صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

vations are for the most part refuted, but in a manner never wanting in respect to the fame or the age of that illustrious scholar.

Since writing the above, I have had an opportunity of perusing Newton's Life of Milton; it is not written with any spirit or elegance of style, but it contains an impartial and accurate account of what is known of the Poet's history; and there is a temperance and propriety in its language, that might put some later biographers to the blush. Occasionally a smile may be excited, when he speaks of Milton's never having hunted (Milton hunting!!), or when he laments that the sale of Paradise Lost produced only ten pounds to the author, while Mr. Hoyle gained two hundred by the copyright of his Game at Whist. Some useful notes and illustrations have been added by Mr. Hawkins to the latest edition ; but in one, he has unaccountably attributed the famous attack on Milton by Bishop Horsley, to a Prelate of very different opinions, talents, and character. 11

Every successive volume of the biography of Milton is rapidly increasing in size. The elegant Memoir by Fenton is included in fifteen small pages; the narrative of Dr. Symmons has extended to nearly seven hundred; while the increase of bulk is not compensated by a proportionate accession of information.12 Much vague and ingenious speculation, and much curious erudition not always bearing on the subject, have been called in by later writers to supply the place of authentic materials; and that which has reasonably been doubted, or directly refuted, still maintains its ground, as an arena, in which the writer may unfold the charms of his eloquence; or the critics may display their controversial skill. It is however to be hoped, that, in all future biographies, what is neither pertinent nor true will be omitted ; that we shall not again read long disputations on the nature of Milton's punishment at College; that the foolish and romantic story of the sleeping boy and the Italian lady will be forgotten, or be found only among the reveries of Miss Seward ; that the supposed residence at Forest Hill (a daydream of Sir William Jones) will be given up; that we shall not hear of Milton's keeping school at Greenwich ;13 that the insertion of the prayer into the Eikon Basilike from the Arcadia will be considered as set at rest; that the story of Sir John Denham (the account of a person, not a member, being permitted to instruct and entertain the House of Commons with the history of a new poem wet from the press) may be heard no more ; and that Salmasius may be permitted to die in his old age without disgrace, or without the death-blow having been given by Milton's hand. The notes also of the commentators have swelled to a useless and disproportionate size; a great part of them is unnecessary and inconvenient; and a future edition of Milton, if one on a more elaborate plan than the present is required, might be contracted into a smaller compass than Newton's, without any omission of useful or elegant information.

Il See Newton's Milton, ed. Hawkins, p. xlii.

12 T. Warton first brought • Milton's Nuncupative Will’ to light; and printed it in his edition of the Minor Poems; this was a valuable and authentic addition to our previous information.

After a patient, and, in the leisure which I possess, a not unwilling perusal of the writings of Milton and Salmasius, I could wish to have exhibited to my readers a fuller account of

13 See Newton's Life, p. xlii.

[ocr errors]

the controversy, and to have afforded adequate examples of the comparative skill and talents of the writers; but the contracted limits of my humble plan precluded any lengthened or copious detail ; nor could this subject be permitted to occupy more than its proportionate share without injury to others of equal or greater importance. I found it also difficult to select what was valuable and interesting from much reasoning that was sophistical and distorted; much that was trifling and minute ; some that rested on the support of obsolete and forgotten authorities; some that was wasted in the discussion of the remotest theories and the most abstract principles; and all intermingled with personal altercation, angry invective, and the intemperate ebullitions of a carnal wrath. I found, too, that it would be difficult, except perhaps to the curiosity of a few inquisitive scholars, to direct or detain the attention on the discussion of a subject which once held all Europe in suspense; the progress of which, under the skill of the combatants, was watched with the most intense anxiety; which employed the most powerful minds, and included the most important interests; but which long since has passed away from the disputed possession of party writers, to remain under the graver and more impartial protection of history.

A few original notes attached to this edition, are the gradual result of the Editor's reading, and were written in the margin of the copy which he used. Some have been selected from the different commentators, whose observations have been diligently collected by Mr. Todd ; and, for a few, the editor has been indebted to his amiable and most accomplished friend, the Rev. Alexander Dyce, to whose industry and talents, all who are interested in our early poetry must feel great obligations; and

[blocks in formation]

from whose classical knowledge, sound judgment, and refined taste, that curious information which he is able to bestow, will be given with a precision, a temperance, and an elegance, except perhaps in the case of the learned and lamented Tyrwhitt, hitherto unknown among the editors of our elder poets.

John MITFORD.

Benhall, 20th Nov. 1831.

THE LIFE OF MILTON.

BY THE REVEREND JOHN MITFORD.

John Milton, magnum et venerabile nomen, the son of John Milton and Sarah Castor, a woman of incomparable virtue and goodness, and exemplary for her liberality to the poor, was born in London on the 9th of December, 1608. His father was an eminent scrivener, and lived at the sign of the Spread Eagle? (the armorial ensign of the family) in Bread Street. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, embraced the doctrines of the reformed church, and in consequence was disinherited by his father, who was a bigoted papist. The profession, however, which he chose was so successful, as to enable him to give his children a liberal education ;3 and to allow him to pass his latter years in the leisure and tranquillity of a country life.

The grandfather of the poet was keeper of the forest of Shotover, in Oxfordshire, and his family had been long settled

1 Baptized the xx Dec. 1608, according to the Register of Allhallows, Bread Street.

2 This house, wherein he was born, and which strangers used to visit before the fire, was part of his estate as long as he lived. v. Toland's Life, p. 148, on his mother's family. See Birch's Life of Milton,p. 11. The family of the Castors originally derived from Wales, as Philips tells us; but Wood asserts that she was of the ancient family of the Bradshaws, and a still later account informs us that she was a Haughton, of Haughton Tower, in Lancashire, as appeared by her own arms, &c. Both Toland and Philips date his birth in 1606, but erroneously, for the inscription under his print in the Logic says that, in 1671, he was 63 years of age. Milton's armorial bearings were argent, an eagle displayed with two heads gules, legged and beaked sable. A small silver seal, with these arms, with which he was accustomed to seal his letters, was in the possession of the late Dr. Disney.

3 He died about 1647, and was buried in Cripplegate Church. See T. Warton's note on Carmen ad Patrem, ver. 66, p. 523, ed. second. Aubrey says he read without spectacles at 84.

« السابقةمتابعة »