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The LIFE of MILTON.
HE family of Milton came originally from Milton near Halton and Thame, Oxfordshire; where it flourished several years, till at last the estate was fequestered, one of the family having taken the unfortunate fide in the civil wars between the houfes of York and Lancafler. 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 fuch a bigot, that he difinherited his fon only for being a Proteftant. Upon this the fon, our Poet's father, named likewife John Milton, fettled in London, and became a fcrivener. He had a tafte for the politer arts, and was particularly skilled in mufic, in which he was a fine performer; and is alfo celebrated for feveral pieces of his compofition. By his diligence and economy he acquired a competent eftate, which enabled him afterwards 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 fons and a daughter.
The elder of the fons was our famous poet, who was born in Breadstreet, London, Dec. 9. 1698. He was named John, as his father and grandfather had been before him. From the beginning difcovering the marks of an uncommon genius, he was defigned for a scholar, and had his education partly under private tutors, and partly at a public fchool. When he had made good progrefs in his ftudies at home, he was fent to St. Paul's fchool, to be fitted for the univerfity. In this early time of life, fuch was his love of learning, and fo great his ambition to furpafs his equals, that from his twelfth year he commonly continued his ftudies till midnight, which (as he fays himself) was the first ruin of his eyes. to whofe natu ral debility were added too frequent headachs: But
all could not extinguifh or abate his laudable paffion for letters. It is very feldom feen, that fuch applica tion and fuch a genius meet in the fame perfon. The force of either is great, but both together must perform wonders.
He was now in the 17th year of his age, and was a very good claffical fcholar, and mafter of several languages, when he was fent to the university of Cam bridge, and admitted at Chrift's College Feb. & 2.1 1624-5. He continued above seven years at the univerfity, and took two degrees, that of Bachelor of Arts in 1628-, and that of Matter 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 diftinguished himself by feveral copies of verfes upon occafional subjects, as well as by all his academical exercises, many of which are printed among his other works, and fhow him to have had a capacity above his years; and by his obliging beha-s viour, added to his great learning and ingenuity, he defervedly gained the affection of many, and admira tion of all. He did not however obtain any preferment in the univerfity. This, together with fome Latin verfes of his to a friend, reflecting upon the u niversity seemingly on this account, might probably have given occafion to the reproach afterwards cait upon him by his adverfaries, that he was expelled from the univerfity for irregularities, and forced to fly to Italy. But he fufficiently refutes this calumny in more places than one of his works. And indeed it is no wonder that a perfon, fo engaged in religious and political controverfies as he was, thould be calumniated by the contrary party.
He was defigned by his parents for holy orders; but it appears, that he had conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and difcipline of the church; and fubfcribing to the articles was, in his opinion, subfcribing flave. This no doubt was a difappointment to his friends, who, though in comfortable, were yet by no means in great circumftances. Neither doth he feer to have had any inclination to any other profeffion:
feffion: He had too free a fpirit to be limited and confined, and was for comprehending all feiences, bat profeffing 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 eftate which he had purchased at Horton, 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 excurfionto London; fometimes to buy books, or to meet his friends from Cambridge; and at other times to learn fomething new in the mathematics or mufic, with which he was extremely delighted.
His retirement therefore was a learned retirement; and it was not long before the world reaped the fruits of it. His Mafque was prefented at Ludlow-castle in 1634. There was formerly a prefident of Wales, and a fort of court kept at Ludlow, which has fince been abolished. The prefident at that time was the Earl of Bridgewater, before whom Milton's Mafque was prefented on Michaelmas night; and the principal parts, thofe of the two Brothers were performed by his Lordship's fons the Lord Brackly and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and that of the Lady by his Lordship's daughter Lady Alice. The occafion of this poem feemeth to have been merely an accident of the two Brothers and the Lady having loft one another in their way to the castle. It is written very much in imitas tion of Shakespear's Tempeft, and the Faithful Shepherdefs of Beaumont and Fletcher; and, though one of the first, is yet one of the most beautiful of Milton's compofitions. It was for fome time banded about only in manufcript; but afterwards, to fatisfy the im portunity of friends, and to fave 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 compofed the mufic, and played the part of the Attendant Spirit. It was printed likewife at Oxford, at the end of Mr. R.'s poems; but who that. Mr. R. was, whether Ran
dolph the poet, or who elfe, is uncertain. It has lately, though with additions and alterations, been exhibited on the ftage 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 with, 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 Chefter. This friend was Mr. Edward King, fon of Sir John King, fecretary of Ireland, and a fellow of Christ's College. He was fo well beloved and esteemed at Cambridge, that fome of the greatest names in the univerfity have united in celebrating his obfequies, 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. Pearfon, &c.; the English by H King, J. Beaumont, J. Cleaveland, with feveral others; and judiciously the last of all, as the best of all, is Milton's Lycidas., "On fuch facrifices the gods themselves "ftrow incenfe;" and one would almost with so to have died for the fake of having been fo lamented. But this poem is not all made up of forrow and tenderness; there is a mixture of fatire and indignation; for in part of it the poet taketh occafion to inveigh against the corruptions of the clergy, and feemeth to. have first discovered his acrimony against Abp. Laud, and to have threatened him with the lofs of his head, which afterwards happened to him through the fury of his enemies. At least, I can think of no sense so 'proper to be given to the following verfes in Lycidas.
Befides what the grim wolf with privy paw
About this time he had fome thoughts of taking chambers at one of the inns of court, for he was not
very well pleased with living fo obfcurely in the country; but, his mother dying, he prevailed with his father to let him indulge a defire, which he had long entertained, of feeing foreign countries, and particu Jarly Italy. Having communicated his defign to Sir Henry Wotton, who had formerly been ambasador at Venice, and was then provoft of Eton College, and having alfo fent him his Mafque, of which he had not yet publicly acknowledged himfelf the author, he received from him the following friendly letter, da ted, From the College, the 13th of April 1638.
was a fpecial 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 truth, if I could then have imagined your farther ftay in thefe parts, which I understood afterwards by Mr. HI 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 converfation again, jointly with your faid learned friend, at a poor meal or two, that we might have banded together fome good authors of the ancient time; among which obferved you to have been familiar.
Since your going, you have charged me with new pbligations both for a very kind letter from you, dated the fixth of this month, and for a dainty piece of entertainment that came therewith; wherein I should much commend the tragical part, if the lyrical did not ravish me with a certain Doric delicacy in your fongs and odes, whereunto I must plainly confefs to have feen yet nothing parallel in our language, infa mallities. But I must not omit to tell you, that I now only owe you thanks for intimating unto me (how modely foever) the true artificer: for the work its felt I had viewed fome good while before with fingu. lar delight, having received it from our common