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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 Proteftant. Upon this the fon, our Poet's father, named likewife John Milton, fettled 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 afterwards to retire, and live in the country. He was a very worthy man; and married Sarah Carton, 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 sons 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 scholar, and had his education partly under private tutors, and partly at a public school. When he had made good progress in his studies at home, be was fent to St. Paul's fchool, to be fitted for the university. 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 lays himself) was the first ruin of his eyes. to whose natusal debility were added too frequent headachs: But A 2
alt could not extinguish or abate his laudable paffion for letters. It is very feldom seen, that such applica. rion 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 19th year of bis age, and was a very good classical scholar, and master of severab languages, when he was fent to the university of Cam. bridge, and admitted at Christ's College Feb. 2. 1024-5. He continued above feven years at the uni. verfity, and took two degrees, that of Baclictor of Arts in 1828-), 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 affeâion of many, and admira.. tion of all. He did not however obtain any prefer 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 fy 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 controverfies as he was, thould be catumniated by the contrary party.'". * He was designed by his parents for holy orders; but it appears, that he had conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the church; and fubfcribing to the articles was, in his opinion, fub fcribing flave. This no doubt was a disappointmeno to his'friends, who, though in comfortable, were yet by no means in great circumstances : Neither doth he feere to have had any inclination to any other pro
fefion: He had too free a spirit to be limited and confined, and was for comprehending all sciences, bat 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 purchased at Horet ton, near Colebrooke, Buckinghamshire. Here he refided with his parents for five years, and read over all the Greek and Latin authors, particularly the Historians. But now and then he made an excurfionto London ; sometimes to buy books, or to meet his friends from Cambridge; and at other times to learn something new in the mathematics or wusic, with which he was extremely delig lited.
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 pi eficient of Wales, and a 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 fons the Lord Brackly and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and that of the Lady by his Lordship's daughter Lady Alice. The occasion 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 imitation 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 compofitions. It was for some time banded about ons ly in manuscript; but afterwards, to satisfy the importunity 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 kas printed likewise at Oxford, at the end of Mr. K.'s poems ; but who that. Mr. R. was, whether Ran,
dolph the poet, or who effe, 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, fon of Sir John King, secretary of Ireland, and a fellow of Christ's College. He was so well beloved and esteemed at Cambridge, that fome of the greatest names in the university 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. 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
. " Itrow 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 hin through the fury of his enemies. At least, I can think of no sense so proper to be given to the following verses in Lycidas.
Besides what the grin 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
sery well pleased with liviog fo obfcurely in the country; but, his mother dying, he prevailed with his father to let him indulge a delire, which he had long. entertained, of feeing foreign countries and particu larly Italy. Having communicated his design to Sir Henry Wotton, who had formerly been ambasador at Venice, and was then provost of Eton College, and having also fent him his Maique, of which he had Dot yet publicly acknowledged hinself the autbor, he received from him the following friendly letter, dated, From the College, the 13th of April 1638. :
SIR, IT. 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 truih, if I could then have imagined your farther kay 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 we migbt have banded together some good authors of the ancient time; among which el observed you to have been familiar. Since your going, you have charged me with new pbligations both for a very kind letter from you, da. ted, the fixth of this month, and for a dainty piece of entertainment that caine therewith ; wherein i fhould much commend the tragical part, if the lyrical did not raxith 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, infa 7:!lities. But I must not omit to tell you, that I now only owe yoù thanks for intimating unto me (how modely foever) the true artificer: for the work it: felt, l had viewed some good while before with fingu:
. lar delight, having received it from our common