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"of them which I poffibly could; but have alfo col"lected fome other particulars from Milton's own "works, as well as from other authors, and from cre"dible tradition as well as from written teftimonies; " and all these, like fo many different threads, I have woven into one piece, and formed into a continued "narration: So that I have included the substance " of all former lives, and with improvements and ad"ditions." Of this Life follows a large abstract, in which no material circumstance is omitted.
The LIFE of MILT O N.
HE family of Milton came originally from Milton near Halton and Thame, Oxfordshire; where it flourished several years, till at last the estate was fequeftered, one of the family having taken the unfortunate fide in the civil wars between the houfes of York and Lancafter. 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. Up-on this the fon, our Poet's father, named likewise John Milton, fettled in London, and became a fcrivener. He had a taste for the politer arts, and was particularly fkilled in mufic, in which he was a fine performer; and is also celebrated for feveral pieces of his compofition. By his diligence and oeconomy 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. 1608. 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 fcholar, 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 School, to be fitted for the univer "fity. In this early time of life, fuch was his love of learning, and fo great his ambition to furpass his equals, that from his twelfth year he commonly continued his ftudies till midnight, which (as he fays himfelf) was the first ruin of his eyes, to whofe natural debility were added too frequent headachs: But
all could not extinguish or abate his laudable paffion for letters. It is very feldom feen, that such application 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 master of feveral languages, when he was fent to the univerfity of Cam. bridge, and admitted at Chrift's College Feb. 12. 1624-5. He continued above seven years at the uni verfity, and took two degrees, that of Bachelor of Arts in 1628-9, and that of Master in 1632. He had given early proofs of his poetic genius before he went to the univerfity; and there he excelled more and more, and distinguished himself by feveral copies of verfes upon occafional fubjects, as well as by all his academical exercifes, many of which are printed among 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 defervedly gained the affection of many, and admiration 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 niverfity feemingly on this account, might probably have given occafion to the reproach afterwards cast 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, fhould be cafumniated 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, fubfcribing flave. This no doubt was a difappointment to his friends, who, though in comfortable, were yet by no means in great circumstances. Neither doth he feem to have had any inclination to any other pro
feffion: He had too free a fpirit to be limited and confined; and was for comprehending all fciences, but profeffing none. Therefore, after he had left the university in 1632, he went to his father's houfe in the country; for his father had by this time retired to live at an estate which he had purchased at Horton, near Colebrooke, Buckinghamfhire. 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 excurfion to London; fonetimes 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-caftle in r634. 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. Tho mas Egerton, and that of the Lady by his Lord/hip'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 imitation of Shakespeare's Tempest, 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 handed about only in manufcript; but afterwards, to fatisfy the importunity 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 stage several 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 wifh, for the honour of the nation, that the like good tafte 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 Chrift'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 publifhed a collection of poems, Greek, Latin, and English, facred 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 such facrifices the gods themselves. "ftrow incenfe;" and one would almost wish so to have died, for the fake of having been fo lamented. But this poem is not all made up of forrow and tendernefs; 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 firft difcovered 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 fenfe fo 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