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LIFE

OF

JOHN MILTON.

FROM a family and town of his name in Oxfordshire

our Author derived his descent; but he was born at London in the year 1608. The publisher* of his Works in prose (on whose veracity some part of this narrative must entirely depend) dates his birth two years earlier than this; but contradicting himself afterwards in his own computation, I reduce it to the time that Monsieur Bayle had assigned, and for the same reason which prevailed with him to assign it. His father, John Milton, by profession a scrivener, lived in a reputable manner on a competent estate entirely his own acquisition: Having been early disinherited by his parents for renouncing the communication of the Church of Rome, to which they were zealously devoted. By his wife, Sarah Caston, he had likewise one daughter, named Anna, and another son Christopher, whom he trained to the practice of the common law; who in the Great Rebellion adhered to the Royal cause; and in the reign of King James II. by too easy a compliance with the doctrines of the Court, both religious and civil, he attained to the dignity of being made Judge of the Common Pleas ; of which he died divested not long after the Revolution.

But John, the subject of the present Essay, was the favorite of his father's hopes, who, to cultivate the great genius which displayed itself, was at the expense of a domestic tutor; whose care and capacity his pupil hath grate

*Mr. Toland.

fully celebrated in an excellent Latin elegy. An. Etat. 12. At his initiation he is said to have applied himself to letters with such indefatigable industry, that he rarely was prevailed with to quit his studies before midnight; which not only made him frequently subject to severe pains in his head, but likewise occasioned that weakness in his eyes which terminated in a total privation of sight. From a domestic education he was removed to St. Paul's school to complete his acquaint

ance with the Classics, under the care of An. Etat. 15. Dr. Gill; and after a short stay there, was transplanted to Christ's College in Cambridge, where he distinguished himself in all kinds of academical exercises. Of this society he continued a member till he commenced Master of Arts; and then leaving the University, he returned to his father, An. Elat. 23. who had quitted the town, and lived at Horton in Buckinghamshire, where he pursued his studies with unparalleled assiduity and success. After some years spent in this studious retirement his mother died; and then he prevailed with his father to gratify an inclination he had long entertainAn. Ætat. 30. ed of seeing foreign countries. Sir Henry Wotton, at that time provost of Eton College, gave him a letter of advice* for the direction of his

"Sir,

* "Eton College, 10th April, 1638.

"It was a special favor when you lately bestowed upon me here the first taste of your acquaintance, though no longer than to make me know that I wanted more time to value it, and to enjoy it rightly. And in truth, if I could then have imagined your farther stay in these parts, which I understood afterwards by Mr. H. I would have been bold, in our vulgar phrase, to mend my draught, for you left me with an extreme thirst, and to have begged your conversation again, jointly with your said learned friend, at a poor meal or two, that we might have binded 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 you, dated the 6th of this month, and for a dainty piece of entertainment that came therewith; wherein I should much commend the tragical part, if the lyrical did not ravish with a certain Doric delicacy in your Songs and Odes, wherein I must plainly confess to have seen yet nothing parallel in your language, IPSA MOLLITIES. But I must not omit te

travels; but by not observing an excellent maxim in it, he incurred great danger, by disputing against the superstition of the Church of Rome, within the verge of the Vatican. Having employed his curiosity about two years

tell you, that I now only owe you thanks for intimating unto me, how modestly soever, the true artificer: For the work itself I had viewed some good while before with singular delight, having received it from our common friend, Mr. R. in the very close of the late R.'s poems, printed at Oxford, whereunto it is added, as I now suppose, that the accessary might help out the principal, according to the art of stationers, and leave the reader CON LA BOCCA

DULCE.

"Now, Sir, concerning your travels, wherein I may challenge a little more privilege of discourse with you; I suppose you will not blanch París in your way; therefore I have been bold to trouble you with a few lines to Mr. M. B. whom you shall easily 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.

"I should think that your best line would be through the whole length of France to Marseilles, and thence by sea to Genoa, whence the passage into Tuscany is as diurnal as a Graves end barge. L. hasten, as you do, to Florence or Sienna, the rather to tell you a short story, from the interest you have given me in your safety. "At Sienna I was tabled in the house of one Alberto Scripione, an old Roman courtier in dangerous times, having been steward to the Duca di Pagliano, who with all his family were strangled save only this man, that escaped by a 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 harbor; and at my departure towards Rome, which had been the center of his experience, I had won confidence enough to beg his advice how I might carry my elf securely there, without offence of others or of my own conscience. SIGNOR, ARRIGO, MEO, says he, I PENSIERI STRETI, ET IL VISO SCIOLTO; that is, "Your thoughts close, and your counteance loose, will go safely over the whole world." Of which Delphian oracle (for so I have found it) your judgment doth need no commentary; and therefore, Sir, I will commit you with the best of all securities, God's dear love, remaining your friend as much at command as any of longer date.

H. WOTTON.” ~

"P. S. Sir, I have expressly sent this by my foot boy to prevent your departure without some acknowledgment from me of the receipt of your obliging letter, having myself, thro' some business, I know not how, neglected the ordinary conveyance. In any part where I shall understand you fixed, I shall be glad and diligent to entertain you with home novelties, even for some fomentation of our friendship, too soon interrupted in the cradle."

in France and Italy,* on the news of a Civil war breaking out in England, he returned without taking a survey of Greece and Sicily, as, at his setting out, the scheme was projected. At Paris the Lord Viscount Scudamore, ambassador from King Charles I. at the court of France, introduced him to the acquaintance of Crotius,t who, at that time, was honored with the same character there by Christiana, Queen of Sweden. In Rome, Genoa, Flor

ence, and other cities of Italy, he contracted a familiarity with those of highest reputation for wit and learning: Several of whom gave him very obliging testimonies of their friendship and esteem, which are printed before his Latin poems. The first of them was written by Manso Marquis of Villa, a great patron of Tasso, by whom he is celebrated in his poem on the conquest of Jerusalem. It is highly probable that to his conversation with this noble Neapolitian we owe the first design which Milton conceived of writing an epic poem: And it appears, by some Latin verses addressed to the Marquis with the title of Mansus, that he intended to fix on King Arthur for his hero; but Arthur was reserved to another destiny.

Returning from his travels, he found England on the. point of being involved in blood and confuAn. Etat. 32. sion. It seems wonderful that one of so warm and daring a spirit, as his certainly. was, should be restrained from the camp in those unnatural commotions. I suppose we may impute it wholly to the great deference he paid to paternal authority that he retired to lodgings provided for him in the city; which being commodious for the reception of his sister's sons,. and some other young gentlemen, he undertook their education; and is said to have formed them on the same plan which he afterwards published in a short tractate inscribed to his friend Mr. Hartlib.

In this philosophical course he continued without a. wife to the year 1643; when he married Mary the daugh

*Et jam bis viridi surgebat culmus arista,
Et totidem flavus numerabant horrea messes,---
Nec dum aderat Thyrsis; postorem scilicit illuna
Dulcis amor Musæ Thusca retinebat in urbe,
+ Defensio secunda, p. 96. Fol.

"Fra Cavalier' e cortesi,

Resplende il Manso."

DAM.

LIB. 20

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