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The "Comus” had been preceded by the “Arcades," which the youthful poet wrote for the family of his fair neighbour the Dowager Countess of Derby, who lived near Uxbridge, and at whose house he frequently visited. Here, probably, also he had made the acquaintance of the Bridgewater family for Lord Bridgewater had married a daughter of Lady Derby's.

This lady was a very accomplished woman, and of kin to Spenser, the poet.

During his five years' residence in his father's house, Milton occasionally visited London, to buy books, enjoy the society of his friends, and to visit the theatres, in which he greatly delighted at this period of his life-that brilliant and gitted youth which we so reluctantly quit for his harder and sterner manhood.

In 1637 his friend Edward King was lost in the Irish Sea, and Milton honoured his memory by writing" Lycidas," as a monody on his death.

It is not possible to fix the date of the composition of the "Allegro" or the * Penseroso,” but there is every reason to believe that those enchanting pictures of rural life, of mirth and melancholy, were written at Hoxton.

He was beginning to grow weary of the country, and had thoughts of taking chambers in one of the Inns of Court, when his mother died; and his father shortly afterwards was persuaded to let him travel on the Continent. Before his departure he received from the celebrated

Sir Henry Wotton the wise instruction to keep" i pensieri stretti ed il viso sciolto," i.e., "close thoughts and a frank countenance."

In 1638 he quitted England, and went first to Paris. Here Lord Scudamore, the English Ambassador, gave him an introduction to Grotius, the learned ambassador of the singular and also) learned Christina, Queen of Sweden. From Paris, after a short stay, Milton proceeded to Italy, then the classic land of Europe, to which his thoughts and affections had continually travelled. There Tasso had quite recently charmed the world with his "Gerusalemme Liberata;" Ariosto was still a modern poet, and the renown of Dante and Petrarch, now two centuries old, was at its height. In the recent reigns of Elizabeth and James, the intercourse between Italy and England had been frequent. To have swum in a gondola "was, as Shakespeare tells us, the boast of travelled youths. The fame of the arts and science of "le belle contade" was world-spread. No marvel that Milton eagerly mastered the language and hurried to its shores.

The Italians were deeply interested in all literature, and far better able to appreciate the gifted Englishman than the generality of his uncultivated countrymen ;-amongst whom, as Johnson says, with respect to the sale of " Paradise Lost," "to read was not then a general amusement; neither traders, nor often gentlemen, thought themselves disgraced by ignorance: the women had not then aspired to literature and of that middle race of students, who read for pleasure or accomplishment, the number was comparatively small."

To pass from the England of 1638 to the Italy of that period, must have been like going from darkness to light.

Milton went from Nice to Genoa, thence to Leghorn and Pisa, and proceeded to Florence, where he remained two months. Sir Henry Wotton (whose heart had been won by the "Comus") had given the poet introductory letters to the chief literary men of the city, and Milton met with a most enthusiastic reception. He formed friendships with

the celebrated Carlo Dati, Frescobaldi, and Antonio Malatesta, and during his residence there he visited the recently liberated prisoner of the inquisition-Galileo. It is thought probable that Grotius had urged Milton to see the great astronoier, for in the very month in which the young English poet was presented to him, he wrote thus to Vossius of Galileo : "This old man, to whom the universe is so largely indebted, worn out with maladies, and still more with anguish of inind, gives us little reasons to hope that his life can be long, Common prudence, therefore,

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