Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

L I F

F E

OF

Mr. JOHN MILTON.

ROM a family, and town of his name in Oxfordsire, our Author deriv'd 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 muft 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 hath asfgn'd; and for the fame Reafon which prevail'd with him to assign it. His father, John Milton, by profession a scrivener, liv'd in a reputable manner on a competent estate,

entirely his own acquisition; having been early difinherited by his parents for renouncing the communion of the Church of Rome, to which they were zealously devoted. By his wife Sarah Caston he had likewise one daughter, nam’d Anna; and another fon, Christopher, whom he traind to the practice of the Common Law; who in the Great Rebellion adher'd 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 attain'd to the dignity of being made a Judge of the Common Pleas; of which he dy'd devested 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 early display'd itself, was at the expense of a domestic Tutor: whose care and capacity his Pupil hath gratefully celebrated in an excellent Latin Elegy; the fourth in the pre

fent collection. At his initiaAn Ætat. 12.

tion He is said to have apply'd

himself to Letters with such indefatigable induftry, that he rarely was prevaild with to quit his studies before mid. night: which not only made him frequently fubject to severe pains in his head; but like

1

wife occafion'd that weakness in his eyes, which terminated in a total privation of fight. From a domestic education He was remov'd to St. Paul's School, to complete his acquaintance with the Classics under the care of. Dr. Gill: and after a short stay there, was transplanted to Christ's College in Cambridge, where He diftin- An. Ætat. 15. guith'd himself in all kinds of Academical Exercises. Of this Society He continued a Member 'till He commenc'd Master of Arts: and then leaving the University, He return'd to his father; who had quitted the town, and liv'd at Horton in Buckinghamshire; An. Ætat. 23. . where He pursu'd his studies with unparallel'd assiduity and success.

After some years spent in this studious retirement, his mother dy'd: and then he prevail'd with his father to gratify an inclination He had long entertain’d of seeing foreign countries. Sir Henry Wotton, at that time Provost of Eaton College, gave him a letter of advice for the An, Ætat. 30. direction of his travels : but by not observing * an excellent Maxim in it, He incur'd great danger by disputing against

* I pensieri Aretti, ed il viso sciolto.

the fuperftition of the Church of Rome, with. in the verge of the Vatican. Having employ'd his curiosity about t two years in France and Italy, on the news of a civil war breaking out in England, He return'd; without taking a survey of Greece and Sicily, as at his setting out the scheme was projected. | At Paris the Lord Viscount Scudamore, Am, bassador from King Charles I. at the Court of France, introduc'd him to the acquaintance of Grotius; who at that time was ho. nor'd with the same character there by Christina Queen of Sweden. In Rome, Ges noa, Florence, and other cities of Italy, He contracted a familiarity with those who were of highest reputation for wit and learning : several of whom gave him very obliging teftimonies 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 Tufo, by whom he is celebrated in his * Poem on

t Et jam bis viridi furgebat culmus aritá,
Et totidem flavas numerabant horrea meses,
Nec dum aderat Thyrsis : paftorem fcilicet illum
Dulcis amor. Mufæ Thufcâ retinebat in urbe.

Epitaph, Dam,
I Defer fro Secunda. Pag. 96. Fol.
* Fra Cavalier' magnanimi, e cortesi,

Resplende il Manso, ---- Lib. 20,

the Conquest of Jerusalem. It is highly probable that to his conversation with this noble Neapolitan we owe the first design which MILTON conceiv'd of writing an Epic Poem: and it appears by some Latin verses address'd to the Marquis with the title of Manfus, that He intended to fix on King Arthur for his heroe: but Artbur was reserv'd to another destiny !

Returning from his travels An. Ætat. 32. He found England on the point of being involv'd in blood and confusion. It seems wonderful that one of so warm, and daring a spirit, as his certainly was, shou'd be restrain'd 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 lodg. ings provided for him in the city: which being commodious for the reception of his fifter's sons, and some other young Gentlemen, He undertook their education: and is said to have form'd them on the same plan which He afterwards publish'd, in a fhort tractate inscrib'd to his friend Mr. Hartlib.

In this philosophical course He continued without a wife to the year 1643 ; when He marry'd Mary the Daughter of Richard Powell of Foreft-bill An. Esat. 35,

« PreviousContinue »