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Wood incidentally notices him in speaking of the wellknown club of Commonwealth's men, which used to meet in 1659 at the Turk's Head in New Palace Yard, Westminster. Besides our author (James Harrington) and H. Nevill, who were the prime men of this club, were Cyriack Skinner, a merchant's son of London, an ingenious young gentleman, and scholar to Jo. Milton, which Skinner sometimes held the chair, Major John Wildman,' &c. &c. Wood further says that the discourses of the members about government, and ordering a commonwealth, were the most ingenious and smart that ever were heard; for the arguments in the Parliament House were but flat to them.' They were fond, it appears, of proposing models of democratical government, and at the dissolution of the club in February, 1659, at which time the secluded members were restored by General Monk, all their models,' Wood says, 'vanished.' These models are not now of common occurrence, but two of them are in the possession of the Rev. Henry J. Todd, from whom the following information respecting them is derived. One is entitled 'A Modell of a Democraticall Government, humbly tendered to consideration by a friend and well-wisher to this Commonwealth,' 4to. London, 1659. The title of the other is Idea Democratica, or a Commonweal Platform,' 4to. London, 1659. Both consist of a very few leaves only, and neither are enumerated by Wood, among Harrington's pieces. Mr. Todd supposes, with much probability, that as the chair was often taken by the ingenious young gentleman, as Wood terms Skinner, he was concerned in the publication of these antimonarchical curiosities. Care however must be taken not to confound him with another individual of the same name, who likewise took a part against the crown in the politics of the day; viz. Augustine Skinner, one of the small Rump Parliament of ninety members in 1659. It was probably the latter who belonged to the Committee appointed by the House to consider all orders, &c. touching absent, that is, the secluded members, in which Committee is the leader of the Rota Club, Sir James Harrington,' as he was then usually called, though not knighted. Harrington is the fifth in the list of the Committee, and Mr. Skinner' the twelfth.5
In the year 1654, we learn from a letter addressed to Milton by his friend Andrew Marvell, and first published by Dr. Birch, that Skinner had got near' his former preceptor, who then occupied lodgings in Petty France, Westminster, probably for the sake of their contiguity to the Council. This was the house
4 Fasti Oxonienses, Life of Mr. James Harrington, 389.
5 See A brief Narrative of the late forcible Seclusion of divers Members of the House of Commons,' 1660. p. 6.
'next door to the Lord Scudamore's, and opening into St. James's park,' where he is said to have remained eight years; namely, from 1652 till within a few weeks of the restoration of Charles the Second. By a comparison of dates, it may be conjectured that he removed into it when obliged to leave the lodgings in Whitehall, which, as is proved by the following curious extracts from the Council books, had been provided for him at the public expense, and fitted up with some of the spoils of the late King's property.
"1649. Nov. 12. Ordered-That Sir John Hippesley be spoken to, that Mr. Milton may be accommodated with the Lodgings that he hath at Whitehall."
That Mr. Milton shall have the Lodgings that were in the hands of Sir John Hippesley, in Whitehall, for his accommodation as being Secretary to the Councell for Forreigne Languages."
That Mr. Milton shall have a warrant to the Trustees and Contractors for the sale of the King's goods, for the furnishing of his Lodgeing at Whitehall with some Hangings."
"1649. Nov. 19.
"1650. June 14.
Copy of the Warrant of the Council of State, above-mentioned.
To the Trustees and Contractors for
the Sale of the late King's Goods."
"1651. April 10. Ordered-That Mr. Vaux bee sent unto, to lett him know that hee is to forbeare the removeing of Mr. Milton out of his Lodgings at Whitehall, until Sir Henry Mildmay and Sir Gilbert Pickering shall have spoken with the Committee concerning that businesse.” -That Lieutnant Generall Fleetwood, Sir John Trevor, Mr. Alderman Allen, and Mr. Chaloner, or anie two of them, bee appointed a Committee to go from this Councell to the Committee of Parliament for Whitehall, to acquaint them with the case of Mr. Milton, in regard of their positive order for his speedie remove out of his Lodgings in Whitehall, and to endeavour with them, that the said Mr. Milton may bee continued where he is, in regard of the employment hee is in to the Councell, which necessitates him to reside neere the Councell.'
"1651. June 11.
About a year after Skinner had thus become the neighbour of Milton, the latter addressed to him that beautiful sonnet on the loss of his sight, which, in consequence of the allusion contained
in it to the Defence of the People, was not published till twenty years after the author's death.
Cyriack, this three years' day these eyes, though clear,
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
Of which all Europe rings from side to side.
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask
It appears from the title, that the work entrusted to Skinner's care was originally intended to be a posthumous publication. The reproaches to which its author had been exposed in consequence of opinions contained in his early controversial writings, may have induced him to avoid attracting the notice of the public, during the ascendancy of his political opponents, by a frank avowal of his religious sentiments. But by what means, by whom, or at what time this interesting document was deposited in the State Paper Office, is at present not known with certainty; every trace of its existence having been lost for nearly a century and a half, till it was discovered by Mr. Lemon in the manner above described.
In the absence of all positive evidence on this subject, it is due to the sagacity of Mr. Lemon to state the satisfactory conjecture originally formed by that gentleman, which subsequent discoveries have almost converted into a moral certainty. From the decided republican principles which Cyriack Skinner was well known to have adopted, it is not improbable that he was suspected of participating in some of the numerous political conspiracies which prevailed during the last ten years of the reign of Charles the Second, and that his papers were seized in consequence. Supposing this step to have been taken, the Milton manuscript would have come officially, with the other suspected documents, into the possession either of SIR JOSEPH WILLIAMSON, or SIR LEOLINE JENKINS; who held successively the office of Principal Secretary of State for the Southern or Home Department during the whole of the period alluded to, that is, from 1674 to 1684. It was at this time the custom for the Secretaries, on retiring from office, to remove with them the public documents connected with their respective administrations; but both these dis
tinguished statesmen, from a conviction of the inconvenience of a practice which has since been disused, bequeathed their large and valuable collections of manuscripts to His Majesty's State Paper Office. It was in the course of examining these papers, for the purpose of arranging them in chronological order, and of forming a catalogue raisonné of their contents, that the identical manuscript came to light, of which the public, by His Majesty's gracious command, is now in possession.
It will be admitted that the above mode of accounting for the unexpected discovery of Milton's theological work among the neglected treasures of the State Paper Office, is at least plausible. It occurred, however, to Mr. Lemon, that an accurate inspection of the papers relative to the plots of 1677, 1678, and 1683, deposited in the same press with the manuscript, might perhaps afford some information respecting it. He has therefore recently examined the whole of this part of the collection, and in a bundle of papers containing informations and examinations taken in the year 1677, the following letter was discovered from a Mr. Perwich, written at Paris, March 15, 1677, and addressed to Mr. Bridgeman, Secretary to Sir Joseph Williamson, which appears to throw considerable light on the preceding conjecture.
Paris March 15-77.
I have d (delivered) Dr. Barrow's letter to Mr. Skinner, before witnesse, as you desired. I found him much surprised, and yet at the same time slighting any constraining orders from the Superior of his Colledge, or any benefit he expected thence, but as to Milton's Workes he intended to have printed, (though he saith that part which he had in M.S.S. are no way to be objected agt, either with regard to Royalty and Government) he hath desisted from the causing them to be printed, having left them in Holland, and that he intends, notwithstanding the College sumons, to goe for Italy this summer. This is all I can say in that affaire. You have herein all our newes.
For Wm. Bridgman Esq.
Sečry to the Right Honble.
I am S1,
Your most faithfull obdt. Servt.
6 In the same office have been lately discovered some curious documents, hitherto unknown, respecting both the family history and the official life of Milton, which, by the permission of Mr. Secretary Peel, are now incorporated, with other materials, into an account of him and his writings, about to be published by the Rev. Mr. Todd, the well-known and able editor of Milton's Poetical Works.
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), 1677 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