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with all the bitterness and gross personal abuse which in general characterised the polemical litei ature of an age which knew nothing of even the rudimentary amenities of theological and political discussion. In speaking in this way of these prose writings, however, we must make an exception in favour of one of them, the “Areopagitica." Milton's theories of Church government and of marriage and divorce will be considered in detail only by the special student. But every lover of books and of intellectual liberty should read for himself this magnificent “ unspoken oration" in defence of freedom of thought and an unlicensed Press. By an order of Parliament in 1643 the Government had forbidden the publication, reprinting, and importation of any unlicensed publications. Milton saw with disgust that the Parliamentary party now in power were thus proving faithless to their trust and their principles. They had stood for liberty-liberty of conscience and opinion as well as political liberty; and now they were busy reviving intellectual despotism under another form-that of the censorship of the Press. So Milton was moved to write his great plea, and as Mr. Stopford Brooke has justly said, “its defense of books, and the freedom of books, will last as long as there are writers and readers of books." Here and there, amid the general argument, are passages which are for ever memorable ; as notably this one, which, familiar as it is, I yet cannot forbear quoting :
For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are ; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's teeth ; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. And yet on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book ; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image ; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth ; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.
Yet, while the “Areopagitica " differs from the rest of Milton's prose writings in the permanence of its interest, it is still absolutely at one with them in its inspiration and purpose. Its keynote is liberty ; and liberty under one or another form is equally the keynote of all his other pamphlets. This is the point to be emphasised, and it is brought out very clearly in the full account which Milton himself gives in his Defensio Secunda ” of his literary activities after his return from the Continent. He here explains that, having leisure to direct his thoughts “to the promotion of real and substantial liberty, which is rather to be sought from within than from without, and whose existence depends, not so much on the terror of the sword, as on sobriety of conduct and integrity of life," he had come to perceive " that there were three species of liberty which are essential to the happiness of social lifereligious, domestic, and civil.”
His pamphlets on Church government, in which he took the side not of the moderate reformers, but of the radicals, were his contributions to the cause of religious liberty. Civil liberty he left untouched, because “the magistrates were strenuously active in obtaining” it. As for domestic liberty, this, as he conceived it, involved " three material questions the conditions of the conjugal tie, the education of the children, and the free publication of thoughts." The “Areopagitica " is devoted, as we have seen, to the last of these great topics. His tract on Education is based upon the principle that a proper training in virtue is “the only genuine source of political and individual liberty." It has little
" importance on the pedagogical side, but it shows how fully the writer recognised the fact that if liberty is left to those who are not inwardly fit for it, it will soon degenerate into license ; and like every true lover of liberty, Milton had a horror of license. Finally, in his four tractates on divorce, he boldly advocated views which even now would be deemed advanced, attacking the doctrine of the indissolubility of the marriage-bond, and maintaining the thesis that a just ground for dissolving it may be found in “indisposition, unfitness, or contrariety of mind." It is a nice question how far these opinions were directly influenced by his own unfortunate venture in wedlock; certainly if, as seems probable, the first of these pamphlets was actually written during the month preceding his wife's desertion of him, the connection between his theories and his personal experiences may have been very close. But we have not now to analyse his arguments or weigh his conclusions. It is enough to note that his unqualified enunciation of ideas which he knew to be extremely unpopular even among his friends is a signal proof of his moral courage, and that in this matter again he regarded himself, rightly or wrongly, as the apostle of a wise and beneficial liberty. On the question of the relations of the sexes, Milton, as every reader of " Paradise Lost” will soon discover for him. self, held very strong opinions regarding the superiority of man and the subordination of woman. These opinions sound extremely reactionary to most of us to-day. But his ideal of marriage and its responsibilities was singularly high and pure.
The first two divorce tracts were published in 1644, the remaining two in 1645. In January of the latter year Laud was executed ; in June the forces of the king met overwhelming defeat on the field of Naseby. Had Charles been resolute and wise, he might still have saved, even at this late hour, himself and the crown. But he was neither resolute nor wise. In his weak and shifty way he temporised and intrigued, and finally surrendering himself to the Scots was by them handed over to the English Parliament. By this time contentions had arisen between Parliament and the Army ; the Army triumphed ; Charles was seized, formally tried, sentenced to death on January 27, 1649, and three days later beheaded. Then a Commonwealth was established. Cromwell, the man of the moment, rose into power, and, after a period of great confusion, was in 1653 proclaimed Lord Protector. It is necessary just to recall these events because of their bearings on the course of Milton's life. At first, intensely interested as he must have been in movements which obviously tended towards the consummation of his own political ideals, he held altogether aloof. Amid the distracting noises and conflicts he continued to be peacefully occupied with various literary projects—with designs for a Latin dictionary, for a History of England, for a system of theology, as well as with thoughts of his great epic. His home was now relieved of the burden of the Powell family, and his abandonment of tutorial work left him more leisure for meditation and writing. The way was thus clear for progress with his plans. But the execution of the king called him out of his retirement and turned his energies into the channel of public affairs. Two weeks after Charles's death on the scaffold, Milton published a pamphlet entitled “The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates," the thesis of which was “ 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