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The Life of John Milton.
Ir is agreed among all writers, that the family also the coat of arms of the family. He was named
of Milton came originally from Milton in Oxford- John, as his father and grand-father had been beshire; but from which of the Miltons is not alto- fore him; and from the beginning discovering the gether so certain. Some say, and particularly Mr. marks of an uncommon genius, he was designed Philips, that the family was of Milton near Abing- for a scholar, and had his education partly under ton, in Oxfordshire, where it had been a long time private tutors, and partly at a public school. It seated, as appears by the monuments still to be has been often controverted whether a public or seen in Milton-church. But that Milton is not in private education is best, but young Milton was Oxfordshire, but in Berkshire; and upon inquiry so happy as to share the advantages of both. It I find, that there are no such monuments in that appears from the fourth of his Latin elegies, and church, nor any remains of them. It is more pro- from the first and fourth of his familiar epistles, bable, therefore, that the family came, as Mr. that Mr. Thomas Young, who was afterwards Wood says, from Milton near Halton and Thame pastor of the company of English merchants' rem Oxfordshire: where it flourished several years, siding at Hamburg, was one of his private preceptill at last the estate was sequestered, one of the tors: and when he had made good progress in his family having taken the unfortunate side in the studies at home, he was sent to St. Paul's school civil wars between the houses of York and Lan- to be fitted for the university under the care of Mr. caster. John Milton, the poet's grand-father, was, Gill, who was the master at that time, and to according to Mr. Wood, an under-ranger or keeper whose son are addressed some of his familiar episof the forest of Shotover, near Halton, in Oxford- tles. In this early time of his life such was his shire; he was of the religion of Rome, and such a love of learning, and so great was his ambition to bigot that he disinherited his son only for being a surpass his equals, that from his twelfth year he protestant. Upon this, the son, the poet's father, commonly continued his studies till midnight, named likewise John Milton, settled in London, which (as he says himself in his second Defence) and became a scrivener by the advice of a friend was the first ruin of his eyes, to whose natural deeminent in that profession: but he was not so de- bility too were added frequent headaches: but all voted to gain and to business, as to lose all taste of could not extinguish or abate his laudable passion the politer arts, and was particularly skilled in for letters. It is very seldom seen, that such apmusic, in which he was not only a fine performer, plication and such a genius meet in the same perbut is also celebrated for several pieces of his com- son. The force of either is great, but both togeposition: and yet, on the other hand, he was not ther must perform wonders. so fond of his music and amusements, as in the He was now in the seventeenth year of his age, least to neglect his business, but by his diligence and was a very good classical scholar and master and economy acquired a competent estate, which of several languages, when he was sent to the unienabled him afterwards to retire, and live in the versity of Cambridge, and admitted at Christ's country. He was, by all accounts, a very worthy College (as appears from the register) on the 12th man; and married an excellent woman, Sarah, of of February, 1624-5, under the tuition of Mr. the ancient family of the Bradshaws, says Mr. William Chappel, afterwards bishop of Cork and Wood; but Mr. Philips, our author's nephew, who Ross, in Ireland. He continued above seven years was more likely to know, says, of the family of the at the university, and took two degrees, that of Castons derived originally from Wales. Who- Bachelor of Arts in 1628-9, and that of Master in ever she was, she is said to have been a woman of incomparable virtue and goodness; and by her husband had two sons and a daughter.
1632. It is somewhat remarkable, that though the merits of both our universities are perhaps equally great, and though poetical exercises are The elder of the sons was our famous poet, who rather more encouraged at Oxford, yet most of our was born in the year of our Lord 1608, on the 9th greatest poets have been bred at Cambridge, as of December, in the morning between six and seven Spenser, Cowley, Waller, Dryden, Prior, not to o'clock, in Bread-street, London, where his father mention any of the lesser ones, when there is a lived at the sign of the spread eagle, which was greater than all, Milton. He had given early
proofs of his poetic genius before he went to the times to learn something new in the mathematics
university, and there he excelled more and more, or music, with which he was extremely delighted. and distinguished himself by several copies of His retirement, therefore, was a learned retireverses upon occasional subjects, as well as by all ment, and it was not long before the world reaped his academical exercises, many of which are print- the fruits of it. It was in the year 1634 that his ed among his other works, and show him to have Mask was presented at Ludlow-Castle. There had a capacity above his years: and by his oblig-was formerly a president of Wales, and a sort of a ing behaviour, added to his great learning and in-court kept at Ludlow, which has since been abogenuity, he deservedly gained the affection of many, lished; and the president at that time was the Earl and admiration of all. We do not find, however, of Bridgewater, before whom Milton's Mask was that he obtained any preferment in the university, presented on Michaelmas night, and the principal or a fellowship in his own college; which seems parts, those of the two brothers, were performed by the more extraordinary, as that society has always his Lordship's sons, the Lord Brackly, and Mr. encouraged learning and learned men, had the Thomas Egerton, and that of the lady by his most excellent Mr. Mede, at that time a fellow, Lordship's daughter, the Lady Alice Egerton. and afterwards boasts the great names of Cud- The occasion of this poem seems to have been worth, and Burnet, author of the Theory of the merely an accident of the two brothers and the Earth, and several others. And this, together lady having lost one another on their way to the with some Latin verses of his to a friend, reflect-castle: and it is written very much in imitation of ing upon the university seemingly on this account, Shakspeare's Tempest, and the Faithful Shepmight probably have given occasion to the re- herdess of Beaumont and Fletcher; and though proach which was afterwards cast upon him by one of the first, is yet one of the most beautiful of his adversaries, that he was expelled from the uni- Milton's compositions. It was for some time versity for irregularities committed there, and handed about only in manuscript; but afterwards forced to fly to Italy: but he sufficiently refutes to satisfy the importunity of friends, and to save this calumny in more places than one of his works; the trouble of transcribing, it was printed at Lonand indeed it is no wonder, that a person so en-don, though without the author's name, in 1637, gaged in religious and political controversies as he with a dedication to the Lord Brackly by Mr. H. was, should be calumniated and abused by the con- Lawes, who composed the music, and played the trary party. 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 Ran
lately, though with additions and alterations, been exhibited on the stage several times.
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 impor- dolph, the poet, or who else, is uncertain. It has tuned 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 In 1637, he wrote another excellent piece, his discipline of the church, and subscribing to the Lycidas, wherein he laments the untimely fate of a articles was in his opinion subscribing slave. friend, who was unfortunately drowned that same This, no doubt, was a disappointment to his year in the month of August, on the Irish seas, in friends, who, though in comfortable, were yet by his passage from Chester. This friend was Mr. no means in great circumstances: and neither does Edward King, son of Sir John King, Secretary he seem to have had any inclination to any other of Ireland under Queen Elizabeth, King James I. profession; he had too free a spirit to be limited and Charles I.; and was a fellow of Christ's Coland confined; and was for comprehending all lege, and was so well beloved and esteemed at sciences, but professing none. And therefore after Cambridge, that some of the greatest names in the he had left the university in 1632, he retired to his University have united in celebrating his obsefather's house in the country; for his father had quies, and published a collection of poems, Greek by this time quitted business, and lived at an estate and Latin and English, sacred to his memory. which he had purchased at Horton, near Cole- The Greek by H. More, &c.; the Latin by T. brooke, in Buckinghamshire. Here he resided Farnaby, J. Pearson, &c.; the English by H. with his parents for the space of five years, and, King, J. Beaumont, J. Cleaveland, with several as he himself has informed us, (in his second De- others; and judiciously the last of all as the best fence, and the seventh of his familiar Epistles) of all, is Milton's Lycidas. "On such sacrifices read over all the Greek and Latin authors, parti- the Gods themselves strow incense;" and one would cularly the historians; but now and then made an almost wish so to have died, for the sake of having excursion to London, sometimes to buy books, or been so lamented. But this poem is not all made to meet his friends from Cambridge, and at other up of sorrow and tenderness; there is a mixture
of satire and indignation; for in part of it the poet | Mr. R. in the very close of the late R.'s poems, takes occasion to inveigh against the corruptions printed at Oxford; whereunto it is added, as I of the clergy, and seems to have first discovered now suppose, that the accessory might help out his acrimony against Archbishop Laud, and to the principal, according to the art of stationers, have threatened him with the loss of his head, and leave the reader con la bocca dolce.
which afterwards happened to him through the
Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
"Now, Sir, concerning your travels, wherein I may challenge a little more privilege of discourse with you; I suppose, you will not blanch Paris in your way. Therefore I have been bold to trouble you with a few lines to Mr. M. B. whom you shall casily find attending the young Lord S. as his governor; and you may surely receive from him good directions for shaping of your farther journey into Italy, where he did reside by my choice some time for the king, after mine own recess from Venice.
About this time, as we learn from some of his familiar epistles, he had some thoughts of taking chambers at one of the Inns of Court, for he was "I should think that your best line will be not very well pleased with living so obscurely in through the whole length of France to Marseilles, the country: but his mother dying, he prevailed and thence by sea to Genoa, whence the passage with his father to let him indulge a desire, which into Tuscany as diurnal as a Gravesend barge. he had long entertained, of seeing foreign coun- I hasten, as you do, to Florence or Sienna, the tries, and particularly Italy: and having commu- rather to tell you a short story, from the interest nicated his design to Sir Henry Wotton, who had you have given me in your safety. formerly been ambassador at Venice, and was then Provost of Eton College, and having also sent him his Mask, of which he had not yet publicly acknowledged himself the author, he received from him the following friendly letter dated from the College the 10th of April, 1738.
"At Sienna I was tabled in the house of one Alberto Scipione, an old Roman courtier, in dangerous times, having been steward to the Duca di Pagliano, who with all his family were strangled, save this only man, that escaped by foresight of the tempest. With him I had often much chat of those affairs; into which he took pleasure to look back from his native harbour; and at my de"It was a special favour, when you lately parture toward Rome, which had been the centre bestowed upon me here the first taste of your ac- of his experience, I had won confidence enough to quaintance, though no longer than to make me beg his advice, how I might carry myself securely know, that I wanted more time to value it, and to there, without offence of others, or of my own conenjoy it rightly. And in truth, if I could then science: Signor Arrigo meo, says he, i pensieri have imagined your farther stay in these parts, stretti, il viso sciolto, that is, your thoughts which I understood afterwards by Mr. H., I would close, and your countenance loose, will go safely have been bold, in our vulgar phrase, to mend my over the whole world. Of which Delphian oracle draught, for you left me with an extreme thirst, (for so I found it) your judgment doth need no and to have begged your conversation again joint- commentary; and therefore, Sir, I will commit you with it to the best of all securities, God's dear love, remaining your friend, as much at command as any of longer date.
ly with your said learned friend, at a poor meal or two, that we might have banded together some good authors of the ancient time, among which I observed you to have been familiar.
Since your going, you have charged me with new obligations, both for a very kind letter from "P. S. Sir, I have expressly sent this by my you, dated the sixth of this month, and for a footboy to prevent your departure, without some dainty piece of entertainment, that came there- acknowledgment from me of the receipt of your with; wherein I should much commend the tra- obliging letter, having myself through some busigical part, if the lyrical did not ravish with a cer-ness, I know not how, neglected the ordinary contain doric delicacy in your songs and odes, where- veyance. In any part where I shall understand in I must plainly confess to have seen yet nothing you fixed, I shall be glad and diligent to enterparallel in our language, ipsa mollities. But I tain you with home-novelties, even for some fomust not omit to tell you, that I now only owe you mentation of our friendship, too soon interrupted thanks for intimating unto me, how modestly so- in the cradle." ever, the true artificer. For the work itself I had
viewed some good while before with singular de
Soon after this he set out upon his travels, being light, having received it from our common friend of an age to make the proper improvements, and
So much good acquaintance would probably have detained him longer at Florence, if he had
not barely to see sights and to learn the languages, |sign, and advising him to add some observations like most of our modern travellers, who go out concerning the true pronunciation of that language boys, and return such as we see, but such as I do for the use of foreigners. not choose to name. He was attended by only one servant, who accompanied him through all his travels; and he went first to France, where he had re-not been going to Rome, which to a curious travelcommendations to the Lord Scudamore, the English ambassador there at that time; and as soon as he came to Paris, he waited upon his Lordship, and was received with wonderful civility; and having an earnest desire to visit the learned Hugo Grotius, he was by his Lordship's means introduced to that great man, who was then ambassador at the French court from the famous Christina Queen of Sweden; and the visit was to their mutual satisfaction; they were each of them pleased to see a person, of whom they had heard such commendations. But at Paris he stayed not long; his thoughts and his wishes hastened into Italy; and so after a few days he took leave of the Lord Scudamore, who very kindly gave him letters to the English merchants, in the several places through which he was to travel, requesting them to do him all the good offices which lay in their power.
ler is certainly the place the most worth seeing of any in the world. And so he took leave of his friends at Florence, and went from thence to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he stayed much about the same time that he had continued at Florence, feasting both his eyes and his mind, and delighted with the fine paintings and sculptures, and other rarities and antiquities of the city, as well as with the conversation of several learned and ingenious men, and particularly of Lucas Holstenius, keeper of the Vatican library, who received him with the greatest humanity, and showed him all the Greek authors, whether in print or in manuscript, which had passed through his correction; and also presented him to Cardinal Barberini, who at an entertainment of music, performed at his own expense, waited for him at the door, and taking him by the hand brought him into the assembly. The next morning he waited upon the Cardinal to return him thanks for his civilities, and by the means of Holstenius was again introduced to his Eminence, and spent some time in conversation with him. It seems that Holstenius had studied three years at Oxford, and this might dispose him to be more friendly to the English, but he took a particular liking and affection to Milton; and Milton, to thank him for all his favours, wrote to him afterwards from Florence the ninth of his familiar epistles. At Rome too Selvaggi made a Latin distich in honour of Milton, and Salfilli a Latin tetrastich, celebrating him for his Greek and Latin and Italian poetry; and he in return presented to Salfilli in his sickness those fine Scazons, or Iambic verses having a spondee in the last foot, which are inserted among his juvenile poems.
From Paris he went directly to Nice, where he took shipping for Genoa, from whence he went to Leghorn, and thence to Pisa, and so to Florence, in which city he found sufficient inducements to make a stay of two months. For besides the curiosities and other beauties of the place, he took great delight in the company and conversation there, and frequented their academies as they are called, the meetings of the most polite and ingenious persons, which they have in this, as well as in the other principal cities of Italy, for the exercise and improvement of wit and learning among them. And in these conversations he bore so good a part, and produced so many excellent compositions, that he was soon taken notice of, and was very much courted and caressed by several of the nobility and prime wits of Florence. For the manner is, as he says himself in the preface to his second book of From Rome he went to Naples, in company the Reason of Church-government, that every one with a certain hermit; and by his means was inmust give some proof of his wit and reading there, troduced to the acquaintance of Giovanni Baptista and his productions were received with written en- Manso, Marquis of Villa, a Neapolitan nobleman, comiums which the Italian is not forward to bestow of singular merit and virtue, to whom Tasso adon men of this side the Alps. Jacomo Gaddi, An- dresses his dialogue of friendship, and whom he tonio Francini, Carlo Dati, Beneditto Bonmatthei, mentions likewise in his Gierusalemme Liberata Cultellino, Frescobaldi, Clementilli, are reckoned with great honour. This nobleman was particuamong his particular friends. At Gaddi's house larly civil to Milton, frequently visited him at his the academies were held, which he constantly fre- lodgings, and went with him to show him the quented. Antonio Francini composed an Italian Viceroy's palace, and whatever was curious or ode in his commendation. Carlo Dati wrote a La- worth notice in the city; and moreover he honourtin eulogium of him, and corresponded with him ed him so far as to make a Latin distich in his after his return to England. Bonmatthei was at praise, which is printed before our author's Latin that time about publishing an Italian grammar; poems, as is likewise the other of Selvaggi, and the and the eighth of our author's familiar epistles, Latin tetrastich of Salfilli together with the Italian dated at Florence, September 10, 1638, is address- ode and the Latin eulogium before mentioned. We ed to him upon that occasion, commending his de- may suppose that Milton was not a little pleased
with the honours conferred upon him by so many came to Venice, in which city he spent a month; persons of distinction, and especially by one of and having shipped off the books which he had such quality and eminence as the Marquis of Vil- collected during his travels, and particularly a chest la; and as a testimony of his gratitude he present- or two of choice music books of the best masters ed to the Marquis at his departure from Naples flourishing about that time in Italy, he took his his eclogue intitled Mansus, which is well worth reading among his Latin poems. So that it may be reckoned a peculiar felicity of the Marquis of Villa's life, to have been celebrated both by Tasso and Milton, the one the greatest modern poet of his own, and the other the greatest of foreign na
course through Verona, Milan, and along the lake Leman to Geneva. In this city he tarried some time, meeting here with people of his own principles, and contracted an intimate friendship with Giovanni Deodati, the most learned professor of divinity, whose annotations upon the Bible are published in English. And from thence returning through France, the same way that he had gone before, he arrived safe in England, after a peregrination of one year and about three months, having seen more, and learned more, and conversed with more famous men, and made more real improvements, than most others in double the time.
Having seen the finest parts of Italy, Milton was now thinking of passing over into Sicily and Greece, when he was diverted from his purpose by the news from England, that things were tending to a civil war between the King and Parliament: for he thought it unworthy of himself to be taking his pleasure abroad, while his countrymen were contending for liberty at home. He resolved there- His first business after his return was to pay fore to return by the way of Rome, though he was his duty to his father, and to visit his other friends; advised to the contrary by the merchants, who had but this pleasure was much diminished by the loss received intelligence from their correspondents, of his dear friend and schoolfellow Charles Deothat the English Jesuits there were forming plots dati in his absence. While he was abroad, he against him, in case he should return thither, by heard it reported that he was dead; and upon his reason of the great freedom which he had used in coming home he found it but too true, and lamented all his discourses of religion. For he had by no his death in an excellent Latin eclogue entitled means observed the rule, recommended to him by Epitaphium Damonis. This Deodati had a father Sir Henry Wotton, of keeping his thoughts close originally of Lucca, but his mother was English, and his countenance open. He had visited Gali- and he was born and bred in England, and studied leo, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for asserting the physic, and was an admirable scholar, and no less motion of the earth, and thinking otherwise in as-remarkable for his sobriety and other virtues than tronomy than the Dominicans and Franciscans for his great learning and ingenuity. One or two thought. And though the Marquis of Villa had of Milton's familiar epistles are addressed to him; shown him such distinguishing marks of favour at and Mr. Toland says that he had in his hands Naples, yet he told him at his departure that he two Greek letters of Deodati to Milton, very handwould have shown him much greater, if he had somely written. It may be right for scholars now been more reserved in matters of religion. But he and then to exercise themselves in Greek and Lahad a soul above dissimulation and disguise; he tin; but we have much more frequent occasion to was neither afraid nor ashamed to vindicate the write letters in our own native language, and in truth; and if any man had, he had in him the spi- that therefore we should principally endeavour to rit of an old martyr. He was so prudent indeed, excel. that he would not of his own accord begin any discourse of religion; but at the same time he was so honest, that if he was questioned at all about his faith, he would not dissemble his sentiments, whatever was the consequence. And with this resolution he went to Rome the second time, and stayed there two months more, neither concealing his name, nor declining openly to defend the truth, if any thought proper to attack him: and yet, God's good providence protecting him, he came safe to his kind friends at Florence, where he was received with as much joy and affection as if he had returned into his own country.
Milton soon after his return, had taken a lodging at one Russel's, a taylor, in St. Bride's Churchyard; but he continued not long there, having not sufficient room for his library and furniture; and therefore determined to take a house, and accordingly took a handsome garden-house in Aldersgate street, situate at the end of an entry, which was the more agreeable to a studious man for its privacy and freedom from noise and disturbance. And in this house he continued several years, and his sister's two sons were put to board with him, first the younger and afterwards the elder: and some other of his intimate friends requested of him the Here likewise he stayed two months, as he had same favour for their sons, especially since there done before, excepting only an excursion of a few was little more trouble in instructing half a dozen days to Lucca; and then crossing the Appenine, than two or three: and he, who could not easily and passing through Bologna and Ferrara, he deny any thing to his friends, and who knew that