Front Page Titles (by Subject) COLASTERION. A REPLY TO A NAMELESS ANSWER AGAINST THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE. - The Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 1
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COLASTERION. A REPLY TO A NAMELESS ANSWER AGAINST THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE. - John Milton, The Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 1 
The Prose Works of John Milton: With a Biographical Introduction by Rufus Wilmot Griswold. In Two Volumes (Philadelphia: John W. Moore, 1847). Vol. 1.
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wherein the trivial author of that answer is discovered, the licenser conferred with, and the opinion, which they traduce, defended.
Prov. xxvi. 5. “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”
[first published, 1645.]
After many rumors of confutations and convictions, forthcoming against the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, and now and then a by-blow from the pulpit, feathered with a censure, strict indeed, but how true, more beholden to the authority of that devout place, which it borrowed to be uttered in, than to any sound reason which it could oracle; while I still hoped as for a blessing, to see some piece of diligence, or learned discretion, come from them, it was my hap at length, lighting on a certain parcel of queries, that seek and find not, to find, not seeking, at the tail of anabaptistical, antinomian, heretical, atheistical epithets, a jolly slander, called “Divorce at Pleasure.” I stood awhile and wondered what we might do to a man’s heart, or what anatomy use, to find in it sincerity; for all our wonted marks every day fail us, and where we thought it was, we see it is not, for alter and change residence, it cannot sure. And yet I see no good of body or of mind secure to a man for all his past labours, without perpetual watchfulness and perseverance: whenas one above others, who hath suffered much and long in the defence of truth, shall after all this give her cause to leave him so destitute and so vacant of her defence, as to yield his mouth to be the common road of truth and falsehood, and such falsehood as is joined with a rash and heedless calumny of his neighbour. For what book hath he ever met with, as his complaint is, “printed in the city,” maintaining either in the title, or in the whole pursuance, “Divorce at Pleasure?” It is true, that to divorce upon extreme necessity, when through the perverseness, or the apparent unfitness of either, the continuance can be to both no good at all, but an intolerable injury and temptation to the wronged and the defrauded; to divorce then, there is a book that writes it lawful. And that this law is a pure and wholesome national law, not to be withheld from good men, because others likely enough may abuse it to their pleasure, cannot be charged upon that book, but must be entered a bold and impious accusation against God himself; who did not for this abuse withhold it from his own people. It will be just therefore, and best for the reputation of him who in his Subitanes hath thus censured, to recall his sentence. And if, out of the abundance of his volumes, and the readiness of his quill, and the vastness of his other employments, especially in the great audit for accounts, he can spare us aught to the better understanding of this point, he shall be thanked in public; and what hath offended in the book shall willingly submit to his correction. Provided he be sure not to come with those old and stale suppositions, unless he can take away clearly what that discourse hath urged against them, by one who will expect other arguments to be persuaded the good health of a sound answer, than the gout and dropsy of a big margin, littered and overlaid with crude and huddled quotations. But as I still was waiting, when these light-armed refuters would have done pelting at their three lines uttered with a sage delivery of no reason, but an impotent and worse than Bonnerlike censure, to burn that which provokes them to a fair dispute; at length a book was brought to my hands, entitled “An Answer to the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.” Gladly I received it, and very attentively composed myself to read; hoping that now some good man had vouchsafed the pains to instruct me better, than I could yet learn out of all the volumes, which for this purpose I had visited. Only this I marvelled, and other men have since, whenas I, in a subject so new to this age, and so hazardous to please, concealed not my name, why this author, defending that part, which is so creeded by the people, would conceal his. But ere I could enter three leaves into the pamphlet, (for I defer the peasantly rudeness which, by the licenser’s leave, I met with afterwards,) my satisfaction came in abundantly, that it could be nothing why he durst not name himself, but the guilt of his own wretchedness. For first, not to speak of his abrupt and bald beginning, his very first page notoriously bewrays him an illiterate and arrogant presumer in that which he understands not, bearing us in hand as if he knew both Greek and Hebrew, and is not able to spell it; which had he been, it had been either written as it ought, or scored upon the printer. If it be excused as the carelessness of his deputy, be it known, the learned author himself is inventoried, and summoned up to the utmost value of his livery-cloak. Whoever he be, though this to some may seem a slight contest, I shall yet continue to think that man full of other secret injustice, and deceitful pride, who shall offer in public to assume the skill though it be but of a tongue which he hath not, and would catch his readers to believe of his ability, that which is not in him. The licenser indeed, as his authority now stands, may license much; but if these Greek orthographies were of his licensing, the boys at school might reckon with him at his grammar. Nor did I find this his want of the pretended languages alone, but accompanied with such a low and homespun expression of his mother English all along, without joint or frame, as made me, ere I knew further of him, often stop and conclude, that this author could for certain be no other than some mechanic. Nor was the style flat and rude, and the matter grave and solid, for then there had been pardon; but so shallow and so unwary was that also, as gave sufficiently the character of a gross and sluggish, yet a contentious and overweening, pretender. For first, it behoving him to show, as he promises, what divorce is, and what the true doctrine and discipline thereof, and this being to do by such principles and proofs as are received on both sides, he performs neither of these; but shows it first from the judaical practice, which he himself disallows; and next, from the practice of canon law, which the book he would confute utterly rejects, and all laws depending thereon; which this puny clerk calls “the Laws of England,” and yet pronounceth them by an ecclesiastical judge: as if that were to be accounted the law of England which dependeth on the popery of England; or if it were, this parliament he might know hath now damned that judicature. So that whether his meaning were to inform his own party, or to confute his adversary, instead of showing us the true doctrine and discipline of divorce, he shows us nothing but his own contemptible ignorance. For what is the Mosaic law to his opinion? And what is the canon, now utterly antiquated, either to that, or to mine? Ye see already what a faithful definer we have him. From such a wind-egg of definition as this, they who expect any of his other arguments to be well hatched, let them enjoy the virtue of their worthy champion. But one thing more I observed; a singular note of his stupidity, and that his trade is not to meddle with books, much less with confutations; whenas the “Doctrine of Divorce” had now a whole year been published the second time, with many arguments added, and the former ones bettered and confirmed, this idle pamphlet comes reeling forth against the first edition only; as may appear to any by the pages quoted: which put me in mind of what by chance I had notice of to this purpose the last summer, as nothing so serious but happens ofttimes to be attended with a ridiculous accident: it was then told me, that the “Doctrine of Divorce” was answered, and the answer half printed against the first edition, not by one, but by a pack of heads; of whom the chief, by circumstance, was intimated to me, and since ratified to be no other, if any can hold laughter, and I am sure none will guess him lower, than an actual serving-man. This creature, for the story must on, (and what though he be the lowest person of an interlude, he may deserve a canvassing,) transplanted himself, and to the improvement of his wages, and your better notice of his capacity, turned solicitor. And having conversed much with a stripling divine or two of those newly-fledged probationers, that usually come scouting from the university, and lie here no lame leggers to pop into the Bethesda of some knight’s chaplainship, where they bring grace to his good cheer, but no peace or benediction else to his house; these made the cham-party, he contributed the law, and both joined in the divinity. Which made me intend following the advice also of friends, to lay aside the thought of misspending a reply to the buzz of such a drone’s nest. But finding that it lay, whatever was the matter, half a year after unfinished in the press, and hearing for certain that a divine of note, out of his good will to the opinion, had taken it into his revise, and something had put out, something put in, and stuck it here and there with a clove of his own calligraphy, to keep it from tainting: and further, when I saw the stuff, though very coarse and threadbare, garnished and trimly faced with the commendations of a licenser, I resolved, so soon as leisure granted me the recreation, that my man of law should not altogether lose his soliciting. Although I impute a share of the making to him whose name I find in the approbation, who may take, as his mind serves him, this reply. In the mean while it shall be seen, I refuse no occasion, and avoid no adversary, either to maintain what I have begun, or to give it up for better reason.
To begin then with the licenser and his censure. For a licenser is not contented now to give his single Imprimatur, but brings his chair into the title-leaf; there sits and judges up, or judges down, what book he pleases: if this be suffered, what worthless author, or what cunning printer, will not be ambitious of such a stale to put off the heaviest gear; which may in time bring in round fees to the licenser, and wretched misleading to the people? But to the matter: he “approves the publishing of this book, to preserve the strength and honour of marriage against those sad breaches and dangerous abuses of it.” Belike then the wrongful suffering of all those sad breaches and abuses in marriage to remediless thraldom is the strength and honour of marriage; a boisterous and bestial strength, a dishonourable honour, an infatuated doctrine, whose than the Salvo jure of tyrannizing, which we all fight against. Next he saith, that “common discontents make these breaches in unstaid minds, and men given to change.” His words may be apprehended, as if they disallowed only to divorce for common discontents, in unstaid minds, having no cause, but a desire of change, and then we agree. But if he take all discontents on this side adultery, to be common, that is to say, not difficult to endure, and to affect only unstaid minds, it might administer just cause to think him the unfittest man that could be, to offer at a comment upon Job;* as seeming by this to have no more true sense of a good man in his afflictions, than those Edomitish friends had, of whom Job complains, and against whom God testifies his anger. Shall a man of your own coat, who hath espoused his flock, and represents Christ more in being the true husband of his congregation, than an ordinary man doth in being the husband of his wife, (and yet this representment is thought a chief cause why marriage must be inseparable,) shall this spiritual man ordinarily for the increase of his maintenances or any slight cause, forsake that wedded cure of souls, that should be dearest to him, and marry another and another? And shall not a person wrongfully afflicted, and persecuted even to extremity, forsake an unfit, injurious, and pestilent mate, tied only by a civil and fleshly covenant? If you be a man so much hating change, hate that other change; if yourself be not guilty, counsel your brethren to hate it; and leave to be the supercilious judge of other men’s miseries and changes, that your own be not judged. “The reasons of your licensed pamphlet,” you say, “are good;” they must be better than your own then; I shall wonder else how such a trivial fellow was accepted and commended, to be the confuter of so dangerous an opinion as ye give out mine.
Now therefore to your attorney, since no worthier an adversary makes his appearance, nor this neither his appearance, but lurking under the safety of his nameless obscurity; such as ye turn him forth at the postern, I must accept him; and in a better temper than Ajax do mean to scourge this ram for ye, till I meet with his Ulysses.
He begins with law, and we have it of him as good cheap as any huckster at law, newly set up, can possibly afford, and as impertinent; but for that he hath received his handsel. He presumes also to cite the civil law, which I perceive by his citing, never came within his dormitory: yet what he cites, makes but against himself.
His second thing, therefore, is to refute the adverse position, and very methodically, three pages before he sets it down; and sets his own in the place, “that disagreement of mind or disposition, though showing itself in much sharpness, is not by the law of God or man a just cause of divorce.”
To this position I answer; That it lays no battery against mine, no nor so much as faces it, but tacks about, long ere it come near, like a harmless and respectful confutement. For I confess that disagreement of mind or disposition, though in much sharpness, is not always a just cause of divorce; for much may be endured. But what if the sharpness be much more than his much? To that point it is our mishap we have not here his grave decision. He that will contradict the position which I alleged, must hold that no disagreement of mind or disposition can divorce, though shown in most sharpness; otherwise he leaves a place for equity to appoint limits, and so his following arguments will either not prove his own position, or not disprove mine.
His first argument, all but what hobbles to no purpose, is this: “Where the Scripture commands a thing to be done, it appoints when, how, and for what, as in the case of death, or excommunication. But the Scripture directs not what measure of disagreement or contrariety may divorce: therefore the Scripture allows not any divorce for disagreement.”—Answer. First, I deny your major; the Scripture appoints many things, and yet leaves the circumstance to man’s discretion, particularly in your own examples: excommunication is not taught when and for what to be, but left to the church. How could the licenser let pass this childish ignorance, and call it “good?” Next, in matters of death, the laws of England, whereof you have intruded to be an opiniastrous subadvocate, and are bound to defend them, conceive it not enjoined in Scripture, when or for what cause they shall put to death, as in adultery, theft, and the like. Your minor also is false; for the Scripture plainly sets down for what measure of disagreement a man may divorce, Deut. xxiv. 1. Learn better what that phrase means, “if she find no favour in his eyes.”
Your second argument, without more tedious fumbling, is briefly thus: “If diversity in religion, which breeds a greater dislike than any natural disagreement, may not cause a divorce, then may not the lesser disagreement: But diversity of religion may not; Ergo.”
Answ. First, I deny in the major, that diversity of religion breeds a greater dislike to marriage-duties than natural disagreement. For between Israelite, or Christian, and infidel, more often hath been seen too much love: but between them who perpetually clash in natural contrarieties, it is repugnant that there should be ever any married love or concord. Next, I deny your minor, that it is commanded not to divorce in diversity of religion, if the infidel will stay: for that place in St. Paul commands nothing, as that book at large affirmed, though you overskipped it.
Secondly, If it do command, it is but with condition that the infidel be content, and well-pleased to stay, which cuts off the supposal of any great hatred or disquiet between them, seeing the infidel had liberty to depart at pleasure; and so this comparison avails nothing.
Your third argument is from Deut. xxii. “If a man hate his wife, and raise an ill report, that he found her no virgin;” if this were false, “he might not put her away,” though hated never so much.
Ans. This was a malicious hatred, bent against her life, or to send her out of doors without her portion. Such a hater loses by due punishment that privilege, Deut. xxiv. 1, to divorce for a natural dislike; which, though it could not love conjugally, yet sent away civilly, and with just conditions. But doubtless the wife in that former case had liberty to depart from her false accuser, lest his hatred should prove mortal; else that law peculiarly made to right the woman, had turned to her greatest mischief.
Your fourth argument is; “One Christian ought to bear the infirmities of another, but chiefly of his wife.”
Ans. I grant infirmities, but not outrages, not perpetual defraudments of truest conjugal society, not injuries and vexations as importunate as fire. Yet to endure very much, might do well an exhortation, but not a compulsive law. For the Spirit of God himself, by Solomon, declares that such a consort “the earth cannot bear, and better dwell in a corner of the housetop, or in the wilderness.” Burdens may be borne, but still with consideration to the strength of an honest man complaining. Charity, indeed, bids us forgive our enemies, yet doth not force us to continue friendship and familiarity with those friends who have been false or unworthy towards us; but is contented in our peace with them, at a fair distance. Charity commands not the husband to receive again into his bosom the adulterous wife, but thinks it enough, if he dismiss her with a beneficent and peaceful dismission. No more doth charity command, nor can her rule compel, to retain in nearest union of wedlock one whose other grossest faults, or disabilities to perform what was covenanted, are the just causes of as much grievance and dissension in a family, as the private act of adultery. Let not therefore, under the name of fulfilling charity, such an unmerciful and more than legal yoke be padlocked upon the neck of any Christian.
Your fifth argument: “If the husband ought to love his wife, as Christ his church, then ought she not to be put away for contrariety of mind.”
Answ. This similitude turns against him: for if the husband must be as Christ to the wife, then must the wife be as the church to her husband. If there be a perpetual contrariety of mind in the church toward Christ, Christ himself threatens to divorce such a spouse, and hath often done it. If they urge, this was no true church, I urge again that was no true wife.
His sixth argument is from Matth. v. 32, which he expounds after the old fashion, and never takes notice of what I brought against that exposition; let him therefore seek his answer there. Yet can he not leave this argument, but he must needs first show us a curvet of his madness, holding out an objection, and running himself upon the point. “For,” saith he, “if Christ except no cause but adultery, then all other causes, as frigidity, incestuous marriage, &c. are no cause of divorce;” and answers, “that the speech of Christ holds universally, as he intended it; namely, to condemn such divorce as was groundlessly practised among the Jews, for every cause which they thought sufficient; not checking the law of consanguinities or affinities, or forbidding other cause which makes marriage void, ipso facto.”
Answ. Look to it now, you be not found taking fees on both sides; for if you once bring limitations to the universal words of Christ, another will do as much with as good authority; and affirm, that neither did he check the law, Deut. xxiv. 1, nor forbid the causes that make marriage void actually; which if any thing in the world doth, unfitness doth, and contrariety of mind; yea, more than adultery, for that makes not the marriage void, nor much more unfit, but for the time, if the offended party forgive: but unfitness and contrariety frustrates and nullifies for ever, unless it be a rare chance, all the good and peace of wedded conversation; and leaves nothing between them enjoyable, but a prone and savage necessity, not worth the name of marriage, unaccompanied with love. Thus much his own objection hath done against himself.
Argument 7th. He insists, “that man and wife are one flesh, therefore must not separate.” But must be sent to look again upon the 35th page* of that book, where he might read an answer, which he stirs not. Yet can he not abstain, but he must do us another pleasure ere he goes; although I call the common pleas to witness, I have not hired his tongue, whatever men may think by his arguing. For besides adultery, he excepts other causes which dissolve the union of being one flesh, either directly, or by consequence. If only adultery be excepted by our Saviour, and he voluntarily can add other exceptions that dissolve that union, both directly and by consequence; these words of Christ, the main obstacle of divorce, are open to us by his own invitation, to include whatever causes dissolve that union of flesh, either directly or by consequence. Which, till he name other causes more likely, I affirm to be done soonest by unfitness and contrariety of mind; for that induces hatred, which is the greatest dissolver both of spiritual and corporal union, turning the mind, and consequently the body, to other objects. Thus our doughty adversary, either directly or by consequence, yields us the question with his own mouth: and the next thing he does, recants it again.
His 8th argument shivers in the uttering, and he confesseth to be “not over-confident of it:” but of the rest it may be sworn he is. St. Paul, 1 Cor. vii. saith, that the “married have trouble in the flesh,” therefore we must bear it, though never so intolerable.
I answer, if this be a true consequence, why are not all troubles to be borne alike? Why are we suffered to divorce adulteries, desertions, or frigidities? Who knows not that trouble and affliction is the decree of God upon every state of life? Follows it therefore, that, though they grow excessive and insupportable, we must not avoid them? If we may in all other conditions, and not in marriage, the doom of our suffering ties us not by the trouble, but by the bond of marriage: and that must be proved inseparable from other reasons, not from this place. And his own confession declares the weakness of this argument, yet his ungoverned arrogance could not be dissuaded from venting it.
His 9th argument is, “that a husband must love his wife as himself; therefore he may not divorce for any disagreement, no more than he may separate his soul from his body.” I answer: if he love his wife as himself, he must love her so far as he may preserve him to her in a cheerful and comfortable manner, and not so as to ruin himself by anguish and sorrow, without any benefit to her. Next, if the husband must love his wife as himself, she must be understood a wife in some reasonable measure, willing and sufficient to perform the chief duties of her covenant, else by the hold of this argument it would be his great sin to divorce either for adultery or desertion. The rest of this will run circuit with the union of one flesh, which was answered before. And that to divorce a relative and metaphorical union of two bodies into one flesh cannot be likened in all things to the dividing of that natural union of soul and body into one person, is apparent of itself.
His last argument he fetches “from the inconvenience that would follow upon his freedom of divorce, to the corrupting of men’s minds, and the overturning of all human society.”
But for me let God and Moses answer this blasphemer, who dares bring in such a foul indictment against the divine law. Why did God permit this to his people the Jews, but that the right and good, which came directly thereby, was more in his esteem than the wrong and evil, which came by accident? And for those weak supposes of infants that would be left in their mothers’ belly, (which must needs be good news for chamber-maids, to hear a serving-man grown so provident for great bellies,) and portions and jointures likely to incur embezzlement hereby, the ancient civil law instructs us plentifully how to award, which our profound opposite knew not, for it was not in his tenures.
His arguments are spun; now follows the chaplain with his antiquities, wiser if he had refrained, for his very touching aught that is learned soils it, and lays him still more and more open, a conspicuous gull. There being both fathers and councils more ancient, wherewith to have served his purpose better than with what he cites, how may we do to know the subtle drift, that moved him to begin first with the “twelfth council of Toledo?” I would not undervalue the depth of his notion; but perhaps he had heard that the men of Toledo had store of good blade-mettle, and were excellent at cuttling; who can tell but it might be the reach of his policy, that these able men of decision would do best to have the prime stroke among his testimonies in deciding this cause? But all this craft avails himself not; for seeing they allow no cause of divorce by fornication, what do these keen doctors here, but cut him over the sinews with their Toledoes, for holding in the precedent page other causes of divorce besides, both directly and by consequence? As evil doth that Saxon council, next quoted, bestead him. For if it allow divorce precisely for no cause but fornication, it thwarts his own exposition: and if it understand fornication largely, it sides with whom he would confute. However, the authority of that synod can be but small, being under Theodorus, the Canterbury bishop, a Grecian monk of Tarsus, revolted from his own church to the pope. What have we next? the civil law stuffed in between two councils, as if the Code had been some synod; for that he understood himself in this quotation, is incredible; where the law, Cod. l. 3, tit. 38, leg. 11, speaks not of divorce, but against the dividing of possessions to divers heirs, whereby the married servants of a great family were divided, perhaps into distant countries and colonies; father from son, wife from husband, sore against their will. Somewhat lower he confesseth, that the civil law allows many reasons of divorce, but the canon law decrees otherwise; a fair credit to his cause! And I amaze me, though the fancy of this dolt be as obtuse and sad as any mallet, how the licenser could sleep out all this, and suffer him to uphold his opinion by canons and Gregorial decretals; a law which not only his adversary, but the whole reformation of this church and state, hath branded and rejected. As ignorantly, and too ignorantly to deceive any reader but an unlearned, he talks of Justin Martyr’s Apology, not telling us which of the twain; for that passage in the beginning of his first, which I have cited elsewhere, plainly makes against him: so doth Tertullian, cited next, and next Erasmus, the one against Marcion, the other in his annotations on Matthew, and to the Corinthians. And thus ye have the list of his choice antiquities, as pleasantly chosen as ye would wish from a man of his handy vocation, puffed up with no luck at all above the stint of his capacity.
Now he comes to the position, which I set down whole; and, like an able textman, slits it into four, that he may the better come at it with his barber-surgery, and his sleeves turned up. Wherein first, he denies “that any disposition, unfitness, or contrariety of mind, is unchangeable in nature, but that by the help of diet and physic it may be altered.”
I mean not to dispute philosophy with this pork, who never read any. But I appeal to all experience, though there be many drugs to purge these redundant humours and circulations, that commonly impair health, and are not natural, whether any man can with the safety of his life bring a healthy constitution into physic with this design, to alter his natural temperament and disposition of mind. How much more vain and ridiculous would it be, by altering and rooting up the grounds of nature, which is most likely to produce death or madness, to hope the reducing of a mind to this or that fitness, or two disagreeing minds to a mutual sympathy! Suppose they might, and that with great danger of their lives and right senses, alter one temperature, how can they know that the succeeding disposition will not be as far from fitness and agreement? They would perhaps change melancholy into sanguine; but what if phlegm and choler in as great a measure come instead, the unfitness will be still as difficult and troublesome? But lastly, whether these things be changeable or not, experience teaches us, and our position supposes that they seldom do change in any time commensurable to the necessities of man, or convenient to the ends of marriage: and if the fault be in the one, shall the other live all his days in bondage and misery for another’s perverseness, or immedicable disaffection? To my friends, of which may fewest be so unhappy, I have a remedy, as they know, more wise and manly to prescribe: but for his friends and followers, (of which many may deserve justly to feel themselves the unhappiness which they consider not in others,) I send them by his advice to sit upon the stool and strain, till their cross dispositions and contrarieties of mind shall change to a better correspondence, and to a quicker apprehension of common sense, and their own good.
His second reason is as heedless; “because that grace may change the disposition, therefore no indisposition may cause divorce.”
Answ. First, it will not be deniable that many persons, gracious both, may yet happen to be very unfitly married, to the great disturbance of either. Secondly, What if one have grace, the other not, and will not alter, as the Scriptures testify there be of those, in whom we may expect a change, when “the blackamoor changes his colour, or the leopard his spots,” Jer. xiii. 23. Shall the gracious therefore dwell in torment all his life, for the ungracious? We see that holiest precepts, than which there can no better physic be administered to the mind of man, and set on with powerful preaching, cannot work this cure, no not in the family, not in the wife of him that preaches day and night to her. What an unreasonable thing is it, that men, and clergymen especially, should exact such wondrous changes in another man’s house, and are seen to work so little in their own!
To the second point of the position, that this unfitness hinders the main ends and benefits of marriage; he answers, “if I mean the unfitness of choler, or sullen disposition, that soft words, according to Solomon, pacify wrath.”
But I reply, that the saying of Solomon is a proverb, frequently true, not universally, as both the event shows, and many other sentences written by the same author, particularly of an evil woman, Prov. xxi. 9, 19, and in other chapters, that she is better shunned than dwelt with, and a desert is preferred before her society. What need the Spirit of God put this choice into our heads, if soft words could always take effect with her? How frivolous is not only this disputer, but he that taught him thus, and let him come abroad!
To his second answer I return this, that although there be not easily found such an antipathy, as to hate one another like a toad or poison; yet that there is oft such a dislike in both, or either, to conjugal love, as hinders all the comfort of matrimony, scarce any can be so simple as not to apprehend. And what can be that favour, found or not found, in the eyes of the husband, but a natural liking or disliking; whereof the law of God, Deut. xxiv. bears witness, as of an ordinary accident, and determines wisely and divinely thereafter. And this disaffection happening to be in the one, not without the unspeakable discomfort of the other, must he be left like a thing consecrated to calamity and despair, without redemption?
Against the third branch of the position, he denies that “solace and peace, which is contrary to discord and variance, is the main end of marriage.” What then? He will have it “the solace of male and female.” Came this doctrine out of some school, or some sty? Who but one forsaken of all sense and civil nature, and chiefly of Christianity, will deny that peace, contrary to discord, is the calling and the general end of every Christian, and of all his actions, and more especially of marriage, which is the dearest league of love, and the dearest resemblance of that love which in Christ is dearest to his church? How then can peace and comfort, as it is contrary to discord, which God hates to dwell with, not be the main end of marriage? Discord then we ought to fly, and to pursue peace, far above the observance of a civil covenant already broken, and the breaking daily iterated on the other side. And what better testimony than the words of the institution itself, to prove that a conversing solace, and peaceful society, is the prime end of marriage, without which no other help or office can be mutual, beseeming the dignity of reasonable creatures, that such as they should be coupled in the rites of nature by the mere compulsion of lust, without love or peace, worse than wild beasts? Nor was it half so wisely spoken as some deem, though Austin spake it, that if God had intended other than copulation in marriage, he would for Adam have created a friend, rather than a wife, to converse with; and our own writers blame him for this opinion; for which and the like passages, concerning marriage, he might be justly taxed with rusticity in these affairs. For this cannot but be with ease conceived, that there is one society of grave friendship, and another amiable and attractive society of conjugal love, besides the deed of procreation, which of itself soon cloys, and is despised, unless it be cherished and reincited with a pleasing conversation. Which if ignoble and swinish minds cannot apprehend, shall such merit therefore be the censures of more generous and virtuous spirits?
Against the last point of the position, to prove that contrariety of mind is not a greater cause of divorce than corporal frigidity, he enters into such a tedious and drawling tale “of burning, and burning, and lust and burning,” that the dull argument itself burns too for want of stirring; and yet all this burning is not able to expel the frigidity of his brain. So long therefore as that cause in the position shall be proved a sufficient cause of divorce, rather than spend words with this phlegmy clod of an antagonist, more than of necessity and a little merriment, I will not now contend whether it be a greater cause than frigidity or no.
His next attempt is upon the arguments which I brought to prove the position. And for the first, not finding it of that structure as to be scaled with his short ladder, he retreats with a bravado, that it deserves no answer. And I as much wonder what the whole book deserved, to be thus troubled and solicited by such a paltry solicitor. I would he had not cast the gracious eye of his duncery upon the small deserts of a pamphlet, whose every line meddled with uncases him to scorn and laughter.
That which he takes for the second argument, if he look better, is no argument, but an induction to those that follow. Then he stumbles that I should say, “the gentlest ends of marriage,” confessing that he understands it not. And I believe him heartily: for how should he, a serving-man both by nature and by function, an idiot by breeding, and a solicitor by presumption, ever come to know or feel within himself what the meaning is of “gentle?” He blames it for “a neat phrase,” for nothing angers him more than his own proper contrary. Yet altogether without art sure he is not; for who could have devised to give us more briefly a better description of his own servility?
But what will become now of the business I know not; for the man is suddenly taken with a lunacy of law, and speaks revelations out of the attorney’s academy only from a lying spirit: for he says, “that where a thing is void ipso facto, there needs no legal proceeding to make it void:” which is false; for marriage is void by adultery or frigidity, yet not made void without legal proceeding. Then asks my opinion of John-a-Noaks and John-a-Stiles: and I answer him, that I, for my part, think John Dory was a better man than both of them; for certainly they were the greatest wranglers that ever lived, and have filled all our law-books with the obtunding story of their suits and trials.
After this he tells a miraculous piece of antiquity, how “two Romans, Titus and Sempronius, made feoffments,” at Rome sure, and levied fines by the common law. But now his fit of law past, yet hardly come to himself, he maintains, that if marriage be void, as being neither of God nor nature, “there needs no legal proceeding to part it,” and I tell him that offends not me: then, quoth he, “this is nothing to your book, being the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.” But that I deny him; for all discipline is not legal, that is to say, juridical, but some is personal, some economical, and some ecclesiastical.
Lastly, If I prove that contrary dispositions are joined neither of God nor nature, and so the marriage void, “he will give me the controversy.” I have proved in that book to any wise man, and without more ado the institution proves it.
Where I answer an objection usually made, that “the disposition ought to be known before marriage,” and show how difficult it is to choose a fit consort, and how easy to mistake: the servitor would know “what I mean by conversation,” declaring his capacity nothing refined since his law-puddering, but still the same it was in the pantry, and at the dresser. Shall I argue of conversation with this hoyden, to go and practise at his opportunities in the larder? To men of quality I have said enough; and experience confirms by daily example, that wisest, soberest, justest men are sometimes miserably mistaken in their choice. Whom to leave thus without remedy, tossed and tempested in a most unquiet sea of afflictions and temptations, I say is most unchristianly.
But he goes on to untruss my arguments, imagining them his master’s points. Only in the passage following I cannot but admire the ripeness and the pregnance of his native treachery, endeavouring to be more a fox than his wit will suffer him. Whereas I briefly mentioned certain heads of discourse, which I referred to a place more proper according to my method, to be treated there at full with all their reasons about them, this brain-worm against all the laws of dispute, will needs deal with them here. And as a country hind, sometimes ambitious to show his betters that he is not so simple as you take him, and that he knows his advantages, will teach us a new trick to confute by. And would you think to what a pride he swells in the contemplation of his rare stratagem, offering to carp at the language of a book, which yet he confesses to be generally commended; while himself will be acknowledged, by all that read him, the basest and the hungriest enditer, that could take the boldness to look abroad. Observe now the arrogance of a groom, how it will mount. I had written, that common adultery is a thing which the rankest politician would think it shame and disworship, that his law should countenance. First, it offends him, that “rankest” should signify aught but his own smell: who that knows English should not understand me, when I say a rank serving-man, a rank pettifogger, to mean a mere serving-man, a mere and arrant pettifogger, who lately was so hardy, as to lay aside his buckram-wallet, and make himself a fool in print, with confuting books which are above him? Next, the word “politician” is not used to his maw, and thereupon he plays the most notorious hobby-horse, jesting and frisking in the luxury of his nonsense with such poor fetches to cog a laughter from us, that no antic hobnail at a morris but is more handsomely facetious.
Concerning that place, Deut. xxiv. 1, which he saith to be “the main pillar of my opinion,” though I rely more on the institution that on that: these two pillars I do indeed confess are to me as those two in the porch of the temple, Jachin and Boaz, which names import establishment and strength; nor do I fear who can shake them. The exposition, of Deut. which I brought, is the received exposition, both ancient and modern, by all learned men, unless it be a monkish papist here and there: and the gloss, which he and his obscure assistant would persuade us to, is merely new and absurd, presuming out of his utter ignorance in the Hebrew to interpret those words of the text; first, in a mistaken sense of uncleanness, against all approved writers. Secondly, in a limited sense, whenas the original speaks without limitation, “some uncleanness, or any:” and it had been a wise law indeed to mean itself particular, and not to express the case which this acute rabbi hath all this while been hooking for; whereby they who are most partial to him may guess that something is in this doctrine which I allege, that forces the adversary to such a new and strained exposition; wherein he does nothing for above four pages, but founder himself to and fro in his own objections; one while denying that divorce was permitted, another while affirming that it was permitted for the wife’s sake, and after all, distrusts himself. And for his surest retirement, betakes him to those old suppositions, “that Christ abolished the Mosaic law of divorce; that the Jews had not sufficient knowledge in this point, through the darkness of the dispensation of heavenly things; that under the plenteous grace of the gospel we are tied by cruellest compulsion to live in marriage, till death, with the wickedest, the worst, the most persecuting mate.” These ignorant and doting surmises he might have read confuted at large, even in the first edition; but found it safer to pass that part over in silence. So that they who see not the sottishness of this his new and tedious exposition, are worthy to love it dearly.
His explanation done, he charges me with a wicked gloss, and almost blasphemy, for saying that Christ in teaching meant not always to be taken word for word; but like a wise physician, administering one excess against another, to reduce us to a perfect mean. Certainly to teach us were no dishonest method: Christ himself hath often used hyperboles in his teaching; and gravest authors, both Aristotle in the second of his “Ethics to Nichomachus,” and Seneca in his seventh “de Beneficiis,” advise us to stretch out the line of precept ofttimes beyond measure, that while we tend further, the mean might be the easier attained. And whoever comments that 5th of Matthew, when he comes to the turning of cheek after cheek to blows, and the parting both with cloak and coat, if any please to be the rifler, will be forced to recommend himself to the same exposition, though this chattering lawmonger be bold to call it wicked. Now note another precious piece of him; Christ, saith he, “doth not say that an unchaste look is adultery, but the lusting after her;” as if the looking unchastely could be without lusting. This gear is licensed for good reason; “Imprimatur.”
Next he would prove, that the speech of Christ is not uttered in excess against the Pharisees, first, “because he speaks it to his disciples,” Matth. v., which is false, for he spake it to the multitude, as by the first verse is evident, among which in all likelihood were many Pharisees, but out of doubt all of them pharisean disciples, and bred up in their doctrine; from which extremes of error and falsity Christ throughout his whole sermon labours to reclaim the people. Secondly, saith he, “because Christ forbids not only putting away, but marrying her who is put away.” Acutely, as if the Pharisees might not have offended as much in marrying the divorced, as in divorcing the married. The precept may bind all, rightly understood; and yet the vehement manner of giving it may be occasioned only by the Pharisees.
Finally, he winds up his text with much doubt and trepidation; for it may be his trenchers were not scraped, and that which never yet afforded corn of savour to his noddle, the saltcellar was not rubbed: and therefore in this haste easily granting, that his answers fall foul upon each other, and praying you would not think he writes as a prophet, but as a man, he runs to the black jack, fills his flagon, spreads the table, and serves up dinner.
After waiting and voiding, he thinks to void my second argument, and the contradictions that will follow both in the law and gospel, if the Mosaic law were abrogated by our Saviour, and a compulsive prohibition fixed instead: and sings his old song, “that the gospel counts unlawful that which the law allowed,” instancing in circumcision, sacrifices, washings. But what are these ceremonial things to the changing of a moral point in household duty, equally belonging to Jew and Gentile? Divorce was then right, now wrong; then permitted in the rigorous time of law, now forbidden by law, even to the most extremely afflicted, in the favourable time of grace and freedom. But this is not for an unbuttoned fellow to discuss in the garret at his trestle, and dimension of candle by the snuff; which brought forth his scullionly paraphrase on St. Paul, whom he brings in discoursing such idle stuff to the maids and widows, as his own servile inurbanity forbears not to put into the apostle’s mouth, “of the soul’s conversing:” and this he presumes to do, being a bayard, who never had the soul to know what conversing means, but as his provender and the familiarity of the kitchen schooled his conceptions.
He passes to the third argument, like a boar in a vineyard, doing nought else, but still as he goes champing and chewing over, what I could mean by this chimæra of a “fit conversing soul,” notions and words never made for those chops; but like a generous wine, only by overworking the settled mud of his fancy, to make him drunk, and disgorge his vileness the more openly. All persons of gentle breeding (I say “gentle,” though this barrow grunt at the word) I know will apprehend, and be satisfied in what I spake, how unpleasing and discontenting the society of body must needs be between those whose minds cannot be sociable. But what should a man say more to a snout in this pickle? What language can be low and degenerate enough?
The fourth argument which I had was, that marriage being a covenant, the very being whereof consists in the performance of unfeigned love and peace; if that were not tolerably performed, the covenant became broke and revocable. Which how can any, in whose mind the principles of right reason and justice are not cancelled, deny? For how can a thing subsist, when the true essence thereof is dissolved? Yet this he denies, and yet in such a manner as alters my assertion; for he puts in, “though the main end be not attained in full measure:” but my position is, if it be not tolerably attained, as throughout the whole discourse is apparent.
Now for his reasons: “Heman found not that peace and solace which is the main end of communion with God, should he therefore break off that communion?”
I answer, that if Heman found it not, the fault was certainly his own; but in marriage it happens far otherwise: sometimes the fault is plainly not his who seeks divorce; sometimes it cannot be discerned whose fault it is; and therefore cannot in reason or equity be the matter of an absolute prohibition.
His other instance declares, what a right handicraftsman he is of petty cases, and how unfit to be aught else at highest, but a hackney of the law. “I change houses with a man; it is supposed I do it for my own ends; I attain them not in this house; I shall not therefore go from my bargain.” How without fear might the young Charinus in Andria now cry out, “What likeness can be here to a marriage?” In this bargain was no capitulation, but the yielding of possession to one another, wherein each of them had his several end apart. In marriage there is a solemn vow of love and fidelity each to other: this bargain is fully accomplished in the change; in marriage the covenant still is in performing. If one of them perform nothing tolerably, but instead of love, abound in disaffection, disobedience, fraud, and hatred; what thing in the nature of a covenant shall bind the other to such a perdurable mischief? Keep to your problems of ten groats; these matters are not for pragmatics and folkmooters to babble in.
Concerning the place of Paul, “that God hath called us to peace,” 1 Cor. vii., and therefore, certainly, if any where in this world, we have a right to claim it reasonably in marriage; it is plain enough in the sense which I gave, and confessed by Paræus, and other orthodox divines, to be a good sense, and this answerer doth not weaken it. The other place, that “he who hateth, may put away,” which if I show him, he promises to yield the whole controversy, is, besides Deut. xxiv. 1, Deut. xxi. 14, and before this, Exod. xxi. 8. Of Malachi I have spoken more in another place; and say again, that the best interpreters, all the ancient, and most of the modern, translate it as I cite it, and very few otherwise, whereof perhaps Junius is the chief.
Another thing troubles him, that marriage is called “the mystery of joy.” Let it still trouble him; for what hath he to do either with joy or with mystery? He thinks it frantic divinity to say, it is not the outward continuance of marriage that keeps the covenant of marriage whole; but whosoever doth most according to peace and love, whether in marriage or divorce, he breaks marriage least. If I shall spell it to him, he breaks marriage least, is to say, he dishonours not marriage; for least is taken in the Bible, and other good authors, for, not at all. And a particular marriage a man may break, if for a lawful cause, and yet not break, that is, not violate, or dishonour the ordinance of marriage. Hence those two questions that follow are left ridiculous; and the maids at Aldgate, whom he flouts, are likely to have more wit than the serving-man at Addle-gate.
Whereas he taxes me of adding to the Scripture in that I said love only is the fulfilling of every commandment, I cited no particular scripture, but spake a general sense, which might be collected from many places. For seeing love includes faith, what is there that can fulfil every commandment but only love? and I meant, as any intelligent reader might apprehend, every positive and civil commandment, whereof Christ hath taught us that man is the lord. It is not the formal duty of worship, or the sitting still, that keeps the holy rest of sabbath; but whosoever doth most according to charity, whether he works or works not, he breaks the holy rest of sabbath least. So marriage being a civil ordinance, made for man, not man for it; he who doth that which most accords with charity, first to himself, next to whom he next owes it, whether in marriage or divorce, he breaks the ordinance of marriage least. And what in religious prudence can be charity to himself, and what to his wife either in continuing or in dissolving the marriage-knot, hath been already oft enough discoursed. So that what St. Paul saith of circumcision, the same I stick not to say of a civil ordinance, made to the good and comfort of man, not to his ruin; marriage is nothing, and divorce is nothing “but faith which worketh by love.” And this I trust none can mistake.
Against the fifth argument, that a Christian, in a higher order of priesthood than that Levitical, is a person dedicate to joy and peace; and therefore needs not in subjection to a civil ordinance, made to no other end but for his good, (when without his fault he finds it impossible to be decently or tolerably observed,) to plunge himself into immeasurable distractions and temptations, above his strength; against this he proves nothing, but gads into silly conjectures of what abuses would follow, and with as good reason might declaim against the best things that are.
Against the sixth argument, that to force the continuance of marriage between minds found utterly unfit and disproportional, is against nature, and seems forbid under that allegorical precept of Moses, “not to sow a field with divers seeds, lest both be defiled; not to plough with an ox and ass together,” which I deduce by the pattern of St. Paul’s reasoning what was meant by not muzzling the ox; he rambles over a long narration, to tell us that “by the oxen are meant the preachers:” which is not doubted. Then he demands, “if this my reasoning be like St. Paul’s.” And I answer him, Yes. He replies, that sure St. Paul would be ashamed to reason thus. And I tell him, No. He grants that place which I alleged, 2 Cor., vi. of unequal yoking, may allude to that of Moses, but says “I cannot prove it makes to my purpose,” and shows not first how he can disprove it. Weigh, gentlemen, and consider whether my affirmations, backed with reason may hold balance against the bare denials of this ponderous confuter, elected by his ghostly patrons to be my copesmate.
Proceeding on to speak of mysterious things in nature, I had occasion to fit the language thereafter; matters not, for the reading of this odious fool, who thus ever, when he meets with aught above the cogitation of his breeding, leaves the noisome stench of his rude slot behind him, maligning that any thing should be spoke or understood above his own genuine baseness; and gives sentence that his confuting hath been employed about a frothy, immeritous, and undeserving discourse. Who could have believed so much insolence durst vent itself from out the hide of a varlet, as thus to censure that which men of mature judgment have applauded to be writ from good reason? But this contents him not; he falls now to rave in his barbarous abusiveness; and why? a reason befitting such an artificer, because he saith the book is contrary to all human learning; whenas the world knows, that all both human and divine learning, till the canon law, allowed divorce by consent, and for many causes without consent. Next, he dooms it as contrary to truth; whenas it hath been disputable among learned men, ever since it was prohibited: and is by Peter Martyr thought an opinion not impious, but hard to be refuted; and by Erasmus deemed a doctrine so charitable and pious, as, if it cannot be used, were to be wished it could; but is by Martin Bucer, a man of dearest and most religious memory in the church, taught and maintained to be either most lawfully used, or most lawfully permitted. And for this, for I affirm no more than Bucer, what censure do you think, readers, he hath condemned the book to? To a death no less impious than to be burnt by the hangman. Mr. Licenser, (for I deal not now with this caitiff, never worth my earnest, and now not seasonable for my jest,) you are reputed a man discreet enough, religious enough, honest enough, that is, to an ordinary competence in all these. But now your turn is, to hear what your own hand hath earned ye; that when you suffered this nameless hangman to cast into public such a despiteful contumely upon a name and person deserving of the church and state equally to your self; and one who hath done more to the present advancement of your own tribe, than you or many of them have done for themselves; you forgot to be either honest, religious, or discreet. Whatever the state might do concerning it, supposed a matter to expect evil from, I should not doubt to meet among them with wise, and honourable, and knowing men: but as to this brute libel, so much the more impudent and lawless for the abused authority which it bears; I say again, that I abominate the censure of rascals and their licensers.
With difficulty I return to what remains of this ignoble task, for the disdain I have to change a period more with the filth and venom of this gourmand, swelled into a confuter; yet for the satisfaction of others I endure all this.
Against the seventh argument, that if the canon law and divines allow divorce for conspiracy of death, they may as well allow it to avoid the same consequence from the likelihood of natural causes.
First, he denies that the canon so decrees.
I answer, that it decrees for danger of life, as much as for adultery, Decret. Gregor. l. 4, tit. 19, and in other places: and the best civilians, who cite the canon law, so collect, as Schneidewin in Instit. tit. 10, p. 4, de Divort. And indeed, who would have denied it, but one of a reprobate ignorance in all he meddles with?
Secondly, he saith the case alters; for there the offender, “who seeks the life, doth implicitly at least act a divorce.”
And I answer; that here nature, though no offender, doth the same. But if an offender, by acting a divorce, shall release the offended, this is an ample grant against himself. He saith, nature teaches to save life from one who seeks it. And I say, she teaches no less to save it from any other cause that endangers it. He saith, that here they are both actors. Admit they were, it would not be uncharitable to part them; yet sometimes they are not both actors, but the one of them most lamentedly passive. So he concludes, we must not take advantage of our own faults and corruptions to release us from our duties. But shall we take no advantage to save ourselves from the faults of another, who hath annulled his right to our duty? “No,” says he, “let them die of the sullens, and try who will pity them.” Barbarian, the shame of all honest attorneys! why do they not hoist him over the bar and blanket him?
Against the eight argument, that they who are destitute of all marriageable gifts, except a body not plainly unfit, have not the calling to marry, and consequently married and so found, may be divorced: this, he saith, is nothing to the purpose, and not fit to be answered. I leave it therefore to the judgment of his masters.
Against the ninth argument, that marriage is a human society, and so chiefly seated in agreement and unity of mind: if therefore the mind cannot have that due society by marriage, that it may reasonably and humanly desire, it can be no human society, and so not without reason divorceable: here he falsifies, and turns what the position required of a reasonable agreement in the main matters of society into an agreement in all things, which makes the opinion not mine, and so he leaves it.
At last, and in good hour, we are come to his farewell, which is to be a concluding taste of his jabberment in law, the flashiest and the fustiest that over corrupted in such an unswilled hogshead.
Against my tenth argument, as he calls it, but as I intended it, my other position, “That divorce is not a thing determinable by a compulsive law, for that all law is for some good that may be frequently attained without the admixture of a worse inconvenience: but the law forbidding divorce never attains to any good end of such prohibition, but rather multiplies evil; therefore the prohibition of divorce is no good law.” Now for his attorney’s prize: but first, like a right cunning and sturdy logician, he denies my argument, not mattering whether in the major or minor: and saith, “there are many laws made for good, and yet that good is not attained, through the defaults of the party, but a greater inconvenience follows.”
But I reply, that this answer builds upon a shallow foundation, and most unjustly supposes every one in default, who seeks divorce from the most injurious wedlock. The default therefore will be found in the law itself; which is neither able to punish the offender, but the innocent must withal suffer; nor can right the innocent in what is chiefly sought, the obtainment of love or quietness. His instances out of the common law are all so quite beside the matter which he would prove, as may be a warning to all clients how they venture their business with such a cockbrained solicitor. For being to show some law of England, attaining to no good end, and yet through no default of the party, who is thereby debarred all remedy, he shows us only how some do lose the benefit of good laws through their own default. His first example saith, “it is a just law that every one shall peaceably enjoy his estate in lands or otherwise.” Does this law attain to no good end? The bar will blush at this most incogitant woodcock. But see if a draught of Littleton will recover him to his senses. “If this man, having fee simple in his lands, yet will take a lease of his own lands from another, this shall be an estopple to him in an assize from the recovering of his own land.”
Mark now and register him! How many are there of ten thousand who have such a fee simple in their sconce, as to take a lease of their own lands from another? So that this inconvenience lights upon scarce one in an age, and by his own default; and the law of enjoying each man his own is good to all others. But on the contrary, this prohibition of divorce is good to none, and brings inconvenience to numbers, who lie under intolerable grievances without their own default, through the wickedness or folly of another; and all this iniquity the law remedies not, but in a manner maintains. His other cases are directly to the same purpose, and might have been spared, but that he is a tradesman of the law, and must be borne with at his first setting up, to lay forth his best ware, which is only gibberish.
I have now done that, which for many causes I might have thought could not likely have been my fortune, to be put to this underwork of scouring and unrubbishing the low and sordid ignorance of such a presumptuous lozel. Yet Hercules had the labour once imposed upon him to carry dung out of the Augean stable. At any hand I would be rid of him: for I had rather, since the life of man is likened to a scene, that all my entrances and exits might mix with such persons only, whose worth erects them and their actions to a grave and tragic deportment, and not to have to do with clowns and vices. But if a man cannot peaceably walk into the world, but must be infested; sometimes at his face with dors and horseflies, sometimes beneath with bawling whippets and shin barkers, and these to be set on by plot and consultation with a junto of clergymen and licensers, commended also and rejoiced in by those whose partiality cannot yet forego old papistical principles; have I not cause to be in such a manner defensive, as may procure me freedom to pass more unmolested hereafter by those encumbrances, not so much regarded for themselves, as for those who incite them? And what defence can properly be used in such a despicable encounter as this, but either the slap or the spurn? If they can afford me none but a ridiculous adversary, the blame belongs not to me, though the whole dispute be strewed and scattered with ridiculous. And if he have such an ambition to know no better who are his mates, but among those needy thoughts, which, though his two faculties of serving-man and solicitor should compound into one mongrel, would be but thin and meagre, if in this penury of soul he can be possible to have the lustiness to think of fame, let him but send me how he calls himself, and I may chance not fail to indorse him on the backside of posterity, not a golden, but a brazen ass. Since my fate extorts from me a talent of sport, which I had thought to hide in a napkin, he shall be my Batrachomuomachia, my Bavius, my Calandrino, the common adagy of ignorance and overweening: nay, perhaps, as the provacation may be, I may be driven to curl up this gliding prose into a rough sotadic, that shall rhyme him into such a condition, as instead of judging good books to be burnt by the executioner, he shall be readier to be his own hangman. Thus much to this nuisance.
But as for the subject itself, which I have writ and now defend, according as the opposition bears; if any man equal to the matter shall think it appertains him to take in hand this controversy, either excepting against aught written, or persuaded he can show better how this question, of such moment to be throughly known, may receive a true determination, not leaning on the old and rotten suggestions whereon it yet leans; if his intent be sincere to the public, and shall carry him on without bitterness to the opinion, or to the person dissenting; let him not, I entreat him, guess by the handling, which meritoriously hath been bestowed on this object of contempt and laughter, that I account it any displeasure done me to be contradicted in print: but as it leads to the attainment of any thing more true, shall esteem it a benefit; and shall know how to return his civility and fair argument in such a sort, as he shall confess that to do so is my choice, and to have done thus was my chance.
[* ]Mr. Caryl.
[* ]First edition.