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pointed. Those who are thoroughly impressed with the effect of Dryden's celebrated ode for example, will not fail to remember that, in that matchless lyric, there is a sublimity in the very falls of the metre; the sounds seem sensible, and almost rival the meaning of the words.-It is remarkable that Mason thought ' Elfrida' better than “Caractacus, and of all his compositions plumed himself highest upon the Essay on Gardening,'a work already nearly forgotten-dry in its language, and poor in its ideas. This supplies another instance of the mistakes to which authors are liable in estimating their labours, and almost goes to prove that poets, like mechanics, value most what requires the greatest pains.
No one can look at the monument which is erected to Milton, in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, without an indignant sense of the mean proportion, too frequently recurring throughout these aisles, between the merit of the man and the respectability of his tomb. The grave of Chaucer has not a line to indicate the spot; Spencer has received no greater honour than a plain marble tablet ; but Gay, Prior, and Rowe, have two and three statues apiece, as large as life, to express their peculiar talents, and commemorate their virtues; while the memory of such men as Butler, Dryden, and Milton, is only marked by ordinary busts. The fate of Milton, in this respect, is, perhaps, the most undeserving of all others : he has received no other compliment than a bust, shaded by a flat arch of black marble, on a heavy pedestal tablet, with an inscription, of which but two lines concern him ; six of the remainder being appropriated to a Mr. Benson, who erected it; two to Rysbrack the artist, who executed it ; and two to the year in which it was put up-alto
gether the vainest economy of information to be found in the whole Abbey.
John Milton was born at the Spread-Eagle, in Bread-street, Cheapside, on the 9th of December, 1608. His father was disinherited from the family estate, situated at Milton, in Oxfordshire, for renouncing the Catholic religion, and being thus necessitated to adopt a profession, practised as a musician according to some, and as a scrivener according to others. But whatever were his pursuits, it is admitted that he acquired not only reputation, but wealth, and took especial pains with the education of
From St. Paul's School, for which he was prepared by a private tutor, he had him passed as a pensioner to Christ's College, Cambridge, in February, 1624, and was not long left without the most gratifying proofs of his talents and acquirements; for Milton began to publish at as early an age as sixteen. His first productions, as was then more commonly the custom than now, were in Latin ; and it may, perhaps, suffice, for the interest of this work, to characterise his writings in that language, by repeating, that Doctor Johnson considered Milton to be the first Englishman, after the revival of letters, who composed Latin-verse with classical purity. This priority, however, is denied by many; and, indeed, is rather hastily adjudged by the Doctor, whose opinions, perhaps, would have been oftener thought inconsiderate, if they had been delivered in a less dictatorial
Milton is said to have entered the University with an intention of becoming a clergyman, but, unfortunately, disagreements of so serious a nature broke out between him and the masters of his College, that he imbibed a strong and insuperable aversion, not only to their discipline, but to their religion also. Notwithstanding the proficiency of his studies, he suffered the disgrace of corporal punishment, under all those circumstances of brutal severity with which it was formerly administered in our public schools. Nor did his mortifications end here: he was also condemned to a temporary expulsion. The grounds for this treatment have never been known; and though Milton returned to Cambridge, and there took his degree of Bachelor of Arts, in 1628, and of Master in 1632, he never after spoke of the place in terms either of affection or respect. To these circumstances
must, in all probability, be attributed that spirit of hostility which always continued to embitter his opinions against the Episcopal Church of England.
The five next years of Milton's life were spent with his father at Horton, in Buckinghamshire, during which time he is said to have occupied himself in reading over all the Greek and Latin authors, in writing his • Mask of Comus, for the Earl of Bridgewater's children, and composing his ' Lycidas,' in commemoration of a departed friend. In 1638 his mother died, and he prevailed upon his father to let him set out to travel through France and Italy, with this quaint axiom for his preceptor thoughts close, and looks loose. On the Continent his introductions were most respectable, and his reception the most flattering. At Paris he visited the learned Grotius; at Florence the leading men of letters addressed odes to his name, and at Rome the same honours were trebled in number. The Cardinal Barberini, and Manso, Marquis of Villa, the patron of Tasso, vied with each other to distinguish him; he visited Galileo in the prison of the Inquisition, and made a circuit of the other principal cities in the Italian States, under equal circumstances of politeness and approbation.
Returning from abroad, because the differences between the King and Parliament had broken out into violence, he took a house in Aldersgate-street, where he boarded scholars; and became a political writer, first for the presbyterians, and afterwards against them. At his school he laboured with exemplary attentiòn, setting the boys under his care a philosophical pattern of hard study and spare diet. Neither was he at all negligent in the use of his pen. But what came from it for some time after this period is neither instructive to peruse, nor grateful to think of: he decried the cause of Charles, and successively supported the interests of the Commonwealth, of Oliver Cromwell, and his unambitious son Richard. These services procured him the situation of Latin Secretary to the government; in which capacity he conducted all the foreign correspondence of the state, even after the total loss of his sight. But he does not seem to have possessed much power or influence : he had no hand in the plots, and took no active part in the revulsions of that sanguinary period; but he justified all that was done, and, above
all, the execution of the king. To these political engagements there is one happy exception-the publication in 1645, of a collection of Latin and English Poems-among which are those gems, 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso.'
Milton, though thrice married, is not represented as ever happy in that state. He first entered upon it in his thirty-fifth year, with Mary, daughter of Richard Powel, a justice of the peace, living at Forest Hill, in Oxfordshire. But her distaste for the confinement of a schoolmaster's habits was so great, that upon the first opportunity, she got leave to visit her friends, and once with them peremptorily refused to return home. In this predicament he determined to hold her conduct a justification for divorce, and published some treatisés explanatory of his view upon the subject. He had even begun to pay his addresses to another lady, when his wife threw herself unexpectedly before him on her knees, and by tears and entreaties moved him to forgiveness. She died in child-bed, leaving him three daughters. The second wife was Catherine, the daughter of Captain Woodcock, of Hackney, who died within a year after their union; and the last, Elizabeth Minshul, the daughter of a Cheshire gentleman, who survived him, and then cheated the daughters, whom she had oppressed during his lifetime, of 15001. which was the residue of his fortune.
All his wives were virgins, and he is said to have maintained that it was a disgrace to man to take any other to his bed. This feeling is vividly preserved in the description he gives of Chastity:
She that hath that is clad in complete steel,