In spite of Vane's counsels, it proposed a reform of the officers, and though a royalist rising in Cheshire during August threw the disputants for a moment together, the struggle revived as the danger passed away. A new hope indeed filled men's minds. Not only was the nation sick of military rule, but the army, unconquerable so long as it held together, at last showed signs of division. In Ireland and Scotland the troops protested against the attitude of their English comrades; and Monk, the commander of the Scottish army, threatened to march on London and free the Parliament from their pressure. Their divisions encouraged Haselrig and his coadjutors to demand the dismissal of Fleetwood and Lambert from their commands. They answered by driving the Parliament again from Westminster, and by marching under Lambert to the north to meet Monk's army. Negotiation gave Monk time to gather a Convention at Edinburgh, and strengthen himself with money and recruits. His attitude roused England to action. So rapidly did the tide of feeling rise throughout the country that the army was: driven to undo its work by recalling the Rump. Monk however advanced rapidly to Coldstream, and crossed the border. The cry of "A free Parliament" ran like fire through the country.
Not only Fairfax, who appeared in arms in Yorkshire, but the ships on the Thames and the mob which thronged the streets of London caught up the cry; and Monk, who lavished protestations of loyalty to the Rump, while he accepted petitions for a "Free Parliament," entered London unopposed. From the moment of his entry the restoration of the Stuarts became inevitable. The army, resolute as it still remained for the maintenance of " the cause," was deceived by Monk's declarations of loyalty to it, and rendered powerless by his adroit dispersion of the troops over the country. At the instigation of Ashley Cooper, those who remained of the members who had been excluded from the House of Commons by Pride's Purge in 1648 again forced their way into Parliament, and at once resolved on a dissolution and the election of a new House of Commons. The new House, which bears the name of the Convention, had hardly taken the solemn League and Covenant which showed its Presbyterian temper, and its leaders had only begun to draw up terms on which the King's restoration might be assented to, when they found that Monk was in negotiation with the exiled Court. All exaction of terms was now impossible; a Declaration from Breda, in which Charles promised a general pardon, religious toleration, and satisfaction to the army, was received with a burst of national enthusiasm; and the old Constitution was restored by a solemn vote of the Convention, "that according to the ancient and fundamental laws of this Kingdom, the government is, and ought to be, by King, Lords, and Commons." The King was at once invited to hasten to his realm; he landed at Dover, and made his way amidst the shouts of a great multitude to Whitehall. "It is my own fault," laughed the new King, with characteristic irony, " that I had not come back sooner; for I find nobody who does not tell me he has always longed for my return".
Puritanism, so men believed, had fallen never to rise again. As a political experiment it had ended in utter failure and disgust. As a religious system of national life it brought about the wildest outbreak of moral revolt that England has ever witnessed. And yet Puritanism was far from being dead; it drew indeed a nobler life from suffering and defeat. Nothing aids us better to trace the real course of Puritan influence since the fall of Puritanism than the thought of the two great works which have handed down from one generation to another its highest and noblest spirit. From that time to this the most popular of all religious books has been the Puritan allegory of the " Pilgrim's Progress".
The most popular of all English poems has been the Puritan epic of the "Paradise Lost." Milton had been engaged during the civil war in strife with Presbyterians and with Royalists, pleading for civil and religious freedom, for freedom of social life, and freedom of the press. At a later time he became Latin Secretary to the Protector, in spite of a blindness which had been brought on by the intensity of his study. The Restoration found him of all living men the most hateful to the Royalists; for it was his " Defence of the English People " which had justified throughout Europe the execution of the King. Parliament ordered his book to be burnt by the common hangman; he was for a time imprisoned, and even when released he had to live amidst threats of assassination from fanatical Cavaliers. To the ruin of his cause were added personal misfortunes in the bankruptcy of the scrivener who held the bulk of his property, and in the Fire of London, which deprived him of much of what was left. As age drew on, he found himself reduced to comparative poverty, and driven to sell his library for subsistence.
Even among the sectaries who shared his political opinions Milton stood in religious opinion alone, for he had gradually severed himself from every accepted form of faith, had embraced Arianism, and had ceased to attend at any place of worship. Nor was his home a happy one. The grace and geniality of his youth disappeared in the drudgery of a schoolmaster's life and amongst the invectives of controversy. In age his temper became stern and exacting. His daughters, who were forced to read to their blind father in languages which they could not understand, revolted utterly against their bondage. But solitude and misfortune only brought out into bolder relief Milton's inner greatness. There was a grand simplicity in the life of his later years. He listened every morning to a chapter of the Hebrew Bible, and after musing in silence for a while pursued his studies till midday. Then he took exercise for an hour, played for another hour on the organ or viol, and renewed his studies. The evening was spent in converse with visitors and friends.