« PreviousContinue »
by one of fuch quality and eminence, as the Marquis of Villa; and, as a teftimony of his gratitude, he prefented to the Marquis, at his departure from Naples, his eclogue, intitled Manfus, which is well worth reading among his Latin poems. So that it may reckoned a peculiar felicity of the Marquis of Villa's life, to have been celebrated both by Taffo and Milton, the one the greatest modern poet of his own, and the other the greatest of foreign nations.
Having feen the finest parts of Italy, Milton was now thinking of paffing over into Sicily and Greece, when he was diverted from his purpofe by the news from England, that things were tending to a civil war between the King and parliament; for he thought. it unworthy of himfelf to be taking his pleafure a-broad, while his countrymen were contending for liberty at home. He refolved therefore to return by the way of Rome, though he was advised to the contrary by the merchants, who had received intelligencefrom their correfpondents, that the English Jefuits there were forming plots against him, in cafe he should return thither, by reafon of the great freedom which he had used in all his difcourfes of religion. had by no means obferved the rule recommended to him by Sir Henry Wotton, of keeping his thoughts clofe and his countenance open. He had visited Ga lileo, a prifoner to the inquifition, for afferting the motion of the earth, and thinking otherwise in aftronomy than the Dominicans and Franciscans thought: And though the Marquis of Villa had fhown him fuch diftinguifhing marks of favour at Naples, yet he told him at his departure, that he would have shown him much greater, if he had been more reserved in matters of religion. But he had a foul above diffimulation and difguife; he was neither afraid nor afhamed to vindicate the truth; and if any man had, he had in him the fpirit of an old martyr. He was fo prudent indeed, that he would not of his own accord begin any difcourfe of religion; but at the fame time he was fo honeft, that if he was queftioned at all about his faith, he would not diffemble his fentiments, whatever
was the confequence. With this refolution he went to Rome the fecond time, and staid there two months more, neither concealing his name, nor declining o. penly to defend the truth, if any thought proper to attack him. And yet, God's good providence protecting him, he came fafe to his kind friends at Florence; where he was received with as much joy and affection, as if he had returned into his own country.
Here likewise he staid two months, as he had done before, excepting only an excurfion of a few days to Lucca. From thence, crofling the Apennine, and paffing through Bologna and Ferrara, he went to Venice, in which city he spent a month; and having hipped off the books which he had collected in his travels, and particularly a chest or two of choice mufic books of the best masters flourishing at that time in Italy, he took his course through Verona, Milan, and along the lake Leman, to Geneva. In this city he tarried fome time, meeting here with people of his own principles; and contracted an intimate frendship with Giovanni Diodati, the most learned profeffor of divinity, whofe annotations upon the Bible are publifhed in English. From thence returning through France, the fame way that he had gone before, he arrived fafe in England, after a peregrination of one year and about three months; having feen more, and learned more, and converfed with more famous men, and made more real improvements, than most others in double the time.
His first business after his return was to pay his duty to his father, and to vifit his other friends. But this pleafure was much diminished by the lofs of his dear friend and fchool-fellow Charles Diodati in his abfence. While he was abroad, he heard it reported that he was dead; and upon his coming home he found it but too true, and lamented his death in an excellent Latin eclogue, intitled, Epitaphium Damonis. This Diodati had a father originally of Lucca; but his mother was English. He was born and bred in England, ftudied phyfic, was an admirable fcholar, and no lefs remarkable for his fobriety and other
other virtues, than for his great learning and ingenuity. One or two of Milton's familiar epiftles are addressed to him; and Mr. Toland fays, that he had in his hands two Greek letters of Diodati to Milton, very handsomely written. It may be right for fcholars now and then to exercise themselves in Greek and Latin; but we have much more frequent occafion to write letters in our own native language, and in that therefore we should principally endeavour to excel.
Milton, after his return, had taken a private lodging in St. Bride's church-yard; but foon after removed to a handsome garden-house in Alderfgateftreet, fituated at the end of an entry, which was the more agreeable to a ftudious man for its privacy, and freedom from noise and disturbance. In this house he continued several years. His fifter's two fons were put to board with him, first the younger, and afterwards the elder. Some other of his intimate friends requested of him the fame favour for their fons, especially fince there was little more trouble in instructing half a dozen than two or three: And he, who could not easily deny any thing to his friends, and who knew that the greateft men in all ages had delighted in teaching others the principles of knowledge and virtue, undertook the office; not out of any fordid and mercenary views, but merely from a benevolent difpofition, and a defire to do good. His method of education was as much above the pedantry and jargon of the common fchools, as his genius was fuperior to that of a common schoolmaster. One of his nephews has given us an account of the many authors, both Latin and Greek, which, (besides those usually read in the fchools), through his excellent judgment and way of teaching, were run over within no greater compass of time, than from ten to fifteen or fixteen years of age. Of the Latin, the four authors concerning husbandry, Cato, Varro, Columella, and Palladius; alfo Cornelius Celfus the phyfician, a great part of Pliny's natural history, the Architecture of Vitruvius, the Stratagems of Frontinus, and the phi. lofophical poets Lucretius and Manilius. Of the
Greek, Hefiod, Aratus's Phenomena and Diofemeia, Dionyfius Afer de fitu orbis, Oppian's Cynegetics and Halieutics, Quintus Calaber's poem of the Trojan war continued from Homer, Apollonius Rhodius's Argonautics; and in profe Plutarch's Placita philofophorum, and of the education of children, Xenophon's Cyropædia and Anabafis, Elian's Tactics, and the Stratagems of Polyænus. Nor did this application to the Greek and Latin tongues hinder the attaining to the chief oriental languages, the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac, fo far as to go through the Pentateuch, or five books of Mofes, in Hebrew; to make a good entrance into the Targum or Chaldee paraphrafe, and to understand feveral chapters of St. Matthew in the Syriac Tefiament; befides the modern languages, Italian and French, and a competent knowledge of the mathematics and aftronomy. The Sunday's exercife for his pupils was for the most part to read a chapter of the Greek Teftament, and to hear his learned expofition of it. The next work after this was, to write from his dictation fome part of a fyftem of divinity, which he had collected from the ableft divines, who had written upon that fubject. Such were his academic inftitutions: And thus, by teaching others, he in fome meafure enlarged his own knowledge; and having the reading of fo many au thors as it were by proxy, he might poffibly have preferved his fight, if he had not moreover been perpetually bufied in reading or writing fomething himfelf. It was certainly a very reclufe and ftudious life that both he and his pupils led: But the young men of that age were of a different turn from those of the prefent; and he himself gave an example to thofe under him of hard study and spare diet; only now and then, once in three weeks or a month, he made a gaudy day with fome young gentlemen of his acquaintance; the chief of whom, fays Mr. Philips, were Mr. Alphry and Mr. Miller, both of Gray's-inn, and two of the greatest beaus of those times.
But he was not so fond of this academical life, as to be an indifferent fpectator of what was acted upon
the public ftage of the world. The nation was now in a great ferment in 1641, and the elamour run high against the Bishops; when he joined loudly in the cry, to help the Puritan ministers, (as he fays himfelf), they being inferior to the Bishops in learning and eloquence; and published his two books, Of reformation in England, written to a friend. About the fame time certain minifters having published a treatise against Episcopacy, in anfwer to the humble remonftrance of Dr. Jofeph Hall Bifhop of Norwich, under the title of Smedtymnuus, a word confifting of the initial letters of their names, Stephen Marthal, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurftow; and Abp. Ufher having published at Oxford a refutation of Smectymnuus, in a tract concerning the original of bifhops and metropolitans; Milton wrote his little piece, Of Prelatical Epifcopacy, in oppofition chiefly to Uther; for he was for contending with the most powerful adverfary; there would be either lefs difgrace in the defeat, or more glory in the victory. He handled the fubject more at large in his next performance; which was, The reafon of church-government urged against Prelaty, in two books. And Bp. Hall having published a defence of the humble remonftrance, he wrote animadverfions upon it. All these treatifes he published within the course of one year, 1641; which show how very diligent he was in the caufe that he had undertaken. And the next year he fet forth his Apology for Smectymnuus, in answer to the confutation of his ani madverfions, written, as he thought himself, by Bp. Hall or his fon. And here very luckily ended a controverfy, which detained him from greater and better writings which he was meditating, more ufeful to the public, as well as more fuitable to his own genius and inclination: But he thought all this while that he was vindicating ecclefiaftical liberty.
In the year 1643, and the 35th of his age, he married Mary the eldest daughter of Mr. Richard Powel, of Forefthill, near Shotover, Oxfordfhire, a juftice of the peace, and a gentleman of good repute and figure