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WITH A MEMOIR,
AND CRITICAL REMARKS ON HIS GENIUS AND WRITINGS,
BY JAMES MONTGOMERY;
AND THIRTY-SIX ENGRAVINGS,
FROM DRAWINGS BY WILLIAM HARVEY
PUBLISHED BY S. ANDRUS & SON.
WITH STRICTURES ON HIS GENIUS AND WRITINGS.
LITTLE more than a brief memoir, and a few strictures on the principal poems of the Author of "Paradise Lost," can be attempted here.
JOHN MILTON was born December 6th, 1608, in London. His father was a scrivener in large practice, and his mother a lady from Wales. Of them he has left this testimony in reference to his own origin :-" Born in London, of honourable parentage, my father a man of the highest integrity, my mother of most virtuous character, and especially distinguished throughout the neighbourhood for her charities." His father, besides possessing a fine taste in literature, excelled in music, "equalling in science, if not in genius, the best composers of the age." His talents are gracefully recorded in the Latin verses addressed to him by his greater son, who, in after life, however he may have disappointed certain paternal hopes of his advancement, through the law of the church, abundantly compensated for this by his transcendent excellence in the highest of the polite arts.
Successively, under the roof of his parents, afterwards at St. Paul's School, and in due course at the University
of Cambridge, young Milton received his education, and so profited by his diligence, that he came forth, in the issue, "a ripe scholar and a good one," before he had arrived at his twenty-first year. Through all his writings, whether prose or verse, his learning appears in the array of his thoughts, as well as in their adornment; however original, unborrowed, and independent of precedent or authorities these may have been. His vein for poetry showed itself early; but, till he approached manhood, this was principally exercised in Latin compositions, though occasional experiments in his own tongue strengthened and prepared his style for greater achievements in the sequel. At the age of ten years he was a poet, says Aubrey; and his fond father, to encourage him in "the idle trade" that was to "cross" his own "hopes," employed Cornelius Jansen to paint the portrait of so promising a son, "a half-length, in laced ruffles," at the price of "five broad pieces," no small sum for the honour of the little minstrel.
During this period of his life, and onward, he thus speaks of his studies::- “I must say that, after I had, for my first years, by the ceaseless diligence and care of my father (whom God recompense!) been exercised to the tongues, and some science as my age would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers, both at home and at the schools, it was found that, whether aught was imposed on me by them. that had the overlooking, or betaken to of mine own choice, in English, or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly the latter, the style, by certain vital signs it had, was likely to live. But, much latelier, in the private academies of Italy, whither I was favoured to resort, perceiving that some trifles which I had composed at twenty, or thereabout * * * met with acceptance above what was looked for ;-and other things, which I had shifted (in scarcity of books and conveniences,) to patch up among them, were received with written encomiums, which the