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242

THE

POETICAL WORKS

OF

JOHN MILTON.

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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 aiterwards Wood says, from Milton near Halton and Thame pastor of the company of English merchants rein 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, 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 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 jof 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 1632. It is somewhat remarkable, that though incomparable virtue and goodness; and by her the merits of both our universities are perhaps husband had two sons and a daughter. 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

which (as he says himself in his second Defence) was the first ruin of his eyes, to whose natural debility too were added frequent headaches: 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 toge ther must perform wonders.

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

trary party.

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 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 tumself 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 carly 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

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