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is thought, by Mr. Godwin, to be involved in some confusion. Milton himself says, that, after quitting the university, he remained at home five years; was absent on his travels but fifteen months; and returned 'eodem ferme tempore quo Carolus cum Scotis, rupta pace, bellum alterum, quod vocant episcopale, redintegrabat; in quo fusis primo congressu regiis copiis,-malo coactus, non sponte, parlamentum haud ita multo post convocavit. Milton took his master's degree in 1632: five years at Horton will bring us to 1637, when his mother died; and the first route of king Charles, in the second Scotish war, was at Newburn, in August, 1640. “The result is,' as Mr. Godwin thinks,* that a period of two years, from the spring of 1637 to
or fabricated, a story has been put in circulation, we know not hy whom that it was wholly an adventure of knight-errantry. In the famous lines to Diodati. he says,
Sæpius hic blandas sperantia sidera flammas
Virgineos videas praeteriisse ehoros: And, in the next year after writing this elegy, he describes his falling in love (says Toland, p. 9), with a lady whom he accident. ally met, and never afterwards saw. It was upon these materials we suppose, that somebody has founded the tale of an Italian lady, who, happening one day to encounter Milton sleeping under a tree at Cambridge, wrote, and put into his hand, four lines of Gaurini; of which the purport was, Eyes, huinan stars ! if you kill me, while closed, what would you do, if open! It is added, that, * eager from this moment to discover the fair incognita, Milton travelled through every part of Italy, seeking her in all directions, but in vain. His poetic fervour became incessantly more and more heated by the idea which he had formed of his unknowri admirer ; and it is, therefore, in some degree to her, that his own times, and the latest posterity, are indebted for the most passionate effusions of Paradise Lost. The original teller of this tale has not even the praise of invention ; for the history of Surrey had gone before; and the same story is told of Louis de Puytendre, a Frenchman. It may be found in Todd's Edition of Milton, vol. i. p. 26, and in the Poems of Miss Seward, p. 76. Mr. Godwin (p. 295, note) disbelieves the anecdote, because Milton is the author of Paradise Lost.' We should deny the fact, because there is no proof of it. Milton himself says, that though there were reeds in abundanre, there were no trees at all to sleep under in Cambridge:
Jam nec arundiferum mihi cura revisere Camum:
Ad Diod. * Note to p. 357.
the spring of 1639, is passed over in his narrative unnoticed.'
Mr. Godwin commits two mistakes, with several oversights; and then charges upon Milton, and all his biographers, the confusion, which is imputable only to himself. Milton does not say, that he returned about the time when the royal forces were defeated; but about the time when the war broke out; in which war, he proceeds to relate, the king was beaten at the first onset, and obliged to call a parliament. He must have returned, therefore, previously to the rout of August, 1640. In the se. cond place, the account of Edward Phillips, upon which Mr. Godwin is annotating, gives us a decisive contradiction of the statement, that Milton started on his travels in 1637. His nephew tells us, it was after the term of five years, and the death of his mother, in 1637, that Milton formed the resolution to travel; and it is some time under the marginal date of 1639, that he is said to have set out for Paris. *
Neither can we think, with Mr. Godwin, that this part of two years 'was spent, like the former years, at Horton.' Phillips speaks of Milton's putting himself into an equipage for such a design;' and equipage in this case must mean something besides trunks, clothes, and servants. He was to pass through France; and intended to visit both Greece and Italy. It was indispensable, therefore, that he should make himself familiar with French and Italian; be able to understand modern Greek; and have some knowledge of the manners, habits, and modes of the different people, with whom he designed to converse. All this could not be achieved in a day; nor achieved in Horton at all. It is probable, therefore, that, after the death of his mother, Milton took lodgings in London, and spent a great part of the disputed time in preparation for his journey.
* Godwin, App. II. Life of John Milton. By Edward Phillips. 1694, p. 357. After the said term of five years, his mother dying, (marginal date, 1637,) 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, (marginal date, 1639,) 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.
There are other circumstances, which might have convinced his biographers, that Milton did not leave England till some time in 1639. The compliments and attentions, which he every where received abroad, could only have been given to a man, who had already made himself known by his works. We cannot suppose, that Milton's Latin poems alone had rendered him so famous on the continent. Comus, though written in 1634, was not published till 1637 : Lysidas appears at the end of the Cambridge Collections for the following year;* and, according to the opinion of Dr. Johnson, the Arcades were written about the same time. The very date of the two latter is, perhaps, sufficient to prove that he must have been in England in 1638;t and, if we allow the
. Godw Phh, pp. 5. 6.
+ In the Gent. Mag. Jul. 1792, there is an account of a Bible, which is supposed to have been the companion of Milton's travels ; and in which he occasionally wrote a predietion, after the manner of the almanack makers. One is dated it. Canterbury city, 1639. This year of very dreadful commotion, and I wene will ensue murderous times of conflicting fight.' There is another, in verse, upon the 1 Maccab. xiv. 16. Now when it was heard at Rome, and as far as Sparta, that Jonathan was dead, they were very sorry.
When that day of death shall come,
These vague prophecies prove nothing with certainty. Milton inay have returned at the close of 1639, and have made these pre. clictions for the next year. The authenticity of the Bible, and of :he remarks, has been disputed. We can only say, that music' was one of the first things, of which Milton woul:i lament the loss. For the rest, see Gent. Mag. Oct. 1792, Feb. 1793, March, 1800.
necessary time for the news of his merit to reach the literati of France and Italy, it is probable that he did not start from home till about the beginning of the next year.
He had some verses printed, indeed, soon after leaving the university. They composed a sort of epitaph upon Shakspeare; and were published with the edition of that poet's works for 1632. It is not likely, that he received any distiches or tetrastiches from the Italians, on account of this poem. It concludes with a most frigid conceit, that Shakspeare's best tomb is the marble into which he turns his readers; and, like all other epitaphs, makes the poet's monument proclaim the futility of its own erection. We have seen it stated, that Shakspeare was no very great favourite with Milton; and, in Mr. Scott's Life of Dryden, he is said to have reproached Charles the First with “having, as the chosen companion of his private hours, one William Shakspeare, a player."* This was probably said, when he had become a furious writer against kings in general. He, then, indeed, made no secret of his opposition to the stage; and, in his Discourse on the likeliest Way to remove Hirelings out of the Church, one of the chief topics of invective is, the practice, among the clergy, of filling up their leisure hours with acting some play.t He was not such an enemy to the drama in his early days; and, in his Elegy to Deodati, he says, • Vol. i. p. 13.
'In the colleges, (says he, in the Apology for his Animadversions on Smectymnuus,) so many of the young divines, and those in next aptitude to divinity, have been seen so often on the stage, writhing and unboning their clergy limbs to all the antie and dishonest gestures of trinculos, buffoons, and bauds: prostituting the shame of that ministry, which either they had or were nigh having, to ihe eves of courtiers and court ladies, with their grooms and madmoi.. selles. There, while they acted and overacted, among other young scholars, I was a spectator; they thought themselves galleni med, and I thought them fools; they made sport, and I laughed; they mispronounced, and I misliked; and to make up the atticism, they Were qut, and I hist.'
Excipit hinc fessum sinuosi pompa theatri
Some time in the year 1643, when the earl of Bridgewater resided at Ludlow Castle, in Shropshire, his two sons, Lord Brackley and Mr. Egerton, with their sister, Lady Alice Egerton, while passing through Haywood Forest, in Herefordshire, were overtaken by night, and the lady, for some time, lost. The adventure furnished an abundant topic of conversation, when they got home; and, at the solicitation of Henry Lawes, who was then teaching music in the family, Milton undertook to compose a mask upon the subject. It was acted at the castle on Michaelmas night; and the two brothers, the young lady, and Lawes, each bore a part in the performance. Lawes composed the music; and was afterwards the editor of Comus. The following lines are supposed to be meant for that eminent musician; who took the part of Comus.
But first I must put off
It has been conjectured, that Arcades was acted before the countess dowager of Derby, at her seat in Harefield, the year previous to the composition of Comus.* No reason is given for assigning the time so precisely; but, as Lady Derby died in January, 1636,7 the Arcades must at least have been written before Comus was published; and, as the earl of Bridgewater, who married a daughter of her