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at Milton,4 in that neighbourhood. They took, however, the unfortunate side in the civil wars, their estate was sequestrated, and their rank and opulence consequently destroyed.
Milton's father was a person of a superior and accomplished mind, and was greatly distinguished for his musical talents; indeed, in science, he is said to have been equal to the very
first musicians of the age. He saw the early promises of genius in his son, and encouraged them by a careful and liberal education. Milton was at first placed under the domestic tuition of Thomas Young, a puritan minister, and native of Essex; to whom he was in after life much attached, and to whom his fourth elegy, and the first of his Latin Epistles, are inscribed. A portrait of him, by Cornelius Jansen, when only ten years old, shows the affection of the parents for their handsome and accomplished child, who, even at that early age, was expanding the first flower of his youthful genius; and whose vernal promise was ripening fast into works of finished and exquisite beauty.
Young? quitted England in 1623, and it is probable that in the same year, Milton was admitted into St. Paul's School, un. der the care of Alexander Gill.8 His unwearied love of study had already commenced; Ab anno,' he says, 'ætatis duodecimo vix unquam ante mediam noctem à lucubrationibus cubitum discederem;' and Aubrey adds, that when Milton went to school, he studied very hard, and sate up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock, and his father ordered the maid to sitt up for him. In a letter to his preceptor, dated not long after this time, he says— Hæc scripsi Londini, inter urbana diverticula, non libris, ut soleo circumseptus.'
4 There have been some doubts about the situation of the village of Milton. See Todd's Life, p. 2, and the note. Wood's Fasti Oxon. vol. i. art. 262.
5 On a work called “A Sixefold Politician, together with a Sixefold Precept of Policy, 1609," attributed to him, see Mr. I. P. Collier's Poetical Decameron, vol. ii. p. 305. Philips says, That as I have been told, and I take it by our author himself, that his father composed an Il Domine of forty parts, for which he was rewarded with a gold medal and chain, by a Polish prince, to whom he presented it, and that some of his songs are to be seen in old Whitby's set of airs, besides some compositions of his in Ravenscroft's Psalms.' v. p. xli. ed. Pickering. Some beautiful lines in Milton's Poem ad Patrem' allude to his father's skill in music.
Ipse volens Phæbus se dispertire duobus,
Dividuumque deum genitorque, puerque tenemus.'
6 This picture was in the possession of T. Hollis, Esq. and is engraven by Cipriani, in his Memoirs, p. 96. It represents the youthful poet in a richly worked collar and striped jacket. It was purchased by Mr. Hollis at C. Stanhope's sale, who bought it for twenty guineas of the executors of Milton's widow. The picture of Milton when about twenty, was in the possession of the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow.
7 In Mr. Fellowes's translation of Milton's Letters printed in Dr. Symmons's edition, 1806, why is the direction of Milton's Letters to Young translated to Thomas Jure? For an account of T. Young, see Todd's Milton, vol. vi. p. 199, 207. Young returned to England in or before the year 1628 ; he was afterwards master of Jesus Col. Camb. and vicar of Stow Market, in Suffolk. Milton, in his Elegy, ver. 83, says to him:
Thus early and deep were laid the foundations of his future fame. His studies were in a great measure poetical. Humphrey Lownes, the printer, who lived in the same street, supplied him with Spenser, and Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas : his admiration of the former is known to all; the attention which he paid to the more obscure, and now almost forgotten poet, was pointed out more fully than before, by my late ingenious friend Mr. Charles Dunster, in a little work which he called Milton's Early Reading, or the Prima Stamina of Paradise Lost.
"Te tamen interea belli circumsonat horror,
Vivis et ignoto solus inopsque solo.' 8 See an account of Al. Gill, in Wood's Ath. Oxon. vol. ii. p. 22, and T. Warton's Milton, p. 419. I possess a copy of Gill's Parerga, sive Poetici Conatus, 12mo. 1632, that belonged to Is. Casaubon. A. Gill must have been a decided royalist, for he has several poems addressed to the royal family, and to the bishops. He has an epistle, as Milton has, to his father, p. 14. There is a line resembling one in Milton's verses to Christina. ("Christina arctoi Lucida stella poli!")
Pene sub arctoi sidere regna poli! In Milton's third Elegy, ver. 9, are these lines, which puzzled the commentators till Sir D. Dalrymple explained them to T. Warton.
“Tunc memini clarique ducis, fratrisque verendi
Intempestivis ossa cremata rogis.'
"Quem nec Mansfeltus, quem nec Brunonius heros
Arma nec annorum quem domuere decem ;' 1. e. Mansfelt and the Duke of Brunswick. Gill speaks of himself in the Preface ; Hactenus vitam egi nescio qua siderum inclementia, hominum et fortunæ injuriis perpetuo colluctantem.'
9 That Milton read and borrowed from Sylvester in his early poems, no one who reads Mr. Dunster's book can reasonably doubt. Sylvester had the jewels, and Milton set them beautifully. Du Bartas's fame is now in full blossom in Germany, and has received the praise of Goethe himself. He is considered at Dresden and at Weimar as one of the greatest poets that ever appeared.
Aubrey says, Milton was a poet when only ten years old. Those who are interested in watching the early dawning of genius as it opens on the youthful mind; and in comparing the different periods in which great talents have displayed both the promise, and the direction of their future power; will not be displeased at my recalling to their memory the passage in that elegant biography of Cowley, which Spratt addressed to their mutual friend Martin Clifford, and in which he mentions the age when Cowley first became inspired by the muse, and the book that excited his youthful imagination. There is a singular coincidence between these two great contemporaries, in the dates assigned by their respective biographers. Vix dum decennis,' says Spratt, “Poeta factus est.' We shall be less surprised to hear that Spenser was alike the object of their early admiration—' legendo Spensero nostro, Scriptore sane illustri, et vel adultis difficili.' Happy had it been for Cowley's fame, had he not early wandered away from the instructor of his youth ; and left, for Epic and Pindaric flights, that which even now delights, and must for ever please—his moral song, the voice of nature and of truth, the language of his heart.
In 1623, Milton produced his translations of the 114th and 136th Psalms; and in his seventeenth10 year, he was sent from St. Paul's school, and admitted a pensioner at Christ's College, Cambridge, on the 12th of February, 1624.11 He was there early distinguished for the elegance of his versification, and his unusual skill in the Latin tongue. A well-known passage in his first Elegy certainly betrays some displeasure which he felt, or alludes to some indignities which he suffered from the severity of Collegiate discipline : this was probably occasioned by the freedom of his censures on the established system of education,12 and his reluctance to conform to it. In his Reason of Church Government, he says, “their honest and ingenuous natures, coming to the Universities to store themselves with good and solid learning, are there unfortunately fed with nothing else but the scragged und thorny lectures of monkish and miserable sophistry; were sent home again with such a scholastical bur in their throats, as hath stopped and hindered all true and generous philosophy from entering; cracked their voices for ever with metaphysical gargarisms; hath made them admire a sort of formal outside men, prelatically addicted, whose unchastened and over-wrought minds were never yet initiated, nor subdued under the true love of moral or religious virtue, which two are the best and greatest points of learning : but either slightly trained up in a kind of hypocritical and hackney course of literature to get their living by, and dazzle the ignorant, or else fondly over-studied in useless controversies, except those which they use, with all the specious and delusive subtlety they are able to defend their prelatical Sparta.'— And in his Apology for Smectymnus, he says,
10 Anthony Wood and Toland assert that he was sent to Cambridge in his fifteenth year, but erroneously. See Birch's Life, p. 3.
11 He was admitted Pensionarius minor, under Mr. William Chappell, afterwards provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and dean of Cassels, and at last bishop of Cork, to whom, among others, the celebrated treatise of the Whole Duty of Man has been imputed. See Birch's Life, p. 111. Milton took his first degree in Jan. 1628–9, and that of Master of Arts in 1632. See Symmons's Pref. to Life, p. 5–7. He was transferred from Mr. Chappell (though contrary to the rules of the college) to Mr. Tovell, (Tovey), v. Aubrey, Lett. iii. 445; he was admitted A. M. at Oxford, in 1635, v. Wood's Fasti, i. p. 262.
—That suburb wherein I dwell shall be in my accounts a more honourable place, than his University ; which as in the time of her better health, and mine own younger judgment, I never greatly admired, so now much less ;'13—and in his third letter to his friend and tutor Alexander Gill, he expresses the same opinion, concerning the superficial and smattering learning of the University and of the manner in which the clergy engage with raw and untutored judgments in the study of theology, patching together a sermon with pilfered
12 The author of a Modest Confutation against a Slanderous and Scurrilous Libel, first charged him with being vomited out of the university, after an inordinate and riotous youth spent there; and the author of 'Regii Sanguinis Clamor repeated the calumny. • Aiunt hominem Cantabrigiensi academia ob flagitia pulsum, dedecus, et patriam fugisse et in Italiam commigrasse.' "The former tract,' Milton says, in his Apology for Smectymnus, 'was reported to be written by the son of Bishop Hall.'
13 See his Tractate on Education, where he speaks agninst the preposterous exaction of composing Themes and Orations, and the ill habit they got of wretched barbarizing against the Greek and Latin idioms, and then having really left grammatical flats and shallows, to be presented with the most intellectual abstractions of logic and metaphysics, to be tossed and turmoiled in the fathomless deeps of controversy, to be deluded with 14 The following passage in Milton's Prolusiones has been overlooked, which throws some light on the subject of his discussion with the college, and his renewed union. (v. p. 115.) He disliked some parts of their studies, probably their logical and metaphysical Theses, and expressed his opinion too freely, or perhaps did not perform the tasks that were required. I feel convinced that the whole ground of offence, so much disputed, is to be found in this point.
scraps, without any acquaintance with criticism or philosophy. Again, in his Animadversions on the Remonstrant's Defence, he says,— What should I tell you how the Universities, that men look should be the fountains of learning and knowledge, have been poisoned and choked under your governance ?
Milton's natural genius, cultivated by the care of those excellent scholars, who had conducted his education, and enriched by his own indefatigable study, had doubtless made great advances in those branches of knowledge at once congenial to his mind, and conducive to its improvement; and he might feel unwilling to be diverted from them, into the barren and unprofitable pursuits, which the old system of collegiate education too often required ;14 that which he disliked or despised, his ragged notions and babblements, to be dragged to an asinine feast of sow-thistles and brambles.'—With these opinions, when called upon by the college for Latin themes on logical and metaphysical subjects (see his Prolusiones), cannot we easily conceive the rebellion or discontent, the out-breaks and flashes of his fiery mind?
“Tum nec mediocriter me pellexit, et invitavit ad has partes subeundas vestra, (vos qui ejusdem estis mecum Collegii) in me nuperrime comperta facilitas, cum enim ante præteritos menses, aliquam multos oratorio apud vos munere perfuncturus essem, putaremque lucubrationes meas qualescunque etiam ingratas propemodum futuras, et mitiores habituras judices Æacum et Minoa, quam e vobis fere quemlibet, sane præter opinionem meam, præter meam si quid, erat speculæ, non vulgari sicuti ego accepi, imo ipse sensi omnium plausu exceptæ sunt immo corum qui in me alias propter studiorum dissidia essent prorsus infenso, et inimico animo; generosum utique simultatis exercendæ genus, et regio pectore non indignum, siquidem cum ipsa amicitia plerumque multa inculpate facta detorquere soleat, tunc profectio acris et infesta inimicitia errata forsitan multa, et haud pauca sine dubio indiserte dicta, leniter et clementius quam mcum erat meritum interpretari non gravabatur. Jam semel unico hoc exemplo vel ipsa demens ira mentis compos fuisse videbatur, et hoc facto furoris infamiam abluisse. At vero summopere oblector, et mirum in modum voluptate perfundor, cum videam lantâ doctissimorum hominum frequentiâ circumfusum me, et undique stipatum,' &c.