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AZOROM a family, and town of his Name
in Oxfordshire, our Author derived his defcent; but he was born at London in the Year 1608,: The Publisher of his Works in Prose (on whose veracity fome part of
this narrative must entirely depend) dates his birth two years earlier than this i but contradicting himself afterwards in his own compatation, I reduce it to the time that Monsieur Bayle hath aflign'd; and for the fame reason which prevailed with him to aflign it. His father, John Milton, by profession a Scrivener, liv'd in a reputable manner on a competent eftate, entirely his own acquisition; having been early disinherited by his Parents. for renouncing the communion of the Church of Rome, to which they were zealously devoted. By his wife Sarah Cafton he had likewife one daughter, nam'd Anna ; and another son, Christopher, whom he train’d to the pra&tice of the Common Law; who in the Great Rebellion adher'd to the royal cause : and in the reign of King James II. by too eafy a compliance with the doctrines of the Court, both religious and civil, he attain'd to the dignity of being made a Judge of the Common Pleas; of which he dy'd divested not long after the Revolution.
But JOHN, the subject of the present essay, was the favourite of his father's hopes; who, to cultivate the great genius which early display'd itself, was at the expence of a domestick Tutor : whose care and capacity his Pupil hath gratefully celebrated in an excellent LaAn. Ætat. 12.
tin Elegy; the fourth in the present col
lection. At his initiation He is said to have apply'd himself tó Letters with such indefatigable induftry, that he rarely was prevail'd with to quit his ftudies before mid-night : which not only made him frequently subject to severe pains in his head; but likewife occasion'd that weakness in his eyes, which terminated in a total privation of fight. From a domestick education He was remov'd to St. Paul's School, to complete his acquaintance with the Classics under the care of Dr. Gill: and after a short stay there, was transplanted to Christ's
College in Cambridge, where He diftinAn. Ætat. 15. guith himself in all kinds of Academical Exercises. Of this Society He continued a Member 'till He commenc'd Master of Arts: and then leaving the University, He return'd to his father; who had quitted the
town, and liv'd at Horton in BuckinghamAn. Ætat. 23. lire; where he pursu'd his studies with unparallel'd affiduity and fuccess.
After some years spent in his studious retirement, his mother dy'd : and then He prevaild with his father to gratify an inclination He had long entertain'd of seeing foreign countries. Sir Henry Wotton, at that time Provost An. Ætat. 30. vice for the direction of his travels: but
of Eton College, gave him a letter of adby not observing * an excellent Maxim in it, He incurr'd great danger by disputing against the fuperftition of the
* I pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto.
Church of Rome, within the verge of the Vatican. Having employ'd his curiosity about I two years in France and Italy, on the news of a civil war breaking out in England, He return'd; without taking a survey of Greece and Sicily, as at his setting out the seheme was projected.
* At Paris the Lord Viscount Scudamore, Ambaffador from King Charles I, at the Court of France, introduc'd him to the acquaintance of Grotius ; who at that time was honour'd with the fame character there by Christina Queen of Sweden. In Rome, Genoa, Florence, and other cities of Italy, He contracted a familiarity with those who were of highest reputation for wit and learning : several of whom gave him very obliging testimonies of their friendship, and esteem, which are printed before his Latin Poems. The firit of them was written by Manso Marquis of Villa, a great patron of Taso, by whom he is celebrated in his I Poem on the Conquest of Jerusalem. It is highly probable that to his conversation with this noble Neapolitan we owe the first design which Milton conceiv'd of writing an Epic Poem: and it appears by some latin verses addressd to the Marquis with the title of Mansus; that He intended to fix on King Arthur for his heroe : but Arthur was reserv'd to another destiny! Returning from his travels He found
An. Ætat. 32 England on the point of being involv'd in blood and confusion. It seems wonderful that one of so warm, and daring a spirit, as his certainly was, should be restrain'd from the camp in those unnatural commotions. I suppose we may impute it wholly to the great
deference He paid to paternal authority, that He retired to lodgings
† Et jam bis viridi surgebat culmus aristá,
Epitaph. Dam. * Defensio Secunda. Pag. 96. Fol.'
| Fra Cavalier' magnanimi, e cortesi, Resplende il Manso.
provided for him in the city: which being commodious for the reception of his fifter's sons, and some other young Gentlemen, He undertook their education : and is said to have form'd them on the same plan which He afterwards publish'd, in a short tractate inscrib’d to his friend Mr. Hartlib. In this philosophical course He continued without a
wife to the year 1643 ; when He marry'd An. Ætat. 35. Mary the Daughter of Rickard Powell of Forest-hill in Oxfordshire : a Gentleman of estate and reputation in that county ; and of principles so very opposite to his Son-in-law, that the marriage is more to be wonder'd at, than the separation which ensued, in little more than a month after Me had cohabited with l..m in London. Her defertion provok'd him bo:h to write several treatises concerning the doctrine and discipline of Divorce ; and also to make his addresses to a young Lady of great wit and beauty: but before he had engag'd her affections to conclude the marriage treaty, in a visit at one of his re"lations He found his Wife proftrate before him, imploring forgiveness, and reconciliation. It is not to be doubted but an interview of that nature, so little expected, must wonderfully affect him: and perhaps the impressions it made on his imagination contributed much to the painting of that pathetick Scene in I PARADISE Lost, in which Eve address'd herself to Adam for pardon, and peace. At the intercession of his friends who were present, after a Short reluctance He generously sacrificed all his resentment to her tears.
Soon his beart relented Tow'rds her, his life fo late, and fole delight: Now, at his feet submissive in distress! And after this re-union, fo far was He from retaining an unkind
memory of the provocations which He had receiv'd from her ill conduct, that when the King's cause
# Book X. ver. 909.
was entirely oppress'd, and her father, who had been active in his loyalty, was exposd to fequestration ; MILTON deceived both him and his family to protection, and free entertainment, in his own house, 'till their affairs were accommodated by his interest in the victorious faction. For He was now grown famous by his
An. Ætat. 41. polemical writings of various kinds, and held in great favour and esteem, by those who had power to difpofe of all preferments in the State. 'Tis in vain to difsemble, and far be it from me to defend, his engaging with a Party combin'd in the destruction of our Church and Monarchy. Yet, leaving the justification of a misguided fincerity to be debated in the Schools, may I prefume to observe in his favour, that his zeal, diftemper'd and furious as it was, does not appear to have been infpirited by self-interested views ? For it is affirm'd, that though He liv'd always in a frugal retirement, and before his death had disposed of his Library (which we may fuppose to have been a valuable collection) He left no more than fifteen hundred pounds behind him for the support of his family: and whoever considers the Pofts' to which he was advanc'd, and the times in which he enjoy'd them, will, I believe, confess he might have accumulated a much more plentiful fortune: in a dispassionate mind it will not require any extraordinary measure of candour to conclude, that though he abode in the heritage of oppressors, and the spoils of his country lay at his feet, neither his conscience, nor his honour, could stoop to gather them.
A Commission to constitute him Adju- An. Ætat. 42. tant-General to Sir William Waller was promis'd; but foon fuperseded by Waller's being laid afide, when his Masters thought it proper. to new-model their army. However, the keenness of his Pen had fo effectually recommended him to Cromwel's esteem, that when he took the reins of government into his own hand, he advanc'd him to be Latin Secretary, both to himself and the Parliament: the former of these Preferments he enjoy'd both under the Usurper, and his Son; the other, 'till King Charles II. was restored. For some time he had an apartment for his family in Whitehall; but his health