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he broke out like the Irish rebellion, threescore | for Wood says, that he got by this place seven thousand strong, when nobody was aware, or in thousand pounds. the least suspected it; an observation which could have had no propriety, had his poetical abilities been known before.
He was after that pricked for sheriff of Surry, and made governor of Farnham Castle for the King; but he soon resigned that charge, and retreated to Oxford, where, in 1643, he published "Cooper's Hill.”
This poem had such reputation as to excite the common artifice by which envy degrades excellence. A report was spread, that the performance was not his own, but that he had bought it of a vicar for forty pounds. The same attempt was made to rob Addison of Cato, and Pope of his Essay on Criticism.
In 1647, the distresses of the royal family required him to engage in more dangerous employments. He was entrusted by the Queen with a message to the King; and, by whatever means, so far softened the ferocity of Hugh Peters, that by his intercession admission was procured. Of the King's condescension he has given an account in the dedication of his works.
He was afterwards employed in carrying on the King's correspondence; and, as he says, discharged this office with great safety to the royalists and, being accidentally discovered by the adverse party's knowledge of Mr. Cowley's hand, he escaped happily both for himself and his friends.
He was yet engaged in a greater undertaking. In April, 1648, he conveyed James the duke of York from London into France, and delivered him there to the queen and prince of Wales. This year he published his translation of "Cato Major."
He now resided in France as one of the followers of the exiled king; and, to divert the melancholy of their condition, was sometimes enjoined by his master to write occasional verses; one of which amusements was probably his ode or song upon the embassy to Poland, by which he and Lord Crofts procured a contribution of ten thousand pounds from the Scotch that wandered over that kingdom. Poland was at that time very much frequented by itinerant traders, who, in a country of very little commerce and of great extent, where every man resided on his own estate, contributed very much to the accommodation of life, by bringing to
After the restoration, he wrote the poem on Prudence and Justice, and perhaps some of his other pieces: and, as he appears, whenever any serious question comes before him, to have been a man of piety, he consecrated his poetical powers to religion, and, made a metrical version of the Psalms of David. In this attempt he has failed; but in sacred poetry who has succeeded?
It might be hoped that the favour of his master, and esteem of the public, would now make him happy. But human felicity is short and uncertain; a second marriage brought upon him so much disquiet, as for a time disordered his understanding; and Butler lampooned him for his lunacy. I know not whether the malignant lines were then made public, nor what provocation incited Butler to do that which no provocation can excuse.
His frenzy lasted not long;* and he seems to have regained his full force of mind; for he wrote afterwards his excellent poem upon the death of Cowley, whom he was not long to survive; for on the 19th of March, 1668, he was buried by his side.
Denham is deservedly considered as one of the fathers of English poetry. "Denham and Waller," says Prior, "improved our versification, and Dryden perfected it." He has given specimens of various composition, descriptive, ludicrous, didactic, and sublime.
He appears to have had, in common with almost all mankind, the ambition of being upon proper occasions" a merry fellow," and in common with most of them, to have been by nature, or by early habits, debarred from it. Nothing is less exhilarating than the ludicrousness of Denham; he does not fail for want of efforts: he is familiar, he is gross; but he is never merry, unless the "Speech against Peace in the close Committee" be excepted. For grave burlesque, however, his imitation of Davenant shows him to be well qualified.
Of his more elevated occasional poems, there is perhaps none that does not deserve commendation. In the verses to Fletcher, we have an image that has since been often adopted: But whither am I stray'd? I need not raise Trophies to thee, from other men's dispraise; Nor is thy fame on lesser ruins built, Nor need thy juster title the foul guilt Of Eastern kings, who, to secure their reign, Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain.
Poets are sultans, if they had their will; For every author would his brother kill. And Pope,
every man's house those little necessaries which After Denham, Orrery, in one of his prologues, it was very inconvenient to want, and very troublesome to fetch. I have formerly read, without much reflection, of the multitude of Scotchmen that travelled with their wares in Poland; and that their numbers were not small, the success of this negotiation gives sufficient evidence.
About this time, what estate the war and the gamesters had left him, was sold by order of the parliament; and when, in 1652, he returned to England, he was entertained by the earl of Pembroke.
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne. excelled by his poem to Fanshaw, and his Elegy But this is not the best of his little pieces: it is on Cowley.
His praise of Fanshaw's version of Guarini
It is remarkable that Johnson should not have re
Of the next years of his life there is no ac-related, both of his marriage and his frenzy, very little *In Grammont's Memoirs, many circumstances are count. At the restoration he obtained that favourable to his character.-R. which many missed-the reward of his loyalty; being made surveyor of the king's buildings, and dignified with the order of the Bath. He seems now to have learned some attention to money;
collected, that this image is to be found in Bacon. Aristoteles more othomannoram, regna; re se haud tuto posse putabat, nisi fratres suos, omnes contra udasset.→→ De augment, scient. lib. iii.
contains a very sprightly and judicious charac- |lation from the drudgery of counting lines and ter of a good translator:
That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
The excellence of these lines is greater, as the truth which they contain was not at that time generally known.
His poem on the death of Cowley was his last, and, among his shorter works, his best performance: the numbers are musical, and the thoughts are just.
"Cooper's Hill" is the work that confers upon him the rank and dignity of an original author. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation.
To trace a new scheme of poetry, has in itself | a very high claim to praise, and its praise is yet more when it is apparently copied by Garth and Pope; after whose names little will be gained by an enumeration of smaller poets, that have left scarcely a corner of the island not dignified either by rhyme or blank verse.
"Cooper's Hill," if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and the sentiments sometimes such as will not bear a rigorous inquiry.
The four verses, which, since Dryden has commended them, almost every writer for a century past has imitated, are generally known:
O, could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
The lines are in themselves not perfect: for most of the words, thus artfully opposed, are to be understood simply on one side of the comparison, and metaphorically on the other; and if there be any language that does not express intellectual operations by material images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much meaning is comprised in so few words; the particulars of resemblances are so perspicaciously collected, and every mode of excellence separated from its adjacent fault by so nice a line of limitation; the different parts of the sentence are so accurately adjusted; and the flow of the last couplet is so smooth and sweet; that the passage, however celebrated, has not been praised above its merit. It has beauty peculiar to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities, which cannot be produced at will by wit and labour, but must arise unexpectedly in some hour propitious to poetry.
He appears to have been one of the first that understood the necessity of emancipating trans
interpreting single words. How much this servile practice obscured the clearest and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors, may be discovered by a perusal of our earlier versions; some of them are the works of men well qualified, not only by critical knowledge, but by poetical genius, who yet by a mistaken ambition of exactness, degraded at once their originals and themselves.
Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success. His versions of Virgil are not pleasing; but they taught Dryden to please better. His poetical imitation of Tully on "Old Age" has neither the clearness of prose, nor the sprightliness of poetry.
The "strength of Denham," which Pope so emphatically mentions, is to be found in many lines and couplets, which convey much meaning in few words, and exhibit the sentiment with more weight than bulk.
ON THE THAMES.
Though with those streams he no resemblance hold
His wisdom such, at once it did appear
Such was his force of eloquence, to make
To him no author was unknown,
As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from his improvement of our numbers, his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judg ment, naturally right, forsaking bad copies by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice as he gains more confidence in himself.
In his translation of Virgil, written when he found the old manner of continuing the sense was about twenty-one years old, may be still ungracefully from verse to verse:
Then all those Who in the dark our fury did escape, Returning, know our borrow'd arms, and shape, And differing dialect; then their numbers swell And grow upon us; first Chorabeus fell Before Minerva's altar: next did bleed Just Ripheus, whom no Trojan did exceed In virtue; yet the gods his fate decreed. Then Hypanis and Dymas, wounded by Their friends; nor thee, Pantheus, thy piety, Nor consecrated mitre, from the same Ill fate could save, my country's funeral flam And Troy's cold ashes I attest, and call To witness for myself, that in their fall No foes, no death, nor danger, I declin'd, Did, and deserv'd no less, my fate to find. From this kind of concatenated metre he
By Garth, in his "Poem on Claremont ;" and by afterwards refrained, and taught his followers
Pope, in his "Windsor Forest."
the art of concluding their sense in couplets; which has perhaps been with rather too much constancy pursued.
This passage exhibits one of those triplets which are not unfrequent in this first essay; but which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment disapproved, since in his latter works he has totally forborne them.
His rhymes are such as seem found without difficulty, by following the sense; and are for the most part as exact at least as those of other poets, though now and then the reader is shifted off with what he can get :
-Troy confounded falls
Nor ten years conflict, nor a thousand sail
He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses; in one passage the word die rhymes three couplets in six.
Most of these petty faults are in his first productions, where he was less skilful, or at least less dexterous in the use of words; and though they had been more frequent, they could only have lessened the grace, not the strength, of his composition. He is one of the writers that improved our taste, and advanced our language; and whom we ought therefore to read with gra
Sometimes the weight of rhyme is laid upon a titude, though, having done much, he left much word too feeble to sustain it.
THE life of Milton has been already written in | so many forms, and with such minute inquiry, that I might perhaps more properly have contented myself with the addition of a few notes on Mr. Fenton's elegant Abridgment, but that a new narrative was thought necessary to the uniformity of this edition.
Philips, who came from Shrewsbury, and rose in the Crown-office to be secondary: by him, she had two sons, John and Edward, who were educated by the poet, and from whom is derived the only authentic account of his domestic manners.
John, the poet, was born in his father's house, JOHN MILTON was by birth a gentleman, de- at the Spread Eagle, in Bread-street, Dec. 9, scended from the proprietors of Milton, near 1608, between six and seven in the morning. Thame, in Oxfordshire, one of whom forfeited His father appears to have been very solicitous his estate in the times of York and Lancaster. about his education; for he was instructed at Which side he took I know not; his descend- first by private tuition, under the care of Tho ant inherited no veneration for the White Rose. mas Young, who was afterwards chaplain to the His grandfather, John, was keeper of the English merchants at Hamburg, and of whom forest of Shotover, a zealous papist, who disin- we have reason to think well, since his scholar herited his son because he had forsaken the re- considered him as worthy of an epistolary elegy. ligion of his ancestors. He was then sent to St. Paul's School, under the care of Mr. Gill; and removed, in the beginning of his sixteenth year, to Christ's College, in Cambridge, where he entered a sizar,* Feb. 12, 1624.
His father, John, who was the son disinherited, had recourse for his support to the profession of a scrivener. He was a man eminent for his skill in music, many of his compositions being still to be found; and his reputation in his profession was such, that he grew rich, and retired to an estate. He had probably more than common literature, as his son addresses him in one of his most elaborate Latin poems. He married a gentlewoman of the name of Caston, a Welsh family, by whom he had two sons, John, the poet, and Christopher, who studied the law, and adhered, as the law taught him, to the King's party, for which he was a while persecuted; but having, by his brother's interest, obtained permission to live in quiet, he supported himself so honourably by chamber-practice, that, soon after the accession of King James, he was knighted, and made a judge; but, his constitution being too weak for business, he retired before any disreputable compliances became ne
He was at this time eminently skilled in the Latin tongue; and he himself, by annexing the dates to his first compositions, a boast of which the learned Politian had given him an example, seems to commend the earliness of his own proficiency to the notice of posterity. But the products of his vernal fertility have been surpassed by many, and particularly by his contemporary Cowley. Of the powers of the mind it is difficult to form an estimate: many have excelled Milton in their first essays, who never rose to works like Paradise Lost.
*In this assertion Dr. Johnson was mistaken. Milton was admitted a pensioner, and not a sizar, as will appear by the following extract from the College Register, "Johannes Milton Londinensis, filius Johanuis, institutus fuit in literarum elementis sub Mag'ro Gill Gymnasii Paulini, præfecto; admissus est Pensionarius Minor
Feb. 12, 1624, sub M'ro Chappell, solvitq. pro Ingr. 07. 10s. ód.”—R.
At fifteen, a date which he uses till he is sixteen, he translated or versified two Psalms, 114 and 136, which he thought worthy of the public eye; but they raise no great expectations; they would in any numerous school have obtained praise, but not excited wonder.
Many of his elegies appear to have been written in his eighteenth year, by which it appears that he had then read the Roman authors with very nice discernment. I once heard Mr. Hampton, the translator of Polybius, remark, what I think is true, that Milton was the first Englishman who, after the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with classic elegance. If any exceptions can be made, they are very few: Haddon and Ascham, the pride of Elizabeth's reign, however they have succeeded in prose, no sooner attempt verse than they provoke derision. If we produced any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was perhaps Alabaster's Roxana.*
Of the exercises which the rules of the University required, some were published by him in his maturer years. They had been undoubtedly applauded, for they were such as few can perform; yet there is reason to suspect that he was regarded in his college with no great fondness. That he obtained no fellowship is certain; but the unkindness with which he was treated was not merely negative. I am ashamed to relate, what I fear is true, that Milton was one of the last students in either University that suffered the public indignity of corporal correction.
It was, in the violence of controversial hostility, objected to him, that he was expelled: this he steadily denies, and it was apparently not true; but it seems plain, from his own verses to Diodati, that he had incurred rustication, a temporary dismission into the country, with perhaps the loss of a term:
Me tenet urbs refluè quam Thamesis alluit undè,
SI sit hoc exilium patrios addisse penates,
I cannot find any meaning but this, which even kindness and reverence can give the term vetiti
laris, “a habitation from which he is excluded;" or how exile can be otherwise interpreted. He declares yet more, that he is weary of enduring the threats of a rigorous master, and something else, which a temper like his cannot undergo. What was more than threat was probably punishment. This poem, which mentions his exile, proves likewise that it was not perpetual: for it concludes with a resolution of returning some time to Cambridge. And it may be conjectured from the willingness with which he has perpetuated the memory of his exile, that its cause was such as gave him no shame.
He took both the usual degrees; that of bachelor in 1628, and that of master in 1632; but he left the University with no kindness for its institution, alienated either by the injudicious severity of his governors, or his own captious perverseness. The cause cannot now be known, but the effect appears in his writings. His scheme
of education, inscribed to Hartlib, supersedes all academical instruction, being intended to com prise the whole time which men usually spend in literature, from their entrance upon grammar, "till they proceed, as it is called, masters of arts." And in his discourse "on the likeliest way to remove hirelings out of the church," he ingeniously proposes, that "the profits of the lands forfeited by the act for superstitious uses should be applied to such academies, all over the land, where languages and arts may be taught together; so that youth may be at once brought up to a competency of learning and an honest trade, by which means, such of them as had the gift, being enabled to support themselves (without tithes) by the latter, may, by the help of the former, become worthy preachers."
One of his objections to academical education, as it was then conducted, is, that men designed for orders in the church were permitted to act plays, "writhing and unboning their clergy limbs to all the antic and dishonest gestures of Trincalos,* buffoons, and bawds, prostituting the shame of that ministry which they had, or were near having, to the eyes of the courtiers and court ladies, their grooms and mademoiselles."
This is sufficiently peevish in a man who, when he mentions his exile from the college, relates, with great luxuriance, the compensation which the pleasures of the theatre afford him. Plays were therefore only criminal when they were acted by academics.
He went to the University with a design of entering into the church, but in time altered his mind; for he declared, that whoever became a clergyman must "subscribe slave, and take an oath withal, which, unless he took with a conscience that could not retch, he must straight perjure himself. He thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing."
These expressions are, I find, applied, to the subscription of the Articles; but it seems more probable that they relate to canonical obedience. I know not any of the Articles which seem to thwart his opinions: but the thoughts of obedience, whether canonical or civil, raised his indignation.
His unwillingness to engage in the ministry, perhaps not yet advanced to a settled resolution of declining it, appears in a letter to one of his friends, who had reproved his suspended and dilatory life, which he seems to have imputed to an insatiable curiosity, and fantastic luxury of various knowledge. To this he writes a cool and plausible answer, in which he endeavours to persuade him, that the delay proceeds not from the delights of desultory study, but from the desire of obtaining more fitness for his task; and that he goes on," not taking thought of being late, so it gives advantage to be more fit."
When he left the University, he returned to his father, then residing at Horton, in Buckinghamshire, with whom he lived five years, in which
By the mention of this name, he evidently refers to Albemazor, acted at Cambridge in 1614. Ignoramus and other plays were performed at the same time. The practice was then very frequent. The last dramatic performance at either University was "The Grateful Fair," written by Christopher Smart, and represented at Pem broke College, Cambridge, about 1747.-R.
time he is said to have read all the Greek and Latin writers. With what limitations this universality is to be understood, who shall inform us?
It might be supposed, that he who read so much should have done nothing else; but Milton found time to write the mask of "Comus," which was presented at Ludlow, then the residence of the Lord President of Wales, in 1634; and had the honour of being acted by the Earl of Bridgewater's sons and daughter. The fiction is derived from Homer's Circe; but we never can refuse to any modern the liberty of borrowing from Homer:
-a quo ceu fonte perenni Vatum Pieriis ora rigantur aquis.
His next production was Lycidas," an elegy, written in 1637, on the death of Mr. King, the son of Sir John King, secretary for Ireland in the time of Elizabeth, James, and Charles. King was much a favourite at Cambridge, and many of the wits jomed to do honour to his memory. Milton's acquaintance with the Italian writers may be discovered by a mixture of longer and shorter verses, according to the rules of Tuscan poetry, and his malignity to the church, by some lines which are interpreted as threatening its extermination.
He is supposed about this time to have written his "Arcades;" for, while he lived at Horton, he
used sometimes to steal from his studies a few days, which he spent at Harefield, the house of the Countess-dowager of Derby, where the "Arcades" made part of a dramatic entertainment.
He began now to grow weary of the country, and had some purpose of taking chambers in the Inns of Court, when the death of his mother set him at liberty to travel, for which he obtained his father's consent, and Sir Henry Wotton's directions; with the celebrated precept of prudence, i vensieri stretti, ed il viso, sciollo; "thoughts close, and looks loose."
In 1638 he left England, and went first to Paris; where, by the favour of Lord Scudamore, he had the opportunity of visiting Grotius, then
* It has, nevertheless, its foundation in reality. The Earl of Bridgewater being President of Wales in the year 1631, had his residence at Ludlow Castle, in Shropshire, at which time Lord Brackly and Mr. Egerton, his sons, and Lady Alice Egerton, his daughter, passing through a place called the Haywood forest, or Haywood, in Herefordshire, were benighted, and the lady for a short time lost: this accident being related to their father, upon their arrival at his castle, Milton, at the request of his friend, Henry Lawes, who taught music in the family, wrote this mask. Lawes set it to music, and it was acted on Michaelmas night; the two brothers, the young lady, and Lawes himself, bearing each a part in the represen
residing at the French court as ambassador from Christiana of Sweden. From Paris ne hasted into Italy, of which he had with particular diligence studied the language and literature; and though he seems to have intended a very quick perambulation of the country, stayed two months at Florence; where he found his way into the academies, and produced his compositions with such applause as appears to have exalted him in his own opinion, and confirmed him in the hope, that, “by labour and intense study, which," says he, "I take to be my portion in this life, joined with a strong propensity of nature," he might "leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die."
It appears in all his writings that he had the usual concomitant of great abilities, a lofty and steady confidence in himself, perhaps not without some contempt of others; for scarcely any man ever wrote so much, and praised so few. Of his praise he was very frugal; as he set its value high, and considered his mention of a name as a security against the waste of time, and a certain preservative from oblivion.
At Florence he could not, indeed, complain that his merit wanted distinction. Carlo Dati pre sented him with an encomiastic inscription, in the tumid lapidary style; and Francini wrote him an ode, of which the first stanza is only empty noise; the rest are perhaps too diffuse on common topics: but the last is natural and and beautiful.
From Florence he went to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he was again received with kindness by the learned and the great. Holstenius, the keeper of the Vatican Library, who had resided three years at Oxford, introduced him to Cardinal Barberini: and he, at a musical entertainment, waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into the assembly. Here Selvaggi praised him in a distich, and Salsilli in a tetrastic; neither of them of much value. The Italians were gainers by this literary commerce; for the encomiums with which Milton repaid Salsilli, though not secure against a stern grammarian, turn the balance indisputably in Milton's favour.
Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud enough to publish them before his poems; though he says, he cannot be suspected but to have known that they were said non tam de se, quam supra se.
At Rome, as at Florence, he stayed only two months; a time indeed sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer of its antiquities, or to view palaces and count pictures; but certainly too short for the contemplation of learn ing, policy, or manners.
could be expected; yet to him Milton owed his introduction to Manso, Marquis of Villa, who had been before the patron of Tasso. Manso was enough delighted with his accomplishments to honour him with a sorry distich, in which he commends him for every thing but his religion: and Milton, in return, addressed him in a Latin poem, which must have raised a high opinion of English elegance and literature.
From Rome he passed on to Naples, in comThe Lady Alice Egerton became afterwards the wife of the Earl of Carbury, who at his seat called Golden-pany of a hermit, a companion from whom little grove, in Caermarthenshire, harboured Dr. Jeremy Taylor in the time of the usurpation. Among the Doctor's sermons is one on her death, in which her character is finely portrayed. Her sister, Lady Mary, was given in marriage to Lord Herbert, of Cherbury. Notwithstanding Dr. Johnson's assertion, that the fiction is derived from Homer's Circe, it may be conjectured, that it was rather taken from the Comus of Erycius Puteanus, in which, under the fiction of a dream, the character of Comus and his attendants is delineated, and the delights of sensualists exposed and reprobated. This little tract was published at Louvain in 1611, and afterwards at Oxford in 1634, the very year in which
Milton's "Comus" was written.-H.
Milton evidently was indebted to the "Old Wives Tale" of George Peele for the plan of "Comus.”—R.
His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and Greece; but, hearing of the differences between the King and Parliament, he thought it proper to hasten home, rather than pass his life