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appears from the register) on the 12th of February 1624-5, under the tuition of Mr. William Chappel, afterwards Bishop of Cork and Ross in Ireland. He continued above seven years at the university, and took two degres, that of Bachelor of Arts in 1628-9, and that of Master in 1632. It is somewhat remarkable, that though the merits of both our universities are perhaps equally great, and though poetical exercises are rather mors encouraged at Oxford, yet most of our greatest poets have been bred at Cambridge, as Spenser, Cowley, Waller, Dryden, Prior, not to mention
of the lesser ones, when there is a greater than all, Milton. 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 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 deservedly gained the affection of many, and admiration of all. We do not find however that he obtained any preferment in the university, or a fellowship in his own college ; which seemeth the more extraordinary, as that soci. ety has always encouraged learning and learned men, had the most excellent Mr. Mede at that time a fellow, and afterwards boasteth the great names of Cudworth, and Burnet, author of the Theory of the Earth, and several others. And this, together with
some Latin verses of his to a friend, reflecting upon the university seemingly on this account, might probably have given occasion to the reproach which was afterwards cast upon him by his adversaries, that he was expelled from the university for irregularities committed there, and forced to sly to Italy: but he suficiently refutes this calumny in more places than one of his works; and indeed it is no wonder, that person so engaged in religious and political controversies as he was, should be calumniated and abused by the contrary party.
He was designed by his parents for holy orders ; and among the manuscripts of Trinity College in Cambridge there are two draughts in Milton's own hand of a letter to a friend, who had importuned him to take orders, when he liad attained the age of twenty-three: but the truth is, he had conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the Church, and subscribing to the Articles was in his opinion subscribing slave. This no doubt was a disappointment to his friends, who though in comfortable were yet by no means in great circumstances : and neither doth he seem to have had any inclination to any other profession; he had too free a spirit to be limited and confined; and was for comprehending all sciences, but professing none. And therefore, after he had left the university in 1632, he retired to his father's house in the country; for his father had by this time quitted business, and lived at an estate
which he had purchased at Horton near Colebrooke in Buckinghamsire. Here he resided with his parents for the space of five years, and, as he himself has informied us, (in his second Defence, and the seventh of his familiar epistles) read over all the Greek and Latin authors, particularly the historians; but now and then made an excursion to London, sometimes to buy books or to meet his friends from Cambridge, and at other times to learn something new in the mathematics or music, 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. It was in the year 1634 that his Mask was presented at Ludlow-castle. There was formerly a president of Wales, and a sort of a court kept at Ludlow, which has since been abolished; and the president at that time was the Earl of Bridgwater, before whom Milton's Mask was presented on Mi. chaelmas night, and the principal parts, those of the two brothers, were performed by his Lordship's sons, the Lord Brackly and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and that of the lady by his Lordship's daughter, the Lady Alice Egerton. 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: and it is written very much in imitation of Shakespear's Tempest, and the Faithful Shepherdess of Beaumont and Fletcher; and though one of the
first, is yet one of the most beautiful of Milton's compositions. It was for some time handed about only in manuscript, but afterwards, to satisiy the importunity of friends and to save the trouble of transcribing, it was printed at London, thongh without the author's name, in 1637, with a dedication to the Lord Brackly by Mr. H. Lawes, wiio composed the music, and played the part of the attendant Spirit. It was printed likewise at Oxford at the end of Mr. R.'s poems, as we learn from a letter of Sir Henry Wotton to our author ; but whw that Mr. R. was, whether Randolph the poet, or who else, 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. We wish, for the honour of the nation, that the like good taste prevailed inevery thing.
In 1637 he wrote another excellent piece, his Lycidas, wherein he laments the untimely fate of a friend, who was unfortunately drowned that same year, in the month of August, on the Irish seas, in his passage from Chester. This friend was Mr. Edward King, son of Sir John King, Secretary of Ireland under Queen Elizabeth, King James I. and King Charles I. and was a fellow of Christ's College, and was so well beloved and esteemed at Cambridge, that some of the greatest names in the university have united ia celebrating his obsequies, and published a.
collection of poems, Greek and Latin and English, sacred to his memory. The Greek by H. More, &c. 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 such sacrifices the Gods themselves strow incense;" and one would almost wish so to have died, for the sake of having been so lamented. But this poem is not all made up of sorrow and tenderness; there is a mixture of sa. tire and indignation ; for in part of it the poet taketh occasion to inveigh againt the corruptions of the clergy, and seemeth to have first discovered his acrimony against Archbishop Laud, and to have threatened him with the loss of his head, which afterwards happened to him 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 grim wolf with privy paw
About this time, as we learn from one of his familiur epistles, he had some thoughts of taking chambers at one of the Inns of Court, for he was not very well pleased with living so obscurely in the country : but his mother dying, he prevailed with his father to let him indulge a desire, which he had long entertained, of seeing foreign countries, and