declining days had been soothed by every attention possible to be paid him by an affectionate, grateful, and pious son.
Milton still continued to instruct a few pupils; but for a number of months his busy pen had rest.
Milton's wife had, a year or two after the reconciliation, presented him with a daughter, whom he named Anne, after his sister. This child was born lame, or became so in early youth from some accident. In October of 1648, his second daughter was born, receiving her mother's name, Mary.
It was while residing in Holborn, in this quiet and domestic manner, that the Parliament appointed Milton to the Latin secretaryship of state. This at once changed his mode of life, and introduced him to the busiest scene of his checkered career.
In order fully to comprehend the purpose and significance of Milton's state appointment, it will be necessary to cast a retrospective glance at the progress and scope of the civil war from that incipient stage up to which we have already traced it, to the unhappy and ghastly death of Charles upon the scaffold.
The war, which, from the battle of Edgehill, had somewhat dragged, success alternately perching upon the eagles of the king and upon the Puritan standard, was in 1645 prosecuted with new and Titanic energy, owing to the displacement of the honest but inefficient Parliamentary generals Essex and Fairfax, and the appointment of Oliver Cromwell to the supreme command of the Puritan army. From this period hope, which had twinkled in the political horizon, was quenched for the king. The cohorts of the Parliament, officered by the soldierly genius of Cromwell, one of the great