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above the house, is pleasing to the eye, presenting an idea of quiet, rural repose, and of meditative walks in the shade of the orchard trees, or up the field, to the breezy height above. Opposite to the house, on the other side of the way, is a wheelwright's dwelling, with his timber reared amongst old trees, and above it a chalk-pit, grown about with bushes. This is as rural as you can desire. The old house is covered in front with a vine; bears all the marks of antiquity; and is said by its inhabitant, a tailor, to have been but little altered. There was, he says, an old porch at the door, which stood till it fell with age. Here we may well imagine Milton sitting, in the sunny weather, as at Bunhill-fields, and enjoying the warmth, and the calm, sweet air. Could he have seen the view which here presented itself, it would have been agreeable; for though in this direction the ascending ground shuts out distant prospect, its green and woody upland would be itself a pleasant object of contemplation; shutting out all else, and favourable to thought. The house, on the ground floor, consists of two rooms; the one on the left, next to the road, a spacious one, though low, and with its small diamond casements suggesting to you that it is much as when Milton inhabited it. Here he no doubt lived principally; and, in all probability, here was Paradise Regained dictated to his amanuensis, most likely at that time his wife, Elizabeth Minshull. I found the worthy tailor and his apprentice mounted on a table in it, busily pursuing their labour.
Outside, over the door, is an armorial escutcheon, at the foot of which is painted in bold letters, MILTON. The old man, who was very civil and communicative, said that it was not really the escutcheon of Milton, but of General Fleetwood, who purchased the house for Milton, and who at that time lived at the Manor-house, and lies buried in the church here. Of this, Elwood tells us nothing, but on the contrary, that he procured the house for Milton. Whether this escutcheon be really Fleetwood's or not, I had no means of ascertaining, as it was not only very indistinct, but too high to examine without a ladder; but as Milton's armorial bearing contained spread eagles, and as there were birds in the shield, it no doubt had been intended for Milton by those who placed it there. If Fleetwood were living at Chalfont, that might be an additional reason for Milton's choosing it for his then retreat; but Elwood, and not Fleetwood, took the house, and it is doubtful even whether Fleetwood was still living, being one of the regicides condemned, but never executed. Independent, however, of any other consideration, Milton had many old associations with Buckinghamshire, which would recommend it to him; and in summer the air amid the heaths and parks of this part of the country is peculiarly soft, delicious, and fragrant.
We come now to Milton's last house, the narrow house appointed for all living, in which were laid his bones beside those of his father. This was in the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate. He died on Sunday, the 8th November, 1674, and was buried on the 12th. His funeral is stated to have been very splendidly and numerously
attended. By the parish registry we find that he was buried in the chancel: "John Milton, gentleman. Consumption. Chancell. 12. Nov: 1674." Dr. Johnson supposed that he had no inscription, but Aubrey distinctly states that "when the two steppes to the communion table were raysed in 1690, his stone was removed." Milton's grave remained a whole century without a mark to point out where the great poet lay, till in 1793 Mr. Whitbread erected a bust and an inscription to his memory. What is more, there is every reason to believe that his remains were, on this occasion of raising the chancel and removing the stone, disturbed. The coffin was disinterred and opened, and numbers of relic-hunters were eager to seize and convey off fragments of his bones. The matter at the time occasioned a sharp controversy, and the public were at length persuaded to believe that they were not the remains of Milton, but of a female, that by mistake had been thus treated. But when the workmen had the inscribed stone before them, and dug down directly below it, what doubt can there be that the remains were those of the poet ? By an alteration in the church when it was repaired in 1682, that which was the old chancel ceased to be the present one, and the remains of Milton thus came to lie in the great central aisle. The monument erected by Whitbread marks as near as possible the place. The bust is by Bacon. It is attached to a pillar, and beneath it is this inscription:—
Born Decr. 1608.
Died Nov. 1674.
His father, John Milton, died March, 1646.
Samuel Whitbread posuit, 1793.
This church is remarkable for having been the scene of Oliver Cromwell's marriage, and for being the burial-place of many eminent men. In the chancel, in close neighbourhood with Milton, lay old John Speed, the chronicler, and Fox, the martyrologist, whose monuments still remain on the wall. That of Speed is his bust, in doublet and ruff, with his right hand resting on a book, and his left on a skull. It is in a niche, representing one of the folding shrines still seen in Catholic churches on the continent. There is a monument also seen there to a lady of the family of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Shakspeare notoriety; and another of some noble person, having beneath the armorial escutcheon, an opening representing skulls, bones, and flames, within a barred grating, supposed to be symbolic of purgatory. The burial-ground of Bunhill-fields, where Bunyan and De Foe lie, belongs also to this parish, and their interments are contained in the registry of this church.
This word "lost," with a little 1 in the inscription.
Thus the Prince of Poets, as Hazlitt styled him, sleeps in good company. The times in which he lived, and the part he took in them, were certain to load his name with obloquy and misrepresentation; but the solemn dignity of his life, and the lofty tone and principle of his writings, more and more suffice not only to vindicate him, but to commend him to posterity. No man ever loved liberty and virtue with a purer affection; no man ever laboured in their cause with a more distinguished zeal; no man ever brought to the task a more glorious genius, accomplished with a more consummate learning. Milton was the noblest model of a devoted patriot and true Englishman; and the study of his works is the most certain means of perpetuating to his country spirits worthy of her greatness.
"In the midst of obscurity passed the life of Butler, a man whose name can only perish with his language. The mode and place of his education are unknown; the events of his life are variously related; and all that can be told with certainty is, that he was poor."
Such are the expressive words with which Dr. Johnson winds up his meagre account of the witty author of Hudibras. A more significant finish to a poet's biography could scarcely be given. A more striking instance of national neglect, and the ingratitude of posterity, is nowhere to be found.
Strensham, in Warwickshire, clains the honour of his birth. His father is said to have been an honest farmer there, with a small estate, who made a shift to educate his son at the grammar-school at Worcester, whence he is supposed to have gone to the university; but whether of Oxford or Cambridge, is matter of dispute. His brother asserted that it was Cambridge, but could not tell at which hall or college. Dr. Nash discovered that his father was owner of a house and a little land, worth about eight pounds a-year, which, in Johnson's time, was still called Butler's tenement.
When we consider the humble position of the father, we can only wonder that he contrived to give him an education at a classical school at all, and may very well doubt, with the great lexicographer, whether he in reality ever did study at Cambridge. Having, however, given his son a learned education, his resources were exhausted, he had no patronage, and the young man became, and might probably think himself fortunate in doing so, a clerk to a justice of peace, Mr. Jefferys, of Earl's Croomb, in Worcestershire. Here he appears to have passed an easy and agreeable life. "He had," says Johnson, "not only leisure for study, but for recreation; his amusements were music and painting; and the reward of his pencil was the friendship of the celebrated Cooper. Some pictures, said to be his, were shown to Dr. Nash, at Earl's Croomb; but when he inquired for them some years afterwards, he found them destroyed to stop windows, and owns that they hardly deserved a better fate."
From this gentleman's service he passed into that of the Countess of Kent. The celebrated John Selden was then steward of the countess, and it was probably through him, or for his purposes, that Butler was introduced into the family. He was much noticed by Selden, and employed by him as an amanuensis. Whether this were the actual capacity in which he stood in the family of the countess, is, like almost every other event of his life, however, quite unknown. One thing seems certain, that, both at Mr. Jefferys' and here, he had been turned loose into great libraries, the sort of pasture that he of all others liked, and had devoured their contents to some purpose, as is manifested in his writings. These were the real colleges at which he studied, and where he laid up enormous masses of information.
His next remove was into the family of Sir Samuel Luke, one of Cromwell's officers. This was the decisive circumstance of his life. Sir Samuel was the hero of his future poem,-the actual Hudibras. But he was here in the very centre of republican action, and sectarian opinion and discussion. In Sir Samuel, he had a new and rich study of character; in those about him a new world, abounding with all sorts of persons, passages, and doctrines, which made him feel that he had also a world unknown still in himself, that of satirical fun infinite. Into this world he absorbed all the new views of things; the strange shapes that came to and fro; the strange phraseology and sounds of conventicle hymns that assailed his ears. The historian and poet of the new Land of Goshen, where all was light, while the neighbouring Egypt of royalty was all in darkness, was born into it; and Hudibras, and his Squire Ralph, Sidrophel, Talgol and Trulla, the Bear and Fiddle, all sprung into immortal existence. The story of the utter neglect of Butler by the king and court, at the time that not only they, but all royalists in the kingdom, were bursting with laughter over Hudibras, is too well known. Once it was hoped that he was on the verge of good fortune, and Mr. Wycherley was to introduce him to the all-powerful Duke of Buckingham. The story of this interview is too characteristic to be passed over. "Mr. Wycherley," says Packe, "had always laid hold of an opportunity which offered of representing to the Duke of Buckingham how