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complete translation of Milton's Latin and Italian poetry, has kindly favoured me with the liberty of transcribing, from his admirable work, whatever I wish to insert in this narrative. Since I am indebted to Milton for a friendship, which I regard as honourable in the highest degree, may I be indulged in the hope of leaving a lasting memorial of it in
A book, devoted to the honour of Milton, may admit, I hope, without impropriety, the praises due to a living author, who is become his poetical interpreter; an office which the spirit of the divine bard may be gratified in his having assumed; for, afluredly, my friend bears no common resemblance to his most illustrious predecessor, not only in the energy and hallowed use of poetical talents, but in that beneficent fervour and purity of heart, which entitle the great poet to as large a portion of af, fectionate esteem, as he has long possessed of admiration.
JOHN MILTON was born in London, on the 9th of December, 1608, at the house of his father, in Bread-street, and baptized on the 20th of the same month. His christian name defcended to him from his grandfather. The family, once opulent proprietors of Milton, in Oxfordshire, loft that estate in the civil wars of York and Lancaster, and was indebted, perhaps, to adversity for much higher distinction than opulence can beítow. John, the grandfather of the poet, became deputy ranger in the forest of Shotover, not far from Oxford ; and
intending to educate his son as a gentleman, he placed him at Christ-Church, in that university ; but being himself a rigid Papist, he disinherited the young and devout scholar, for an attachment to the doctrines of the Reformation, and reduced him to the necessity of quitting the path of literature for a less honourable but more lucrative profession.
The discarded student applied himself to the employment of a scrivener, which has varied with the variations of life and manners. A scrivener, in remoter ages, is supposed to have been a mere tranfcriber ; but at the period we speak of, his occupation united the two profitable branches of drawing contracts and of lending money. The emoluments of this profession enabled the father of Milton to bestow most abundantly on his son those advantages of education, which had been cruelly withdrawn from himseli. The poet was happy in both his parents; and to the merits of both he has borne affectionate and honourable testimony. The maiden name of his mother has been disputed; but it seems reasonable to credit the account of Philips, her grandson, the earliest biographer of Milton, who had the advantage of living with him as a relation and a disciple.
Her name, according to this author, who speaks highly of her virtue, was Caston, and her family derived from Wales. Milton, in mentioning his own origin, with a decent pride, in reply to one of his revilers, afferts, that his mother was a woman of exemplary character, and peculiarly distinguished by
her extensive charity*. The parental kindness and the talents of his father he has celebrated in a Latin poem, which cannot be too warmly admired, as a monument of filial tenderness, and poetical enthufiasm. It is probable, that the severe manner in which that indulgent father had been driven from the pursuits of learning induced him to exert uncommon liberality and ardour in the education of his son. Though immersed himself in a lucrative occupation, he seems to have retained great elegance of mind, and to have amused himself with literature and music; to the latter he applied so fuccessfully, that, according to Dr. Burney, the accomplished historian of that captivating art, “ he became a voluminous composer, equal in science, if not in genius, to the best musicians of his age.” Nor did his talents pass without celebrity or reward. Philips relates, that for one of his devotional compositions in forty parts, he was honoured with a gold chain and medal by a Polish prince, to whom he presented it. This mark of distinction was frequently conferred on men, who rose to great excellence in different arts and sciences: perhaps the ambition of young Milton was first awakened by these gifts of honour bestowed upon his father t.
* Londini sum natus, genere honesto, patre viro integerrimo, matre probatiffimâ, et eleemofynis per viciniam potiffimum nota.
+ The father of Milton has been lately mentioned as an author. He was thought to have published, in the year of the
A parent, who could enliven the drudgery of a
, dull profession by a variety of elegant pursuits, must have been happy to discern, and eager to cherish, the first dawning of genius in his child. In this point of view we may contemplate with peculiar delight the infantine portrait of Milton, by that elegant and faithful artist, Cornelius Jansen. Aubrey, the antiquarian, observing in his manuscript memoirs of our author, that he was ten years old when this picture was drawn, affirms that “ he was then a poet.” This expression may lead us to imagine, that the portrait was executed to encourage the infant author; and if so, it might operate as a powerful incentive to his future exertion. The permanent bias of an active spirit often originates in the petty incidents of childhood; and as no human mind
poet's birth, a little book, with the quaint title of “ A Sixe Fold Politician.”-Mr. Warton observed, that the curious publication ascribed to Milton's father may be found in the Bodleian library ; that “ it appears to be a satire on characters pretending to wisdom or policy, and is not void of learning and wit, such as we often find affectedly and awkwardly blended in the essay-writers of that age.”
By the favour of Mr. Isaac Reed, who is most liberal in the communication of the literary rarities he has collected, I have perused this fingular performance, and perfe&tly agree with its obliging poffeffor, and his accomplished friend, Dr. Farmer, that although in the records of the Stationers Company it is ascribed to John Milton, we may rather aflign it to John Melton, author of the Astrologafter, than to the father of our poet. -The latter will lose but little in being no longer regarded as its author, especially as we have different and more honourable proofs of his attachment to literature.
ever glowed with a more intense, or with a purer flame of literary ambition, than the mind of Milton, it may not be unpleasing to conjecture how it first caught the sparks, and gradually mounted to a blaze of unrivalled vehemence and fplendor.
His education, as Dr. Newton has well observed, united the opposite advantages of private and public instruction. Of his early passion for letters he has left the following record, in his second defence * : “ My father destined me from my infancy to the study of polite literature, which I embraced with such avidity, that from the age of twelve, I hardly ever retired from my books before midnight. This proved the first source of injury to my eyes, whose natural weakness was attended with frequent' pains of the head; but as all these disadvantages could not repress my ardour for learning, my father took care to have me instructed by various preceptors both at home and at school.” His domestic tutor was Thomas Young, of Essex, who, being obliged to quit his country on account of religious opinions, became minister to the English merchants at Hamburgh. It was probably from this learned and confcientious man, that Milton caught not only his paffion for literature, but that steadiness and uncon
* Pater me puerulum humaniarum literarum ftudiis destinavit ; quas ita avide arripui, ut ab anno ætatis duodecimo vix unquam ante mediam noctem a lucubrationibus cubitum discederem ; que prima oculorum pernicies fuit, quorum ad naturalem debilitatem accefferant et crebri capitis dolores
s; quæ omnia cum discendi impetum non retardarent, et in ludo literario, et fub aliis domi magistris erudiendum quotidie curavit.