Mary Powell & Deborah's Diary
A tale which holdeth children from play & old men from the chimney corner —Sir Philip Sidney
London: published by J. M. Dent & Co.
and in New York by E. P. Dutton & Co.
In the Valhalla of English literature Anne Manning is sure of a little and safe place. Her studies of great men, in which her imagination fills in the hiatus which history has left, are not only literature in themselves, but they are a service to literature: it is quite conceivable that the ordinary reader with no very keen flair for poetry will realise John Milton and appraise him more highly, having read Mary Powell and its sequel, Deborah's Diary, than having read Paradise Lost. In The Household of Sir Thomas More she had for hero one of the most charming, whimsical, lovable, heroical men God ever created, by the creation of whose like He puts to shame all that men may accomplish in their literature. In John Milton, whose first wife Mary Powell was, Miss Manning has a hero who, though a supreme poet, was "gey ill to live with," and it is a triumph of her art that she makes us compunctious for the great poet even while we appreciate the difficulties that fell to the lot of his women-kind. John Milton, a Parliament man and a Puritan, married at the age of thirty-four, Mary Powell, a seventeen-year-old girl, the daughter of an Oxfordshire squire, who, with his family, was devoted to the King. It was at one of the bitterest moments of the conflict between King and Parliament, and it was a complication in the affair of the marriage that Mary Powell's father was in debt five hundred pounds to Milton. The marriage took place. Milton and his young wife set up housekeeping in lodgings in Aldersgate Street over against St. Bride's Churchyard, a very different place indeed from Forest Hill, Shotover, by Oxford, Mary Powell's dear country home. They were together barely a month when Mary Powell, on report of her father's illness, had leave to revisit him, being given permission to absent herself from her husband's side from mid-August till Michaelmas. She did not return at Michaelmas; nor for some two years was there a reconciliation between the bride and groom of a month. During those two years Milton published his pamphlet, On the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, begun while his few-weeks-old bride was still with him. In this pamphlet he states with violence his opinion that a husband should be permitted to put away his wife "for lack of a fit and matchable conversation," which would point to very slender agreement between the girl of seventeen and the poet of thirty-four. This was that Mary Powell, who afterwards bore him four children, who died in childbirth with the youngest, Deborah (of the Diary), and who is consecrated in one of the loveliest and most poignant of English sonnets.
Methought I saw my late-espoused Saint Brought to me like Alkestis from the grave, Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave, Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint. Mine, as whom washed from spot of child-bed taint Purification in the Old Law did save; And such, as yet once more, I trust to have Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint, Came vested all in white, pure as her mind: Her face was veiled, yet to my fancied sight Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined So clear, as in no face with more delight. But oh! as to embrace me she inclined, I waked; she fled; and Day brought back my Night.
It is a far cry from the woman so enshrined to the child of seventeen years who was without "fit and matchable conversation" for her irritable, intolerant poet-husband.
A good many serious writers have conjectured and wondered over this little tragedy of Milton's young married life: but since all must needs be conjecture one is obliged to say that Miss Manning, with her gift of delicate imagination and exquisite writing, has conjectured more excellently than the historians. She does not "play the sedulous ape" to Milton or Mary Powell: but if one could imagine a gentle and tender Boswell to these two, then Miss Manning has well proved her aptitude for the place. Of Mary Powell she has made a charming creature. The diary of Mary Powell is full of sweet country smells and sights and sounds. Mary Powell herself is as sweet as her flowers, frank, honest, loving and tender. Her diary catches for us all the enchantment of an old garden; we hear Mary Powell's bees buzz in the mignonette and lavender; we see her pleached garden alleys; we loiter with her on the bowling-green, by the fish ponds, in the still-room, the dairy and the pantry. The smell of aromatic box on a hot summer of long ago is in our nostrils. We realise all the personages—the impulsive, hot-headed father; the domineering, indiscreet mother; the cousin, Rose Agnew, and her parson husband; little Kate and Robin of the Royalist household—as well as John Milton and his father, and the two nephews to whom the poet was tutor—and a hard tutor. Miss Manning's delightful humour comes out in the two pragmatical little boys. But Mary herself dominates the picture. She is so much a thing of the country, of gardens and fields, that perforce one is reminded of Sir Thomas Overbury's Fair and Happy Milkmaid:—
"She doth all things with so sweet a grace it seems ignorance will not suffer her to do ill, being her mind is to do well. . . . The garden and bee-hive are all her physic and chirugery, and she lives the longer for it. She dares go alone and unfold sheep in the night and fears no manner of ill because she means none: yet to say truth she is never alone, for she is still accompanied by old songs, honest thoughts and prayers, but short ones. . . . Thus lives she, and all her care is that she may die in the spring-time, to have store of flowers stuck upon her winding-sheet."
The last remnants of Forest Hill, Mary Powell's home, were pulled down in 1854. A visitor to it three years before its demolition tells us:—
"Still the rose, the sweet-brier and the eglantine are reddest beneath its casements; the cock at its barn-door may be seen from any of the windows. . . . In the kitchen, with its vast hearth and overhanging chimney, we discovered tokens of the good living for which the old manor-house was famous in its day. . . . The garden, in its massive wall, ornamental gateway and old sun-dial, retains some traces of its manorial dignities." The house indeed is gone, but the sweet country remains, the verdant slopes and the lanes with their hedges full of sweet-brier that stretch out towards Oxford. And there is the church in which Mary Powell prayed. I should have liked to quote another of Miss Manning's biographers, the Rev. Dr. Hutton, who tells us of old walls partly built into the farmhouse that now stands there, and of the old walnut trees in the farmyard, and in a field hard by the spring of which John Milton may have tasted, and the church on the hill, and the distant Chilterns.
Milton's cottage at Chalfont St. Giles's is happily still in a good state of preservation, although Chalfont and its neighbourhood have suffered a sea-change even since Dr. Hutton wrote, a decade ago. All that quiet corner of the world, for so long green and secluded,—a "deare secret greennesse"—has now had the light of the world let in upon it. Motor-cars whizz through that Quaker country; money-making Londoners hurry away from it of mornings, trudge home of evenings, bag in hand; the jerry-builder is in the land, and the dust of much traffic lies upon the rose and eglantine wherewith Milton's eyes were delighted. The works of our hands often mock us by their durability. Years and ages and centuries after the busy brain and the feeling heart are dust, the houses built with hands stand up to taunt our mortality. Yet the works of the mind remain. Though Forest Hill be only a party-wall, and Chalfont a suburb of London, the Forest Hill of Mary Powell, the Chalfont of Milton, yet live for us in Anne Manning's delightful pages.
Miss Manning did not wish her Life to be written, but we do get some glimpses of her real self from herself in a chance page here and there of her reminiscences.
Here is one such glimpse:—
"I must confess I have never been able to write comfortably when music was going on. I think I have always written to most purpose coming in fresh from a morning walk when the larks were singing and lambs bleating and distant cocks in farmyards crowing, and a distant dog barking to an echo which answered his voice, and when the hedges and banks were full of wild flowers with quaint and pretty names.
"Next to that, I have found the best time soon after early tea, when my companions were all in the garden, and likely to remain there till moonlight."
Not very much by way of a literary portrait, and yet one can fill it in for oneself, can place her in old-world Reigate, fast, alas! becoming over-built and over-populated like all the rest of the country over which falls the ever-lengthening London shadow. As one ponders upon Forest Hill for Mary Powell's sake—is not Shotover as dear a name as Shottery?—and Chalfont for Milton's sake, one thinks on Reigate surrounded by its hills for Anne Manning's sake, and keeps the place in one's heart.
Mary Powell, with its sequel, Deborah's Diary—Deborah was the young thing whom to bring into the world Mary Powell died—is one of the most fragrant books in English literature. One thinks of it side by side with John Evelyn's Mrs. Godolphin. Miss Manning had a beautiful style—a style given to her to reconstruct an idyll of old-world sweetness. Limpid as flowing water, with a thought of syllabubs and new-made hay in it, it is a perpetual delight. This mid-Victorian, dark-haired lady, with the aquiline nose and high colour, although she may not have looked it, possessed a charming style, in which tenderness, seriousness, gaiety, humour, poetry, appear in the happiest atmosphere of sweetness and light.
The following is a complete list of her published works:—
The Household of Sir Thomas More, 1851; Queen Phillippa's Golden Booke, 1851; The Colloquies of Edward Osborne, Citizen and Clothworker of London, 1852; The Drawing-room Table Book, 1852; Cherry and Violet, a Tale of the Great Plague, 1853; The Provocations of Madame Palissy, 1853; Chronicles of Merry England, 1854; Claude the Colporteur, 1854; The Hill Side, 1854; Jack and the Tanner of Wymondham, 1854; Adventures of Haroun al Raschid, 1855; Maiden and Married Life of Mary Powell, afterwards Mistress Milton, 1855; Old Chelsea Bun-House, 1855; Some Account of Mrs. Clarinda Singlehart, 1855; A Sabbath at Home, 1855; Tasso and Leonora, 1856; The Week of Darkness, 1856; Lives of Good Servants, 1857; The Good Old Times, 1857; Helen and Olga, a Russian Tale, 1857; The Year Nine: a Tale of the Tyrol, 1858; The Ladies of Bever Hollow, 1858; Poplar House Academy, 1859; Deborah's Diary, 1859; The Story of Italy, 1859; Village Belles, 1859; Town and Forest, 1860; The Day of Small Things, 1860; Family Pictures, 1861; Chronicle of Ethelfled, 1861; A Noble Purpose Nobly Won, 1862; Meadowleigh, 1863; Bessy's Money, 1863; The Duchess of Tragetto, 1863; The Interrupted Wedding: a Hungarian Tale, 1864; Belforest: a Tale, 1865; Selvaggio: a Tale of Italian Country Life, 1865; The Masque at Ludlow, and other Romanesques, 1866; The Lincolnshire Tragedy (Passages in the life of Anne Askewe), 1866; Miss Biddy Frobisher: a Salt-water Story, 1866; The Cottage History of England, 1867; Jacques Bonneval, 1868; Diana's Crescent, 1868; The Spanish Barber, 1869; One Trip More, 1870; Margaret More's Tagebuch, 1870; Compton Friars, 1872; The Lady of Limited Income, 1872; Lord Harry Bellair, 1874; Monk's Norton, 1874; Heroes of the Desert (Moffat, Livingstone, etc.), 1875; An Idyll of the Alps, 1876.
LIFE.—C. M. Yonge, Women Novelists of Queen Victoria's Reign, 1897.
THE MAIDEN AND MARRIED LIFE
AFTERWARDS MISTRESS MILTON
Forest Hill, Oxon, May 1st, 1643.
. . . Seventeenth Birthdaye. A Gypsie Woman at the Gate woulde faine have tolde my Fortune; but Mother chased her away, saying she had doubtlesse harboured in some of the low Houses in Oxford, and mighte bring us the Plague. Coulde have cried for Vexation; she had promised to tell me the Colour of my Husband's Eyes; but Mother says she believes I shall never have one, I am soe sillie. Father gave me a gold Piece. Dear Mother is chafed, methinks, touching this Debt of five hundred Pounds, which Father says he knows not how to pay. Indeed, he sayd, overnighte, his whole personal Estate amounts to but five hundred Pounds, his Timber and Wood to four hundred more, or thereabouts; and the Tithes and Messuages of Whateley are no great Matter, being mortgaged for about as much moore, and he hath lent Sights of Money to them that won't pay, so 'tis hard to be thus prest. Poor Father! 'twas good of him to give me this gold Piece.
May 2nd, 1643.
Cousin Rose married to Master Roger Agnew. Present, Father, Mother, and Brother of Rose. Father, Mother, Dick, Bob, Harry, and I; Squire Paice and his Daughter Audrey; an olde Aunt of Master Roger's, and one of his Cousins, a stiffe-backed Man with large Eares, and such a long Nose! Cousin Rose looked bewtifulle—pitie so faire a Girl should marry so olde a Man—'tis thoughte he wants not manie Years of fifty.
May 7th, 1643.
New Misfortunes in the Poultrie Yarde. Poor Mother's Loyalty cannot stand the Demands for her best Chickens, Ducklings, etc., for the Use of his Majesty's Officers since the King hath beene in Oxford. She accuseth my Father of having beene wonne over by a few faire Speeches to be more of a Royalist than his natural Temper inclineth him to; which, of course, he will not admit.
May 8th, 1643.
Whole Day taken up in a Visit to Rose, now a Week married, and growne quite matronlie already. We reached Sheepscote about an Hour before Noone. A long, broade, strait Walke of green Turf, planted with Hollyoaks, Sunflowers, etc., and some earlier Flowers alreadie in Bloom, led up to the rusticall Porch of a truly farm-like House, with low gable Roofs, a long lattice Window on either Side the Doore, and three Casements above. Such, and no more, is Rose's House! But she is happy, for she came running forthe, soe soone as she hearde Clover's Feet, and helped me from my Saddle all smiling, tho' she had not expected to see us. We had Curds and Creame; and she wished it were the Time of Strawberries, for she sayd they had large Beds; and then my Father and the Boys went forthe to looke for Master Agnew. Then Rose took me up to her Chamber, singing as she went; and the long, low Room was sweet with Flowers. Sayd I, "Rose, to be Mistress of this pretty Cottage, 'twere hardlie amisse to marry a Man as olde as Master Roger." "Olde!" quoth she, "deare Moll, you must not deeme him olde; why, he is but fortytwo; and am not I twenty-three?" She lookt soe earneste and hurte, that I coulde not but falle a laughing.
May 9th, 1643.
Mother gone to Sandford. She hopes to get Uncle John to lend Father this Money. Father says she may try. Tis harde to discourage her with an ironicalle Smile, when she is doing alle she can, and more than manie Women woulde, to help Father in his Difficultie; but suche, she sayth somewhat bitterlie, is the lot of our Sex. She bade Father mind that she had brought him three thousand Pounds, and askt what had come of them. Answered; helped to fille the Mouths of nine healthy Children, and stop the Mouth of an easie Husband; soe, with a Kiss, made it up. I have the Keys, and am left Mistresse of alle, to my greate Contentment; but the Children clamour for Sweetmeats, and Father sayth, "Remember, Moll, Discretion is the better Part of Valour."
After Mother had left, went into the Paddock, to feed the Colts with Bread; and while they were putting their Noses into Robin's Pockets, Dick brought out the two Ponies, and set me on one of them, and we had a mad Scamper through the Meadows and down the Lanes; I leading. Just at the Turne of Holford's Close, came shorte upon a Gentleman walking under the Hedge, clad in a sober, genteel Suit, and of most beautifulle Countenance, with Hair like a Woman's, of a lovely pale brown, long and silky, falling over his Shoulders. I nearlie went over him, for Clover's hard Forehead knocked agaynst his Chest; but he stoode it like a Rock; and lookinge firste at me and then at Dick, he smiled and spoke to my Brother, who seemed to know him, and turned about and walked by us, sometimes stroaking Clover's shaggy Mane. I felte a little ashamed; for Dick had sett me on the Poney just as I was, my Gown somewhat too shorte for riding: however, I drewe up my Feet and let Clover nibble a little Grasse, and then got rounde to the neare Side, our new Companion stille between us. He offered me some wild Flowers, and askt me theire Names; and when I tolde them, he sayd I knew more than he did, though he accounted himselfe a prettie fayre Botaniste: and we went on thus, talking of the Herbs and Simples in the Hedges; and I sayd how prettie some of theire Names were, and that, methought, though Adam had named alle the Animals in Paradise, perhaps Eve had named alle the Flowers. He lookt earnestlie at me, on this, and muttered "prettie." Then Dick askt of him News from London, and he spoke, methought, reservedlie; ever and anon turning his bright, thoughtfulle Eyes on me. At length, we parted at the Turn of the Lane.
I askt Dick who he was, and he told me he was one Mr. John Milton, the Party to whom Father owed five hundred Pounds. He was the Sonne of a Buckinghamshire Gentleman, he added, well connected, and very scholarlike, but affected towards the Parliament. His Grandsire, a zealous Papiste, formerly lived in Oxon, and disinherited the Father of this Gentleman for abjuring the Romish Faith.
When I found how faire a Gentleman was Father's Creditor, I became the more interested in deare Mother's Successe.
May 13th, 1643.
Dick began to harpe on another Ride to Sheepscote this Morning, and persuaded Father to let him have the bay Mare, soe he and I started at aboute Ten o' the Clock. Arrived at Master Agnew's Doore, found it open, no one in Parlour or Studdy; soe Dick tooke the Horses rounde, and then we went straite thro' the House, into the Garden behind, which is on a rising Ground, with pleached Alleys and turfen Walks, and a Peep of the Church through the Trees. A Lad tolde us his Mistress was with the Bees, soe we walked towards the Hives; and, from an Arbour hard by, hearde a Murmur, though not of Bees, issuing. In this rusticall Bowre, found Roger Agnew reading to Rose and to Mr. Milton. Thereupon ensued manie cheerfulle Salutations, and Rose proposed returning to the House, but Master Agnew sayd it was pleasanter in the Bowre, where was Room for alle; soe then Rose offered to take me to her Chamber to lay aside my Hoode, and promised to send a Junkett into the Arbour; whereon Mr. Agnew smiled at Mr. Milton, and sayd somewhat of "neat-handed Phillis."
As we went alonge, I tolde Rose I had seene her Guest once before, and thought him a comely, pleasant Gentleman. She laught, and sayd, "Pleasant? why, he is one of the greatest Scholars of our Time, and knows more Languages than you or I ever hearde of." I made Answer, "That may be, and yet might not ensure his being pleasant, but rather the contrary, for I cannot reade Greeke and Latin, Rose, like you." Quoth Rose, "But you can reade English, and he hath writ some of the loveliest English Verses you ever hearde, and hath brought us a new Composure this Morning, which Roger, being his olde College Friend, was discussing with him, to my greate Pleasure, when you came. After we have eaten the Junkett, he shall beginne it again." "By no Means," said I, "for I love Talking more than Reading." However, it was not soe to be, for Rose woulde not be foyled; and as it woulde not have been good Manners to decline the Hearinge in Presence of the Poet, I was constrayned to suppresse a secret Yawne, and feign Attention, though, Truth to say, it soone wandered; and, during the last halfe Hour, I sat in a compleat Dreame, tho' not unpleasant one. Roger having made an End, 'twas diverting to heare him commending the Piece unto the Author, who as gravely accepted it; yet, with nothing fullesome about the one, or misproud about the other. Indeed, there was a sedate Sweetnesse in the Poet's Wordes as well as Lookes; and shortlie, waiving the Discussion of his owne Composures, he beganne to talke of those of other Men, as Shakspeare, Spenser, Cowley, Ben Jonson, and of Tasso, and Tasso's Friend the Marquis of Villa, whome, it appeared, Mr. Milton had Knowledge of in Italy. Then he askt me, woulde I not willingly have seene the Country of Romeo and Juliet, and prest to know whether I loved Poetry; but finding me loath to tell, sayd he doubted not I preferred Romances, and that he had read manie, and loved them dearly too. I sayd, I loved Shakspeare's Plays better than Sidney's Arcadia; on which he cried "Righte," and drew nearer to me, and woulde have talked at greater length; but, knowing from Rose how learned he was, I feared to shew him I was a sillie Foole; soe, like a sillie Foole, held my Tongue.
Dinner; Eggs, Bacon, roast Ribs of Lamb, Spinach, Potatoes, savoury Pie, a Brentford Pudding, and Cheesecakes. What a pretty Housewife Rose is! Roger's plain Hospitalitie and scholarlie Discourse appeared to much Advantage. He askt of News from Paris; and Mr. Milton spoke much of the Swedish Ambassadour, Dutch by Birth; a Man renowned for his Learning, Magnanimity, and Misfortunes, of whome he had seene much. He tolde Rose and me how this Mister Van der Groote had beene unjustlie caste into Prison by his Countrymen; and how his good Wife had shared his Captivitie, and had tried to get his Sentence reversed; failing which, she contrived his Escape in a big Chest, which she pretended to be full of heavie olde Bookes. Mr. Milton concluded with the Exclamation, "Indeede, there never was such a Woman;" on which, deare Roger, whome I beginne to love, quoth, "Oh yes, there are manie such,—we have two at Table now." Whereat, Mr. Milton smiled.
At Leave-taking pressed Mr. Agnew and Rose to come and see us soone; and Dick askt Mr. Milton to see the Bowling Greene.
Ride Home, delightfulle.
May 14th, 1643.
Thought, when I woke this Morning, I had been dreaminge of St. Paul let down the Wall in a Basket; but founde, on more closely examining the Matter, 'twas Grotius carried down the Ladder in a Chest; and methought I was his Wife, leaninge from the Window above, and crying to the Souldiers, "Have a Care, have a Care!" 'Tis certayn I shoulde have betraied him by an Over-anxietie.
Resolved to give Father a Sheepscote Dinner, but Margery affirmed the Haunch woulde no longer keepe, so was forced to have it drest, though meaninge to have kept it for Companie. Little Kate, who had been out alle the Morning, came in with her Lap full of Butter-burs, the which I was glad to see, as Mother esteemes them a sovereign Remedie 'gainst the Plague, which is like to be rife in Oxford this Summer, the Citie being so overcrowded on account of his Majestie. While laying them out on the Stille-room Floor, in bursts Robin to say Mr. Agnew and Mr. Milton were with Father at the Bowling Greene, and woulde dine here. Soe was glad Margery had put down the Haunch. Twas past One o' the Clock, however, before it coulde be sett on Table; and I had just run up to pin on my Carnation Knots, when I hearde them alle come in discoursing merrilie.
At Dinner Mr. Milton askt Robin of his Studdies; and I was in Payne for the deare Boy, knowing him to be better affected to his out-doore Recreations than to his Booke; but he answered boldlie he was in Ovid, and I lookt in Mr. Milton's Face to guesse was that goode Scholarship or no; but he turned it towards my Father, and sayd he was trying an Experiment on two young Nephews of his owne, whether the reading those Authors that treate of physical Subjects mighte not advantage them more than the Poets; whereat my Father jested with him, he being himselfe one of the Fraternitie he seemed to despise. But he uphelde his Argumente so bravelie, that Father listened in earneste Silence. Meantime, the Cloth being drawne, and I in Feare of remaining over long, was avised to withdrawe myself earlie, Robin following, and begging me to goe downe to the Fish-ponds. Afterwards alle the others joyned us, and we sate on the Steps till the Sun went down, when, the Horses being broughte round, our Guests tooke Leave without returning to the House. Father walked thoughtfullie Home with me, leaning on my Shoulder, and spake little.
May 15th, 1643.
After writing the above last Night, in my Chamber, went to Bed and had a most heavenlie Dreame. Methoughte it was brighte, brighte Moonlighte, and I was walking with Mr. Milton on a Terrace,—not our Terrace, but in some outlandish Place; and it had Flights and Flights of green Marble Steps, descending, I cannot tell how farre, with Stone Figures and Vases on every one. We went downe and downe these Steps, till we came to a faire Piece of Water, still in the Moonlighte; and then, methoughte, he woulde be taking Leave, and sayd much aboute Absence and Sorrowe, as tho' we had knowne eache other some Space; and alle that he sayd was delightfulle to heare. Of a suddain we hearde Cries, as of Distresse, in a Wood that came quite down to the Water's Edge, and Mr. Milton sayd, "Hearken!" and then, "There is some one being slaine in the Woode, I must goe to rescue him;" and soe, drewe his Sword and ran off. Meanwhile, the Cries continued, but I did not seeme to mind them much; and, looking stedfastlie downe into the cleare Water, coulde see to an immeasurable Depth, and beheld, oh, rare! Girls sitting on glistening Rocks, far downe beneathe, combing and braiding their brighte Hair, and talking and laughing, onlie I coulde not heare aboute what. And theire Kirtles were like spun Glass, and theire Bracelets Coral and Pearl; and I thought it the fairest Sight that Eyes coulde see. But, alle at once, the Cries in the Wood affrighted them, for they started, looked upwards and alle aboute, and began swimming thro' the cleare Water so fast, that it became troubled and thick, and I coulde see them noe more. Then I was aware that the Voices in the Wood were of Dick and Harry, calling for me; and I soughte to answer, "Here!" but my Tongue was heavie. Then I commenced running towards them, through ever so manie greene Paths, in the Wood; but still, we coulde never meet; and I began to see grinning Faces, neither of Man nor Beaste, peeping at me through the Trees; and one and another of them called me by Name; and in greate Feare and Paine I awoke!
. . . Strange Things are Dreames. Dear Mother thinks much of them, and sayth they oft portend coming Events. My Father holdeth the Opinion that they are rather made up of what hath alreadie come to passe; but surelie naught like this Dreame of mine hath in anie Part befallen me hithertoe?
. . . What strange Fable or Masque were they reading that Day at Sheepscote? I mind not.
May 20th, 1643.
Too much busied of late to write, though much hath happened which I woulde fain remember. Dined at Shotover yesterday. Met Mother, who is coming Home in a Day or two; but helde short Speech with me aside concerning Housewifery. The Agnews there, of course: alsoe Mr. Milton, whom we have seene continuallie, lately; and I know not how it shoulde be, but he seemeth to like me. Father affects him much, but Mother loveth him not. She hath seene little of him: perhaps the less the better. Ralph Hewlett, as usuall, forward in his rough endeavours to please; but, though no Scholar, I have yet Sense enough to prefer Mr. Milton's Discourse to his. . . . I wish I were fonder of Studdy; but, since it cannot be, what need to vex? Some are born of one Mind, some of another. Rose was alwaies for her Booke; and, had Rose beene no Scholar, Mr. Agnew woulde, may be, never have given her a second Thoughte: but alle are not of the same Way of thinking.
. . . A few Lines received from Mother's "spoilt Boy," as Father hath called Brother Bill, ever since he went a soldiering. Blurred and mis-spelt as they are, she will prize them. Trulie, we are none of us grate hands at the Pen; 'tis well I make this my Copie-booke.
. . . Oh, strange Event! Can this be Happinesse? Why, then, am I soe feared, soe mazed, soe prone to weeping? I woulde that Mother were here. Lord have Mercie on me a sinfulle, sillie Girl, and guide my Steps arighte.
. . . It seemes like a Dreame, (I have done noughte but dreame of late, I think,) my going along the matted Passage, and hearing Voices in my Father's Chamber, just as my Hand was on the Latch; and my withdrawing my Hand, and going softlie away, though I never paused at disturbing him before; and, after I had beene a full Houre in the Stille Room, turning over ever soe manie Trays full of dried Herbs and Flower-leaves, hearing him come forthe and call, "Moll, deare Moll, where are you?" with I know not what of strange in the Tone of his Voice; and my running to him hastilie, and his drawing me into his Chamber, and closing the Doore. Then he takes me round the Waiste, and remains quite silent awhile; I gazing on him so strangelie! and at length, he says with a Kind of Sigh, "Thou art indeed but young yet! scarce seventeen,—and fresh, as Mr. Milton says, as the earlie May; too tender, forsooth, to leave us yet, sweet Child! But what wilt say, Moll, when I tell thee that a well-esteemed Gentleman, whom as yet indeed I know too little of, hath craved of me Access to the House as one that woulde win your Favour?"
Thereupon, such a suddain Faintness of the Spiritts overtooke me, (a Thing I am noe way subject to,) as that I fell down in a Swound at Father's Feet; and when I came to myselfe again, my Hands and Feet seemed full of Prickles, and there was a Humming, as of Rose's Bees, in mine Ears. Lettice and Margery were tending of me, and Father watching me full of Care; but soe soone as he saw me open mine Eyes, he bade the Maids stand aside, and sayd, stooping over me, "Enough, dear Moll; we will talk noe more of this at present." "Onlie just tell me," quoth I, in a Whisper, "who it is." "Guesse," sayd he. "I cannot," I softlie replied, and, with the Lie, came such a Rush of Blood to my Cheeks as betraied me. "I am sure you have though," sayd deare Father, gravelie, "and I neede not say it is Mr. Milton, of whome I know little more than you doe, and that is not enough. On the other Hand, Roger Agnew sayth that he is one of whome we can never know too much, and there is somewhat about him which inclines me to believe it." "What will Mother say?" interrupted I. Thereat Father's Countenance changed; and he hastilie answered, "Whatever she likes: I have an Answer for her, and a Question too;" and abruptlie left me, bidding me keepe myselfe quiet.
But can I? Oh, no! Father hath sett a Stone rolling, unwitting of its Course. It hath prostrated me in the first Instance, and will, I misdoubt, hurt my Mother. Father is bold enow in her Absence, but when she comes back will leave me to face her Anger alone; or else, make such a Stir to shew that he is not governed by a Woman, as wille make Things worse. Meanwhile, how woulde I have them? Am I most pleased or payned? dismayed or flattered? Indeed, I know not.
. . . I am soe sorry to have swooned. Needed I have done it, merelie to heare there was one who soughte my Favour? Aye, but one soe wise! so thoughtfulle! so unlike me!
Bedtime: same Daye.
. . . Who knoweth what a Daye will bring forth? After writing the above, I sate like one stupid, ruminating on I know not what, except on the Unlikelihood that one soe wise woulde trouble himselfe to seeke for aught and yet fail to win. After abiding a long Space in mine owne Chamber, alle below seeming still, I began to wonder shoulde we dine alone or not, and to have a hundred hot and cold Fitts of Hope and Feare. Thought I, if Mr. Milton comes, assuredlie I cannot goe down; but yet I must; but yet I will not; but yet the best will be to conduct myselfe as though nothing had happened; and, as he seems to have left the House long ago, maybe he hath returned to Sheepscote, or even to London. Oh that London! Shall I indeede ever see it? and the rare Shops, and the Play-houses, and Paul's, and the Towre? But what and if that ever comes to pass? Must I leave Home? dear Forest Hill? and Father and Mother, and the Boys? more especiallie Robin? Ah! but Father will give me a long Time to think of it. He will, and must.
Then Dinner-time came; and, with Dinner-time, Uncle Hewlett and Ralph, Squire Paice and Mr. Milton. We had a huge Sirloin, soe no Feare of short Commons. I was not ill pleased to see soe manie: it gave me an Excuse for holding my Peace, but I coulde have wished for another Woman. However, Father never thinks of that, and Mother will soone be Home. After Dinner the elder Men went to the Bowling-greene with Dick and Ralph; the Boys to the Fish-ponds; and, or ever I was aware, Mr. Milton was walking with me on the Terrace. My Dreame came soe forcibly to Mind, that my Heart seemed to leap into my Mouth; but he kept away from the Fish-ponds, and from Leave-taking, and from his morning Discourse with my Father,—at least for awhile; but some Way he got round to it, and sayd soe much, and soe well, that, after alle my Father's bidding me keepe quiete and take my Time, and mine owne Resolution to think much and long, he never rested till he had changed the whole Appearance of Things, and made me promise to be his, wholly and trulie.—And oh! I feare I have been too quickly wonne!
May 23d, 1643.
May 23d. At leaste, so sayeth the Calendar; but with me it hath beene trulie an April Daye, alle Smiles and Teares. And now my Spiritts are soe perturbed and dismaid, as that I know not whether to weepe or no, for methinks crying would relieve me. At first waking this Morning my Mind was elated at the Falsitie of my Mother's Notion, that no Man of Sense woulde think me worth the having; and soe I got up too proude, I think, and came down too vain, for I had spent an unusuall Time at the Glasse. My Spiritts, alsoe, were soe unequall, that the Boys took Notice of it, and it seemed as though I coulde breathe nowhere but out of Doors; so the Children and I had a rare Game of Play in the Home-close; but ever and anon I kept looking towards the Road and listening for Horses' Feet, till Robin sayd, "One would think the King was coming:" but at last came Mr. Milton, quite another Way, walking through the Fields with huge Strides. Kate saw him firste, and tolde me; and then sayd, "What makes you look soe pale?"
We sate a good Space under the Hawthorn Hedge on the Brow of the Hill, listening to the Mower's Scythe, and the Song of Birds, which seemed enough for him, without talking; and as he spake not, I helde my Peace, till, with the Sun in my Eyes, I was like to drop asleep; which, as his own Face was from me, and towards the Landskip, he noted not. I was just aiming, for Mirthe's Sake, to steale away, when he suddainlie turned about and fell to speaking of rurall Life, Happinesse, Heaven, and such like, in a Kind of Rapture; then, with his Elbow half raising him from the Grass, lay looking at me; then commenced humming or singing I know not what Strayn, but 'twas of 'begli Occhi' and 'Chioma aurata;' and he kept smiling the while he sang.
After a time we went In-doors; and then came my firste Pang: for Father founde out how I had pledged myselfe overnighte; and for a Moment looked soe grave, that my Heart misgave me for having beene soe hastie. However, it soone passed off; deare Father's Countenance cleared, and he even seemed merrie at Table; and soon after Dinner alle the Party dispersed save Mr. Milton, who loitered with me on the Terrace. After a short Silence he exclaimed, "How good is our God to us in alle his Gifts! For Instance, in this Gift of Love, whereby had he withdrawn from visible Nature a thousand of its glorious Features and gay Colourings, we shoulde stille possess, from within, the Means of throwing over her clouded Face an entirelie different Hue! while as it is, what was pleasing before now pleaseth more than ever! Is it not soe, sweet Moll? May I express thy Feelings as well as mine own, unblamed? or am I too adventurous? You are silent; well, then, let me believe that we think alike, and that the Emotions of the few laste Hours have given such an Impulse to alle that is high, and sweete, and deepe, and pure, and holy in our innermoste Hearts, as that we seeme now onlie firste to taste the Life of Life, and to perceive how much nearer Earth is to Heaven than we thought! Is it soe? Is it not soe?" and I was constrayned to say, "Yes," at I scarcelie knew what; grudginglie too, for I feared having once alreadie sayd "Yes" too soone. But he saw nought amisse, for he was expecting nought amisse; soe went on, most like Truth and Love that Lookes could speake or Words founde: "Oh, I know it, I feel it:—henceforthe there is a Life reserved for us in which Angels may sympathize. For this most excellent Gift of Love shall enable us to read together the whole Booke of Sanctity and Virtue, and emulate eache other in carrying it into Practice; and as the wise Magians kept theire Eyes steadfastlie fixed on the Star, and followed it righte on, through rough and smoothe, soe we, with this bright Beacon, which indeed is set on Fire of Heaven, shall pass on through the peacefull Studdies, surmounted Adversities, and victorious Agonies of Life, ever looking steadfastlie up!"
Alle this, and much more, as tedious to heare as to write, did I listen to, firste with flagging Attention, next with concealed Wearinesse;—and as Wearinesse, if indulged, never is long concealed, it soe chanced, by Ill-luck, that Mr. Milton, suddainlie turning his Eyes from Heaven upon poor me, caughte, I can scarcelie expresse how slighte, an Indication of Discomforte in my Face; and instantlie a Cloud crossed his owne, though as thin as that through which the Sun shines while it floats over him. Oh, 'twas not of a Moment! and yet in that Moment we seemed eache to have seene the other, though but at a Glance, under new Circumstances:—as though two Persons at a Masquerade had just removed their Masques and put them on agayn. This gave me my seconde Pang:—I felt I had given him Payn; and though he made as though he forgot it directly, and I tooke Payns to make him forget it, I coulde never be quite sure whether he had.
. . . My Spiritts were soe dashed by this, and by learning his Age to be soe much more than I had deemed it, (for he is thirty-five! who coulde have thoughte it?) that I had, thenceforthe, the Aire of being much more discreete and pensive than belongeth to my Nature; whereby he was, perhaps, well pleased. As I became more grave he became more gay; soe that we met eache other, as it were, half-way, and became righte pleasant. If his Countenance were comely before, it is quite heavenlie now; and yet I question whether my Love increaseth as rapidlie as my Feare. Surelie my Folly will prove as distastefull to him, as his overmuch Wisdom to me. The Dread of it hath alarmed me alreadie. What has become, even now, of alle my gay Visions of Marriage, and London, and the Play-houses, and the Touire? They have faded away thus earlie, and in their Place comes a Foreboding of I can scarce say what. I am as if a Child, receiving frome some olde Fairy the Gift of what seemed a fayre Doll's House, shoulde hastilie open the Doore thereof, and starte back at beholding nought within but a huge Cavern, deepe, high, and vaste; in parte glittering with glorious Chrystals, and the Rest hidden in obscure Darknesse.
May 24th, 1643.
Deare Rose came this Morning. I flew forthe to welcome her, and as I drew near, she lookt upon me with such a Kind of Awe as that I could not forbeare laughing. Mr. Milton having slept at Sheepscote, had made her privy to our Engagement; for indeede, he and Mr. Agnew are such Friends, he will keep nothing from him. Thus Rose heares it before my owne Mother, which shoulde not be. When we had entered my Chamber, she embraced me once and agayn, and seemed to think soe much of my uncommon Fortune, that I beganne to think more of it myselfe. To heare her talke of Mr. Milton one would have supposed her more in Love with him than I. Like a Bookworm as she is, she fell to praysing his Composures. "Oh, the leaste I care for in him is his Versing," quoth I; and from that Moment a Spiritt of Mischief tooke Possession of me, to do a thousand heedlesse, ridiculous Things throughoute the Day, to shew Rose how little I set by the Opinion of soe wise a Man. Once or twice Mr. Milton lookt earnestlie and questioninglie at me, but I heeded him not.
. . . Discourse at Table graver and less pleasant, methoughte, than heretofore. Mr. Busire having dropt in, was avised to ask Mr. Milton why, having had an university Education, he had not entered the Church. He replied, drylie enough, because he woulde not subscribe himselfe Slave to anie Formularies of Men's making. I saw Father bite his Lip; and Roger Agnew mildly observed, he thought him wrong; for that it was not for an Individual to make Rules for another Individual, but yet that the generall Voice of the Wise and Good, removed from the pettie Prejudices of private Feeling, mighte pronounce authoritativelie wherein an Individual was righte or wrong, and frame Laws to keepe him in the righte Path. Mr. Milton replyed, that manie Fallibles could no more make up an Infallible than manie Finites could make an Infinite. Mr. Agnew rejoyned, that ne'erthelesse, an Individual who opposed himselfe agaynst the generall Current of the Wise and Good, was, leaste of alle, likelie to be in the Right; and that the Limitations of human Intellect which made the Judgment of manie wise Men liable to Question, certainlie made the Judgment of anie wise Man, self-dependent, more questionable still. Mr. Milton shortlie replied that there were Particulars in the required Oaths which made him unable to take them without Perjurie. And soe, an End: but 'twas worth a World to see Rose looking soe anxiouslie from the one Speaker to the other, desirous that eache should be victorious; and I was sorry that it lasted not a little longer.
As Rose and I tooke our Way to the Summer-house, she put her Arm round me, saying, "How charming is divine Philosophie!" I coulde not helpe asking if she did not meane how charming was the Philosophie of one particular Divine? Soe then she discoursed with me of Things more seemlie for Women than Philosophie or Divinitie either. Onlie, when Mr. Agnew and Mr. Milton joyned us, she woulde aske them to repeat one Piece of Poetry after another, beginning with Carew's—
"He who loves a rosie Cheeke, Or a coral Lip admires,—"
And crying at the End of eache, "Is not that lovely? Is not that divine?" I franklie sayd I liked none of them soe much as some Mr. Agnew had recited, concluding with—
"Mortals that would, follow me, Love Virtue: she alone is free."
Whereon Mr. Milton surprised me with a suddain Kiss, to the immoderate Mirthe of Rose, who sayd I coulde not have looked more discomposed had he pretended he was the Author of those Verses. I afterwards found he was; but I think she laught more than there was neede.
We have ever been considered a sufficientlie religious Familie: that is, we goe regularly to Church on Sabbaths and Prayer-dayes, and keepe alle the Fasts and Festivalles. But Mr. Milton's Devotion hath attayned a Pitch I can neither imitate nor even comprehende. The spirituall World seemeth to him not onlie reall, but I may almoste say visible. For instance, he told Rose, it appears, that on Tuesday Nighte, (that is the same Evening I had promised to be his,) as he went homewards to his Farm-lodging, he fancied the Angels whisperinge in his Eares, and singing over his Head, and that instead of going to his Bed like a reasonable Being, he lay down on the Grass, and gazed on the sweete, pale Moon till she sett, and then on the bright Starres till he seemed to see them moving in a slowe, solemn Dance, to the Words, "How glorious is our God!" And alle about him, he said, he knew, tho' he coulde not see them, were spirituall Beings repairing the Ravages of the Day on the Flowers, amonge the Trees, and Grasse, and Hedges; and he believed 'twas onlie the Filme that originall Sin had spread over his Eyes, that prevented his seeing them. I am thankful for this same Filme,—I cannot abide Fairies, and Witches, and Ghosts—ugh! I shudder even to write of them; and were it onlie of the more harmlesse Sort, one woulde never have the Comforte of thinkinge to be alone. I feare Churchyardes and dark Corners of alle Kinds; more especiallie Spiritts; and there is onlie one I would even wish to see at my bravest, when deepe Love casteth out Feare; and that is of Sister Anne, whome I never associate with the Worme and Winding-sheete. Oh no! I think she, at leaste, dwells amonge the Starres, having sprung straite up into Lighte and Blisse the Moment she put off Mortalitie; and if she, why not others? Are Adam and Abraham alle these Yeares in the unconscious Tomb? Theire Bodies, but surelie not their Spiritts? else, why dothe Christ speak of Lazarus lying in Abraham's Bosom, while the Brothers of Dives are yet riotouslie living? Yet what becomes of the Daye of generall Judgment, if some be thus pre-judged? I must aske Mr. Milton,—yes, I thinke I can finde it in my Heart to aske him about this in some solemn, stille Hour, and perhaps he will sett at Rest manie Doubts and Misgivings that at sundrie Times trouble me; being soe wise a Man.
. . . Glad to steale away from the noisie Companie in the Supper-roome, (comprising some of Father's Fellow-magistrates,) I went down with Robin and Kate to the Fish-ponds; it was scarce Sunset: and there, while we threw Crumbs to the Fish and watched them come to the Surface, were followed, or ever we were aware, by Mr. Milton, who sate down on the stone Seat, drew Robin between his Knees, stroked his Haire, and askt what we were talking about. Robin sayd I had beene telling them a fairie Story; and Mr. Milton observed that was an infinite Improvement on the jangling, puzzle-headed Prating of Country Justices, and wished I woulde tell it agayn. But I was afrayd. But Robin had no Feares; soe tolde the Tale roundlie; onlie he forgot the End. Soe he found his Way backe to the Middle, and seemed likelie to make it last alle Night; onlie Mr. Milton sayd he seemed to have got into the Labyrinth of Crete, and he must for Pitie's Sake give him the Clew. Soe he finished Robin's Story, and then tolde another, a most lovelie one, of Ladies, and Princes, and Enchanters, and a brazen Horse, and he sayd the End of that Tale had been cut off too, by Reason the Writer had died before he finished it. But Robin cryed, "Oh! finish this too," and hugged and kist him; soe he did; and methoughte the End was better than the Beginninge. Then he sayd, "Now, sweet Moll, you have onlie spoken this Hour past, by your Eyes; and we must heare your pleasant Voice." "An Hour?" cries Robin. "Where are alle the red Clouds gone, then?" quoth Mr. Milton, "and what Business hathe the Moon yonder?" "Then we must go Indoors," quoth I. But they cried "No," and Robin helde me fast, and Mr. Milton sayd I might know even by the distant Sounds of ill-governed Merriment that we were winding up the Week's Accounts of Joy and Care more consistentlie where we were than we coulde doe in the House. And indeede just then I hearde my Father's Voice swelling a noisie Chorus; and hoping Mr. Milton did not distinguish it, I askt him if he loved Musick. He answered, soe much that it was Miserie for him to hear anie that was not of the beste. I secretlie resolved he should never heare mine. He added, he was come of a musicalle Familie, and that his Father not onlie sang well, but played finely on the Viol and Organ. Then he spake of the sweet Musick in Italy, until I longed to be there; but I tolde him nothing in its Way ever pleased me more than to heare the Choristers of Magdalen College usher in May Day by chaunting a Hymn at the Top of the Church Towre. Discoursing of this and that, we thus sate a good While ere we returned to the House.
. . . Coming out of Church he woulde shun the common Field, where the Villagery led up theire Sports, saying, he deemed Quoit-playing and the like to be unsuitable Recreations on a Daye whereupon the Lord had restricted us from speakinge our own Words, and thinking our own (that is, secular) Thoughts: and that he believed the Law of God in this Particular woulde soone be the Law of the Land, for Parliament woulde shortlie put down Sunday Sports. I askt, "What, the King's Parliament at Oxford?" He answered, "No; the Country's Parliament at Westminster." I sayd, I was sorrie, for manie poore hard-working Men had no other Holiday. He sayd, another Holiday woulde be given them; and that whether or no, we must not connive at Evil, which we doe in permitting an holy Daye to sink into a Holiday. I sayd, but was it not the Jewish Law, which had made such Restrictions? He sayd, yes, but that Christ came not to destroy the moral Law, of which Sabbath-keeping was a Part, and that even its naturall Fitnesse for the bodily Welfare of Man and Beast was such as no wise Legislator would abolish or abuse it, even had he no Consideration for our spiritual and immortal Part: and that 'twas a well-known Fact that Beasts of Burthen, which had not one Daye of Rest in seven, did lesse Worke in the End. As for oure Soules, he sayd, they required theire spiritual Meales as much as our Bodies required theires; and even poore, rusticall Clownes who coulde not reade, mighte nourish their better Parts by an holie Pause, and by looking within them, and around them, and above them. I felt inclined to tell him that long Sermons alwaies seemed to make me love God less insteade of more, but woulde not, fearing he mighte take it that I meant he had been giving me one.
Mother hath returned! The Moment I hearde her Voice I fell to trembling. At the same Moment I hearde Robin cry, "Oh, Mother, I have broken the greene Beaker!" which betraied Apprehension in another Quarter. However, she quite mildlie replied, "Ah, I knew the Handle was loose," and then kist me with soe great Affection that I felt quite easie. She had beene withhelde by a troublesome Colde from returning at the appointed Time, and cared not to write. 'Twas just Supper-time, and there were the Children to kiss and to give theire Bread and Milk, and Bill's Letter to reade; soe that nothing particular was sayd till the younger Ones were gone to Bed, and Father and Mother were taking some Wine and Toast. Then says Father, "Well, Wife, have you got the five hundred Pounds?" "No," she answers, rather carelesslie. "I tolde you how 'twoulde be," says Father; "you mighte as well have stayed at Home." "Really, Mr. Powell," says Mother, "soe seldom as I stir from my owne Chimney-corner, you neede not to grudge me, I think, a few Dayes among our mutuall Relatives." "I shall goe to Gaol," says Father. "Nonsense," says Mother; "to Gaol indeed!" "Well, then, who is to keepe me from it?" says Father, laughing. "I will answer for it, Mr. Milton will wait a little longer for his Money," says Mother, "he is an honourable Man, I suppose." "I wish he may thinke me one," says Father; "and as to a little longer, what is the goode of waiting for what is as unlikelie to come eventuallie as now?" "You must answer that for yourselfe," says Mother, looking wearie: "I have done what I can, and can doe no more." "Well, then, 'tis lucky Matters stand as they do," says Father. "Mr. Milton has been much here in your Absence, my Dear, and has taken a Liking to our Moll; soe, believing him, as you say, to be an honourable Man, I have promised he shall have her." "Nonsense," cries Mother, turning red and then pale. "Never farther from Nonsense," says Father, "for 'tis to be, and by the Ende of the Month too." "You are bantering me, Mr. Powell," says Mother. "How can you suppose soe, my Deare?" says Father, "you doe me Injustice." "Why, Moll!" cries Mother, turning sharplie towards me, as I sate mute and fearfulle, "what is alle this, Child? You cannot, you dare not think of wedding this round-headed Puritan." "Not round-headed," sayd I, trembling; "his Haire is as long and curled as mine." "Don't bandy Words with me, Girl," says Mother passionatelie, "see how unfit you are to have a House of your owne, who cannot be left in Charge of your Father's for a Fortnighte, without falling into Mischiefe!" "I won't have Moll chidden in that Way," says Father, "she has fallen into noe Mischiefe, and has beene a discreete and dutifull Child." "Then it has beene alle your doing," says Mother, "and you have forced the Child into this Match." "Noe Forcing whatever," says Father, "they like one another, and I am very glad of it, for it happens to be very convenient." "Convenient, indeed," repeats Mother, and falls a weeping. Thereon I must needs weepe too, but she says, "Begone to Bed; there is noe Neede that you shoulde sit by to heare your owne Father confesse what a Fool he has beene."
To my Bedroom I have come, but cannot yet seek my Bed; the more as I still heare theire Voices in Contention below.
This Morninge's Breakfaste was moste uncomfortable, I feeling like a checkt Child, scarce minding to looke up or to eat. Mother, with Eyes red and swollen, scarce speaking save to the Children; Father directing his Discourse chieflie to Dick, concerning Farm Matters and the Rangership of Shotover, tho' 'twas easie to see his Mind was not with them. Soe soone as alle had dispersed to theire customed Taskes, and I was loitering at the Window, Father calls aloud to me from his Studdy. Thither I go, and find him and Mother, she sitting with her Back to both. "Moll," says Father, with great Determination, "you have accepted Mr. Milton to please yourself, you will marry him out of hand to please me." "Spare me, spare me, Mr. Powell," interrupts Mother, "if the Engagement may not be broken off, at the least precipitate it not with this indecent haste. Postpone it till——" "Till when?" says Father. "Till the Child is olde enough to know her owne Mind." "That is, to put off an honourable Man on false Pretences," says Father, "she is olde enough to know it alreadie. Speake, Moll, are you of your Mother's Mind to give up Mr. Milton altogether?" I trembled, but sayd, "No." "Then, as his Time is precious, and he knows not when he may leave his Home agayn, I save you the Trouble, Child, of naming a Day, for it shall be the Monday before Whitsuntide." Thereat Mother gave a Kind of Groan; but as for me, I had like to have fallen on the Ground, for I had had noe Thought of suche Haste. "See what you are doing, Mr. Powell," says Mother, compassionating me, and raising me up, though somewhat roughlie; "I prophecie Evil of this Match." "Prophets of Evil are sure to find Listeners," says Father, "but I am not one of them;" and soe left the Room. Thereon my Mother, who alwaies feares him when he has a Fit of Determination, loosed the Bounds of her Passion, and chid me so unkindlie, that, humbled and mortified, I was glad to seeke my Chamber.
. . . Entering the Dining-room, however, I uttered a Shriek on seeing Father fallen back in his Chair, as though in a Fit, like unto that which terrified us a Year ago; and Mother hearing me call out, ran in, loosed his Collar, and soone broughte him to himselfe, tho' not without much Alarm to alle. He made light of it himselfe, and sayd 'twas merelie a suddain Rush of Blood to the Head, and woulde not be dissuaded from going out; but Mother was playnly smote at the Heart, and having lookt after him with some anxietie, exclaimed, "I shall neither meddle nor make more in this Businesse: your Father's suddain Seizures shall never be layd at my Doore;" and soe left me, till we met at Dinner. After the Cloth was drawne, enters Mr. Milton, who goes up to Mother, and with Gracefulnesse kisses her Hand; but she withdrewe it pettishly, and tooke up her Sewing, on the which he lookt at her wonderingly, and then at me; then at her agayne, as though he woulde reade her whole Character in her Face; which having seemed to doe, and to write the same in some private Page of his Heart, he never troubled her or himself with further Comment, but tooke up Matters just where he had left them last. Ere we parted we had some private Conference touching our Marriage, for hastening which he had soe much to say that I coulde not long contend with him, especiallie as I founde he had plainlie made out that Mother loved him not.
House full of Companie, leaving noe Time to write nor think. Mother sayth, tho' she cannot forbode an happie Marriage, she will provide for a merrie Wedding, and hathe growne more than commonlie tender to me, and given me some Trinkets, a Piece of fine Holland Cloth, and enoughe of green Sattin for a Gown, that will stand on End with its owne Richnesse. She hathe me constantlie with her in the Kitchen, Pastrie, and Store-room, telling me 'tis needfulle I shoulde improve in Housewiferie, seeing I shall soe soone have a Home of my owne.
But I think Mother knows not, and I am afeard to tell her, that Mr. Milton hath no House of his owne to carry me to, but onlie Lodgings, which have well suited his Bachelor State, but may not, 'tis likelie, beseeme a Lady to live in. He deems so himself, and sayeth we will look out for an hired House together, at our Leisure. Alle this he hath sayd to me in an Undertone, in Mother's Presence, she sewing at the Table and we sitting in the Window; and 'tis difficult to tell how much she hears, she for will aske no Questions, and make noe Comments, onlie compresses her Lips, which makes me think she knows.
The Children are in turbulent Spiritts; but Robin hath done nought but mope and make Moan since he learnt he must soe soone lose me. A Thought hath struck me,—Mr. Milton educates his Sister's Sons; two Lads of about Robin's Age. What if he woulde consent to take my Brother under his Charge? perhaps Father woulde be willing.
Last Visitt to Sheepscote,—at leaste, as Mary Powell; but kind Rose and Roger Agnew will give us the Use of it for a Week on our Marriage, and spend the Time with dear Father and Mother, who will neede their Kindnesse. Rose and I walked long aboute the Garden, her Arm round my Neck; and she was avised to say,
"Cloth of Frieze, be not too bold, Tho' thou be matcht with Cloth of Gold,—"
And then craved my Pardon for soe unmannerly a Rhyme, which indeede, methoughte, needed an Excuse, but exprest a Feare that I knew not (what she called) my high Destiny, and prayed me not to trifle with Mr. Milton's Feelings nor in his Sighte, as I had done the Daye she dined at Forest Hill. I laught, and sayd, he must take me as he found me: he was going to marry Mary Powell, not the Wise Widow of Tekoah. Rose lookt wistfullie, but I bade her take Heart, for I doubted not we shoulde content eache the other; and for the Rest, her Advice shoulde not be forgotten. Thereat, she was pacyfied.
May 22d, 1643.
Alle Bustle and Confusion,—slaying of Poultrie, making of Pastrie, etc. People coming and going, prest to dine and to sup, and refuse, and then stay, the colde Meats and Wines ever on the Table; and in the Evening, the Rebecks and Recorders sent for that we may dance in the Hall. My Spiritts have been most unequall; and this Evening I was overtaken with a suddain Faintnesse, such as I never but once before experienced. They would let me dance no more; and I was quite tired enoughe to be glad to sit aparte with Mr. Milton neare the Doore, with the Moon shining on us; untill at length he drew me out into the Garden. He spake of Happinesse and Home, and Hearts knit in Love, and of heavenlie Espousals, and of Man being the Head of the Woman, and of our Lord's Marriage with the Church, and of white Robes, and the Bridegroom coming in Clouds of Glory, and of the Voices of singing Men and singing Women, and eternall Spring, and eternall Blisse, and much that I cannot call to Mind, and other-much that I coulde not comprehende, but which was in mine ears as the Song of Birds, or Falling of Waters.
May 23d, 1643.
Rose hath come, and hath kindlie offered to help pack the Trunks, (which are to be sent off by the Waggon to London,) that I may have the more Time to devote to Mr. Milton. Nay, but he will soon have all my Time devoted to himself, and I would as lief spend what little remains in mine accustomed Haunts, after mine accustomed Fashion. I had purposed a Ride on Clover this Morning, with Robin; but the poor Boy must I trow be disappointed.
——And for what? Oh me! I have hearde such a long Sermon on Marriage-duty and Service, that I am faine to sit down and weepe. But no, I must not, for they are waiting for me in the Hall, and the Guests are come and the Musick is tuning, and my Lookes must not betray me.—And now farewell, Journall; for Rose, who first bade me keepe you (little deeming after what Fashion), will not pack you up, and I will not close you with a heavie Strayn. Robin is calling me beneath the Window,—Father is sitting in the Shade, under the old Pear-tree, seemingly in gay Discourse with Mr. Milton. To-morrow the Village-bells will ring for the Marriage of
London, Mr. Russell's, Taylor, Bride's Churchyard.
Oh Heaven! is this my new Home? my Heart sinkes alreadie. After the swete fresh Ayre of Sheepscote, and the Cleanliness, and the Quiet and the pleasant Smells, Sightes, and Soundes, alle whereof Mr. Milton enjoyed to the Full as keenlie as I, saying they minded him of Paradise,—how woulde Rose pitie me, could she view me in this close Chamber, the Floor whereof of dark, uneven Boards, must have beene layd, methinks, three hundred Years ago; the oaken Pannells, utterlie destitute of Polish and with sundrie Chinks; the Bed with dull brown Hangings, lined with as dull a greene, occupying Half the Space; and Half the Remainder being filled with dustie Books, whereof there are Store alsoe in every other Place. This Mirror, I should thinke, belonged to faire Rosamond. And this Arm-chair to King Lew. Over the Chimnie hangs a ruefull Portrait,—maybe of Grotius, but I shoulde sooner deeme it of some Worthie before the Flood. Onlie one Quarter of the Casement will open, and that upon a Prospect, oh dolefulle! of the Churchyarde! Mr. Milton had need be as blythe as he was all the Time we were at Sheepscote, or I shall be buried in that same Churchyarde within the Twelvemonth. 'Tis well he has stepped out to see a Friend, that I may in his Absence get ridd of this Fit of the Dismalls. I wish it may be the last. What would Mother say to his bringing me to such a Home as this? I will not think. Soe this is London! How diverse from the "towred Citie" of my Husband's versing! and of his Prose too; for as he spake, by the way, of the Disorders of our Time, which extend even into eache domestick Circle, he sayd that alle must, for a While, appear confused to our imperfect View, just as a mightie Citie unto a Stranger who shoulde beholde around him huge, unfinished Fabrics, the Plan whereof he could but imperfectlie make out, amid the Builders' disorderlie Apparatus; but that, from afar, we mighte perceive glorious Results from party Contentions,—Freedom springing up from Oppression, Intelligence succeeding Ignorance, Order following Disorder, just as that same Traveller looking at the Citie from a distant Height, should beholde Towres, and Spires glistering with Gold and Marble, Streets stretching in lessening Perspectives, and Bridges flinging their white Arches over noble Rivers. But what of this saw we all along the Oxford Road? Firstlie, there was noe commanding Height; second, there was the Citie obscured by a drizzling Rain; the Ways were foul, the Faces of those we mett spake less of Pleasure than Business, and Bells were tolling, but none ringing. Mr. Milton's Father, a grey-haired, kind old Man, was here to give us welcome: and his firste Words were, "Why, John, thou hast stolen a March on us. Soe quickly, too, and soe snug! but she is faire enoughe, Man, to excuse thee, Royalist or noe."
And soe, taking me in his Arms, kist me franklie.—But I heare my Husband's Voice, and another with it.
'Twas a Mr. Lawrence whom my Husband brought Home last Nighte to sup; and the Evening passed righte pleasantlie, with News, Jestes, and a little Musicke. Todaye hath been kindlie devoted by Mr. Milton to shewing me Sights:—and oh! the strange, diverting Cries in the Streets, even from earlie Dawn! "New Milk and Curds from the Dairie!"—"Olde Shoes for some Brooms!"—"Anie Kitchen-stuffe, have you, Maids?"—"Come buy my greene Herbes!"—and then in the Streets, here a Man preaching, there another juggling: here a Boy with an Ape, there a Show of Nineveh: next the News from the North; and as for the China Shops and Drapers in the Strand, and the Cook's Shops in Westminster, with the smoking Ribs of Beef and fresh Salads set out on Tables in the Street, and Men in white Aprons crying out, "Calf's Liver, Tripe, and hot Sheep's Feet"—'twas enoughe to make One untimelie hungrie,—or take One's Appetite away, as the Case might be. Mr. Milton shewed me the noble Minster, with King Harry Seventh's Chapel adjoining; and pointed out the old House where Ben Jonson died. Neare the Broade Sanctuarie, we fell in with a slighte, dark-complexioned young Gentleman of two or three and twenty, whome my Husband espying cryed, "What, Marvell!" the other comically answering, "What Marvel?" and then, handsomlie saluting me and complimenting Mr. Milton, much lighte and pleasant Discourse ensued; and finding we were aboute to take Boat, he volunteered to goe with us on the River. After manie Hours' Exercise, I have come Home fatigued, yet well pleased. Mr. Marvell sups with us.
I wish I could note down a Tithe of the pleasant Things that were sayd last Nighte. First, olde Mr. Milton having slept out with his Son,—I called in Rachael, the younger of Mr. Russel's Serving-maids, (for we have none of our owne as yet, which tends to much Discomfiture,) and, with her Aide, I dusted the Bookes and sett them up in half the Space they had occupied; then cleared away three large Basketfuls, of the absolutest Rubbish, torn Letters and the like, and sent out for Flowers, (which it seemeth strange enoughe to me to buy,) which gave the Chamber a gayer Aire, and soe my Husband sayd when he came in, calling me the fayrest of them alle; and then, sitting down with Gayety to the Organ, drew forthe from it heavenlie Sounds. Afterwards Mr. Marvell came in, and they discoursed about Italy, and Mr. Milton promised his Friend some Letters of Introduction to Jacopo Gaddi, Clementillo, and others.—
After Supper, they wrote Sentences, Definitions, and the like, after a Fashion of Catherine de Medici, some of which I have layd aside for Rose.
—To-day we have seene St. Paul's faire Cathedral, and the School where Mr. Milton was a Scholar when a Boy; thence, to the Fields of Finsbury; where are Trees and Windmills enow: a Place much frequented for practising Archery and other manlie Exercises.
Tho' we rise betimes, olde Mr. Milton is earlier stille; and I always find him sitting at his Table beside the Window (by Reason of the Chamber being soe dark,) sorting I know not how manie Bundles of Papers tied with red Tape; eache so like the other that I marvel how he knows them aparte. This Morning, I found the poore old Gentleman in sad Distress at missing a Manuscript Song of Mr. Henry Lawes', the onlie Copy extant, which he persuaded himselfe that I must have sent down to the Kitchen Fire Yesterday. I am convinced I dismist not a single Paper that was not torne eache Way, as being utterlie uselesse; but as the unluckie Song cannot be founde, he sighs and is certayn of my Delinquence, as is Hubert, his owne Man; or, as he more frequentlie calls him, his "odd Man;"—and an odd Man indeede is Mr. Hubert, readie to address his Master or Master's Sonne on the merest Occasion, without waiting to be spoken to; tho' he expecteth Others to treat them with far more Deference than he himself payeth.
—Dead tired, this Daye, with so much Exercise; but woulde not say soe, because my Husband was thinking to please me by shewing me soe much. Spiritts flagging however. These London Streets wearie my Feet. We have been over the House in Aldersgate Street, the Garden whereof disappointed me, having hearde soe much of it; but 'tis far better than none, and the House is large enough for Mr. Milton's Familie and my Father's to boote. Thought how pleasant 'twould be to have them alle aboute me next Christmasse; but that holie Time is noe longer kept with Joyfullnesse in London. Ventured, therefore, to expresse a Hope, we mighte spend it at Forest Hill; but Mr. Milton sayd 'twas unlikelie he should be able to leave Home; and askt, would I go alone?—Constrained, for Shame, to say no; but felt, in my Heart, I woulde jump to see Forest Hill on anie Terms, I soe love alle that dwell there.
Private and publick Prayer, Sermons, and Psalm-singing from Morn until Nighte. The onlie Break hath been a Visit to a quaint but pleasing Lady, by Name Catherine Thompson, whome my Husband holds in great Reverence. She said manie Things worthy to be remembered; onlie as I remember them, I need not to write them down. Sorrie to be caughte napping by my Husband, in the Midst of the third long Sermon. This comes of over-walking, and of being unable to sleep o' Nights; for whether it be the London Ayre, or the London Methods of making the Beds, or the strange Noises in the Streets, I know not, but I have scarce beene able to close my Eyes before Daybreak since I came to Town.
And now beginneth a new Life; for my Husband's Pupils, who were dismist for a Time for my Sake, returne to theire Tasks this Daye, and olde Mr. Milton giveth place to his two Grandsons, his widowed Daughter's Children, Edward and John Phillips, whom my Husband led in to me just now. Two plainer Boys I never sett Eyes on; the one weak-eyed and puny, the other prim and puritanicall—no more to be compared to our sweet Robin! . . . After a few Words, they retired to theire Books; and my Husband, taking my Hand, sayd in his kindliest Manner,—"And now I leave my sweete Moll to the pleasant Companie of her own goode and innocent Thoughtes; and, if she needs more, here are both stringed and keyed Instruments, and Books both of the older and modern Time, soe that she will not find the Hours hang heavie." Methoughte how much more I should like a Ride upon Clover than all the Books that ever were penned; for the Door no sooner closed upon Mr. Milton than it seemed as tho' he had taken alle the Sunshine with him; and I fell to cleaning the Casement that I mighte look out the better into the Churchyarde, and then altered Tables and Chairs, and then sate downe with my Elbows resting on the Window-seat, and my Chin on the Palms of my Hands, gazing on I knew not what, and feeling like a Butterflie under a Wine-glass.
I marvelled why it seemed soe long since I was married, and wondered what they were doing at Home,—coulde fancy I hearde Mother chiding, and see Charlie stealing into the Dairie and dipping his Finger in the Cream, and Kate feeding the Chickens, and Dick taking a Stone out of Whitestar's Shoe.
—Methought how dull it was to be passing the best Part of the Summer out of the Reache of fresh Ayre and greene Fields, and wondered, woulde alle my future Summers be soe spent?
Thoughte how dull it was to live in Lodgings, where one could not even go into the Kitchen to make a Pudding; and how dull to live in a Town, without some young female Friend with whom one might have ventured into the Streets, and where one could not soe much as feed Colts in a Paddock; how dull to be without a Garden, unable soe much as to gather a Handfulle of ripe Cherries; and how dull to looke into a Churchyarde, where there was a Man digging a Grave!
—When I wearied of staring at the Grave-digger, I gazed at an olde Gentleman and a young Lady slowlie walking along, yet scarce as if I noted them; and was thinking mostlie of Forest Hill, when I saw them stop at our Doore, and presently they were shewn in, by the Name of Doctor and Mistress Davies. I sent for my Husband, and entertayned 'em bothe as well as I could, till he appeared, and they were polite and pleasant to me; the young Lady tall and slender, of a cleare brown Skin, and with Eyes that were fine enough; onlie there was a supprest Smile on her Lips alle the Time, as tho' she had seen me looking out of the Window. She tried me on all Subjects, I think; for she started them more adroitlie than I; and taking up a Book on the Window-seat, which was the Amadigi of Bernardo Tasso, printed alle in Italiques, she sayd, if I loved Poetry, which she was sure I must, she knew she shoulde love me. I did not tell her whether or noe. Then we were both silent. Then Doctor Davies talked vehementlie to Mr. Milton agaynst the King; and Mr. Milton was not so contrarie to him as I could have wished. Then Mistress Davies tooke the Word from her Father and beganne to talke to Mr. Milton of Tasso, and Dante, and Boiardo, and Ariosto; and then Doctor Davies and I were silent. Methoughte, they both talked well, tho' I knew so little of their Subject-matter; onlie they complimented eache other too much. I mean not they were insincere, for eache seemed to think highlie of the other; onlie we neede not say alle we feele.
To conclude, we are to sup with them to-morrow.
Journall, I have Nobodie now but you, to whome to tell my little Griefs; indeede, before I married, I know not that I had anie; and even now, they are very small, onlie they are soe new, that sometimes my Heart is like to burst.
—I know not whether 'tis safe to put them alle on Paper, onlie it relieves for the Time, and it kills Time, and perhaps, a little While hence I may looke back and see how small they were, and how they mighte have beene shunned, or better borne. 'Tis worth the Triall.
—Yesterday Morn, for very Wearinesse, I looked alle over my Linen and Mr. Milton's, to see could I finde anie Thing to mend; but there was not a Stitch amiss. I woulde have played on the Spinnette, but was afrayd he should hear my indifferent Musick. Then, as a last Resource, I tooke a Book—Paul Perrin's Historie of the Waldenses;—and was, I believe, dozing a little, when I was aware of a continuall Whispering and Crying. I thought 'twas some Child in the Street; and, having some Comfits in my Pocket, I stept softlie out to the House-door and lookt forth, but no Child could I see. Coming back, the Door of my Husband's Studdy being ajar, I was avised to look in; and saw him, with awfulle Brow, raising his Hand in the very Act to strike the youngest Phillips. I could never endure to see a Child struck, soe hastilie cryed out "Oh, don't!"—whereon he rose, and, as if not seeing me, gently closed the Door, and, before I reached my Chamber, I hearde soe loud a Crying that I began to cry too. Soon, alle was quiet; and my Husband, coming in, stept gently up to me, and putting his Arm about my Neck, sayd, "My dearest Life, never agayn, I beseech you, interfere between me and the Boys: 'tis as unseemlie as tho' I shoulde interfere between you and your Maids, when you have any,—and will weaken my Hands, dear Moll, more than you have anie Suspicion of."
I replied, kissing that same offending Member as I spoke, "Poor Jack would have beene glad, just now, if I had weakened them."—"But that is not the Question," he returned, "for we shoulde alle be glad to escape necessary Punishment; whereas, it is the Power, not the Penalty of our bad Habits, that we shoulde seek to be delivered from."—"There may," I sayd, "be necessary, but need not be corporal Punishment." "That is as may be," returned he, "and hath alreadie been settled by an Authoritie to which I submit, and partlie think you will dispute, and that is, the Word of God. Pain of Body is in Realitie, or ought to be, sooner over and more safelie borne than Pain of an ingenuous Mind; and, as to the Shame,—why, as Lorenzo de' Medici sayd to Soccini, 'The Shame is in the Offence rather than in the Punishment.'"
I replied, "Our Robin had never beene beaten for his Studdies;" to which he sayd with a Smile, that even I must admit Robin to be noe greate Scholar. And so in good Humour left me; but I was in no good Humour, and hoped Heaven might never make me the Mother of a Son, for if I should see Mr. Milton strike him, I should learn to hate the Father.—
Learning there was like to be Companie at Doctor Davies', I was avised to put on my brave greene Satin Gown; and my Husband sayd it became me well, and that I onlie needed some Primroses and Cowslips in my Lap, to look like May;—and somewhat he added about mine Eyes' "clear shining after Rain," which avised me he had perceived I had beene crying in the Morning, which I had hoped he had not.
Arriving at the Doctor's House, we were shewn into an emptie Chamber; at least, emptie of Companie, but full of every Thing else; for there were Books, and Globes, and stringed and wind Instruments, and stuffed Birds and Beasts, and Things I know not soe much as the Names of, besides an Easel with a Painting by Mrs. Mildred on it, which she meant to be seene, or she woulde have put it away. Subject, "Brutus's Judgment:" which I thought a strange, unfeeling one for a Woman; and did not wish to be her Son. Soone she came in, drest with studdied and puritanicall Plainnesse; in brown Taffeta, guarded with black Velvet, which became her well enough, but was scarce suited for the Season. She had much to say about limning, in which my Husband could follow her better than I; and then they went to the Globes, and Copernicus, and Galileo Galilei, whom she called a Martyr, but I do not. For, is a Martyr one who is unwillinglie imprisoned, or who formally recants? even tho' he affected afterwards to say 'twas but a Form, and cries, "Eppure, si muove?" The earlier Christians might have sayd 'twas but a Form to burn a Handfull of Incense before Jove's Statua; Pliny woulde have let them goe.
Afterwards, when the Doctor came in and engaged my Husband in Discourse, Mistress Mildred devoted herselfe to me, and askt what Progresse I had made with Bernardo Tasso. I tolde her, none at alle, for I was equallie faultie at Italiques and Italian, and onlie knew his best Work thro' Mr. Fairfax's Translation; whereat she fell laughing, and sayd she begged my Forgivenesse, but I was confounding the Father with the Sonne; then laught agayn, but pretended 'twas not at me but at a Lady I minded her of, who never coulde remember to distinguish betwixt Lionardo da Vinci and Lorenzo dei Medici. That last Name brought up the Recollection of my Morning's Debate with my Husband, which made me feel sad; and then, Mrs. Mildred, seeminge anxious to make me forget her Unmannerliness, commenced, "Can you paint?"—"Can you sing?"—"Can you play the Lute?"—and, at the last, "What can you do?" I mighte have sayd I coulde comb out my Curls smoother than she coulde hers, but did not. Other Guests came in, and talked so much agaynst Prelacy and the Right divine of Kings that I woulde fain we had remained at Astronomie and Poetry. For Supper there was little Meat, and noe strong Drinks, onlie a thinnish foreign Wine, with Cakes, Candies, Sweetmeats, Fruits, and Confections. Such, I suppose, is Town Fashion. At the laste, came Musick; Mistress Mildred sang and played; then prest me to do the like, but I was soe fearfulle, I coulde not; so my Husband sayd he woulde play for me, and that woulde be alle one, and soe covered my Bashfullenesse handsomlie.
Onlie this Morning, just before going to his Studdy, he stept back and sayd, "Sweet Moll, I know you can both play and sing—why will you not practise?" I replyed, I loved it not much. He rejoyned, "But you know I love it, and is not that a Motive?" I sayd, I feared to let him hear me, I played so ill. He replyed, "Why, that is the very Reason you shoulde seek to play better, and I am sure you have Plenty of Time. Perhaps, in your whole future Life, you will not have such a Season of Leisure as you have now,—a golden Opportunity, which you will surelie seize."—Then added, "Sir Thomas More's Wife learnt to play the Lute, solely that she mighte please her Husband." I answered, "Nay, what to tell me of Sir Thomas More's Wife, or of Hugh Grotius's Wife, when I was the Wife of John Milton?" He looked at me twice, and quicklie, too, at this Saying; then laughing, cried, "You cleaving Mischief! I hardlie know whether to take that Speech amisse or well—however, you shall have the Benefit of the Doubt."
And so away laughing; and I, for very Shame, sat down to the Spinnette for two wearie Hours, till soe tired, I coulde cry; and when I desisted, coulde hear Jack wailing over his Task. 'Tis raining fast, I cannot get out, nor should I dare to go alone, nor where to go to if 'twere fine. I fancy ill Smells from the Churchyard—'tis long to Dinner-time, with noe Change, noe Exercise; and oh, I sigh for Forest Hill.
—A dull Dinner with Mrs. Phillips, whom I like not much. Christopher Milton there, who stared hard at me, and put me out of Countenance with his strange Questions. My Husband checked him. He is a Lawyer, and has Wit enoughe.
Mrs. Phillips speaking of second Marriages, I unawares hurt her by giving my Voice agaynst them. It seems she is thinking of contracting a second Marriage.
—At Supper, wishing to ingratiate myself with the Boys, talked to them of Countrie Sports, etc.: to which the youngest listened greedilie; and at length I was advised to ask them woulde they not like to see Forest Hill? to which the elder replyed in his most methodicall Manner, "If Mr. Powell has a good Library." For this Piece of Hypocrisie, at which I heartilie laught, he was commended by his Uncle. Hypocrisie it was, for Master Ned cryeth over his Taskes pretty nearlie as oft as the youngest.
To rewarde my zealous Practice to-day on the Spinnette, Mr. Milton produced a Collection of "Ayres, and Dialogues, for one, two, and three Voices," by his Friend, Mr. Harry Lawes, which he sayd I shoulde find very pleasant Studdy; and then he tolde me alle about theire getting up the Masque of Comus in Ludlow Castle, and how well the Lady's Song was sung by Mr. Lawes' Pupil, the Lady Alice, then a sweet, modest Girl, onlie thirteen Yeares of Age,—and he told me of the Singing of a faire Italian young Signora, named Leonora Barroni, with her Mother and Sister, whome he had hearde at Rome, at the Concerts of Cardinal Barberini; and how she was "as gentle and modest as sweet Moll," yet not afrayed to open her Mouth, and pronounce everie Syllable distinctlie, and with the proper Emphasis and Passion when she sang. And after this, to my greate Contentment, he tooke me to the Gray's Inn Walks, where, the Afternoon being fine, was much Companie.
After Supper, I proposed to the Boys that we shoulde tell Stories; and Mr. Milton tolde one charminglie, but then went away to write a Latin Letter. Soe Ned's Turn came next; and I must, if I can, for very Mirthe's Sake, write it down in his exact Words, they were soe pragmaticall.
"On a Daye, there was a certain Child wandered forthe, that would play. He met a Bee, and sayd, 'Bee, wilt thou play with me?' The Bee sayd, 'No, I have my Duties to perform, tho' you, it woulde seeme, have none. I must away to make Honey.' Then the Childe, abasht, went to the Ant. He sayd, 'Will you play with me, Ant?' The Ant replied, 'Nay, I must provide against the Winter.' In shorte, he found that everie Bird, Beaste, and Insect he accosted, had a closer Eye to the Purpose of their Creation than himselfe. Then he sayd, 'I will then back, and con my Task.'—Moral. The Moral of the foregoing Fable, my deare Aunt, is this—We must love Work better than Play."
With alle my Interest for Children, how is it possible to take anie Interest in soe formall a little Prigge?
I have just done somewhat for Master Ned which he coulde not doe for himselfe—viz. tenderly bound up his Hand, which he had badly cut. Wiping away some few naturall Tears, he must needs say, "I am quite ashamed, Aunt, you shoulde see me cry; but the worst of it is, that alle this Payne has beene for noe good; whereas, when my Uncle beateth me for misconstruing my Latin, tho' I cry at the Time, all the while I know it is for my Advantage."—If this Boy goes on preaching soe, I shall soon hate him.
—Mr. Milton having stepped out before Supper, came back looking soe blythe, that I askt if he had hearde good News. He sayd, yes: that some Friends had long beene persuading him, against his Will, to make publick some of his Latin Poems; and that, having at length consented to theire Wishes, he had beene with Mosley the Publisher in St. Paul's Churchyard, who agreed to print them. I sayd, I was sorrie I shoulde be unable to read them. He sayd he was sorry too; he must translate them for me. I thanked him, but observed that Traductions were never soe good as Originalls. He rejoyned, "Nor am I even a good Translator." I askt, "Why not write in your owne Tongue?" He sayd, "Latin is understood all over the Worlde." I sayd, "But there are manie in your owne Country do not understand it." He was silent soe long upon that, that I supposed he did not mean to answer me; but then cried, "You are right, sweet Moll.—Our best Writers have written their best Works in English, and I will hereafter doe the same,—for I feel that my best Work is still to come. Poetry hath hitherto been with me rather the Recreation of a Mind conscious of its Health, than the deliberate Task-work of a Soule that must hereafter give an Account of its Talents. Yet my Mind, in the free Circuit of her Musing, has ranged over a thousand Themes that lie, like the Marble in the Quarry, readie for anie Shape that Fancy and Skill may give. Neither Laziness nor Caprice makes me difficult in my Choice; for, the longer I am in selecting my Tree, and laying my Axe to the Root, the sounder it will be and the riper for Use. Nor is an Undertaking that shall be one of high Duty, to be entered upon without Prayer and Discipline:—it woulde be Presumption indeede, to commence an Enterprise which I meant shoulde delighte and profit every instructed and elevated Mind without so much Paynes-takinge as it should cost a poor Mountebank to balance a Pole on his Chin."
In the Clouds agayn. At Dinner, to-daye, Mr. Milton catechised the Boys on the Morning's Sermon, the Heads of which, though amounting to a Dozen, Ned tolde off roundlie. Roguish little Jack looked slylie at me, says, "Aunt coulde not tell off the Sermon." "Why not?" says his Uncle. "Because she was sleeping," says Jack. Provoked with the Child, I turned scarlett, and hastilie sayd, "I was not." Nobodie spoke; but I repented the Falsitie the Moment it had escaped me; and there was Ned, a folding of his Hands, drawing down his Mouth, and closing his Eyes. . . . My Husband tooke me to taske for it when we were alone, soe tenderlie that I wept.
Jack sayd this Morning, "I know Something—I know Aunt keeps a Journall." "And a good Thing if you kept one too, Jack," sayd his Uncle, "it would shew you how little you doe." Jack was silenced; but Ned, pursing up his Mouth, says, "I can't think what Aunt can have to put in a Journall—should not you like, Uncle, to see?" "No, Ned," says his Uncle, "I am upon Honour, and your dear Aunt's Journall is as safe, for me, as the golden Bracelets that King Alfred hung upon the High-way. I am glad she has such a Resource, and, as we know she cannot have much News to put in it, we may the more safely rely that it is a Treasury of sweet, and high, and holy, and profitable Thoughtes."
Oh, how deeplie I blusht at this ill-deserved Prayse! How sorrie I was that I had ever registered aught that he woulde grieve to read! I secretly resolved that this Daye's Journalling should be the last, untill I had attained a better Frame of Mind.
I have kept Silence, yea, even from good Words, but it has beene a Payn and Griefe unto me. Good Mistress Catherine Thompson called on me a few Dayes back, and spoke so wisely and so wholesomelie concerning my Lot, and the Way to make it happy, (she is the first that hath spoken as it 'twere possible it mighte not be soe alreadie,) that I felt for a Season quite heartened; but it has alle faded away. Because the Source of Cheerfulnesse is not in me, anie more than in a dull Landskip, which the Sun lighteneth for awhile, and when he has set, its Beauty is gone.
Oh me! how merry I was at Home!—The Source of Cheerfulnesse seemed in me then, and why is it not now? Partly because alle that I was there taught to think right is here thought wrong; because much that I there thought harmlesse is here thought sinfulle; because I cannot get at anie of the Things that employed and interested me there, and because the Things within my Reach here do not interest me. Then, 'tis no small Thing to be continuallie deemed ignorant and misinformed, and to have one's Errors continuallie covered, however handsomelie, even before Children. To say nothing of the Weight upon the Spiritts at firste, from Change of Ayre, and Diet, and Scene, and Loss of habituall Exercise and Companie and householde Cares. These petty Griefs try me sorelie; and when Cousin Ralph came in unexpectedlie this Morn, tho' I never much cared for him at Home, yet the Sighte of Rose's Brother, fresh from Sheepscote and Oxford and Forest Hill, soe upset me that I sank into Tears. No wonder that Mr. Milton, then coming in, shoulde hastilie enquire if Ralph had brought ill Tidings from Home; and, finding alle was well there, shoulde look strangelie. He askt Ralph, however, to stay to Dinner; and we had much Talk of Home; but now, I regret having omitted to ask a thousand Questions.
Sunday Even., Aug. 15, 1643.
Mr. Milton in his Closet and I in my Chamber.—For the first Time he seems this Evening to have founde out how dissimilar are our Minds. Meaning to please him, I sayd, "I kept awake bravelie, tonighte, through that long, long Sermon, for your Sake." "And why not for God's Sake?" cried he, "why not for your owne Sake?—Oh, sweet Wife, I fear you have yet much to learn of the Depth of Happinesse that is comprised in the Communion between a forgiven Soul and its Creator. It hallows the most secular as well as the most spirituall Employments; it gives Pleasure that has no after Bitternesse; it gives Pleasure to God—and oh! thinke of the Depth of Meaning in those Words! think what it is for us to be capable of giving God Pleasure!"
—Much more, in the same Vein! to which I could not, with equal Power, respond; soe, he away to his Studdy, to pray perhaps for my Change of Heart, and I to my Bed.
Saturday, Aug. 21, 1643.
Oh Heaven! can it be possible? am I agayn at Forest Hill? How strange, how joyfulle an Event, tho' brought about with Teares!—Can it be, that it is onlie a Month since I stoode at this Toilette as a Bride? and lay awake on that Bed, thinking of London? How long a Month! and oh! this present one will be alle too short.
It seemeth that Ralph Hewlett, shocked at my Teares and the Alteration in my Looks, broughte back a dismall Report of me to deare Father and Mother, pronouncing me either ill or unhappie. Thereupon, Richard, with his usuall Impetuositie, prevayled on Father to let him and Ralph fetch me Home for a While, at leaste till after Michaelmasse.
How surprised was I to see Dick enter! My Arms were soe fast about his Neck, and my Face prest soe close to his Shoulder, that I did not for a While perceive the grave Looke he had put on. At the last, I was avised to ask what broughte him soe unexpectedlie to London; and then he hemmed and looked at Ralph, and Ralph looked at Dick, and then Dick sayd bluntly, he hoped Mr. Milton woulde spare me to go Home till after Michaelmasse, and Father had sent him on Purpose to say soe. Mr. Milton lookt surprised and hurte, and sayd, how could he be expected to part soe soone with me, a Month's Bride? it must be some other Time: he had intended to take me himselfe to Forest Hill the following Spring, but coulde not spare Time now, nor liked me to goe without him, nor thought I should like it myself. But my Eyes said I shoulde, and then he gazed earnestlie at me and lookt hurt; and there was a dead Silence. Then Dick, hesitating a little, sayd he was sorrie to tell us my Father was ill; on which I clasped my Hands and beganne to weepe; and Mr. Milton, changing Countenance, askt sundrie Questions, which Dick answered well enough; and then said he woulde not be soe cruel as to keepe me from a Father I soe dearlie loved, if he were sick, though he liked not my travelling in such unsettled Times with so young a Convoy. Ralph sayd they had brought Diggory with them, who was olde and steddy enough, and had ridden my Mother's Mare for my Use; and Dick was for our getting forward a Stage on our Journey the same Evening, but Mr. Milton insisted on our abiding till the following Morn, and woulde not be overruled. And gave me leave to stay a Month, and gave me Money, and many kind Words, which I coulde mark little, being soe overtaken with Concern about dear Father, whose Illness I feared to be worse than Dick sayd, seeing he seemed soe close and dealt in dark Speeches and Parables. After Dinner, they went forth, they sayd, to look after the Horses, but I think to see London, and returned not till Supper.