Abbildungen der Seite

man of whom there still remained a respectful recollection in England. Born in 1552, he had been eminent as a lawyer before Queen Elizabeth's death; and, after a long career as Knight, Baronet, and Judge, he had been raised by James to the great office of Lord High Treasurer of England in 1624, and, at the same time, to a peerage as Baron Ley of Ley in Devonshire. The higher dignity of the Earldom of Marlborough was conferred on him by Charles in 1626-7, when he was seventy-four years of age. In 1628 he had been removed from the High Treasurership to the less laborious office of President of the Council, ostensibly on account of his old age, but really, it was thought, because he was not sufficiently compliant with the policy of Charles and Buckingham. He died in March 1628-9, immediately after the dissolution of Charles's Third Parliament; and, as the Sonnet hints, his death was believed to have been hastened by political anxiety at that crisis. He left three sons; the eldest of whom, Henry, succeeded him in the Earldom, but, dying in 1638, transmitted it to his son, James Ley, third Earl of Marlborough, who attained to unusual distinction by his services to the King in the Civil War, and by his various abilities. Among the surviving aunts of this young nobleman, and herself probably somewhat past her youth, was the Lady Margaret of the Sonnet. She had married a Captain Hobson, from the Isle of Wight; and both she and her husband seem to have taken the Parliamentarian side. They resided in London, and Milton had become acquainted with them. His nephew and biographer Phillips expressly says that, after his desertion by his first wife in 1643, Milton "made it his chief diversion now and then of an evening to visit the Lady Margaret Ley," adding, "This lady, being a woman of great wit and ingenuity, had a particular honour for him, and took much delight in his company, as likewise Captain Hobson, her husband, a very accomplished gentleman." Milton's compliment to her in the Sonnet is that she was a true daughter of her liberal father. Her political and religious opinions probably agreed with Milton's. This is the latest of the Sonnets printed in the edition of 1645, and it is there printed without a heading. The heading is from the Cambridge draft.


The Treatises in question were Milton's four Treatises on the subject of Divorce, written between his desertion by his first wife in 1643 and her return to him and reconciliation with him in the autumn of 1645: viz. his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, which came first and passed through two editions, and his Judgment of Martin Bucer, his Tetrachordon, and his Colasterion, which followed at intervals, in defence of the original publication. As the opinion broached by Milton in these pamphlets was a new and daring one, it shocked people greatly, and especially the Presbyterians, who were then in the ascendant in Parliament, and all-powerful in the Westminster Assembly. Milton's strange doctrine of Divorce was the subject of talk in society; it was attacked through the press; it even brought him into danger with the public authorities. Milton's two Sonnets are his comments, one half jocose, the other contemptuous and indignant, on this execration with which he found himself surrounded. They were written late in 1645 or early in 1646, when the return of his wife and his reconciliation with her had abated his practical and personal interest in the success of his doctrine, and, though he still retained it, he had made up his mind not to argue it farther through the press. Either they were too late for insertion in the First Edition of his Poems (dated 1645, but published Jan. 2, 1645-6), or he judged it best to exclude them. They appeared, however, in the edition of 1673. There are allusions in the Sonnets, and especially in the first, which require explanation in the Notes.


Partly on

This is, in reality, a continuation or extension of the vein of the two Divorce Sonnets, and must have been written about the same time, or hardly later than 1647. account of the outcry against Milton's Divorce Pamphlets among the Presbyterians, partly on more general grounds, he had parted company with them, and had attached himself rather to the party, or combination of parties, of which Crom



well was becoming the recognised head, and who were called by the general name of the Independents. It was the leading principle of this party, or combination of parties, to oppose the too rigorous establishment of that system of Presbyterian Church Government and Discipline, after the Scottish model, which had been decreed in England by the Long Parliament, and in part carried into effect, after the abolition of Episcopacy. It was their effort, at all events, to secure that, if this system were permanently established by the majority as the national English system, there should be room under it for freedom of conscience and worship for the dissenting minority. Gradually the notion of a toleration of Independents and other Sects within certain limits under the established Presbyterianism was gaining ground in Parliament, chiefly in consequence of the power of the Parliamentarian Army, which was composed largely of Independents, Baptists, and more extreme Sectaries; but the rigid Presbyterians, and especially the Presbyterian Divines of the Westminster Assembly, and most especially the small group of Scottish Divines who sat in that Assembly as assessors to their English brethren, were loud in their denunciations of the arch-heresy of Toleration, as they called it, and their calls for a suppression of all Sects and the enforcement of an absolute Presbyterian uniformity by the civil power. It is against these claims of strict Presbyterian supremacy that Milton speaks out in the present piece of verse. He intended it to be what may be called an Anti-Presbyterian and Pro-Toleration Sonnet; and the first fourteen lines, it may be observed, really do make a Sonnet. But, when he had reached the fourteenth line, Milton had not packed in all he meant to say; and so he adds six lines more of jagged verse, converting the piece into a kind of Sonnet with a scorpion's tail to it. There were precedents for such sonnets with tails in Italian poetry. Although not published till 1673, the piece was probably in private circulation, and doing service for Independency and Liberty of Conscience, from 1646 onwards. The allusions in it, and explanation. It will be


[ocr errors]

especially the personalities, need given in the Notes.


One of the Cambridge drafts of this Sonnet fixes its date as Feb. 9, 1645-6. That draft is headed "To my Friend,

Mr. Henry Lawes: Feb. 9, 1645," and signed "J. M."; the other draft, though also in Milton's hand, bears this heading in another, "To Mr. Hen. Lawes, on the publishing of his Aires." Actually, the Sonnet first appeared in print, with Milton's name attached, as one of a few pieces of eulogistic verse prefixed to a volume published by Moseley in 1648 and entitled Choice Psalmes put into Musick for three voices: composed by Henry and William Lawes, Brothers, and Servants to His Majestie.

Milton's friendship from his boyhood with the musician Henry Lawes, and the main facts of that interesting person's life till his co-operation with Milton in the production of the Arcades at Harefield, and of Comus at Ludlow, have been recorded in the Introductions to those two poems. We have now to add that, in the intervening years, the reputation of Lawes in his art had been steadily growing, till there was perhaps no musical composer of his time more generally known and liked. Still retaining, in association with his brother William, his position as one of the King's musicians and gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, and still connected by special professional engagements with the Bridgewater family, he had done much work in the way of setting to music songs by Carew, Herrick, Waller, Cartwright, and other popular poets. These songs of Lawes were favourites in English households, and the poets whose words were thus recommended by his airs could not thank him enough. There are verses by Herrick and others in which affectionate mention is made of " Harry" and his musical skill. And so the publisher Moseley, or perhaps Milton himself, in bringing out the first edition of Milton's Poems in 1645, did not forget that Lawes's name might be an advantage to the volume. "The Songs were set in Musick by Mr. Henry Lawes, Gentleman of the King's Chappel, and one of His Majesties private Musick," was the announcement on the title-page, referring to the songs in Arcades and Comus, and perhaps to others in the volume; and in the body of the volume was reprinted Lawes's Dedication of Comus to Lord Brackley. Clearly, therefore, Milton's intimacy with Lawes had not been interrupted even by the Civil War and the division of all Englishmen into Royalists and Parliamentarians. his position, if not from his artistic temperament, Lawes was a Royalist; and indeed his brother William had been slair


in the King's cause at the siege of Chester (1645), greatly to the King's grief, who is said to have put on private mourning for him. Not the less had Henry Lawes, who remained in London, his meetings with his old friend Milton, when they would lay politics aside and agree in Music.


The Sonnet itself, with its heading, which does not occur in the printed volume, but is taken from the Cambridge MS., supplies all the information we have respecting the person addressed. Phillips, indeed, mentions that, some time in 1649, Milton "lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the Bull Head Tavern at Charing Cross, opening into the Spring Garden"; and it has been supposed that the Mrs. Catherine Thomson who died in 1646 may have been one of the Charing Cross family with whom Milton thus afterwards lodged. This is mere guess. Thomson, then, as now, was a very common

name in London.


The Siege of Colchester in Essex lasted from the 15th of June to the 28th of August 1648, and was one of the most memorable incidents of what is called "the Second Civil War," i.e. of that spasmodic new rising of the English and Scottish Royalists on behalf of Charles I., then a prisoner in the Isle of Wight, which it required all the energy of Fairfax, the Parliamentarian commander-in-chief, and of Cromwell, his lieutenant-general, to put down, and which led very speedily to the King's trial and doom. While Cromwell managed the northern department of the war, meeting and beating the Duke of Hamilton and the Royalist Scots and English at Preston, Fairfax in person superintended the siege of Colchester; which town had been seized for the King, and was defended by the Earl of Norwich, Lord Capel, Sir Charles Lucas, Sir George Lisle, and other Royalist chiefs. As Fairfax offered quarter only to the soldiers, but required the leaders to surrender at discretion, the defence was desperate, and both the garrison and the townspeople were reduced to the last straits of starvation, having to eat grass

« ZurückWeiter »