« AnteriorContinuar »
Forfitan hàs faudes, decantatumque parentis
But thou, my father, since to render thanks
« He began now," fays Johnfon, " to grow weary of the " country, and had fome purpose of taking chambers in the «inns of court."
This weariness appears to have existed only in the fancy of his biographer. During the five years that Milton resided with his parents, in Buckinghamshire, he bad occasional lodgings in London, which he visited, as lie informs us himfelf, for the purpose of buying books, and improving himself in mathematics and in music, at that time his favourite amusements. The letter, which, intimates his intention of taking chambers in the inns of court, was not written
from the country, as his biographer seems to have supposed; it is dated from London, and only expresses, that his quarters there appeared to him awkward and inconvenient *.
On the death of his mother, who died in April, 1637, and is buried in the chancel of Horton church, he obtained his father's permission to gratify his eager desire of visiting the continent, a permission the more readily granted, perhaps, as one of his motives for visiting Italy was to form a collection of Italian music.
Having received some directions for his travels from the celebrated Sir Henry Wotton, he went, with a single servant, to Paris, in 1638; he was there honoured by the notice of Lord Scudamore, the English ambassador, who, at his earnest desire, gave him an introduction to Grotius, then residing at Paris as the minister of Sweden.
Curiosity is naturally excited by the idea of a conference between two persons fo eminent and accomplished. It has been conjectured, that Milton might conceive his first design of writing a tragedy on the banishment of Adam from this interview with Grotius; but if the Adamus Exsul of the Swedish ambassador were a subject of their discourse, it is probable its author must have spoken of it but slightly, as a juvenile composition, since he does so in a letter to his friend Vossius, in 1616, concerning a new edition of his
* Dicam jam nunc ferio quid cogitem, in hospitium juridicorum aliquod immigrare, ficubi amena et umbrofa ambulatio est, quod et inter aliquot sodales, commodior illic habi
tatio, fi domi manere, et gpuntnglov EVAZETESESOV quocunque libitum erit excurrere: ubi nunc sum, ut nosti, obscurè et anguftè fum.
poetry, from which he particularly excluded this facred drama, as too puerile, in his own judgment, to be re-published *
The letters of Grotius, voluminous and circumstantial as they are, afford no traces of this interesting visit; but they lead me to imagine, that the point, which the learned ambassador most warmly recommended to Milton, on his departure for Italy, was, to pay the kindest attention in his power to the sufferings of Galileo, then persecuted as a prisoner by the inquisition in Florence.
In a letter to Vossius, dated in the very month when Milton was probably introduced to Grotius, that liberal friend to science and humanity speaks thus of Galileo : “ This old man, to whom the universe is so deeply indebted, worn out with maladies, and still more with anguish of mind, give us little reason to hope, that his life can be long; common prudence, therefore, suggests to us to make the utmost of the time, while we can yet avail ourselves of such an instructor t.” Milton was, of all travellers, the most likely to seize a hint of this kind with avidity, and expressions in Paradise Lost have led an Italian biographer of the poet to suppose, that while he resided at Florence he caught from Galileo, or his disciples, some ideas approaching towards the Newtonian philosophy. He has informed us himself, that he really saw the illustrious scientific prisoner of the inqui
* Christum patientem recudendum judico, + Senex is, optime de universo meritus, morideoque velim aliquod ejus exemplum ad bo fractus, insuper et animi ægritudine, haud me mitti, ut errata typographica corrigam,
multum nobis vitæ suæ promittit ; quare pruquando ipfe nullum habeo. Adami Exulis . dentiæ erit arripere tempus, dum tanto doctore poema juvenilius est quam ut ausim addere.
uti licet. Grotii Epift. 964. Grotii Epist. 77.
sition, and it seems not unreasonable to conclude, that he was in fome degree indebted to his conference with Grotius for that mournful gratification.
From Paris our author proceeded to Italy, embarking at Nice for Genoa. After a cursory view of Leghorn and Pifa, he fettled for two months at Florence; a city, which he particularly regarded for the elegance of its language, and the men of genius it had produced'; here, as he informs us, he became familiar with many persons distinguished by their rank and learning; and here, probably, he began to form those great, but unsettled, projects of future compofition, which were to prove the fources of his glory, and of which he thus speaks himself:
“ In the private academies of Italy, whither I was fa. “ voured to resort, perceiving that some trifles I had in “ memory, composed at under twenty, or thereabout (for “the manner is, that every one must give some proof of his “ wit and reading there) met with acceptance above what
was looked for, and other things, which I had fhifted, “ in scarcity of books and conveniency, to patch up amongst " them, were received with written encomiums, which the ". Italian is not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps, I began thus far to affent both to them, and di
my friends here at home, and not less to an in“. ward prompting, which now grew daily upon me, that
by labour and intent study, (which I take to be my por« tion in this life) joined with the strong propensity of na
ture, I might, perhaps, leave something fo written to " after-times as they should not willingly let it die. These
thoughts at once poffeffed me, and these iother, that if I
were certain to write as men buy leases, for three lives and “ downward, there ought no regard to be sooner had than to “ God's glory, by the honour and instruction of my coun
try; for which cause, and not only for that I knew it " would be hard to arrive at the second rank among the “ Latins, I applied myself to that resolution, which Ariosto “ followed against the persuasions of Bembo, to fix all the “ industry and art I could unite to the adorning of “ tive tongue; not to make verbal curiosities the end, (that
were a toilsome vanity) but to be an interpreter and re< later of the best and sagest things among mine own citi
zens throughout this island in the mother dialect; that « what the greatest and choicest wits of Athens, Rome, or “ modern Italy, and those Hebrews of old, did for their
country, I in my proportion, with this over and above “ of being a Christian, might do for mine, not caring to “ be once named abroad, though, perhaps, I could attain “ to that, but content with these British islands as my “ « world.” Prose Works, vol. 1. p. :62.
It is delightful to contemplate such a character as Milton, thus cherishing, in his own mind, the seeds of future greatness, and animating his youthful spirit with visions of renown, that time has realized and extended beyond his most fanguine wishes.
He appears, on every occasion, a sincere and fervent lover of his country, and expresses, in one of his Latin Poems, the