Page images
[blocks in formation]




[blocks in formation]


[merged small][ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

THE Family of Milton was defcended from the Proprietors of Milton near Thame in Oxfordshire, one

of whom forfeited his estate in the times of York and Lancaster.

The Grandfather of the Poet, a zealous Papist, difinherited his fon John for having renounced the Religion of his Ancestors; who, in confequence, had recourfe for his support to the profeflion of a Scrivener, in which he was fo fuccefsful, that he was enabled to retire from business on a competent eftate. He married a Lady of the name of Cafton, of Welsh descent, by whom he had issue, John the Poet, Christopher bred to the law, (afterwards knighted and made a Judge by James II.), and Anne, married to Edward Phillips, who enjoyed a lucrative poft in the Crown Office.

John Milton was born in London at his father's house in Bread Street, December 9th 1608. He was first inftructed by private tuition, under the care of Thomas Young a Clergyman, whose attention and capacity were celebrated by his pupil in an elegant Latin Elegy, written in his 12th year.

He was then fent to St. Paul's School, from whence, in his 16th year, he was removed to Chrift's College, Cambridge.

During his refidence in the University, he composed most of his Latin Poems, in a stile exquifitely imitative of the best models of antiquity. Milton is faid to be the first Englishman who wrote Latin fe with claffical elegance.

On leaving the University, after having taken out his degree of Master of Arts, in 1632, he returned 1.. his father, then refiding at Horton in Buckinghamshire, where he pursued his studies with unparalI 'led affiduity and fuccefs. They did not however so entirely absorb his attention as not to afford him tine to produce the Masque of Comus, a Work adorned with all the ornaments of diction; where alions, images, and beautiful epithets, embellish every period with lavish decoration: For though it is a Drama, too much in the Epic ftile to please on the stage, yet, in whatever light it is viewed, whether as a series of Lines, a Masque, or a Poem, it can be confidered as inferior only to Paradise Loft. His next production was Lycidas; a Poem no lefs beautiful of its kind than the last, being a Monody the death of his friend Edward King, fon of Sir John King, Secretary for Ireland, who was loft in his paffage to that country.

Milton having now remained with his father for about five years, on the death of his mother, obtained the liberty which he so ardently defired, to travel. He left England in 1638, went first to Paris, where he visited the celebrated Grotius, and from thence hafted into Italy, whofe language and literaLure he had studied with uncommon diligence. There he was received with marked attention by the learned and the great; for, notwithstanding the undiffembled opennefs of his political and religious opinions, he was introduced to a musical entertainment by Cardinal Barberini (afterwards Pope Urban the VIII.) in perfon, who waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into the Affembly. From Rome he went to Naples, where he was received with no less respect by Manfo, Marquis of Villa, who had been before the Patron of Taffo; after which, he visited the reft of Italy, careffed and hocared by every one confpicuous for high rank or diftinguished abilities. Among the last was the great Galilæo, whom he did not omit to visit, although at that time a prisoner in the Inquifition, for having taught the annual and diurnal motions of the earth.

After having spent two years in his travels, which were defigned to be extended to Sicily and Greece, on hearing of the troubles in his native country, he hafted home, judging it criminal to remain different, or to indulge in amufements; while his countrymen were contending for their liberties.

« PreviousContinue »