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and repair this venerable mansion, and to make a festival for a circle of friends, in honour of Milton, the most perfect scholar, as well as the sublimest poet, that our country ever produced. Such an honour will be less splendid, but more sincere and respectful, than all the pomp and ceremony on the banks of the Avon.
. “I have the honour,” &c,
That Milton did not live in the house mentioned by Sir William Jones there seems little reason to doubt, but at a far later period in life than the composition of L'Allegro, and Il Penseroso, there is a tradition most general, that he did reside in this beautiful and beautifully described village of Forest Hill.” Madame du Bocage, in her entertaining “ Letters concerning England,” relates, that visiting England in June, 1750, Baron Schutz, and lady, at their house Shotover Hill, “they showed me from a small eminence, Milton's House, to which I bowed, with all the reverence with which that poet's memory inspires me.” Milton undoubtedly resided at Forest Hill, but when, cannot be ascertained; but the scenery individualized in the Allegro and Penseroso, is peculiarly English, especially the England of the Midland, or the Southern Counties : and
Milton may have seen the same in many places although he may have introduced into the poem some slight characteristic traits like those to which we have alluded. Horton, then, it seems, has the honour of being the scene where be formed and moulded his mind, he filled his understanding with images from the best authors of antiquity, and reflections upon Nature and Life; he employed his pen upon the first buddings forth of power : his mind was more enamoured in those days with the forms of beauty than of sublimity; imagination was rich within him, highly coloured rather than deeply toned. Life was not so well known to the young man; he saw it through its æsthetic reflections ; it had not revealed all its deep earnestness and meaning to him. Politics he had thought of, but they were the politics of the ancient republics and kingdoms, not of the land of the Stuarts and the Puritans. Moral Philosophy had been contemplated through its abstract teachings, not by the terrible revelations of stormy passions, and vehement or ambitious men. The youthful poet is the dreamer ; he studies poetry through the pomp and the beauty of Nature ; sauntering by the hedges, through the deep forests and woods, more frequently to be met with there by the English wanderer ; thus, doubtless, while rambling from field to field, alternating his country life by occasional visits to London, the desire was strong within him to see something of foreign shores, and cities, and scenes, and men ; he heard the roar of the voices of the advancing people: rumours came to him of the magnificent but mysterious old republics of Italy, the cities of Tasso and Petrach, of Dante and Columbus, of Macchiavelli and the De Medicis. He had studied in the world of books; he had studied in the scenery of English life ; and now he wished to study in the wide world of travel through distant lands.
ABOUT the year 1637, the mother of Milton died; and he now felt himself at liberty to carry out a favourite object that had long been before his mind,--namely, to make the tour of Europe. He sought and obtained his father's permission. This Mr. Hayley supposes to have been “ the more readily granted, as one of his
motives for visiting Italy was to form a collection of Italian music." His great object doubtless, was to observe other countries and men ; other manners and institutions. It affords proof of the high respectability of the character of Milton, that he was furnished with an elegant letter of direction, introduction, and advice, from the famous Sir Henry Wotton, himself worthy the name of a poet, who might well have furnished the study for L'Allegro. He was a long time ambassador from the Court of James the first to the Republic of Venice; a fine specimen of the courtly cavalier. An introduction from such a man must have been, indeed, of great importance. If the space of this book did not require that we tarry no more than is absolutely necessary by the way, the letter of Sir Harry might be inserted in this place. We may notice, however, his diplomatic advice“ to keep the countenance open, and the thoughts close.” This notice of the friendship of the amiable and accomplished courtier, whose whole heart and admiration bad been won by the poet's “Comus,” and by a short interview with him, is yet the more interesting as he seems to have been, with this exception, unrecognised in England. Strange but true, at
Florence, Rome, and Naples, he was received with every demonstration of regard. Unknown by his own countrymen, in the land of Dante and Petrarch, of Ariosto and Tasso, he was received with distinguished honour ; and, perhaps, this is scarcely occasion for wonder.The reign of Charles I. was not a great period in the history of English literature, and the writings of Milton were more in the Italian vein of poetry, than suited to the taste of his own countrymen. He first visited Paris, and by the favour of Lord Scudamore, to whom he was introduced by Wotton's friendly letters, he not only received letters of introduction to the principal merchants and other persons of importance in all the places he proposed to visit, but he was also introduced to Grotius, the ambassador from the celebrated Queen Christina of Sweden to the French Court.From France he proceeded to Italy. Italy had not then resigned her empire over the minds of men; the crozier of the Papacy, indeed, was broken, but the mɔnarchy of Genius held full sway and authority. To us, she has a name in story ; but at this period her greatest men were living, or had only just ceased to live. England was unknown in the worlds of Art and Taste ; but Italy, in addition to her