« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
LIFE OF MILTON.
THE monuments, whieh, in 1694, were still visible in Milton Church, near Abingdon, in Oxfordshire, attest the antiquity of our poet's family.* One of his ancestors took part in the wars of York and Lancaster; and suffered the sequestration of all his estates, except such as he held by his wife. John, the grandfather of our poet, was keeper of the forest of Shotover; and so bigoted a Roman Catholic, that, finding an English Bible in the chamber of his son John, he disinherited him for apostacy. John came to London; and, engaging in the profession of a scrivener, became so wealthy as to purchase houses in many parts of the city, and was able to retire from business many years before his death. He married Sarah Bradshaw,t the descendant of a Welsh family; by whom he had three children,-John, the poet, Christopher, and Ann.
* Life of Milton. By Edward Phillips, his nephew, 1694. Godwin's Lives of the Phillipses. Lond. 1815. App. II. p. 352. There is some doubt on this subject. The Rev. Mr. Todd was told by the Rev. Mr. Jones, that in ihe registers of Milton, the name of Mil. ton is not to be found. It is added, that the Milton, alluded to by Phillips, is in Berkshire; and Dr. Newton says, he searched in vain for the monuments here mentioned. Todd's Edition of Milton's Poetical Works, 7 vols. Lond. 1809. vol. i. p. 2. note. So it is impossible to find Milton's own grave stone; and the
plain reason is, that it was removed in 1679. Aub. Ap. Godw. p. 346.
† Toland has it Sarah Caston. Life of Milton, London, 1761, p. 4. The family name seems to have been Caston; but Aubrey tells us, upon the authority of Christopher Milton, her son, that the wife of Milton's father was a Bradshaw. Godw. App. No. 1. Collections for the Life of Milton. By John Aubrey, F. R. S. Printed from the MS. copy in the Ashmolean Museum, at Oxford, pp. 335, 347.
Christopher was early placed as a student in the Middle Temple ; of which he lived to be an ancient bencher. During the civil war, he adhered to the king's party; and, when the parliament became victorious, he was only enabled to resume his old station at the Temple, by the intercession of his brother, John. He was of a modest and quiet disposition: his body, too, was feeble; and, being ill fitted, on both these accounts, for the digladiation of the bar, he devoted himself entirely to the practice of the chamber. He obtained, at length, some small employment at Ipswich; and, at the accession of king James the Second, was made a baron of the Exchequer, and a judge of the Common Pleas. But the abdication of James deprived him of both these offices; and he went back to the practice of law; spending the terms at the Temple, and the vacations at Ipswich. He was alive in 1674.*
Ann was given in marriage, with a considerable dowry, to Edward Phillips, of Shrewsbury; who became secondary in the Crown Office; and by whom she had several children. Two sons only survived; and they were both educated by their uncle, John Milton, the subject of this memoir; who was born at one of his father's houses, called the Spread Eagle, in Bread Street, London, Dec. 9th, 1608, at a quarter past six in the morning. He was early put under a private tutor, of the name of Young. In 1619, we are told by Aubrey, this schoolmaster was a Puritan, in Essex, who cut his hair short;' and who, we may add, was probably the first to give his pupil's mind a turn of thinking upon religion and politics, which he certainly inherited from none of his ancestors.We learn,
* Milton's Nuncupative Will, &c. Todd, vol. i. p. 165. + Aub. Ap. Godw. ut sup. p. 337.
| Wood calls this the Committee Cut. Fast. Ox. vol. ij, p. 61. Müton took care to preserve his own clustering locks,' notwith standing the example of his revered master.
from the same authority,* that Milton already composed verses; studied hard; rose early, and retired late. He sometimes continued at his books till twelve or one o'clock at night; and his father ordered the maid to sit up for him.
He was some time under the care of Mr. Gill, at St. Paul's School; and, on the 12th of February, 1624, 1625, he paid his ten shillings and eight pence for admission, as a minor pensioner, into Christ's College, in Cambridge.f. He had already acquired a critical knowledge of the Latin ; and the elegies, which he composed in that language, have gained him the reputation of being the first Englishman, who wrote such verses with purity and elegance. The precaution of affixing the dates is 'a boast, which we can easily excuse ; nor is it a proof of egregious vanity, that he should use the date of fifteen until he is sixteen. It was about the time of his admission into college, that he versified the 114th and 116th Psalms; which he thought it worth while to publish. In the first year of his residence, his sister Ann lost an infant child. Milton composed its elegy; and Mr. Godwin not only thinks, that we have here a foretaste of the sort of writer he was afterwards to become'-but has transcribed two stanzas, which he supposes 'peculiarly' excellent; and hardly durst call the death of that child “unfortunate,' which could be assured of having such lines written upon it. We have little sympathy with
* Aub. Ap. Godw. ut sup. pp. 337. 339.
+ Reg. Coll. Birch's Life of Milton, 1753, p. 3. Dr. Johnson says be evtered as a sizer.
Johnson's Life. Dr. Johnson says, Politian gave Milton the example; and Mr. Todd says, Lucan gave Politian tlie example,
Est mihi, crede, meis animus constantior annis
Godw. Phh. pp. 2, 3. He has Toland, (p. 6,) and almost all the others, on his side.
Mr. Godwin, in this respect; and we know not what sort of writer' Milton would have become, if he had always composed such verses as these:
Yet can I not perswade me thou art dead,
Or that thy coarse corrupts in earth's dark wombe,
Hid from the world in a low delved tombe,
Could for pittie thee so strictly doom?
We do not pretend to know what is meant by these two last lines; and the two last of the other stanza are still more incomprehensible.
Then thou, the mother of so sweet a child,
Her false, imagined loss cease to lament,
Think what a present thou to God hast sent,
And render him with patience what he lent;
Milton does not appear to have been, at first, a favourite in his college. He received no fellowship; and, on one occasion, was obliged, it seems, to undergo the chastisement of the rod.* *Much controversy and spleen (says Mr. Godwint) have been expended upon this anecdote of Milton's having been whipped at college; and Dr. Johnson, with his characteristic malignity, professes himself “ ashamed to relate, what he fears is true, that Mil
* Aub. Ap. Godw, ut sup. "His first tutor there was Mr. Chapell, from wbom receiving some unkindoess [whipt hini], he was after: wards (though it seemed opposite to the rules of the college) transferred to the tuition of one Mr. Tovell, wbo dyed parson of Lutter. worth. p. 339. This part of the MS. is headed From his bro. Chen Milton. + Id. ibid. note .
ton was one of the last students in either university that suffered the public indignity of corporal correction.” Erratum, for fears is true, read hopes MAY BE true. The reader now expects to see the stain wiped away; but, instead
of endeavouring to invalidate the anecdote, Mr. Godwin proceeds to prove, beyond all doubt, what Dr. Johnson only 7 feared' was true. “For my part, (says he,) I am not disposed to controvert the anecdote. It is related by Aubrey, the sincere and affectionate lover of the person of Milton, upon the authority of Christopher Milton, Milton's brother, with whom the poet lived in friendship, and who attested it after his death.' Then follows a note of two quarto pages; in which Mr. Godwin only shows, that he is chagrined at the indignity; and, though conscious that it was suffered, yet angry, that any body should mention it.*
*"We learn from Wood, (says Mr. Wharton,) that Henry Stubbe, a student of Christ College, Oxford, afterwards a partizan of Sir Henry Vane, showing himself too forward, pragmatical, and conceited, was publicly whipped by the censor in the college hall. Ath. Ox. vol.ii. p. 560. See also Life of Bathurst, p. 202. I learn from some manuscript papers of Aubrey the antiquaty, who was a student of Trinity College, Oxford, four years from 1642, that at Oxford, and, I believe, at Cambridge, the rod was frequently used by the tutors and deans: and Dr. Potter, while a tutor of Trinity College, I know right well, (was Aubrey flogged too?) whipt his pupil with his sword by his side, when he came to take his leave of him to go to the inns of court. In the statutes of the said college, given in 1556, the scholars of the foundation are ordered to be whipped by the deans, or censors, even to their twe?. tieth year. In the university statutes at Oxford, compiled 1635, ten years after Milton's admission at Cambridge, (Milton could not, then, have been one of the last,') corporal punishment is to be inflicted on boys under sixteen. We are to recollect, that Milton, when he went to Cambridge, was only a boy of fifteen. The author of an old pamphlet, Regicides no Snints nor Martyrs, says, that Hugh Peters, while at Trinity College, was publicly and officially
whipped in the Regent Walk for his insolence. Mr. Todd supplies another testimony. In Ch. 37, of the statutes of Christ College, it is provided, that, for certain offences, students shall be fined; si tamen adultus fuerit; alioquin, virgâ corrigitur. Vol. j. p. 14. It appears, that Milton, thus early commencing reformer, was too forward, pragmatical, and conceited,' abujit a plan of his