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LIFE OF MILTON,
BY HIS NEPHEW
Of all the several parts of history, that which sets forth the lives, and commemorates the most remarkable actions, sayings, or writings of famous and illustrious persons, whether in war or peace-whether many together, or any one in particular, as it is not the least useful in itself, so it is in highest vogue and esteem among the studious and reading part of mankind. The most eminent in this way of history were among the ancients, Plutarch and Diogenes Laertius of the Greeks. The first wrote the Lives, for the most part, of the most renowned heroes and warriors of the Greeks and Romans; the other the Lives of the ancient Greek philosophers; and Cornelius Nepos (or, as some will have it, Acmilius Probus) of the Latins, who wrote the Lives of the most illustrious Greek and Roman generals. Among the moderns, Machiavel, a noble Florentine, who elegantly wrote the Life of Castrucio Castracano, Lord of Luca; and of our nation, Sir Fulk Grevil, who wrote the Life of his most intimate friend, Sir Philip Sidney: Mr. Thomas Stanly, of CumberlorGreen, who made a most elaborate improvement to the foresaid Laertius, by adding to what he found in him, what by diligent search and inquiry he collected from other authors of best authority: Isaac Walton, who wrote the Lives of Sir Henry Wotton, Dr. Donne: and for his divine poems, the admired Mr. George Herbert. Lastly, not to mention several other biographers of considerable note, the great Gassendus of France, the worthy celebrator of two no less worthy subjects of his impartial pen ; viz., the noble philosopher, Epicurus, and the most politely learned virtuoso of his age, his countryman, Monsieur Periesk. And pity it is the person whose memory we have here undertaken to perpetuate, by recounting the most memorable transactions of his life (though his works sufficiently recommend him to the world), finds not a wellinformed pen able to set him forth, equal with the best of those here mentioned; for doubtless had his fame been as much spread through Europe in Thuanus's time as now it is, and hath been for several years, he had justly merited from that great historian an eulogy not inferior to the highest, by him given to all the learned and ingenious that lived within the compass of his history. For we may safely and justly affirm, that take him in all respects—for acumen of wit, quickness of apprehension, sagacity of judgment, depth of argument, and elegancy of style, as well in Latin as English, as well in verse as prose-he is scarce to be paralleled by any of the best of writers our nation hath in any age brought forth. He was born in London, in a house in Bread-street, the lease whereof, as I take it-but for certain it was a house in Bread-street-became in time part of his estate, in the year of our Lord 1606. His father, John Milton, an honest, worthy, and substantial citizen of London, by profession a scrivener, to which profession he voluntarily betook himself, by the advice and assistance of an intimate friend of his, eminent in that calling, upon his being cast out by his father, a bigoted Roman Catholic, for embracing, when young, the Protestant faith and abjuring the Popish tenets; for he is said to have been descended of an ancient family of the Miltons, of Milton, near Abington in Oxfordshire, where they had been a long time seated, as appears by the monuments still to be seen in Milton church, till one of the family, having taken the wrong side in the contests between the houses of York and Lancaster, was sequestered of all his estate but what he held by his wife. However, certain it is, that this vocation he followed for many years, at his said house in Breadstreet, with success suitable to his industry and prudent conduct of his affairs; yet did he not so far quit his own generous and ingenious inclinations as to make himself wholly a slave to the world : for he sometimes found vacant hours to the study (which he made his recreation) of the noble science of music, in which he advanced to that perfection that, as I have been told, and as I take it, by our author himself, he composed an Il Nomine of forty parts, for which he was rewarded with a gold medal and chain by a Polish prince, to whom he presented it. However, this is a truth not to be denied, that for several songs of his composition, after the way of these times, three or four of which are still to be seen in Old Wilby's se of airs, besides some compositions of his in Ravenscroft's Psalms he gained the reputation of a considerable master in this mos charming of all the liberal sciences; yet all this while he manage
his grand affair of this world with such prudence and diligence that, by the assistance of Divine Providence favoring his honest endeavors, he gained a competent estate, whereby he was enabled to mak: a handsome provision both for the education and maintenance of his children; for three he had, and no more, all by one wife-Sarah, of the family of the Castons, derived originally from Wales—a woman of incomparable virtue and goodness: John, the eldest, the subject of our present work, Christopher, and an only daughter, Ann. Christopher, being principally designed for the study of the common law of England, was entered young a student of the InnerTemple, of which house he lived to be an ancient bencher; and keeping close to that study and profession all his lifetime, except in the time of the civil wars of England, when, being a great favorer and assertor of the king's cause, and obnoxious to the parliament's side by acting to his utmost power against them so long as he kept his station at Reading, and, after that town was taken by the parliament forces, being forced to quit his house there, he steered his course according to the motion of the king's army.
But when the war was ended with victory and success to the Parliament party, by the valor of General Fairfax, and the craft and conduct of Cromwell; and his composition made, by the help of his brother's interest, with the then prevailing power, he betook himself again to his former study and profession, following chamber-practice every term, yet came to no advancement in the world in a long time, except some small employ in the town of Ipswich, where (and near it) he lived all the latter time of his life. For he was a person of a modest quiet temper, preferring justice and virtue before all worldly pleasure or grandeur: but in the beginning of the reign of King James the II., for his known integrity and ability in the law, he was by some persons of quality recommended to the king, and at a call of Serjeants received the coif, and the same day was sworn one of the barons of the exchequer, and soon after made one of the judges of the Common Pleas; but his years and indisposition not well brooking the fatigue of public employment, he continued not long in either of these stations, but having his quietus est, retired to a country life-his study and devotion. Ann, the only daughter of the said John Milton the elder, had a considerable dowry given her by her father, in marriage with Edward Philips (the son of Edward Philips of Shrewsbury), who, coming up young to town, was bred up in the Crown-office in Chancery, and at length came to be secondary of the office under old Mr. Bembo; by him she had, besides other children that died infants, two sons yet surviving, of whom more hereafter; and by a second
husband, Mr. Thomas Agar, who (upon the death of his intimate friend Mr. Philips) worthily succeeded in the place, which, except some time of exclusion before and during the interregnum, he held for many years, and left it to Mr. Thomas Milton (the son of the afore-mentioned Sir Christopher) who at this day executes it with great reputation and ability. Two daughters, Mary, who died very young, and Ann, yet surviving.
But to hasten back to our matter in hand: John, our author, who was destined to be the ornament and glory of his country, was sent, together with his brother, to Paul's school, whereof Dr. Gill, the elder, was then chief master; where he was entered into the first rudiments of learning, and advanced therein with that admirable success, not more by the discipline of the school and good instructions of his masters (for that he had another master possibly at his father's house, appears by the fourth elegy of his Latin poems written in his eighteenth year, to Thomas Young, pastor of the English company of merchants at Hamboroughi, wherein he owns and styles him his master) than by his own happy genius, prompt wit and apprehension, and insuperable industry; for he generally sat up half the night, as well in voluntary improvements of his own choice, as the exact perfecting of his school exercises; so that, at the age of fifteen, he was full ripe for academic learning, and accordingly was sent to the University of Cambridge; where, in Christ's College, under the tuition of a very eminent learned man, whose name I cannot call to mind, he studied seven years, and took his degree of master of arts; and, for the extraordinary wit and reading he had shown in his performances to attain his degree (some whereof spoken at a vacation exercise in his nineteenth year of age, are to be yet seen in his miscellaneous poems) he was loved and admired by the whole university, particularly by the fellows and most ingenious persons of his house. Among the rest there was a young gentleman, one Mr. King, with whom, for his great learning and parts, he had contracted a particular friendship and intimacy; whose death (for he was drowned on the Irish Seas in his passage from Chester to Ireland) he bewails in that most excellent monody in his fore-mentioned poems, entitled Lycidas. Never was the loss of friend so elegantly lamented; and among the rest of his juvenile poems, some he wrote at the age of fifteen, which contain a poetical genius scarce to be paralleled by any English writer. Soon after he had taken his master's degree, he thought fit to leave the university: not upon any disgust or discontent for want of preferment, as some ill-willers have reported; nor upon any cause whatsoever forced to fly, as his detractors maliciously feign; but from which aspersion he sufficiently clears himself in his second answer to Alexander Morus, the author of a book called Clamor Regii Sanguinis ad Cælum, the chief of his calumniators, in which he plainly makes it out, that after his leaving the university, to the no small trouble of his fellow-collegiates, who, in general, regretted his absence, he for the space of five years lived for the most part with his father and mother at their house at Horton, near Colebrook, in Berkshire, whither his father, having got an estate to his content, and left off all business, was retired from the cares and fatigues of the world. After the said term of sve years, his mother then dying, he was willing to add to his acquired learning the observation of foreign customs, manners, and institutions; and thereupon took a resolution to travel, more especially designing for Italy; and, accordingly, with his father's consent and assistance, he put himself into an equipage suitable to such a design; and so intending to go by the way of France, he set out for Paris, accompanied only with one man, who attended him through all his travels; for his prudence was his guide, and his learning his introduction and presentation to persons of most eminent quality. However, he had also a most civil and obliging letter of direction and advice from Sir Henry Wotton, then provost of Eton, and formerly resident ambassador from King James the First to the State of Venice, which letter is to be seen in the first edition of his miscellaneous poems. At Paris, being recommended by the said Sir Henry and other persons of quality, he went first to wait upon my Lord Scudamore, then ambassador in France from King Charles the First. My lord received him with wonderful civility; and, understanding he had a desire to make a visit to the great Hugo Grotius, he sent several of his attendants to wait upon him, and to present him in his name to that renowned doctor and statesman, who was at that time ambassador from Christina, Queen of Sweden, to the French king. Grotius took the visit kindly, and gave him entertainment suitable to his worth, and the high commendations he had heard of him. After a few days, not intending to make the usual tour of France, he took his leave of my lord, who, at his departure from Paris, gave him letters to the English merchants residing in any part through which he was to travel, in which they were requested to show him all the kindness, and do him, all the good offices that lay in their power.
From Paris he hastened on his journey to Nicæa, where he took shipping, and in a short space arrived at Genoa; from whence he went to Leghorn, thence to Pisa, and so to Florence. In this city he met with many charming objects, which invited him to stay a jonger time than he intended; the pleasant situation of the place,