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LIFE OF MILTON.
IT is agreed among all writers, that the family of Milton came originally from Milton in Oxfordshire; but from which of the Miltons is not altogether so certain. Some say, and particularly Mr. Philips, that the family was of Milton near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, where it had been a long time seated, as appears by the monuments still to be seen in Milton church. But that Milton is not in Oxfordshire, but in Berkshire; and upon enquiry I find, there are no such monuments in that church, nor any remains of them. It is more probable therefore that the family came, as Mr. Wood says, from Milton near Holton and Thame in Oxfordshire: where it flourished several years, till at last the estate was sequestered, one of the family having taken the unfortunate side in the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster*. John Milton, the poet's grandfather, was, according to Mr. Wood,
near Holton in Oxfordshire; he was of the religion of Rome, and such a bigot, that he disinherited his son only for being a protestant. Upon this the son, the poet’s father, named likewise John Milton, settled in London, and became a scrivener by the advice of a friend eminent in that profession"; but he was not so devoted to gain and to business, as to lose all taste of the politer arts, and was particularly skilled in music, in which he was not only a fine performer, but is also celebrated for several pieces of his composition: and yet on the other hand he was not so fond of his music and amusements, as in the least to neglect his business, but by his diligence and economy acquired a competent estate, which enabled him afterwards to retire, and live in the country. He was by all accounts a very worthy man; and married an excellent woman, Sarah of the ancient family of the Bradshaws, says Mr. Wood; but Mr. Philips our author's nephew, who was more likely to know, says, of the family of the Castons, derived originally from Wales. Whoever she was, she is said to have been a woman of incomparable virtue and goodness"; and by her her husband had two sons and a daughter. The elder of the sons was our famous poet, who was born in the year of our Lord 1608, on the 9th of
" Aubrey says that he was originally bred a scholar, and of Christ Church, Oxford. “The “ occupation of a scrivener at “ this period,” according to Mr. Hayley, “united the two pro“fitable branches of drawing “contracts, and of lending mo“ney.” For several further par
ticulars respecting Milton's fa-
December in the morning between 6 and 7 o'clock, in Bread-street London, where his father lived at the sign of the spread eagle, which was also the coat of arms of the family. He was named John, as his father and grandfather had been before him"; and from the beginning discovering the marks of an uncommon genius, he was designed for a scholar, and had his education partly under private tutors, and partly at a public school. It has been often controverted whether a public or private education is best, but young Milton was so happy as to share the advantages of both. It appears from the fourth of his Latin elegies, and from the first and fourth of his familiar epistles, that Mr. Thomas Young, who was afterwards pastor of the company of English merchants residing at Hamburg, was one of his private preceptors": and when he had made good progress in his studies at home, he was sent to St. Paul’s school, to be fitted for the University under the care of Mr. Gill, who was the master at that time, and to whose son are addressed some of his familiar epistles'. In this early time of his life such was his love of learning, and so great was his ambition to surpass his equals, that from his twelfth year he commonly continued his studies till midnight, which (as he says himself in his second Defence) was the first
* See Mr. Warton's first note on El, iv. E.
f See the first note on El. i. for an account of A. Gill.
There was a portrait taken of Milton when he was only ten years old by C. Jansen, and Aubrey says that he was “then a “ poet.” See the note (t) on the verses In Effigiei ejus Sculptorem, and on v. 75 of the poem Ad Patrem. E.