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James and Charles King was much a favourite at Cambridge, and many of the wits joined to do honour to his memory. Milton's acquaintance with the Italian writers may be discovered by a mixture of longer and shorter verses, according to the rules of Tuscan poetry, and his malignity to the church by some lines which are intere preted as threatening its extermination.
He is supposed about this time to have written his Arcades; for, while he lived at Horton, he used sometimes to steal from his studies a few days, which he spent at Harefield, the house of the coantess dowager of Derby, where the Arcades made part of a dramatic entertainment.
He began now to grow weary of the country, and had some purpose of taking chambers in the inns of court, when the death of his mother set him at liberty to travel, for which he obtained his father's consent, and sir Henry Wotton's direc. tions, with the celebrated precept of prudence, i pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto ; “ thoughts close, and looks loose.”
In 1638 he left England and went first to Paris; where, by the favour of lord Scudamore, he had the opportunity of visiting Grotius, then residing at the French court as ambassador from Christina of Sweden. From Paris he hasted into Italy, of which he had, with particular diligence, studied the language and literature: and though he seems to have intended a very quick perambulation of the country, staid two months at Florence; where he found his way into the academies, and produced his compositions with such applause as appears to have exalted him in his own opinion, and confirmed him in the hope, that, “ by labour and intense study, which," says he, “ I take to be my portion in this life, joined with a strong propensity of nature," he might “ leave something so written to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die.”
It appears in all his writings that he had the usual concomitant of great abilities, a lofty and steady confidence in himself, perhaps not without some contempt of others, for scarcely any man ever wrote so much and praised so few. Of his praise he was very frugal; as he set its valge high, and considered his mention of a name as a se. curity against the waste of time, and a certain preservative from oblivion.
At Florence he could not indeed complain that his merit wanted distinction, Carlo Dati presented him with an encomiastic inscription, in the tumid lapidary style; and Francini wrote him an ode, of which the first stanza is only empty noise; the rest are perhaps too diffuse on common topics : but the last is natural and beau. tiful.
From Florence he went to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he was again received with kindness by the learned and the great. Holstenius, the keeper of the Vatican library, who had resided three years at Oxford, introduced him to cardinal Barberini: and he, at a musical entertainment, waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into the assembly. Here Selvaggi praised him in a distich, and Salsilli in a tetrastic; neither of them of much value. The Italians were gainers by this literary commerce; for the encomiums with which Milton repaid Salsilli, though not secure against a stern grammarian, turn the balance indisputably in Milton's favour.
Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud enough to publish
tiem before his poems; though he says, he cannot be suspected but to liave knows that they were said non tam dc se, quam supr se.
At Rome, as at Florence, he staid only two months; a time indeed sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer of its antiquities, or to view palaces and count pictures; but certainly too short for the contemplation of learning, policy, or manners.
From Rome he passed on to Naples, in company of a hermit, a companion from whom little could be expected; yet to him Milton owed his introduction to Manso, marquis of Villa, who had been before the patron of Tasso. Manso was enough delighted with his accomplishments to honour him with a sorry distich, in which he commends him for every thing but his religion : and Milton, in return, addressed him in a Latin poem, which must have raised an high opinion of English eleganca and literature.
His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and Greece; but hearing of the diffen rences between the king and parliament, he thought it proper to hasten home, de ther than pass his life in foreign amusements while his countrymen were contending for their rights. He therefore came back to Rome, though the merchants informed him of plots laid against him by the Jesuits, for the liberty of his conversations on religion. He had sense enough to judge that there was no danger, and therefore kept on his way, and acted as before, neither obtruding nor shunning controversy. lle had perhaps given some offence by visiting Galileo, then a prisoner in the Inqui. sition for philosophical heresy; and at Naples he was told by Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, he had excluded himself from some distinctions which he should otherwise have paid him. But such conduct, though it did not please, was yet sufficiently safe; and Milton staid two months more at Rome, and went on to Florence without molestation.
From Florence he visted Lucca. He afterwards went to Venice; and, haring sent away a collection of music and other books, travelled to Geneva, which he pro. bably considered as the metropolis of orthodoxy.
Here he reposed as in a congenial clement, and became acquainted with Jobo Diodati and Frederic Spanheim, two learned professors of divinity. From Geneva he passed through France; and came home, after an absence of a year and three months.
At his return he heard of the death of his friend Charles Diodati; a man whom it is reasonable to suppose of great merit, since he was thought by Milton worthy of a a poem, intituled Epitaphium Damonis, written with the common but childish imi. tation of pastoral life.
He now hired a lodging at the house of one Russel, a taylor in St. Bride's church. yard, and undertook the education of John and Edward Philips, his sister's sons. Finding his rooms too little, he took a house and garden in Aldersgate-streets, which was not then so much out of the world as it is now; and chose his dwelling at the upper end of a passage, that he might avoid the noise of the street. Here he received more boys, to be boarded and instructed. · Let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with some degree of merriment on great promises and small performance, on the man who hastens home because his countrymen are contending for their liberty, and, when he reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in a private boarding school. This is the period of his life from which all his biographers seem inclined to shrink. They are unwilling that Milton should be degraded to a school-master; but, since it cannot be denied that he taught boys, one finds out that he tanght for nothing, and another, that his motive was only zeal for the propagation of learning and virtue; and all tell what they do not know to be true, only to excuse an act which no wise man will consider as in itself disgraceful. His father was alive; his allowance was not ample; and he supplicd its deficiencies by an honest and useful employment. ..
s This is inaccurately expressed: Philips and Dr. Newton after him, say a garden-house, i. e. 3 house situated in a garden, and of which there were, especially in the north suburbs of London, very many, if not few else. The term is technical, and frequently occurs in the Athen, and Fast. Oxon
The meaning thereof may be collected from the article Thomas Farnaby, the famous schoolmaster, of whom the author says, that he taught in Goldsmith's Rents, in Cripplegate-parish, behind Redcrossstreet, where were large gardens and handsome houses. Milton's house in Jewin-street was also : garden-house, as were indeed most of his dwellings after his settlement in London. II.
It is told, that in the art of education he performed wonders; and a formidable list is given of the authors, Greek and Latin, that were read in Aldersgate-street by youth between ten and fifteen or sixteen years of age. Those who tell or receive these stories should consider, that nobody can be taught faster than he can learn. The speed of the horseman must be limited by the power of the horse. Every man that has ever undertaken to instruct others can tell what slow advances he has been able to make, and how much patience it requires to recall vagrant inattention, to stiņu. late sluggish indifference, and to rectify absurd misapprehension,
The purpose of Milton, as it seems, was to teach something more solid than the 'common literature of schools, by reading those authors that treat of physical sub. jects; such as the Georgic, and astronomical treatises of the ancients. This was a scheme of improvement which seems to have busied many literary projectors of that age. Cowley, who had more means than Milton of knowing what was wanting to the embellishments of life, formed the same plan of, education in his imaginary college.
But the truth is, that the knowledge of external nature, and the sciences which that knowledge requires or includes, are not the great or the frequent business of the hu. man mind. Whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we wish to be useful or pleasing, the first requisite is the religious and moral knowlege of right and wrong; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and justice are virtues and excellences of all times and of all places : we are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary, and at leisure. Physiological learning is of such rare emergence, that one may know another half his life, without being able to estimate his skill in hydro. statics or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.
Those authors, therefore, are to be read at schools that supply most axioms of prudence, most principles of moral truth, and most materials for conversation; and these purposes are best served by poets, orators, and historians.
Let me not be censured for this digression as pedantic or paradoxical; for, if I have Milton against me, I have Socrates on my side. It was his labour to turn phi. losophy from the study of nature to speculations upon life; but the innovators whona I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They seem to think, that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars. Socrates was rather of opinion that, what we had to learn was, how to do good and avoid evil.
Of institutions we may judge by their effects. From this wonder-working acae demy I do not know that there ever proceeded any man very eminent for know. ledge ; its only genuine product, I believe, is a small bistory of Poetry, written in Latin by his nephew Philips, of which perhaps none of my readers has ever heard 6,
That in his school, as in every thing else which he undertook, he laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for doubting. One part of his method deserves general imitation. He was careful to instruct his scholars in religion. Every Sun. day was spent upon theology; of which he dictated a short system, gathered from the writers that were then fashionable in the Dutch universities.
He set his pupils an example of hard study and spare diet; only now and then he allowed himself to pass a day of festivity and indulgence with some gay gentlemen of Gray's Inn.
He now began to engage in the controversies of the times, and lent his breath to blow the flames of contention. In 1641 he published a treatise of Reformation, in two books, against the established church; being willing to help the Puritans, who were, he says, inferior to the prelates in learning.
Hall, bishop of Norwich, had published an Humble Remonstrance, in defence of episcopacy; to which, in 1641, five ministers', of whose names the first letters made the celebrated word Smectymnuus, gave their answer. Of this answer a con. futation was attempted by the learned Usher; and to the confutation Milton pubjished a reply, intituled, “Of Prelatical Episcopacy, and whether it may be deduced from the Apostolical Times, by virtue of those Testimonies which are alledged to that Purpose in some late Treatises, one whereof goes under the Name of James Lord Bishop of Armagh.”
I have transcribed this title to show, by his contemptaous mention of Usher, that he had now adopted the puritanical savageness of manners. His next work was, The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, by Mr. John Milton, 1642. In this book he discovers, not with ostentatious exultation, but with calm conf. dence, his high opinion of his own powers; and promises to undertake something, he y et linows not what, that may be of use and honour tỏ his country. “ This," says he, " is not to be obtained but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit that can en. rich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his Seraphim, with the hallow. ed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases. To this must be added, industrious and select reading, steady observation, and insight into al seemly and generous arts and affairs ; till which, in some measure, be compast, I re
episcopae celebrated wo by the learned Episcopacy, and
episode the cele attemptodects":
" We may be sure at least, that Dr. Johnson bad nerer seen the book he speaks of; for it is entirely composed in English, though its title begins with two Latin words, "Theatrum Poetarum ; 01, a compleat Collection of the Poets, &c.' a circumstance that probably misled the biographer of Milton" European Magazine, June 1787, p. 388. R.
7 Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thoın as Young, Matthew Newcomen, William Spurstor. .
1 fúsc not to sustain this expectation.” From a promise like this, at once fervid, pi. 1 ous and rational, might be expected the Paradise Lost.
He published the same year two more pamphlets, upon the same question. To one of his antagonists, who affirms that he was vomited out of the university, he answers, in general terms: " The fellows of the college wherein I spent some years, at my part. ing, after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified many times how much better it would content them that I should stay.--As for the common approbation
or dislike of that place as now it is, that I should esteem or disesteem myself the . more for that, too simple is the answerer, if he think to obtain with me. Of small v practice were the physician who could not judge, by what she and her sister have of
long time vomited, that the worser stuff she strongly keeps in her stomach, but the better she is ever kecking at, and is queasy; she vomits now out of sickness; but before it will be well with her, she must vomit by strong physic. The university in the time of her better health, and my younger judgment, I never greatly admired, but now much less.”
This is surely the language of a man who thinks that he has been injured. He proceeds to describe the course of his conduct, and the train of his thoughts; and, because he has been suspected of incontinence, gives an account of his own purity, " that if I be justly charged,” says he, “ with this crime, it may come upon me with tenfold shame.”
The style of his piece is rough, and such perhaps was that of his antagonist. This roughness he justifics, by great examples, in a long digression. Sometimes he tries to be humourous : “ Lest I should take him for some chaplain in hand, some squire of the body to his prelate, one who serves not at the altar only, but at the court. cupboard, he will bestow on us a pretty model of himself: and sets me out half a dozen ptisical mottocs, wherever he had them, hoping short in the measure of con. vulsion fits; in which labour the agony of his wit having escaped narrowly, instead of well-sized periods, he greets us with a quantity of thumb-ring poesies.--And thus ends this section, or rather dissection of himself.” Such is the controversial merri. ment of Milton; his gloomy seriousness is yet morc offensive. Such is his malignity that Hell grows darker at his frown.
His father, after Reading was taken by Essex, came to reside in his house; and his school inc reased. At Whitsuntide, in his thirty-fifth year, he married Mary, the daughter of Mr. Powel, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. He brought her to town with him, and expected all the advantages of a conjugal life. The lady, how. ever, seems not much to have delighted in the pleasures of spare diet and hard study; for, as Philips relates, “having for a month led a philosophic life, after having been used at home to a great house, and much company and joviality, her friends, possi. bly by her own desire, made earnest suit to have her company the remaining part of the summer; which was granted, upon a promise of her return at Michaelmas."
lilton was too busy to much miss his wife; he pursued his studies: and now and nen visited the lady Margaret Leigh, whom he has mentioned in one of his sonnets. At last Michaelmas arrived ; but the lady had no inclination to return to the sullen floom of her husband's habitation, and therefore very willingly forgot her promise. ne sent her a letter, but had no answer; he sent more with the same success. It
uld be alledged that letters miscarry; he therefore dispatched a messenger, being