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"ROM a family and town of his name in Oxford
shire our Author derived his defcent; 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 hath assigned ; and for the same reason which prevailed with him to as
His father John Milton, by profession a scrie vener, lived in a reputable manner on a competenc estate, entirely his own acquisition, having been early dinherited by his parents for renouncing the communion of the church of Rome, to which they were zealoudy devoted. By his wife Sarah Cafton 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. a 2
* Mr. Toland,
by too easy a compliance with the doctrines of the court, both religious and civil, he attained to the dignity of being made a judge of the common pleas; of which he died divested not long after the Revolution.
But John, the subject of the present effay, was the favourite of his father's hopes, who, to cultivate the great genius which early displayed itself, was at the expence of a domestic tutor ; whose care and capacity
his pupil hath grateíully celebrated in An. ætat. 12.
an excellent Latin elegy t. 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 light.
From a domestic education he was removed to St. Paul's school, to complete his acquaintance with the classics under the care of Dr. Gill; and af
ter a short stay there, was transplante An. ætat. 1S
ed 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 An. atat. 23.
to his father, who had quitted the town, and lived at Horton in Buckinghamshire, where he pursued his studies with unparalleled alsiduity and fuccefs.
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 entertained of
seeing * Sce the fourth in his collection of poems.
feeing foreign countries.
An. ætat. 30. Wotton, at that time provost of Eaton college, gave him a letter of advice for the direction of his travels ; but by not observing an excellent maxim in it *, he incurred great danger, by disputing against the superstition of the church of Rome, with in the
verge of the vatican. Having employed his. curiosity about two years + 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 Grotius, who, at that time, was honoured with the fame character there by Christina queen of Sweden. In Rome, Genoa, Florence, and other cities of Italy, he contracted as familiarity with those who were 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 art of them was written by Manso marquis of Villa, a great patron of Taffo, by whom he is celebrated in his poem on the Conquest of Jerusalem H.. It is highly probable that to his conversation with this noble Neapolitan we owe the first defign which MILTON conceived, of writing an epic poem ; and it appears a 3
I pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto.
Et totidem flavas numerabant horrea messes ---
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 An. atat.
England on the point of being in. volved in blood and confusion. 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 pater. nal authority, that he retired to lodgings provided for him in the city ; which being commodious for the reception of his lifter's fons, 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 till the year 1643 ; when he An. ætat. 35.
married Mary, the daughter of Richard Powell of Forest-hill in Oxfordfhire, a gentleman of estate and reputation in that county, and of principles so very opposite to his son-in-law, that the marriage is more to be wondered at than the separation which ensued, in little more than a month after she had cohabited with him in London. Her desertion provoko ed him both to write several treatises concerning the doctrine and discipline of divorce, and also to make his addreffes to a young lady of great wit and beauty ; but before he had engaged her affections to conclude the marriage treaty, in a viGt at one of his relations he found his wife proftrate before him, imploring forgiveness and reconciliation. It is not to be doubted but an interview of that nature, so little expected,