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Books of the Council of State, which continue in uninterrupted succession till the 2d of September 1658, the day preceding the death of Cromwell.1
It is mentioned by the biographers of Milton (Toland's Life of John Milton, p. 148, 12mo. London, 1699; Newton's Life of Milton, vol. I. p. xl. and lxiii. 8vo. London, 1757; Symmons's Life of Milton, appended to his edition of the Prose Works, Vol. VII. p. 500, London, 1806) that about the time when he was thus released from public business, he entered upon the composition of three great works, more congenial to his taste than the employments in which he had been recently engaged, and fitted to occupy his mind under the blindness with which he had been afflicted for nearly three years. The works commenced under these circumstances were Paradise Lost, a Latin Thesaurus, intended as an improvement on that by Robert Stephens, and a body of Divinity compiled from the Holy Scriptures, all which,' according to Wood (Fasti Oxonienses, Part I. 1635, col. 486, edit. 1817), notwithstanding the several troubles that befel him in his fortunes, he finished after His Majesty's Restoration.' After enumerating the works of Milton then published, Wood says; These I think are all the things he hath yet extant; those that are not, are, a Body of Divinity, which my friend (Aubrey) calls Idea Theologiæ, now, or at least lately, in the hands of the author's acquaintance, called CYRIACK SKINNER, living in Mark Lane, London; and the Latin Thesaurus, in those of EDWARD PHILIPPS, his nephew.'
In allusion to the work which is thus called by Wood, on the authority of Aubrey, Idea Theologiæ, Toland has the following passage: He wrote likewise a System of Divinity, but whether intended for public view, or collected merely for his own use, I cannot determine. It was in the hands of his friend CYRIACK
1 The Orders of the Council of State during the Interregnum, brought to light and arranged by the industry of Mr. Lemon, form one of the most interesting series of documents relative to English History at present in existence. They contain the daily transactions of the executive government in England from 1648-9 to September, 1658, and are particularly valuable from the period of the dissolution of the Long Parliament in 1653, to the death of Cromwell in September 1658; as during the greater part of that time the Council of State, under the Protector, combined both the executive and legislative functions of government, and as these books are the authentic, but hitherto unknown records of their daily proceedings. It is greatly to be desired that the attention of the Record Commissioners should be drawn to these valuable documents, and perhaps it might be advisable that a fair transcript of them should be made, under their sanction, to guard against loss or damage by any accident which may happen to the originals.
SKINNER, and where at present is uncertain." Dr. Symmons also says, in a note, Vol. VII. p. 500: An answer to a libel on himself, and a system of Theology, called, according to Wood, Idea Theologiæ, are compositions of Milton which have been lost. The last was at one time in the hands of Cyriack Skinner, but what became of it afterwards has not been traced.'
It appears then from the above testimonies, that a treatise on Divinity was known to have been compiled by Milton, and deposited, either for safe custody, or from motives of friendship, in the hands of Cyriack Skinner; since which time all traces of it have been lost. It is necessary to shew, in the next place, what are the grounds for supposing that the original work, from which the following translation has been executed, is the identical treatise so long concealed from the researches of all the editors and biographers of the author of Paradise Lost.
It is observable that neither Wood, nor any of the subsequent biographers of Milton, have mentioned the language in which his theological treatise was written. To prefix a learned title to an English composition would be so consistent with Milton's own practice, as well as with the prevailing taste of his age, that the circumstance of Aubrey's ascribing to it a Latin name affords no certain proof that the work itself was originally written in that language. In the latter part of the year 1823, however, a Latin manuscript, bearing the following title, JOANNIS MILTONI ANGLI DE DOCTRINA CHRISTIANA, EX SACRIS DUNTAXAT LIBRIS PETITA, DISQUISITIONUM LIBRI DUO POSTHUMI, was discovered by Mr. Lemon, in the course of his researches in the Old State Paper Office, situated in what is called the Middle Treasury Gallery, Whitehall. It was found in one of the presses, loosely wrapped in two or three sheets of printed paper, with a large number of original letters, informations, examinations and other curious records relative to the Popish plots in 1677 and 1678, and to the Rye House plot in 1683. The same parcel likewise contained a complete and corrected copy of all the Latin letters to foreign princes and states written by Milton, while he officiated as Latin Secretary; and the whole was enclosed in an envelope superscribed, To Mr. Skinner, Mercht.' The address seems distinctly to identify this important manuscript with the work mentioned by Wood, though an error has been committed, either by himself or his informant, with respect to its real title.
Mr. Cyriack Skinner, whose name is already well known in association with that of Milton, appears, from a pedigree communicated by James Pulman, Esq., Portcullis Poursuivant at Arms, to have been the grandson of Sir Vincent Skinner or Skynner, knight, whose eldest son and heir, William Skynner, of 2 Life, p 148.
Thornton College, in the County of Lincoln, Esq., married Bridget, second daughter of Sir Edward Coke, knight, Chief Justice of England. The affinity between Cyriack Skinner and this distinguished ornament of the English Bar, is thus alluded to by Milton in his 21st Sonnet:
To CYRIACK SKINNER.
Cyriack, whose grandsire, on the royal bench
Of British Themis, with no mean applause
Toward solid good what leads the nearest way;
All the biographers of Milton have mentioned that Cyriack Skinner was his favourite pupil, and subsequently his particular
Edward Skynner, 1657. Daughters, 1657. Annabella Skynner, 1700.
friend. 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
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."
"1649. Nov. 19.
"1650. June 14.
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."
Copy of the Warrant of the Council of State, above-mentioned.
"1651. June 11.
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.'
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