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The LIFE of MILTON.
HE family of Milton came originally from
Milton near Halton and Thame, Oxfordshire ; wbere it flourished several years, till at last the estate was sequestered, one of the family having taken the unfortunate fide in the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaller. John Milton, the poet's grandfather, was an under-ranger or keeper of the forest of Shotover near Halton, Oxfordshire. He was of the religion of Rome, and such a bigot, that he disinherited his son only for being a Protestant. Upon this the son, our Poet's father, named likewife John Milton, settled in London, and became a scrivener. He had a taste for the politer arts, and was particularly skilled in music, in which he was a fine performer; and is also celebrated for several pieces of his composition. By his diligence and economy he acquired a competent estate, which enabled him af. terwards to retire, and live in the country. He was a very worthy man; and married Sarah Cafton, of a family originally derived from Wales. She was a woman of incomparable virtue and goodness, and by her husband had two sons and a daughter.
The elder of the fons was our famous poet, who was born in Breadstreet, London, Dec. 9. 1608. He was named John, as his father and grandfather had been before him. From the beginning discovering the marks of an uncommon genius, he was designed for a feholar, and had his education partly under pripate tutors, and partly at a public school. When he had made good progress in his studies at home, he was fent to St. Paul's fchool, to be fitted for the univerfity. In this early time of life, such was his love of. learning, and so great his ambition to surpass his equals, that from his twelfth year he commonly continued his studies till midnight, which (as he says himself) was the first ruin of his eyes. to whose natusal debility were added too frequent headachs: But
all could not extinguish or abate his laudable paflion for letters. It is very feldon feen, that such applica. rion and such a genius nieet in the same perfon. The force of either is great, but both together inuft perform wonders. 5
He was now in the 19th year of his age, and was a very good classical scholar, and master of severab Janguages, when he was sent to the university of Cam, bridge, and admitted at Christ's College Feb. 2. 3624-5. He continued above seven years at the university, and took two degrees, that of Baclictor of Arts in 1828-43, and that of Maier in 1632. He had given early proofs of his poetic genius before he went to the university; and there he excelled more and more, and distinguished himself by several copies of verses upon occasional subjects, as well as by all his academical exercises, many of which are printed ainong his other works, and show him to have had a capacity above his years; and by his obliging behaviour; added to his great learning and ingenuity, he deservedly gained the affe&ion of many, and admira. tion of all. He did not however obtain any prefero ment in the university. This, together with fome. Latin verses of his to a friend, reflecting upon the university seemingly' on this account, might probably have given occasion to the reproach afterwards.cat upon him by his adversaries, that he was expelled from the university for irregularities, and forced to fly to Italy. But he sufficiently refutes this calumny in more places than one of his works. And indeed it is no wonder that a person, fo engaged in religious and political controverfis as he was, thould be cabumniated by the contrary party. ".
He was designed by his parents for holy orders; but it appears, that he Kad conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the church; and fubfcribing to the artictes was, in his opinion, fube fcribing flave. This no doubt was a disappointmeno to his friends, whe, though in comfortable, were yet by no means in great circumstances. Neither doch he feere to have had apy inclination to any other pro
feßion: He had too free a fpirit to be limited and confined, and was for comprehending all seiences, bnt profesling none. Therefore, after he had left the univerfity in 1632, he went to his father's house in the country; for his father had by this time retired to live at an estate which he had purchaied at Hore ton, near Colebrooke, Buckinghamshire. Here he refided with his parents for five years, and read over all the Greek and Latin authors, particularly the hiftorians. But now and then he made an excursion to London ; fometimes to buy books, or to meet bis friends from Cambridge; and at other times to learn something new in the mathematics or wusic, with which he was extremely deliglited.
His retirement therefore was a learned retirement; and it was not long before the world reaped the fruits of it. His Masque was presented at Ludlow-castle in 1634. There was formerly a pielident of Wales, and 2 fort of court kept at Ludlow, which has since been abolished. The president at that time was the Earl of Bridgewater, before whom Milton's Mafque was presented on Michaelmas night ; and the principal parts, thofe of the two Brothers were performed by his Lordship's sons the Lord Brackly and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and that of the Lady by his Lordship's daughter Lady Alice. The occafion of this poem seemeth to have been merely an accident of the two · Brothers and the Lady having lost one another in their way to the castle. It is written very much in imita tion of Shakespear's Tempest, and the Faithful Shep. herdefs of Beaumont and Fletcher; and, though one, of the first, is yet one of the moft beautiful of Milton's compositions. It was for some time banded abont ons ly in manuscript ; but afterwards, to satisfy the im, portunity of friends, and to save the trouble of tranfcribing, it was printed at London, though without the author's name, in 1637, with a dedication to the Lord Brackly, by Mr. H. Lawes, who composed the music, and played the part of the Attendant Spirit. It was printed likewise at Oxford, at the end of Mr. R.'s poems ;. but who that. Mr. R. was, whether Rag,
dolph the poet, or who else, is uncertain. It has lately, though with additions and alterations, been exhibited on the stage feveral times; and we hope the fine poetry and morality have recommended it to the audience, and not barely the authority of Milton's name; and we wish, for the honour of the nation, that the like good taste prevailed in every thing.
In 1637 he wrote another excellent piece, his Lycidas; wherein he laments the untimely fate of a friend, who was drowned on the Irish feas in his paffage from Chester. This friend was Mr. Edward King, son of Sir John King, secretary of Ireland, and a fellow of Christ's College. He was so well beloved and elteemed at Cambridge, that fome of the greatest names in the university have united in celebrating his obsequies, and published a collection of poems, Greek, Latin, and English, sacred to his memory; the Greek by H. More, &c. ; the Latin by T Farnaby, J. Pearson, &c.; the English by H King, J. Beaumont, J. Cleaveland, with several others; and judiciously the last of all, as the best of all, is Milton's Lycidas. , “ On fuch facrifices the gods themselves "* ftrow incense;" and one would almost with so to have died for the sake of having been so lamented. But this poem is not all made up of forrow and tenderness; there is a mixture of satire and indignation; for in part of it the poet taketh occasion to inveigh against the corruptions of the clergy, and seemeth to . have first discovered his acrimony against Abp. Laud, and to have threatened him with the loss of his head, which afterwards happened to him through the fury of his enemies. At least, I can think of no sense lo proper to be given to the following verses in Lycidas.
Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
About this time he had some thoughts of taking chambers at one of the inns, of court, for he was not
very well pleased with liviog ro obfçurely in the counfry; but, his mother dying, he prevailed with his father to let him indulge a delire, which he had long entertained, of secing foreign countries, and particu. Jarly Italy. Having communicated his design to Sir Henry Wotton, who had formerly been ambassador at Venice, and was then provost of Eton College, and having also fent him his Maique, of which he had Det yet publicly acknowledged himself the author, he received from him the following friendly letter, dated, From the College, the 13th of April 1638.
was a special favour, 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 truih, if I could then have imagined your farther Gay 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 w might have banded together fome good authors of the ancient time; among which observed you to have been familiar..
Since your going, you have charged me with new obligations both for a very kind letter from you, da. ted, the fixth of this month, and for a dainty piece of entertainment that came there with ; wherein I should much commend the tragical part, if the lyrical did Dot ravish me with a certain Doric delicacy in your songs and odes; whereunto I must plainly confess to have seen yet nothing parallel in our language, ipfa :30!lities. But I mult isot omit to tell you, that I now only owe you thanks for intimating unto me (how modely foever) the true artificer: for the work it: felt I had viewed some good while before with fingu: lar delight, having regeived it from our common