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LIFE AND WRITINGS
From the Birth of Milton to the time of his Marriage. JOHN MILTON, son of John and Sarah Milton, was born on the 9th of December 1608, at the house of his father, who was then an eminent scrivener in London, and lived at the sign of the Spread Eagle (which was the armorial ensign of the family) in Bread-street. The ancestry of the poet was highly respectable. His father was educated as a gentleman, and became a member of Christ-Church, Oxford; in which society, as it may be presumed, he imbibed his attachment to the doctrines of the Reformation, and abjured the errours of Popery; in consequence of which, his father, who was a bigotted papist, dis
a "The xxth daye of December 1608 was baptized John, the sonne of John Mylton, scrivenor." Extract from the Register of Allhallows, Bread-street.
inherited him. The student therefore chose, for his support, the profession already mentioned; in the practice of which he became so successful as to be enabled to give his children the advantages of a polite education, and at length to retire with comfort into the country.
The grandfather of the poet was under-ranger or keeper of the forest of Shotover, near Halton, in Oxfordshire; and probably resided at the village of Milton in that neighbourhood, where the family of Milton, in remoter times, were distinguished for their opulence; till, one of them having taken the unfortunate side in the civil wars of York and Lancaster, the estate was sequestered; and the proprietor was left with nothing but what he held by his wife. There is a tradition that the poet had once resided in this village, while he was Secretary to the Council of State.
In the Registers of Milton, as I have been obligingly informed by letter from the Rev. Mr. Jones, there are however no entries of the name of Milton. Phillips, Milton's nephew, says that the family resided at Milton near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, as appeared by the monuments then to be seen in Milton church. But that Milton is in Berkshire; and Dr. Newton searched in vain for the monuments said to exist in that church. The information of Wood is most probably correct, that they lived at Milton near Halton and Thame. I find in R. Willeii Poematum Liber, 1573, among the Winchester scholars therein named of that period, a John Milton; probably one of this family.
Phillips's Life of Milton, 1694, p. iv.
Communicated to me by letter from Milton.
The mother of Milton is said by Wood, from Aubrey, to have been a Bradshaw; descended from a family of that name in Lancashire. Peck relates, that he was informed she was a
Haughton-tower in the same county.
But Phillips, her grandson, whose authority it is most reasonable to admit, affirms, in his Life of Milton, that she was a Caston, of a genteel family derived originally from Wales. Milton himself has recorded, with becoming reference to the respectability of his descent, the great esteem in which she was held for her virtues, especially her charity.
His father was particularly distinguished for his musical abilities. He is said to have been a voluminous composer, and equal in science, if not in genius, to the best musicians of his age. Sir John Hawkins and Dr. Burney, in their Histories of Musick, have each selected a specimen of his skill. He has been mentioned also by Mr. Warton, as the author of A sixe-fold Politician; together with a sixe-fold precept of Policy. Lond. 1609. But Mr. Hayley agrees with Dr. Farmer and Mr. Reed
e Fasti Ox. vol. i. p. 262, &c. chiefly taken, as Mr. Warton has observed, from Aubrey's manuscript Life of Milton, preserved in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
f Memoirs of Milton, 1740, p. 1.
* Life of Milton, p. v.
“Londini sum natus, genere honesto, patre viro integerrimo, matre probatissimâ, et eleemosynis per viciniam potissimùm notâ.” Defens. Sec. vol. iii. p. 95. edit. fol. 1698.
Dr. Burney's Hist. of Musick, vol. iii. p. 134.
in assigning that work rather to John Melton, author of the Astrologaster, than to the father of our poet. Of his attachment to literature, however, the Latin verses of his son, addressed to him with no less elegance than gratitude, are an unequivocal proof. Perhaps it may again be confounding him with the author of the Astrologaster, in noticing the person who signs himself John Melton, citizen of London, at the close of a very indifferent Sonnet of fourteen lines, addressed to John Lane on his Guy of Warwick, which is preserved in the British Museum, and bears the date of licence for being printed in July 1617. This John Lane is the person whom Milton's nephew calls "a fine old queen Elizabeth gentleman, who was living within his remembrance," and of whose poems he gives a very flattering character. The Sonnet is entitled " In Poesis Laudem," and is not worth citing. But a little poem, to which the musick of the elder Milton's Madrigal is adapted, (whether the poetical as well as the musical composition be his or not,) is given 'below, on account of
k Phillips's Theatrum Poetarum, 1675, p. 111.
1 See Madrigales, viz. The Triumphes of Oriana, to 5 and 6 voices, composed by diuers seuerall aucthors. Newly published by Thomas Morley, Batcheler of Musick, &c. 4to. Lond. 1601. "For 6. Voices. Mad. XVIII.
the circumstance which occasioned it, (that of flattering a maiden queen on the verge of seventy,) as a curiosity.
The care, with which Milton was educated, shows the discernment of his father. The bloom of genius was fondly noticed, and wisely encouraged. He was so happy, bishop Newton says, as to share the advantages both of private and publick education. He was at first instructed, by private tuition, under " Thomas Young, whom Aubrey calls "a puritan in Essex who cutt his haire short;" who, having quitted
"The roses blushing sayd,
"O stay thou shepherd's mayd:
"They rose and heard hir call.
"Then sang those shepherds and nymphs of Diana,
m The Annual Register of 1762 very erroneously refers to Milton's poem Ad Patrem, in order to support the following mistaken assertion: "Ariosto often lamented, as Ovid and Petrarch did before him, and our own Milton since, that his father banished him from the Muses." Characters, Life of Ariosto, p. 23. Milton's verses to his father prove exactly the reverse.
" If Milton imbibed from this instructor, as Mr. Warton supposes, the principles of puritanism, it may be curious to remark that he never adopted from him the outward symbol of the Milton preserved his "clustering locks" throughout the reign of the round-heads. Wood, describing the Seekers who came to preach at Oxford in 1647, affords a proper commentary on Young's cutting his hair short. "The generality of them had mortified countenances, puling voices, and eyes commonly, when in discourse, lifted up, with hands lying on their breasts. They mostly had short hair, which at this time was commonly called the Committee cut," &c. Fasti. Ox. vol. ii. p. 61.