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December in the morning between 6 and 7 o'clock, in Bread-street London, where his father lived at the sign of the spread eagle, which was also the coat of arms of the family. He was named John, as his father and grandfather had been before him; and from the beginning discovering the marks of an uncommon genius, he was designed for a scholar, and had his education partly under private tutors, and partly at a public school. It has been often controverted whether a public or private education is best, but
Milton was so happy as to share the advantages of both. It appears from the fourth of his Latin elegies, and from the first and fourth of his familiar epistles, that Mr. Thomas Young, who was afterwards pastor of the company of English merchants residing at Hamburg, was one of his private preceptors: and when he had made good progress in his studies at home, he was sent to St. Paul's school, to be fitted for the University under the care of Mr. Gill, who was the master at that time, and to whose son are addressed some of his familiar epistles'. In this early time of his life such was his love of learning, and so great was his ambition to surpass his equals, that from his twelfth year he commonly continued his studies till midnight, which (as he says himself in his second Defence) was the first
* A record of Milton's baptism, i See the first note on El. i. for yet unnoticed, occurs in the pa- an account of A. Gill. rochial Register of Allhallows, There was a portrait taken of Bread-street, fol. 42. “The twen- Milton when he was only ten " tieth day of Dec. 1608,
years old by C. Jansen, and Au“ baptized John Milton, the son brey says that he was “then a " of John Milton, scrivener." “poet." See the note (t) on
the verses In Effigiei ejus Sculp* See Mr. Warton's first note lorem, and on v. 75 of the poem on El iv. E.
Ad Patrem. E.
ruin of his eyes, to whose natural debility too were added frequent head-aches: but all could not extinguish ör abate his laudable passion for letters. It is very seldom seen, that such application and such a genius meet in the same person. The force of either is great, but both together must perform wonders.
He was now in the 17th year of his age, and was a very good classical scholar, and master of several languages, when he was sent to the University of Cambridge, and admitted at Christ's College (as appears from the register) on the 12th of February 1624-5, under the tuition of Mr. William Chappel, afterwards Bishop of Cork and Ross in Irelands. He continued above seven years at the University, and took two degrees, that of Bachelor of Arts in 1628-9, and that of Master in 1632h. It is somewhat remarkable, that though the merits of both our Universities are perhaps equally great, and though poetical exercises åre rather more encouraged at Oxford, yet most of our greatest poets have been bred at Cambridge, as Spenser, Cowley, Waller, Dryden, Prior, not to mention any of the lesser ones, when there is a greater
• In the Biographia, p. 3106, moner, in contradistinction to a Milton is said to have been en- Fellow-Commoner. And he is so tered at Cambridge a Sizar, entered in the Matriculation book which denominates the lowest of the University. T. Warton. rank of academics. But his ad Mr. Chappel is called by Dr. mission thus stands in the register Henry More, “a learned, vigi. at Christ's College. “Johannes “lant, skilful, prudent, and “ Milton, filius Johannis, institu- !' pious tutor." See the Biogr. “ tus fuit in literarum elementis Brit. note on the Life of Light“ sub magistro Gill Gymnasii foot, who was also at Christ's “ Paulini præfecto, et admissus College under Mr. Chappel. E. “ est Pensionarius minor. 12° h He was admitted to the “ Feb. 1624.” But Pensionarius same degree at Oxford, in 1635. minor is a Pensioner, or Com- Wond.
than all, Milton. He had given early proofs of his poetic genius before he went to the University, and there he excelled more and more, and distinguished himself by several copies of verses upon occasional subjects, as well as by all his academical exercises, many of which are printed among his other works, and show him to have had a capacity above his years ; and by his obliging behaviour, added to his great learning and ingenuity, he deservedly gained the affection of many, and admiration of all. We do not find, however, that be obtained any preferment in the University, or a Fellowship in his own college ; which seemeth the more extraordinary, as that society has always encouraged learning and learned men, had the most excellent Mr. Mede at that time a Fellow, and afterwards boasteth the great names of Cudworth, and Burnet author of the Theory of the Earth, and several others'. And this, together with some Latin verses of his to a friend, reflecting upon the University seemingly on this account, might probably have given occasion to the reproach which was afterwards cast upon him by his adversaries, that he was expelled from the University for irregularities committed there, and forced to fly to Italy: but he sufficiently refutes this calumny in more places than one of his works ; and indeed it is no wonder, that a person so engaged in religious and political controversies as he was, should be calumniated and abused by the contrary partyk.
"In his time, however, there against entering the Church. was but one Fellowship in his Symmons. College tenable by a layman, " See the notes, El. i. 12, 15. and Milton had now deterinined E.
He was designed by his parents for holy orders; and among the manuscripts of Trinity College in Cambridge there are two draughts in Milton's own hand of a letter to a friend, who had importuned him to take orders, when he had attained the age of twenty-three': but the truth is, he had conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the Church, and subscribing to the Articles was in his opinion subscribing slave. This no doubt was a disappointment to his friends, who though in comfortable were yet by no means in great circumstances : and neither doth he seem to have had any inclination to any other profession”; he had too free a spirit to be limited and confined; and was for comprehending all sciences, but professing none. And therefore after he had left the University in 1632, he retired to his father's house in the country; for his father had by this time quitted business, and lived at an estate which he had purchased at Horton near Colebrooke in Buckinghamshire". Here he resided with his parents for the space of five years, and, as he himself has informed us, (in his second Defence, and the 7th of his familiar epistles,) read over all the Greek and Latin authors, particularly the historians; but now and then made an excursion to London, sometimes to buy books or to meet his friends from Cambridge, and at other times to learn something new in the mathe
See this letter in the notes • See the Mansus, v. 149, and on Sonnet vii. E.
Mr. Warton's note. Mr. Todd " See v. 71 of the poem Ad mentions, that the house in which Palrem, and the note there, on Milton lived at Horton was Milton's dislike of the profession pulled down about the year of the Law, E.
matics or music, with which he was extremely delighted.
His retirement therefore was a learned retirement, and it was not long before the world reaped the fruits of it. It was in the year 1634 that his Mask was presented at Ludlow-castle. There was formerly a président of Wales, and a sort of a court kept at Ludlow, which has since been abolished ; and the president at that time was the Earl of Bridgwater, before whom Milton's Mask was presented on Michaelmas night, and the principal parts, those of the two brothers, were performed by his Lordship’s sons the Lord Brackly and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and that of the lady by his Lordship's daughter the Lady Alice Egerton. The occasion of this poem seemeth to have been merely an accident of the two brothers and the lady having lost one another in their way to the castle: and it is written very much in imitation of Shakespeare's Tempest, and the Faithful Shepherdess of Beaumont and Fletcher; and though one of the first, is yet one of the most beautiful of Milton's compositions. It was for some time handed about only in manuscript; but afterwards, to satisfy the importunity of friends and to save the trouble of transcribing, it was printed at London, though
Milton appears to have partly “ fiction of a dream, the chasketched the plan of Comus from “racters of Comus and his atthe Old Wives' Tale of George “tendants are delineated, and Peele; see T. Warton's intro “ the delights of sensualists exductory note on Comus. A note “posed and reprobated. This signed H on Johnson's Life of « sittle tract was published at Milton, Lives of the Poets, ed. “ Louvain in 1611, and after1794, suggests that it was taken “ wards at Oxford in 1634, the less from Homer's Circe than very year in which Milton's from “ the Comus of Erycius “ Comus was written.” E. “Puteanus, in which, under the