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in which the King's was implied, to the projected rising of the papists, whose army talled itself her's, and whose leaders every where professed to act under the royal authority, and loyally avowed their support of the throne. We can easily admit that the king's commission, pretended by O‘Ncale, was a forgery of that delestable ruffian’s; but the papers, produced after the restoration by his associate, the marquis of Antrim, among which was a letter in the King's own hand authorizing him to take up arms, cannot fail to convince the most resolutę infidelity that the court, not aware of the weakness and the mischief of such assistance, had solicited aid from the co-operation of the Irish chiefs. The subsequent excesses of these barbarian bigots made the strongest disavowal of any connexion with them, on the part of their royal ally, a measure of the most obvious expediency: but the conduct of Charles, when, within the space of three years and at a crisis not unfavourable to his fortunes, he gave to the earl of Glamorgan full powers to treat with these murderers, and to grant not merely pardon, but honours and triumph to their crimes, abundantly demonstrates that loyalty with “ hands thicker than themselves with brother's blood,” was more acceptable to him than resistance with the most specious and alluring smile of patriotism on its cheek.
The peace concluded in his name with these insurgents by the earl of Ormond, on the articles of which Milton now animadverts, was susceptible of more palliation, as it was made under circumstances of greater pressure and when the royal cause was reduced to the most desperate extremity. In either case however he must be a stern moralist, and ignorant of the just demand of human weakness, who will not pause before he condemns a monarch, in the same sitúation with Charles, for refusing to offer his private interests at the shrine of public virtue, and to reject the promises of personal good from a regard to the welfare or from sympathy with the feeling of an alienated and hostile nation. But let this point be determined as it may, one of the principal causes of the King's ruin was his supposed confederation with the Irish catholics; and the treaty made with them under his authority by Ormond, at the time of which we are speaking, was sufficient to confirm the public prepossession on the subject and to give the tone of truth to republican and puritan invective.
The opportunity was too favourable to be neglected by Milton; and he found it not difficult to be severe on the articles of a peace which, completely abandoning the English and the protestant causes in Ireland, permitted their enemies to exult in the successful consequences of their sanguinary revenge. The conduct indeed of the Royalists in this instance, and of their new allies, the Presbyterians, one of whose official papers, called “ A Representation of the Presbytery at Belfast," was included in Milton's present strictures, very evidently discovered to what lengths in dereliction of principle, and how far from any sight of the public-good men could be hurried by the irritation of private motives and the domineering influence of party rage.
When he had concluded this attack on the united enemies, as he was irclined to deem them, of his country, Milton reverted to the more quiet occupations of literature, and finished, as he tells us, four books of
e His rebus confectis, cum jam abundè otii existimarem mihi futurum, ad historiam gentis, ab ultimâ origine repetitam ad hæc usque tempora, si possem, perpetuo filo deducendam me converti. Quatuor sanè libros absolveram, cum ecce nihil tale cogitantem me, Caroli regno in rempublicam redacto, Concilium Statùs, quod dicitur, tum primum authoritate parliamenti constitutum,
that great historical work, which he intended to consecrate to the honour of his native land.
Of this work, in which it was the writer's purpose to trace the entire history of England from its first dark source in the regions of fable to its influx into his own times, only six books were completed.. The four first of these conduct the narrative to the union of the Heptarchy under Egbert; and the two last, written in his next pause from controversial asperity when he had crushed the interfering insolence of Morus, bring it no lower than to the battle of Hastings. Of a history, so imperfect and terminating just at the moment in which it was to become interesting, we can only say that the inaterials, which are copiously and curiously collected, are well arranged and combined; and that the style, made occasionally harsh by inversions not congenial with our language, is uniformly perspicuous and energetic while it is frequently elegant and harmonious. The first book of this work is abandoned without reserve to the fables of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and was intended,
ad se vocat, meâq; operâ ad res præsertim externas uti voluit. P.W. v, 234.
as the author intimates, rather to suggest subjects to the poet than maxims to the statesman or lessons to the sage.'
The prosecution of this historical labour was suspended by an event which formed a great crisis in Milton's life; and, immedialely leading him to extended fame and fortune, eventually proved the mean of his extreme danger and distress.
On the death of Charles, a government nominally representative, and professing to spring directly from the will of the people, was raised upon the ruins of the throne.
In this state of things, the executive power was lodged, by that portion of the long Parliament which had survived the violence of the fanatic army, in a council consisting of thirty-eight members of the legislative assembly, and by them the political machine was conducted under the name of the Commonwealth of England. A republic, however constituted, and how liable soever to objection in its best forms and under the wisest modifications, is still informed with a strong principle of animation, which actu
f I have, therefore, determined to bestow the telling over even of these reputed tales; be it for nothing else but in favour of our English poets and rhetoricians, who by their art will know how to use them judiciously. P. W. iv. 2.