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entitled Minutes of Lives, which he sent to Wood in 1680, and which Wood used in his “ Athenæ and Fasti,” a space was assigned to Milton larger than to almost any other of the numerous celebrities whom Aubrey had included in his researches. Aubrey was a credulous person, “roving and magotie-headed," as Wood had occasion to describe him, and sometimes stuffing his letters with "folliries and misinformations; but he was “a very honest man,” says Toland, and “most accurate” in what came within his own notice; and, if there is one of all his graphic memoirs and sketches which is more painstaking and minutely curious than the rest, it is his Memoir of Milton. After it had been partly used by Wood, however, it lay, with the other bundles of “Minutes,” among the MSS. in the Ashmolean, sometimes heard of and cited, but seldom seen, till the year 1813, when all the “ Minutes” together, sifted hastily and not completely or exactly from the very confused papers which contained them, were published in the volumes known as the “ Bodleian Letters.” The greater and by far the richest part of these volumes consisting of Aubrey's Lives, the volumes themselves sometimes go by that name; and, since they were published, they have been a fresh source of information respecting Milton, nearer to the fountain-head than Wood's memoir. An edition of Aubrey's sketch ot' Milton by itself, more correctly taken from the original MS., was appended by Godwin to his “Lives of Edward and John Philips,” published in 1815; to which also was appended a reprint of the third original Memoir of Milton in order of time,- that by Milton's nephew and pupil, Edward Philips. This memoir was originally prefixed by Philips to his English edition of Milton's “ Letters of State,” published, in a small volume, 'in 1694. The date of the publication, and the relationship of the author to Milton, give Philips's Memoir a peculiar value; and it contains facts not related by Aubrey or Wood.
These three memoirs by Aubrey, Wood, and Philips -- all of them in brief compass, and therefore cited by me, when there is occasion, simply by the names of their authors.
- are the earliest published sources of information respecting Milton, apart from his own writings. Toland's Life of Milton, originally prefixed to an edition of Milton's prose works published at Amsterdam in 1698 in two volumes folio, and printed separately, with additions, in 1699 and in 1761, might have added more to our knowledge, had not the author's
peculiar ideas of biography prevented him from using the opportunities which he had. He did, however, add something.
Among the subsequent biographies of Milton, and contributions to his biors raphy, it is enough to note those which either added to the stock of facts, or tended, in a conspicuous manner, to increase or vary the impression. The " Explanatory Notes on Paradise Lost” by the two Richardsons, including affectionate details respecting the poet's habits, appeared in 1734. Birch's Memoir was prefixed to his edition of Milton's Prose Works in 1738, and again to his second edition of the same in 1753. Peck’s silly medley of odds and ends, entitled " New Memories of the Life and Poetical Works of Mr. John Milton," appeared in 1740. Johnson's memorable Life of the Poet was written in 1719. In 1785, Thomas Warton published his first edition of Milton's Minor Poems, illustrated with notes biographical and critical; and a second edition of the same appeared in 1791. Incorporating Warton's Notes and those of other critics and commentators, Todd produced, in 1801, his standard variorum edition of Milton's Poetical Works, in six volumes, enlarged into seven in the subsequent edition of 1809, and again contracted into six in the last edition of 1826. Prefixed to the first of these editions was Todd's account of the Poet's Life — modified by new information in the subsequent editions. Almost contemporaneously with Todd's second edition of the Poetical Works appeared a new edition of the Prose Works by Charles Symmons, D. D. (1806), also with a Memoir. Todd's Life, in the edition of 1826, may be said to have been the last formal Biography of the Poet till the publication of Pickering's edition of the complete works in 1851, with the preliminary Life by the Rev. John Mitford. In the same year appeared Mr. C. R. Edmond’s Biography, especially designed to bring out Milton's ecclesiastical principles. There has since been added to the list Mr. Keightley's succinct and clear account of the Life and Writings of the Poet (1856), accompanying his disquisitions on Milton's opinions and the several portions of the poetry. Among the fruits of recent Miltonic inquiries ought also to be mentioned Mr. Hunter's valuable pamphlet entitled Milton: A Sheaf of Gleanings (1850), the valuable Milton Papers edited for the Chetham Society by Mr. John Fitchett Marsh (1851), and various contributions to Notes and Queries. When Southey, many years ago, spoke of a Life of Milton as
yet a desid
eratum in our literature,” he had in view, among other things, the fact that almost every Life till then published had been written as an introductory memoir to some edition or other of the Poet's works, and on a scale corresponding to that purpose. Useful as such summaries of facts are, they do not answer to the notion that might be formed of a Biography of Milton con. sidered as an independent work. It is surely not consistent with proper ideas of Biography, for example, that such a man as Milton should be whirled on to the thirty-second year of his life in the course of a few pages, the more especially when, in that period of his life, he had already done much that we now associate with his name, and had shown himself potentially all that he was ever to be.
In preparing the present volume, I have, of course, availed myself of such information as I could find gathered by my predecessors; but, on the whole, from the rapidity with which they pass over this period of the Life, the amount of such information, in addition to that yielded by the original authorities, has not been great. I except the Notes of Warton and Todd in the Variorum Edition, which contain so many particles of biographical material that the substantial Biography of the Poet in that edition may be said, for this period at least, to exist in a scattered state through the Notes, rather than in an organized state in Todd's preliminary Life. I except, also, the results of some of the recent biographical researches alluded to. Mr. Marsh's Papers refer rather to the later parts of the Life, but have not been without their use even in the present part; and Mr. Hunter's Gleanings refer chiefly to this part, and clear up several points in it. Some of Mr. Mitford's references and illustrations have also been of service; and I have studied the Pedigree of the Poet furnished to Mr. Mitford by Sir Charles Young, Garter King.
My own researches, whether for actual facts in the life, or for collateral illustrations, have been very various. By the kindness of the Rev. J. Dix, M. A., rector of Allhallows, Bread-street, I was permitted to inspect the Registers of that parish. My inquiries into the pedigree led me to the Bishop's Registry, in Oxford ; where also I found some advantage in looking at the original MS. of Aubrey's Life in the Ashmolean, and at some of Wood's MSS., produced to me in the readiest manner. By the courtesy of the Rev. Dr. Cartmell, Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, I saw the admission book of
that College; and I have been materially assisted by extracts froin the register and by answers to my queries respecting them, furnished me by the Rev. Joseph Wolstenholme, M. A., Fellow of the College. To the Registrar of the University, the Rev. J. Romilly, M. A., I also owe my thanks for permission to inspect the University books and to make extracts, as well as for his explanations. Towards the illustration of the same Cambridge period of the poet's life, I have derived much from MSS. in the British Museum, and from one MS. in particular. An examination of the Registers of the Stationers' Company, open to me by the kindness of the authorities, furnished me with many dates, and altogether, with clearer ideas of Milton's relations to the literature of the reign of Charles I. To my great surprise I found that, though Milton was known to have lived with his father at Horton in Buckinghamshire for nearly six years of his life after leaving Cambridge --- and these years unusually rich in literary results — no one had thought of examining the Registers of Horton parish for traces of the family. On application to the Rev. R. G. Foot, B. A., rector of Horton, I had every facility afforded me; and I have derived from the Registers several new facts, besides much general and local illustration. The Milton MSS. in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, have been examined by me with some care not for the purpose of noting the various readings furnished by these first drafts of some of the poems (a duty already carefully performed by Todd); but for the purpose, if possible, of determining, by the handwriting, dates and other biographical particulars. Some conclusions thus arrived at will have their natural place in the succeeding volume ; but the examination has assisted me somewhat in the present. I have made pretty extensive researches in the State Paper Office, at points where Milton or his connections might perchance leave their marks in contemporary public documents; and in several cases elucidations of the Biography have thus arisen. It is unnecessary to add to this enumeration of manuscript sources any account of my miscellaneous obligations at every point to printed books. These obligations, as well as some of a private nature, are acknowledged in the notes. I ought to add, however, that, for access to almost all the rare books consulted, I am a debtor to the British Museum.
Although I have sought to indicate the fact in the title of the work, and also in the general announcement, it is right that I should here distinctly repeat that I intend it to be not merely a Biography of Milton, but also, in some sort, a continuous History of his Time. Such having been my plan from the first, there are large portions of the present volume which, though related to the Biography, and in my idea not unnecessarily so, considering what a man of his time Milton was, may yet, if the reader chooses, stand apart as so much attempt at separate contemporary History. The suggestions of Milton's life, have, indeed, determined the tracks of these historical researches and expositions - sometimes through the Literature of the period, sometimes through its Civil and Ecclesiastical Politics; but the extent to which I have pursued them and the space which I have assigned to them, have been determined by my desire to present, by their combination, something like a connected historical view of British society in general prior to the great Revolution. In this portion of British History — much less studied, I think, than the Revolution itself, though actually containing its elements I have based my narrative on the best materials, printed or documentary, that I could find. The Registers of the Stationers' Company have been among the MS. authorities of greatest service to me in the department of the Literature; and, in all departments alike, the documents in the State Paper Office, both domestic and foreign, have furnished me here with verifications, there with more exact impressions, and sometimes with facts and extracts.
The Portrait of Milton as a boy is from a photograph taken, by permission, from the original in the possession of Edgar Disney, Esq., of the Hyde, Ingatestone, Essex ; of which, and of the other portrait, engraved after Vertue, accounts are given at p. 43, and pp. 233, 234 of this volume. The fac-similes from the Milton MSS. at Cambridge are by the permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON,