페이지 이미지



JOHN MILTON, fon of John and Sarah Milton, was born on the 9th of December 1608, at the house of his father, who was then an eminent fcrivener in London, and lived at the fign of the Spread Eagle (which was the armorial enfign of the family) in Bread-street. The ancestry of the poet was highly respectable. His father was educated as a gentleman, and became ab member of Chrift Church, Oxford; in which fociety, as it may be prefumed, he imbibed his attachment to the doctrines of the Reformation, and abjured the errours of Popery; in confequence of which, his father, who was a bigotted papist, difinherited him. The student therefore chofe, for his fupport, the profeffion already mentioned; in the practice of which he became fo successful as to be enabled to give his children the advantages of polifhed education, and at

"The xxth daye of December 1608 was baptized John, the fonne of John Mylton, fcrivenor." Extract from the Register of All-ballerus, Bread-Street.

See the Note on Ad Patrem, vol. vi. p. 333.




length to retire with comfort into the country. The grandfather of the poet was under-ranger or keeper of the forest of Shotover, near Halton in Oxfordshire; and probably refided at the village of Milton in that neighbourhood, where the family of Milton, in remoter times, were dif tinguished for their opulence; till, one of them having taken the unfortunate fide in the civil wars of York and Lancafter, the eftate was fequestered; and the proprietor was left with nothing but what he held by his wife. There is a tradition that the poet had once refided in this village, while he was Secretary to Cromwell. The mother of Milton is faid by Wood, from Aubrey, to have been a Bradshaw; defcended from a family of that name in Lancashire. Peck relates, that he was informed fhe was a



In the Registers of Milton, as I have been obligingly informed by letter from the Rev: Mr. Jones, there are however no entries of the name of Milton.

Philips, Milton's nephew, fays that the family refided at Milton near Abingdon in Oxfordfire, as appeared by the monuments then fo be feen in Milton church. But that Milton is in Berkshire; and Dr. Newton fearched in vain for the monuments faid to exift in that church.

The information of Wood is moft probably correct, that they Lived at Milton near Halton and Thame.

4 Philips's Life of Milton, 1694. p. iv.

e Communicated to me by letter from Milton.

f Fafti Ox. vol. i. p. 26z, &c. chiefly taken, as Mr. Warton has obferved, from Aubrey's manufcript Life of Milton, preferred in the Ashmolean Mufcum, Oxford.

• Memoirs of Milton, 1740. p. i.


Haughton of Haughton-tower" in the fame county. But Philips, her grandfon, whofe authority it is most reasonable to admit, 1 affirms, in his Life of Milton, that she was a Cafton, of a genteel family derived originally from Wales. Milton himself has recorded, with becoming reference to the refpectability of his defcent, the great esteem in which fhe was held for her virtues, more particularly for her charity.


His father was particularly distinguished for his musical abilities. He is faid to have been "ak voluminous compofer, and equal in fcience, if not in genius, to the best musicians of his age." Sir John Hawkins and Dr. Burney, in their Hiftories of Mufick, have each felected a fpecimen of his fkill. He has been mentioned alfo by Mr. Warton, as the author of " A fixefold Politician. Together with a fixe-fold precept of Policy. Lond. 1609." But Mr. Hayley agrees with Dr. Farmer and Mr. Reed in affigning that work rather to John Melton, author of the Aftrologafter, than to the father of our poet. Of his attachment to literature, however, the Latin verfes of his fon, addreffed to him with

A Life of Milton, p. v.

"Londini fum natus, genere honefto, patre viro integerrimo, matre probatiffimâ, et eleemofynis per viciniam potiffimùm notâ,” Defenf. fec. vol. iii. p. 95. edit. fol. 1698.

* Dr. Burney's Hift. of Mufick, vol. iii. p. 134.

See the Note on ver. 66. Ad Patrem, vol. vi. p. 337.

no less elegance than gratitude, are an unequivocal proof.

The care, with which Milton was educated, fhows the difcernment of his father. The bloom of genius was fondly noticed, and wifely encouraged. He was fo happy, fays Dr. Newton, as to share the advantages both of private and publick education. He was at first instructed, by private tuition, under m Thomas Young, whom Aubrey calls " a puritan in Effex who cutt his haire short;" who, having quitted his country on account of his religious opinions, became Chaplain to the English merchants at Hamburgh; but afterwards returned, and during the ufurpation of Cromwell was master of Jesus College, Cambridge. Of the pupil's affection for his early tutor, his fourth elegy, and two Latin epiftles, are publick teftimonies. Mr. Hayley confiders the portrait of Milton by Cornelius Janfen, drawn when he was only ten years

See the Notes at the beginning of the fourth Elegy, vol. vi. p. 199. If Milton imbibed from this inftructor, as Mr. Warton fuppofes, the principles of puritanism, it may be curious to remark that he never adopted from him the outward fymbol of the fect. Milton preferved his "clustering locks" throughout the reign of the round-heads. Wood, defcribing the Seekers who came to preach at Oxford in 1647, affords a proper commentary on Young's cutting his hair fhort. "The generality of them had mortified countenances, puling voices, and eyes commonly, wher in difcourfe, lifted up, with hands lying on their breafts. They mostly had short hair, which at this time was commonly called the Committee cut, &c." Fafti Ox. vol. ii. p. 61.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

old, at which age Aubrey affirms “he was a poet," as having been executed in order to operate as a powerful incentive to the future exertion of the infant author. This fuppofition is very probable: And, as the portrait was drawn by a painter " then rifing into fame, and whofe price for a head was five broad pieces, the mark of encouragement was rendered more handfome and more confpicuous.

From the tuition of Mr. Young, Milton was removed to St. Paul's School, under the care of • Alexander Gill, who at that time was the mafter; to whofe fon, who was then ufher and afterwards mafter, and with whom Milton was a favourite scholar, are addreffed, in friendship, three of the poet's Latin epiftles. There is P no register of admiffions into St. Paul's School fo far back as the beginning of the feventeenth century. But, as Milton's domestick preceptor quitted England in 1623, it is probable that he was then admitted into that seminary; at which time he was in his fifteenth year. He had already ftudied with uncommon avidity; but at the fame time with such inattention to his health,

Jansen's first works in England are faid to be dated about 1618; the year, in which the young poet's portrait was drawn, See Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, Works, vol. iii. p. 149, edit. 1798.

• See the firft Note on the firft Elegy, vol. vi. p. 174.

PAs I found, upon inquiry of the Rev. Dr. Roberts, the pre fent Head-Mafter.

« 이전계속 »