« PreviousContinue »
LIFE OF JOHN MILTON.
FROM a family and town of his name in Oxfordshire, our author derived his descent; but he was born at London, in the year 1608. His father, John Milton, by profession a scrivener, lived in a reputable manner on a competent estate, entirely his own acquisition, having been early disinherited by his parents for renouncing the communion of the church of Rome, to which they were zealously devoted.
Our author was the favourite of his father's hopes, who, to cultivate the great genius which early dis played itself, was at the expense of a domestic tutor, whose care and capacity his pupil hath gratefully celebrated in an excellent Latin elegy. At his initiation he is said to have applied himself to letters with such indefatigable industry, that he rarely was prevailed upon to quit his studies before midnight; which not only made him frequently subject to severe pains in his head, but likewise occasioned that weakness in his eyes, which terminated in a total privation of sight. From a domestic education he was removed to St. Paul's school, to complete his acquaintance with the classics, under the care of Dr. Gill; and, after a short stay there, was transplanted to Christ's College in Cambridge, where he distinguished himself in all kinds of academical exercises. Of this society he continued a member till he commenced master of arts; and then, leaving the university, he returned to his father, who had quitted the town, and lived at Horton in Buckinghamshire, where he pursued his studies with unparalleled assiduity and success.
After some years spent in this studious retirement, his mothe died, and he prevailed with his father to gratify an inclination he had long entertained of
seeing foreign countries. Sir Henry Wotton, at that time provost of Eton College, gave him a letter of advice for the direction of his travels. Having employed his curiosity about two years in France and Italy, on the news of a civil war breaking out in England, he returned, without taking a survey of Greece and Sicily, as at his setting out the scheme was projected. At Paris the Lord Viscount Scudamore, ambassador from King Charles I. at the court of France, introduced him to the acquaintance of Grotius, who at that time was honoured with the same character there by Christiana, queen of Sweden. In Rome, Genoa, Florence, and other cities of Italy, he contracted a familiarity with those who were of highest reputation for wit and learning. several of whom gave him very obliging testimonies of their friendship and esteem.
Returning from his travels, he found England on the point of being involved in blood and confusion. He retired to lodgings provided for him in the City; which being commodious for the reception of his sister's sons, and some other young gentlemen, he undertook their education.
In this philosophical course he continued, without a wife, till the year 1643, when he married Mary, the daughter of Richard Powel, of Forest-Hill in Oxfordshire, a gentleman of estate and reputation in that county, and of principles so very opposite to his son-inJaw, that the marriage is more to be wondered at than the separation which ensued, in little more than a month after she had cohabited with him in London. Her desertion provoked him both to write several treatises concerning the doctrine and discipline of divorce, and also to pay his addresses to a young lady of great wit and beauty; but, before he had engaged her affections to conclude the marriage treaty, in a visit at one of his relations, he found his wife prostrate before him, imploring forgiveness and reconciliation. It is not to be doubted but an interview of that nature, so little expected, must wonderfully affect him; and per