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servitors, trip about him at command, and in wellordered files, as he would wish, fall aptly into their own places.'1

'I could recount what I have seen and heard in other countries, where this kind of inquisition tyrannizes, when I have sat among their learned men (for that honour I had), and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning amongst them was brought; that this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.' 3

I am long since persuaded that to say or do aught worth memory and imitation, no purpose or respect should sooner move us than simply the

1 "

Apology for Smectymnuus,' Works, vol. iii. p. 95, &c.

2 He is here deprecating the censorship of the press.

3 "

Areopagitica,' Works, vol. ii. p. 82.



I will forthwith set

love of God and of mankind. down in writing, as you request me, that voluntary idea, which hath long, in silence, presented itself to me, of a better education, in extent and comprehension far more large, and yet of time far shorter, and of attainment far more certain, than hath been yet in practice. To tell you what I have benefited herein among old renowned authors, I shall spare. But if you can accept of these few observations which have flowered off, and are, as it were, the burnishing of many studious and contemplative years, altogether spent in the search of religious and civil knowledge, and such as pleased you so well in the relating, I here give you them to dispose of.'


'Me it concerns next (i.e. this matter of the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce), having with much labour and faithful diligence first found out, or at least, with a fearless and communicative candour, first published, to the manifest good of Christendom, that which, calling to witness every thing mortal and immortal, I believe unfeignedly to be true. I seek not to seduce the simple and illiterate ; 1 'On Education,' Works, vol. iii. p. 462.


my errand is to find out the choicest and the learnedest, who have this high gift of wisdom to answer solidly or to be convinced. I crave it from the piety, the learning, and the prudence, which is housed in this place. It might, perhaps, more fitly have been written in another tongue; and I had done so, but that the esteem I have of my country's judgment, and the love I bear to my native language, to serve it first with what I endeavour, make me speak it thus, ere I assay the verdict of outlandish readers.

'But some are ready to object that the disposition ought seriously to be considered before.1 But let them know again that, for all the wariness can be used, it may yet befall a discreet man to be mistaken in his choice; and we have plenty of examples. The soberest and best governed men are least practised in these affairs; and who knows not that the bashful muteness of a virgin may

In this and various other passages throughout this Treatise of Divorce, Milton is speaking feelingly, and is evidently alluding to his wife Mary Powell and her obstinate desertion of him, a few weeks after their marriage, for a period of more than two years. Bearing this in mind, we can hardly be wrong in regarding much that he here writes as eminently and essentially autobiographical.


ofttimes hide all the unliveliness and natural slotn which is really unfit for conversation? Nor is there that freedom of access granted or presumed, as may suffice to a perfect discerning, till too late; and where any indisposition is suspected, what more usual than the persuasion of friends that acquaintance, as it increases, will amend all? The sober man, honouring the appearance of modesty, may easily chance to meet with a mind to all due conversation inaccessible, and to all the more estimable and superior purposes of matrimony useless and almost lifeless; and what a solace, what a fit help, such a consort would be through the whole life of a man, is less pain to conjecture than to have experience.



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Although God in the first ordaining of marriage taught us to what end He did it, in words expressly implying the apt and cheerful conversation of man with woman, to comfort and refresh him against the evil of solitary life, yet now, if any two be but once banded in the Church, let them find themselves never so mistaken in their dispositions through any error, concealment, or misadventure, that through their different tempers, thoughts, and

constitutions, they can neither be to one another a remedy against loneliness, nor live in any union or contentment all their days, yet they shall be made, spite of antipathy, to fadge together, and combine as they may to their unspeakable wearisomeness, and despair of all sociable delight in the ordinance which God established to that very end. What a calamity is this! and as the wise man, if he were alive, would sigh out in his own phrase, what a 66 sore evil is this under the sun "!

'This position shall be laid down, that indisposition, unfitness, or contrariety of mind, arising from a cause in nature unchangeable, hindering, and ever likely to hinder, the main benefits of conjugal society, is a greater reason of divorce than natural frigidity, especially if there be no children, and that there be mutual consent.

There follows upon this a worse temptation; for if he be such as hath spent his youth unblamably, and laid up his chiefest earthly comforts in the enjoyments of a contented marriage, nor did neglect that furtherance which was to be obtained therein by constant prayers; when he shall find himself bound fast to an uncomplying discord of

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