« 上一頁繼續 »
LIST OF SUBSCRIBERS.
Rev. Mr. Symes, Cavendish Square
Hon. H. Walpole
LI F E
MR. JOHN MILTON.
OHN MILTON was descended from the
proprietors of Milton, near Halton and Thame, in Oxfordshire; where the family flourished several years, till the estate was sequestered in the civil wars occasioned by the disputes between the houses of York and Lancaster. Mr. John Milton, the Poet's grandfather, was underranger, or keeper, of the forest of Shotover, near Halton above mentioned : he was so great a bigot to his peculiar religious opinions (those of the church of Rome) that he disinherited his son, because he forsook the religion of his ancestors, and became a protestant. The disinherited son, John Milton, our Poet's father, then repaired to London, where, for his support, he followed the profession of a scrivener ; but he was not so devoted to gain and to business, as to lose all taste of the polite arts, and was particularly skilled in music, in which he was not only a fine performer, says Newton, but is celebrated for several pieces
of his own composition; and yet, on the other hand, he was not so fond of his amusements, as to neglect his business, but by diligence and æconomy he acquired a competent estate, upon which he afterwards retired. He was a worthy man, and married Sarah Caston, whose family came from Wales. By this lady he had two sons, John the Poet, and Christopher, whom he trained to the practice of the Common Law, and who in the civil war adhered to the King's party: for his adherence to the royal cause he was persecuted by the espousers of democracy; but having, by his brother's interest, obtained permission to live in quiet, he supported himself by chamberpractice, and in the reign of King James II. by too
easy a compliance with the doctrines of the court, both religious and civil, he attained to the dignity of Knighthood, and was made a Judge of the Common Pleas in 1687, having previously, in 1686, been made Baron of the Exchequer. He died divested of his office not long after the Revolution.
He had likewise by his said wife, Sarah Caston, a daughter, Anne, whom he married, with a considerable portion, to Edward Philips, who came from Shrewsbury, and rose in the CrownOffice to be Secondary. By him she had two sons, John and Edward, who were educated by the Poet, and who have handed down to us a decent account of his domestic manners.
But John, the subject of the present Essay, who was born in his father's house at the Spread Eagle in Bread Street, Dec. 9, 1608, was the favourite of his father's hopes; who, to cultivate the great genius which early displayed itself, was at the expence of a domestic Tutor, Mr. Thomas Young*; whose care and capacity his Pupil hath gratefully celebrated in an excellent Latin Elegy, which he wrote at the age of eighteen. At his initiation he is said to have applied himself to Letters with such indefatigable industry, that he rarely was prevailed with to quit his studies before midnight; which not only made him frequently subject to severe pains in his head, but likewise occasioned that weakness in his eyes, which terminated in a total privation of sight. From a domestic education he was removed to St. Paul's School, to complete his acquaintance with the Classics, under the care of Mr. Gill, who was at that time master; and to whose son are addressed some of his familiar epistles. After a short stay at this seminary, he was transplanted to Christ College in Cambridge, February 12 1624-5, being then in his 17th year, a very good classical scholar, and master of several languages. He was placed under the tuition of Mr. William Chappel, afterwards Bishop of Cork and Ross, in
* This gentleman was afterwards chaplain to the company of English merchants residing at Hamburgh.
Ireland. While a member of this society, he distinguished himself in all kinds of academical exercises. He continued above seven years at the university, and took two degrees, viz. that of B. A. in 1628-9, and that of M. A. in 1632, when he left Cambridge, and returned to his father, who had quitted the town, and retired to Horton, near Colebrook, in Buckinghamshire, where he pursued his studies with unparalleled assiduity and success.
By his parents he was designed for holy orders; and among the manuscripts of Trinity College in Cambridge, says Bishop Newton, there are two draughts, in Milton's own hand, of a letter to a friend who had importuned him to take orders when he had attained the age of 23: but the truth is, continues the learned Bishop, he had conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the Church; and subscribing to the Articles was, in his opinion, subscribing slave. This was no doubt a great disappointment to his friends, who rather wished him to have been a minister of the established religion; but he had too free a spirit to be limited and confined: he was for comprehending all sciences, but for fessing none. While he continued in this retirement (five years) he read over all the Greek and Latin authors, particularly the historians; so that his retirement was a learned retirement.
After some years spent in this studious way,