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merits or demerits of Milton's political character, the integrity of his heart appears to have fecured to him the favour of Providence; since it pleased the Giver of all good not only to turn his labours to a peaceful end, but to irradiate his declining life with the most abundant portion of those pure and sublime mental powers, for which he had conftantly and fervently prayed, as the choiceft bounty of Heaven.
At this period, his kind friend and physician, who had proved so serviceable to him in the recommendation of an attentive and affectionate wife, introduced to his notice a young reader of Latin, in that fingular character, Thomas Ellwood, the quaker, who has written a minute hiftory of his own life; a book, which suggests the reflection, how strangely a writer may sometimes mistake his way in his endeavours to engage the attention of pofterity. Had the honest quaker bequeathed to the world as circumstantial an account of his great literary friend, as he has done of himself, his book would certainly have engrosfed no common share of public regard : we are indebted to him, however, for his incidental mention of the great poet; and as there is a pleasing air of simplicity and truth in his narrative, I shall gratify the reader by inferting it with very little abridgment :
John Milton, a gentleman of great note for learning throughout the learned world, having filled a public station in former times, lived now a private and retired life in London; and having wholly lost his sight, kept always a man
to read to him, which usually was the fon of some gentleman of his acquaintance, whom in kindness he took to improve in his learning.
By the mediation of my friend, Isaac Penington, with Dr. Paget, and of Dr. Paget with John Milton, was admitted to come to him, not as a servant to him, which at that tiine he needed not, nor to be in the house with him, but only to have the liberty of coming to his house at certain hours, when I would, and to read to him what books he should appoint me, which was all the favour I desired.”
Ellwood was at this time an ingenuous but undisciplined young man, about three-and-twenty ;-his father, a justice of Oxfordshire, had taken him, very unseasonably, from school, with a view to lessen his own expences, and this his younger son, after wasting some years at home, attached himself, with great fervency, to the feet of quakers. His religious ardour involved him in a long and painful quarrel with His father, and in many fingular adventures-he united with his pious zeal a lively regard for literature; and being grieved to find that his interrupted education had permitted him to acquire but a Nender portion of classical learning, họ anxiously sought the acquaintance of Milton, in the hope of improving it.
“ I went, therefore (says the candid quaker) and took nyfelf a lodging near to his house, which was then in Jewinstreet, as conveniently as I could, and from thence forward went every day in the afternoon, except on the first days of the week, and fitting by him in his dining-room, read to
him such books in the Latin tongue as he pleased to hear
“At my first fitting to read to him, observing that I used the English pronunciation, he told me, if I would have the benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and understand Latin authors, but to converse with foreigners, either abroad or at home, I must learn the foreign pronunciation; to this I consenting, he instructed me how to found the vowels : this change of pronunciation proved a new difficulty to me; but,
Labor omnia vincit
And so did I; which made my reading the more acceptable to my master. He, on the other hand, perceiving with what earnest desire I pursued learning, gave me not only all the encouragement, but all the help. he could ; for having a curious ear, he understood by my tone when I understood what I read, and when I did not, and accordingly would stop me, examine and
the most difficult passages to me.”
The clearness and simplicity of Ellwood's. narrative brings us, as it were, into the company of Milton, and shews, in a very agreeable point of view, the native courtesy and sweetness of a temper, that has been strangely misrepresented as morose and austere.
Johnson, with his accustomed asperity to Milton, discovers an inclination to censure him for his mode of teaching
Latin to Ellwood; but Milton, who was instructing an indigent young man, had probably very friendly reasons for wishing him to acquire immediately the foreign pronunciation ; and assuredly the patience, good nature, and success, with which he condescended to teach this fingular attendant, do credit both to the disciple and the preceptor.
Declining health foon interrupted the studies of Ellwood, and obliged him to retire to the house of a friend and physician in the country. Here, after great suffering from fickness, he revived, and returned again to London.
“ I was very kindly received by my Master (continues the interesting quaker) who had conceived so good an opinion of me, that my conversation, I found, was acceptable, and he seemed heartily glad of my recovery and return, and into our old method of study we fell again, I reading to him, and he explaining to me, as occasion required.”
But learning (as poor Ellwood observes was almost a forbidden fruit to him. His intercourse with Milton was again interrupted by a second calamity ; a party of soldiers rushed into a meeting of quakers, that included this unfortunate scholar, and he was hurried, with his friends, from prison to prison. Though ten-pence was all the money he poffeffed, his honest pride prevented his applying to Milton for relief in this exigence, and he contrived to support himself by his industry, in confinement, with admirable fortitude.
Moderate prosperity, however, visited at last this honest and devout man, affording him an agreeable opportunity
of being useful to the great poet, who had deigned to be his preceptor.
An affluent quaker, who resided at Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, settled Ellwood in his family, to instruct his children, and in 1665, when the pestilence raged in London, Milton requested his friendly disciple to find a refuge for him in his neighbourhood.
“ I took a pretty box for him,” says this affectionate friend, “ in Giles Chalfont, a mile from me, of which I gave him notice, and intended to have waited on him, and feen him well fettled in it, but was prevented by imprisonment.”
This was a second captivity that the unfortunate young man had to sustain; for in consequence of a recent and most iniquitous persecution of the quakers, he was apprehended at the funeral of a friend, and confined in the gaol of Aylesbury
" But being now released,” continues Elwood, “ I soon made a visit to him, to welcome him into the country.
“ After some common discourses had passed between us, he called for a manuscript of his, which, being brought, he delivered to me, bidding me take it home with me, and read it at my leisure, and when I had so done, return it to him, with my judgment thereupon.
“ When I came home, and set myself to read it, I found it was that excellent poem, which he entitled Paradise Lost.
“ After I had, with the best attention, read it through, I made him another visit, and returned him his book, with due acknowledgment of the favour he had done me in communicating it to me. He asked me how I liked it, and