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ruin of his eyes, to whose natural debility too were added frequent head-aches: but all could not extinguish or abate his laudable passion for letters. It is very seldom seen, that such application and such a genius meet in the same person. The force of either is great, but both together must perform wonders.
He was now in the 17th year of his age, and was a very good classical scholar, and master of several languages, when he was sent to the University of Cambridge, and admitted at Christ's College (as appears from the register) on the 12th of February 1624-5, under the tuition of Mr. William Chappel, afterwards Bishop of Cork and Ross in Ireland. He continued above seven years at the University, and took two degrees, that of Bachelor of Arts in 1628-9, and that of Master in 1632h. It is somewhat remarkable, that though the merits of both our Universities are perhaps equally great, and though poetical exercises are rather more encouraged at Oxford, yet most of our greatest poets have been bred at Cambridge, as Spenser, Cowley, Waller, Dryden, Prior, not to mention any of the lesser ones, when there is a greater
8 In the Biographia, p. 3106, moner, in contradistinction to a, Milton is said to have been en Fellow-Commoner. And he is so tered at Cambridge a Sizar, entered in the Matriculation book, which denominates the lowest of the University. T. Warton. rank of academics. But his ad Mr. Chappel is called by Dr. mission thus stands in the register Henry More, "a learned, vigiat Christ's College. “Johannes " lant, skilful, prudent, and “ Milton, filius Johannis, institu “ pious tutor.' See the Biogr. “ tus fuit in literarum elementis Brit
. note on the Life of Light“ sub magistro Gill Gymnasii foot, who was also at Christ's “ Paulini præfecto, et admissus College under Mr. Chappel. E. “ est Pensionarius minor. 12° h He was admitted to the “Feb. 1624." But Pensionarius same degree at Oxford, in 1635. minor is a Pensioner, or Com- Wood.
than all, Milton. He had given early proofs of his poetic genius before he went to the University, and there he excelled more and more, and distinguished himself by several copies of verses upon occasional 'subjects, as well as by all his academical exercises, many of which are printed among his other works, and show him to have had a capacity above his years ; and by bis obliging behaviour, added to his great learning and ingenuity, he deservedly gained the affection of many, and admiration of all. We do not find, however, that he obtained any preferment in the University, or a Fellowship in his own college; which seemeth the more extraordinary, as that society has always encouraged learning and learned men, had the most excellent Mr. Mede at that time a Fellow, and afterwards boasteth the great names of Cudworth, and Burnet author of the Theory of the Earth, and several others'. And this, together with some Latin verses of his to a friend, reflecting upon the University seemingly on this account, might probably have given occasion to the reproach which was afterwards cast upon him by his adversaries, that he was expelled from the University for irregularities committed there, and
ced to fly to Italy : but he sufficiently refutes this calumny in more places than one of his works; and indeed it is no wonder, that a person so engaged in religious and political controversies as he was, should be calumniated and abused by the contrary partyk.
'In his time, however, there against entering the Church. was but one Fellowship in his Symmons. College tenable by a layman, "See the notes, El. i. 12, 15. and Milton had now determined E.
He was designed by his parents for holy orders ; and among the manuscripts of Trinity College in Cambridge 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 twenty-three': but the truth is, 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 no doubt was a disappointment to his friends, who though in comfortable were yet by no means in great circumstances : and neither doth he seem to have had any inclination to any other profession"; he had too free a spirit to be limited and confined; and was for comprehending all sciences, but professing none. And therefore after he had left the University in 1632, he retired to his father's house in the country; for his father had by this time quitted business, and lived at an estate which he had purchased at Horton near Colebrooke in Buckinghamshire". Here he resided with his parents for the space of five years, and, as he himself has informed us, (in his second Defence, and the 7th of his familiar epistles,) read over all the Greek and Latin authors, particularly the historians ; but now and then made an excursion to London, sometimes to buy books or to meet his friends from Cambridge, and at other times to learn something new in the mathe
See this letter in the notes " See the Mansus, v. 149, and on Sonnet vii. E.
Mr. Warton's note. Mr. Todd n See v. 71 of the poem Ad mentions, that the house in which Patrem, and the note there, on Milton lived at Horton was Milton's dislike of the profession pulled down about the year of the Law. E.
matics or music, with which he was extremely delighted.
His retirement therefore was a learned retirement, and it was not long before the world reaped the fruits of it. It was in the year 1634 that his Mask was presented at Ludlow-castle. There was formerly a president of Wales, and a sort of a court kept at Ludlow, which has since been abolished ; and the president at that time was the Earl of Bridgwater, before whom Milton's Mask was presented on Michaelmas night, and the principal parts, those of the two brothers, were performed by his Lordship's sons the Lord Brackly and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and that of the lady by his Lordship's daughter the Lady Alice Egerton. The occasion of this poem seemeth to have been merely an accident of the two brothers and the lady having lost one another in their way to the castle: and it is written very much in imitation of Shakespeare's Tempest, and the Faithful Shepherdess of Beaumont and Fletcher; and though one of the first, is yet one of the most beautiful of Milton's compositions'. It was for some time handed about only in manuscript; but afterwards, to satisfy the importunity of friends and to save the trouble of transcribing, it was printed at London, though
• Milton appears to have partly sketched the plan of Comus from the Old Wives' Tale of George Peele; see T. Warton's introductory note on Comus. A note signed' H on Johnson's Life of Milton, Lives of the Poets, ed. 1794, suggests that it was taken less from Homer's Circe than from “ the Comus of Erycius " Puteanus, in which, under the
“ fiction of a dream, the cha“racters of Comus and his at“ tendants are delineated, and “ the delights of sensualists ex
posed and reprobated. . This “ sittle tract was published at “ Louvain in 1611, and after“ wards at Oxford in 1634, the
very year in which Milton's “ Comus was written." E.
without the author's name, in 1637, with a dedication to the Lord Brackly by Mr. H. Lawes, who composed the music, and played the part of the attendant Spirit. It was printed likewise at Oxford at the end of Mr. R.'s poems, as we learn from a letter of Sir Henry Wotton to our author; but who that Mr. R. was, whether Randolph the poet or who else, is uncertain p. It has lately, though with additions and alterations, been exhibited on the stage several times; and we hope the fine poetry and morality have recommended it to the audience, and not barely the authority of Milton's name; and we wish for the honour of the nation, that the like good taste prevailed in every thing.
In 1637 he wrote another excellent piece, his Lycidas, wherein he laments the untimely fate of a friend, who was unfortunately drowned that same year in the month of August on the Irish seas, in his passage from Chester. This friend was Mr. Edward King, son of Sir John King, Secretary of Ireland under Queen Elizabeth, King James I. and King Charles I. and was a Fellow of Christ's College, and was so well beloved and esteemed at Cambridge, that some of the greatest names in the University have united in celebrating his obsequies, and published a collection of
Mr. Warton determines that tion of Comus to the copy of Mr. R. was Thomas Randolph, Randolph's poems which he sent M. A. Fellow of Trinity College, to Sir Henry Wotton. Oldys, Cambridge, who died March 17, however, in a MS. note on Lange 1634. His poems were printed baine's sketch of Milton's Life, at Oxford in 1638. But neither preserved among the late Mr. to this edition, nor to a second Malone's books in the Bodleian printed in 1640, was Comus at- Library, mentions that Comus tached. Warton imagines that was often bound up with the first Rouse had stitched Lawes's cdi- edition of Randolph's poems. E.