صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

MEMOIR.

“Though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two minds which possessed the imaginative faculty in a very eminent degree. One of these minds produced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pilgrim's Progress."* It needed all Macaulay's courage thus to place the Anabaptist tinker of Bedford Gaol side by side with the sublimest of poets, who shares with Dante and Homer an unquestioned supremacy in the realm of song. The present volume brings these two illustrious names together under another aspect. By publishing selections from the prose works of Milton, in a series which takes its name from Bunyan, we associate them in their religious character and beliefs. Without pretending for a moment that Milton's theological opinions were in strict accordance with those commonly held in our churches : admitting that in some points he diverged widely from us: it is yet claimed, that the general doctrinal agreement was such, that we are warranted in including the writings of MILTON in the BUNYAN LIBRARY. The evidence in support of this assertion will be found in the following pages, and will be discussed at the close of this introductory Memoir.

Eighty years ago, Johnson, in his Lives of the

* MACAULAY, in Edinburgh Review, Dec., 1830.

British Poets, says that the biography of Milton has been written in so many forms, that a new Memoir is needless; and assigns the necessity of preserving the uniformity of the edition as the only reason for writing it again. Biographies of Milton have multiplied greatly since his time, and his reason for not writing another would hold good, with even greater force, at the present day. But since it is thought that some Memoir ought to be prefixed to this volume, I will make it as brief as possible.

John Milton was born in his father's house, at the sign of the Spread Eagle, Bread Street, London, at half-past six in the morning of Dec. 9th, 1608. The laborious researches of Mr. Masson have added but little to our knowledge of his ancestry. The name appears amongst the gentry of England so far back as the fourteenth century, and turns up once or twice during the Wars of the Roses. Those who are interested in heraldry may care to know, that the Oxfordshire branch, to which our poet belonged, received from the Garter King-at-Arms confirmation of right to bear the following arms :—“Argent, a double-headed eagle, displayed Gules, beaked and membered azure; with crest, viz., out of a wreath, a lion's gamb, couped and erect, azure, grasping an eagle's head, erased Gules.” These arms were borne by Milton himself, as is attested by two of his seals yet in existence. His grandfather was under-ranger of Shotover Forest, and was so zealous a Catholic that, on his son, then at the University of Oxford, becoming a Protestant, he forthwith disinherited him. The young man, on this change of fortune, quitted the university, went to London, and commenced practice as a scrivener, in which profession he appears to have succeeded in gaining the

[blocks in formation]

confidence of his clients, and in acquiring for himself a moderate fortune. His wife was probably a Bradshaw; and may have been connected with the illustrious man who presided over the tribunal which condemned Charles the First to death.* The poet speaks of her with fervent affection, as "a most excellent mother, distinguished by her charities to the

poor

in the neighbourhood.” The worthy scrivener of Bread Street was a man of literary culture, and an enthusiastic lover of music. In his own day, he enjoyed considerable eminence as a musical composer. One piece, of forty parts, was dedicated by him to a Polish prince, who rewarded the composer with a gold chain and medal. In a volume of madrigals, by those “ famous artists” Wilbye, Ford, Orlando Gibbons, and others, his name appears as the composer of one or two. Several tunes in Ravenscroft's collection of psalms, were likewise by him. Amongst these, York and Norwich held their place in popular estimation, as prime favourites, for many years, and are not yet quite forgotten. Milton thus inherited from his father that delicate sense of harmony, which is strongly displayed in all his poetry; and that love of music, to which he often refers in his writings, and which solaced many dark and weary hours of his later' life.

The parish church of the Milton family was Allhallows, Bread Street. Here the worthy scrivener attended, and his children were christened. The minister during Milton's childhood, youth, and early manhood, was the Rev. Richard Stock, who is described as “a zealous Puritan,” “a constant, judicious, and

* See the eulogium of Bradshaw by Milton, in his Second Defence of the People of England, p. 205.

« السابقةمتابعة »