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On this Letter Mr. Lemon submits the following reasonings, which it is right to state in his own language:
From the words in the preceding letter, Superiour of his Colledge," it evidently appears that Mr. Skinner, who at that period is thus proved to have had unpublished manuscripts of Milton in his possession, was a member of some Catholic religious order; and it is a very curious and interesting fact, which strongly corroborates the preceding conjecture, that in the original deposition of Titus Oates (which actually lay on the parcel containing the posthumous work of Milton when it was discovered), signed by himself, and attested by Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, on the 27th of September, 1678, a few days only before his mysterious murder, and also signed by Dr. Ezrael Tonge, and Christopher Kirby, the name of MR. SKINNER is inserted, as a BENEDICTINE, in the list given in by Titus Oates of the persons implicated in the Popish plot of 1678.'
There are, however, some reasons for doubting whether Skinner the Benedictine can have been Cyriack Skinner, the original depositary of Milton's work. It appears from the pedigree inserted in a preceding page, that letters of administration were granted in August 1700 to Annabella, daughter of Cyriack Skinner, in which he is described as of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Widower. This is evidently inconsistent with the supposition that he was a member of a religious order. It is indeed barely possible that he may have assumed the Benedictine character in 1667 (the year in which Perwich's letter is dated), though it is most unlikely that such a change should have taken place in the principles of one who had been the intimate friend of Milton, and whose opinions had been so decidedly opposed to Popery during the Commonwealth. By the will of Edward, the eldest brother, dated 20th May, 1657, and proved the 10th of February following, Cyriack was nominated guardian of his son, in case his wife (the daughter of Sir William Wentworth, who was killed at Marston Moor) should re-marry or die; and in the same document a legacy of one hundred pounds is bequeathed to each of the brothers William and Cyriack.
On the whole, therefore, it seems most probable, that the Benedictine Skinner, if an immediate connexion of this family, was William, the second son of William and Bridget, and elder brother of Cyriack; a conjecture rendered more likely from the fact that no will of this individual is registered, nor is any record of him mentioned after 1657, when his elder brother died. Cyriack, aware of the suspicion to which he was liable as the friend of Milton, as well as on account of his own political character, might naturally conceive that his papers would be safer in the hands of his brother, out of the kingdom, than in his own
custody; and the government having been informed by Mr Perwich of their concealment in Holland, perhaps obtained possession of them through their emissaries, while Skinner was travelling in Italy, according to his design mentioned in the letter to Mr. Bridgeman.
There seems no reason, however, why the words 'Superiour of his Colledge' should not apply with as much propriety to the head of a Protestant as of a Roman Catholic Society. Dr. Isaac Barrow, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, did not die till May 1677, two months after the date of Perwich's letter, and in the register of that College the following entries occur: Oct. 2, 1674. Daniel Skinner juratus et admissus in socium minorem. -May 23d. 1679. Daniel Skinner juratus et admissus in socium majorem.' From the unusual interval between the first and second admission, which ordinarily does not exceed a year and a half, as well as from the day, May 23, the regular day for the admission of major Fellows being in July, it is evident that his advance to the latter rank took place under some extraordinary circumstances. If he was the Skinner mentioned in Perwich's letter, it may be supposed that his contumacious absence retarded his rise in the College, and that his continuance in his fellowship, and subsequent election as major Fellow, is to be ascribed to the leniency of the Society. That the Skinner alluded to was not a Catholic may be inferred from his having gone to Holland, which does not seem the most obvious place of refuge for a Catholic emigrant; as also from the manner in which he speaks of Milton's manuscript works, especially if, as is probable, in describing them as no way to be objected against either with regard to royalty and government," he intended to have added,
or with regard to religion," "church polity," or something similar, which by an oversight was omitted; for he can hardly have meant to write "royalty or government," there being little or no difference between the terms, in the sense in which the writer would have used them. Nor is it likely that a member of a Catholic religious order would have entertained the design of publishing such works.
The manuscript itself consists of 735 pages, closely written on small quarto letter paper. The first part, as far as the 15th chapter of the first book, is in a small and beautiful Italian hand; being evidently a corrected copy, prepared for the press, without interlineations of any kind. This portion of the volume, however, affords a proof that even the most careful transcription seldom fails to diminish the accuracy of a text; for although it is evident that extraordinary pains have been employed to secure its legibility and correctness, the mistakes which are found in this part of the manuscript, especially in the references to the quotations
are in the proportion of 14 to 1 as compared with those in the remaining three-fifths of the work. The character is evidently that of a female hand, and it is the opinion of Mr. Lemon, whose knowledge of the hand-writing of that time is so extensive that the greatest deference is due to his judgment, that Mary, the second daughter of Milton, was employed as amanuensis in this part of the volume. In corroboration of this conjecture, it may be remarked that some of the mistakes above alluded to are of a nature to induce a suspicion that the transcriber was merely a copyist, or, at most, imperfectly acquainted with the learned languages. For instance, in p. 19, 1. 17, of the Latin volume, the following quotation occurs: Heb. iv. 13. omnia sunt nuda, et ab intimo patentia oculis ejus; where in the manuscript the word patientia is substituted for patentia. This might have been supposed an accidental oversight, occasioned by the haste of the writer; but on turning to the Latin Bible of Junius and Tremellius, which Milton generally uses in his quotations, it will be found that the same error occurs in the edition printed at Geneva, 1630, but not in that printed at London, 1593. This not only seems to fix the precise edition of the Bible from which the texts were copied, but, considering that the mistake is such as could hardly fail to be corrected by the most careless transcriber, provided he understood the sentence, affords a strong presumption that the writer possessed a very moderate degree of scholarship. On the other hand, a great proportion of the errors are precisely such as lead to a supposition that the amanuensis, though no scholar, was to a certain degree acquainted with the language verbally; inasmuch as they generally consist, not of false combinations of letters, but of the substitution of one word for another of nearly similar sound or structure. Of this kind are gloriæ for gratiæ, corruentem for cor autem, nos for non, in ius for ejus, re for rex, imminuitur for innuitur, in quam for inquam, iniquam for inquam, assimulatus for assimilatus, aliena tuæ for alienatiæ, cælorum for czccrum, decere for docere, explorentur for explerentur, examinatis for exanimatis, juraverunt for jejunarunt, errare for orare, &c. &c. Faults of this description, especially considering that very few occur of a different class, and taken in connexion with the opinion of Mr. Lemon stated above, will perhaps remind the reader of a charge which, as Mr. Todd notices, has been brought against the paternal conduct of Milton; 'I mean his teaching his children to read and pronounce Greek and several other languages, without understanding any but English.' This at least is certain, that the transcriber of this part of the manuscript was much employed in Milton's service; for the hand-writing is the same as appears in
3 Some Account of the Life and Writings of Milton. Vol. I. p. 161.
the fair copy of the Latin letters, discovered, as has been mentioned, in the press which contained the present treatise.*
The remainder of the manuscript is in an entirely different hand, being a strong upright character, supposed by Mr. Lemon to be the hand-writing of Edward Philipps, the nephew of Milton. This part of the volume is interspersed with numerous interlineations and corrections, and in several places with small slips of writing pasted in the margin. These corrections are in two distinct hand-writings, different from the body of the manuscript, but the greater part of them undoubtedly written by the same person who transcribed the first part of the volume. Hence it is probable that the latter part of the MS. is a copy transcribed by Philipps, and finally revised and corrected by Mary and Deborah Milton from the dictation of their father, as many of the alterations bear a strong resemblance to the reputed hand-writing of Deborah, the youngest daughter of Milton, in the manuscripts preserved in the Library of Trinity Col
4 It is desirable that a new edition of these letters should be published from this corrected manuscript. The text appears to differ in many instances from that of our present editions, and from the following printed advertisement, which was found in the same parcel, there can be no doubt that the collection had been carefully revised by the author or his friends, and was prepared for publication. It was intended to have been committed to the press in Holland, and was therefore probably among the papers which Skinner had left in that country. The advertisement itself is curious, as containing an indignant remonstrance against the conduct of some dishonest bookseller who had obtained a surreptitious copy of the letters, and published them in an incorrect shape.
'Innotescat omnibus cum in Academiis, tum in Londino literatis, Bibliopolis etiam, si qui sint qui præter solitum Latine sciunt, nec non exteris quibuscunque, quod Literæ JOANNIS MILTONI Angli, interregni tempore scriptæ, quas bibliopola quidam Londinensis, secum habita consultatione quantam in rem famamque quantam imperfectissimum quid et indigestum ex operibus tanti viri sibi pro certo cederet, nuper in lucem irrepi fecit (præterquam quod a contemptissimo quodam et perobscuro preli quondam curatore, qui parvam schedarum manum vel emendicaverit olim abs authore, vel, quod verisimilius est, clam suppilaverit, perexiguo pretio fuerunt emptæ) sunt misere mutila, dimidiatæ, deformes ex omni parte ruptoque ordine confusæ, præfatiuncula spurca non minus quam infantissima dehonestatæ, cæterisque dein a numerosioribus chartis nequiter' arreptæ. Quodque vera Literarum exemplaria, locupletiora multum et auctiora, composita concinnius et digesta, typis elegantioribus excudenda sunt in Hollandia prelo commissa. Quæ una cum Articulis Hispanicis, Portugallicis, Gallicis, Belgicis in ista rerum inclinatione nobiscum initis et percussis, pluribusque chartis Germanicis, Danicis, Suevicis scitissime scriptis, ne ex tam spuriis libri natalitiis, et ex tam vili præfatore læderetur author, brevi possis, humanissime lector, expectare.'
lege, Cambridge; who is stated by Wood (Fast Oxonienses. Part I. 1635. col. 483) to have been trained up by her father in Latin and Greek, and made by him his amanuensis.'
Independently, however, of other considerations, the readers of the volume now published will find the test proofs of its authenticity in the resemblance of its language and opinions to the printed works of Milton. Some striking specimens of this agree ment are frequently given in the notes, and these illustrations might have been multiplied to a much greater extent, had it not seemed desirable, on account of the bulk of the volume, only to select such as were most remarkable for similarity of style or sentiments.
It must be acknowledged that the disqualifications of Milton for such a work as the present, were neither few nor unimportant. They were owing partly to the unhappy circumstances of the period at which he lived, and partly to that peculiar disposition of mind which led him to view every surrender of individual opinion, whether in morals or politics, as an infringement on the rights of natural liberty. In his time power was abused, under pretence of religion, in a degree to which, happily for genuine Christianity, the ecclesiastical annals can scarcely afford a parallel; and the universal prevalence of an intolerant spirit, from which his own connexions as well as himself had suffered severely, disposed him to look with an unfavourable eye, not only upon the corruptions, but on the doctrine itself and discipline of the church. His father had been disinherited for embracing the Protestant faith. He himself had been brought up under a Puritan who was subsequently obliged to leave England on account of his religious opinions, Thomas Young of Essex, one of the six answerers of Hall's Humble Remonstrance. Hence there is some foundation for the remark of Hayley, that Milton wrote with the indignant enthusiasm of a man resenting the injuries of those who are most entitled to his love and veneration. The ardour of his affections conspired with the warmth of his fancy to inspire him with that puritanical zeal which blazes so intensely in his controversial productions." Thus it was that, like Clarke, though on different grounds, he was biassed against the authority of the church, and predisposed by the political constitution of his mind to such unbounded freedom as can hardly consist, as has been truly said, with any established system of faith whatever." His love of Christian liberty began indeed to manifest itself at a very early period of his life, for though destined to the church
5 In one instance the writer identifies himself with Milton by referring to the Tetrachordon as one of his own treatises. See 249.
Havley's Life of Milton, p. 66.