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private tuition under the care of Thomas Young, who was afterwards chaplain to the English merchants at Hamburgh, and of whom we have reason to think well, since his scholar considered him as worthy of an epistolary Elegy.
He was then sent to St. Paul's School, under the care of Mr. Gill; and removed, in the beginning of bis sixteenth year, to Christ's College in Cam. bridge, where he entered a sizar*, Feb. 12, 1624.
He was at this time eminently skilled in the Latin tongue; and he himself, by annexing the dates to his first compositions, a boast of which Politian had given him an example, seems to commend the earliness of his own proficiency to the notice of posterity. But the products of his vernal fertility have been surpassed by many, and particularly by his contemporary Cowley. Of the powers of the mind it is difficult to form an estimate: many have excelled Milton in their first essays, who never rose to works like Paradise Lost.
At fifteen, a date which he uses till he is sixteen, he translated or versified two Psalms, 114 and 136, which he thought worthy of the public eye; but they raise no great expectations; they would in any numerous school have obtained praise, but not excited wonder.
Many of his elegies appear to have been written in his eighteenth year, by which it appears that he had then read the Roman authors with very nice discernment. I once heard Mr. Hanrpton, the translator of Polybius, remark what I think is true, that Milton was the first Englishman who, after the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with classic elegance. If any exceptions can be made, they are very few: Haddon and Ascham, the pride of Elizabeth's reign, however they may have succeeded in prose, no sooner attempt verses than they provoke derision. If we produced any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was perhaps Alabaster's Roxana t.
Of these exercises which the rules of the University required, some were published by him in his maturer years. They had been undoubtedly applauded; for they were such as few can perform: yet there is reason to suspect that he was regarded in his college with no great fondness. That he obtained no fellowship is certain ; but the unkindness with which he was treated was not merely negative. I am ashamed to relate what I fear is true, that Milton was one of the last students in either university that suffered the public indignity of corporal correction.
It was, in the violence of controversial hostility, objected to him, that he was expelled; this he steadily denies, and it was apparently not true; but it seems plain from his own verses to Diodati, that he had incurred Rustication ; a temporary dismission into the country, with perhaps the loss of a term.
• In this assertion Dr. Johnson was mistaken. Milton was admitted a pensioner, and not a sizar, as will appear by the following extract from the College Register. Johannes Milton “ Londinensis, filius Johannis, institutus fuit in literarum Elementis sub Mag'ro Gill “ Gymnasii Paulini præfecto, admissus est Pensionarius Minor Feb. 12°, 1624, sub M'ro “ Chappell, solvitq. pro Ingr. 6.0 105. od. E. # Published 1632. E.
I cannot find any meaning but this, which even kindness and reverence cati give to the term, vetiti laris, “ a habitation from which he is excluded ; " or how exile can be otherwise interpreted. He declares yet more, that he is weary of enduring the threats of a rigorous master, and something else, which a temper like his cannot undergo. What was more than threat was probably punishment. This poem, which mentions liís exile, proves likewise that it was not perpetua!; for it concludes with a resolution of returning some time to Cainbridge. And it may be conjectured from the willingness with whiclı he has perpetuated' the memory of his exile, that its cause was such as gave him no shame.
He took both the usual degrees, that of Batchelor in 1628, and that of Masa ter in 1632; but he left the university with no kindness for its institution, alienated either by the injudicious severity of his governors, or his own captious perverseness. The cause cannot now be known, but the effect appears in his writings. His scheme of education inscribed to Hartlib, supersedes all academical instruction, being intended to comprise the whole time which men usually spend in literature, from their entrance upon grammar, till they proceed, as it is called, masters of arts. And in his Discourse on the likeliest wav to remove Hireling's out of the Church, he ingeniously proposes; that the profits of the lanıls forfeited by the act for superstitious uses, should be applied to such academies all over the land where languages and arts may be taught together ; so that youth may be at once brought ups 19 a competeney of learning and an honest trade, by which means such of them as had the gift, being enabled to support themselves (without tithes) by the latter, may, by the help of the former, become worthy preachers.
One of his objections to academical education, as it was then con lucted, is, that men designed for orders in the Church were permitted to act plays, writhing and unboning their ciergy limbs to all the antick and wishonest gestures of Trincalus*, buffoons and bauds, prostituting the shame of that murisery which they hat, or were near having, to the eyes of courtiers and court ladies, their grooms una nudemoiselles.
* By the mention of this name he evidently refers to Albumazar'; acted at Cambridge in 1614. Ignoramus and other plays were performed at tite same time. The practice was then iéry frequent. The last dramatick performance at either university was The Grateful Fair, written by Christopher Smarts and cepresented at Peinbroks College, Cambridge, about 1747, E.
This is sufficiently peevish in a-nian, who, when he mentions his exile from the college, relates with great luxuriance, the compensation whic's the pleasures of the theatre afford him. Plays were therefore only cri.ninal when they were acted by academicks.
He went to the university with a design of entering into the church, but in time altered his mind; for be declared that whoever became a clergyman must “ subscribe slave, and take an oatii withal, which unless he took with a con“ science that could not retch, he must straight perjure himself. He thought “ it better to prefer a blameless silence hefore the office of speaking, bonght “ and begun with servitude and forswearing,"
These expressions are, I find, applied to the subscription of the Articles; but it seems more probable that they relate to canonical obedience. I know not any of the Articles which seem to thwart bis opinions; but the thoughts of Gohedience, thether canonical or civil, raised his indignation.
Pis unwillingness to engage in the ministry, perhaps not yet alvanced to a setted resolution of declining it, appears in a letter to one of his friends, who had reproved his suspended and dilatcry life, which he seems to have imputed to an insatiable curiosity and fantastic luxury of various knowledge. To this he writes a cool and plausible answer, in which he endeavours to persuade him that the delay proceeds not from the delights of desaltory study, but from the desire of obtaining more fitness for his task; and that he goes on, not taking thought of being late, so it give advantage to be more fit. - When he left the university, he returned to his father, then residing at Horton in Buckinghamshire, with whom he lived five years ;, in which time he is said to have read all the Greek and Latin writers. With what limitations this universality is to be understood, who shall inforin us?
It might be supposed, that he who read so much should have done nothing else ; but Milton found time to write the Masque of Comus, which was presented at Ludlow, then the residence of the Lord President of Wales, in 1634; and had the lionour of being acted by the Earl of Bridgewater's sons and daughter. The fiction is derived from Homer's Circe * ; but we never can refuse to any modern the liberty of borrowing from Homer :
It has nevertheless its foundation in reality. The earl of Bridgewater being president of Wales in the year 1634, had liis residence at Ludlow.castle in Shropshire, at which time lord Brackly and Mr. Egerton his sons, and lady Alice Egerton his daughter, passing through a place called the Hay.wood Forest, or Haywood in Herefordshire, were benighted, and the lasly for a short time'lost: this accident being related to their father upon their arrival at his casile, Milton, at the request of his friend Henry Lawes, who taught music in the family, wrote this masque. Lawes set it to music, and it was acted on Michaelmas night; the two brothers, the young lady, and Lawes himself, beaning each a part in the representation,
The laily Alice Egerton became afterwards the wise of the earl of Carbury, who at his seat called Golden-grove, in Caernarthenshire, harboured Dr. Jeremy Taylor in the time of the Usurpation. Among the doctor's sermons is one on her death, in which her character is finely pourtrayed. Her sister, lady Mary, was given in marriage to lord Ile:bert of Cherbury.
a quo ceu fonte perenni
Vatum Pieriis ora rigantur aquis. His next production was Lycidas, an elegy, written in 1637, on the death of Mr. King, the son of Sir John King, secretary for Ireland in tlie time of. Elizaberh, James and Charles. King was much a favourite at Cambridge, and many of the wits joined to do honour to his memory. Milton's acquaintance with the Italian writers may be discovered by a mixture of longer and shorter verses, according to the rules of Tofan poetry, and liis malignity to the Church, by fome lines which are interpreted as threatening its extermination.
he is supposed about this time to have written his Arcades; for while he lived at Horton lie used sometimes to steal from his studies a few cays, which he srent at Harefield, the house of the countess dowager of Derby, where the Arcades . made part of a dramarick entertainment.
He began now to grow weary of the country; and had some purpose of taking chambers in the Inns of Court, when the death of his mother set him at liberty to travel, for which le obtained his father's consent, and Sir Henry Wotton's directions, with the celebrated precept of prudence, i porusier i stretti, ed il viso sciolto; “ thoughts close, and looks loose.”
In 1638 be left England, and went fift to Paris; wh re, by the favour of Lord Scudamorc, he had the opportupity of visiting Grotius, then residing at the French couit as ambassador from Christina of Sweden. From laris le lasted into Italy, of which he bad with particular diligence studied the language and literature: and though he seems to have intended a very quick perambulation of the country, staid two months at Tiosence; where he found his way into the acaderies, and produced his compositions with such applause as appear to have exalted him in his own opinion, and confirmed him in the hope, that, “ by labour " and intense study, which," says he, “ I take to be my portion in this life,
joined with a strong propensity of nature," he might'" leave something so " written to afcrtimes, as they should not willingly let it dic."
It appears, in all his writings, that hic liad the usual concomitant of great abilities, a lofty and steady confidence in himself, perhaps not without some contempt of others; for scarcely any man ever wiote so much, and praised so few, Orlis praise lie was very frugal; as be set its value high, and considered his mention of a name as a security against the waste of time, and a certain preervation from oblivion.
At Fisrence he could not indeed complain :fiat liis merit wanted distinction. Carlo Datinjau sented ljm with an encomiastic inscription, in the tumii la barv style; and ironcini wrote him an ode, of which the first stanza is only emriy
Norwithstanding Dr. Johnson's assertion, that the fiction is derived from Homer's Circe, je may be conjeciured that it was rather taken from the Comus of Erycius Puteanus, in which, inder the fiction of a dieam, the characters of Comus and his attendants are delineated, and the delights of sensualists exprsed and reprobated. This little tract was published at Louvain in 1611, and alierwards at Oxford in 1634, the very year in which Agilton's Comus was wrirten. H. Milicnevideri'y was indebied to inc Wilsis Teie of George Pecls for the plan of Comus. E. Il 2
noise; the rest are perhaps too diffuse on common topicks; but the lat is natural and beautiful,
From Florence he went to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he was again received with kindness by the Learned and the Great. Holstenius, the keeper of the Vatican library, who had resided three years at Oxford, introduced him to Cardinal Barberini: and be, at a musical entertainment, waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into the assembly. Here Selvaggi praised him in a distich, and Salsilli in a tetrastich: neither of them of much yalue. The Italians were gainers by this literary commerce ; for the encomiums with which Milton repaid Salsilli, though not secure against a stern granmarian, turn the balance indisputably in Milton's favour.
Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud enough to publish thein before his poems; though he says, he cannot be suspected but to have known that they were said non tam de se, quam sutra se.
At Rome, as at Florence, he staid only two months; a time indeed sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer of its an antiquities, or to view palaces and count pictures; but certainly too short for the contemplation of learning, policy, or manners.
From Rome he passed on to Naples, in company of a hermit; a companion from whom little could be expected, yet to him Milton owed his introduction to Manso marquis of Villa, who had before been the patron of Taffo. Manso was enough delighted with his accomplishments to honour him with a sorry distich, in which he commends him for every thing but his religion ; and Milton, in return, addressed him in a Latin poem, which must have raised an high opinion of English elegance and literature.
His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and Greece ; but, hearing of the differences between the king and parliament, he thought it proper to hasten home, rather than pass his life in foreign amusements while his countrymen were contending for their rights. He therefore came back to Rome, though the merchants informed him of plots laid against him by the Jesuits, for the liberty of his conversations on religion. He had sense enough to judge that there was no danger, and therefore kept on his way, and acted as before, neither obtruding nor shunning controversy. He had perhaps given some offence by visiting GaJileo, then a prisoner in the inquisition for philosophical heresy; and at Naples he was told by Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, be had excluded himself from some distinctions which he should otherwise have paid pim. But such conduct, though it did not please, was yet suficiently safe, and Milton staid two months more at Rome, and went on to Florence without molestation.
From Florence he visited Lucca. He afterwards went to Venice; and having sent away a collection of music and other books, travelled to Genera, which he probably considered as the metropolis of orthodoxy.
Here he reposed, as in a congenial element, and became acquainted with John Diodati and Frederick Spanheim, two learned professors of Divinity. From Geneva se passed through France; and came horde, after an absence of a year and thixee months.