fixteenth year, to Christ's College in Cambridge, where he entered a sizar, Feb. 12, 1624.

He was at this time eminently skilled in the Latin 8 tongue; and he himself, by annexing the dates to his first compositions, a boast of which the learned Polia. tiạn had given him an example, seeins 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 likę Paradise Lost.

At fifteen, a date which he uses till he is fixteen, he translated or versified two Psalms, 114 and 136, which he thought worthy of the publick 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 classick elegance. If any exceptions can be made, they are very few : Haddon and Ascham, the pride of Elizabeth's reign, however they may have succeeded in prose, no sooner attempt verses than they provoke derision. If we produced any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was perhaps Alabaster's Roxana.

Of these exercises which the rules of the University required, some were published by him in his maturer years. They had been undoubtedly applauded; for G 3°



they were such as few can perform : yet there is rea. son 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 publick 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; bụt it seems plain from his own verses to Diodati, that he had incurred Ruftication ; a temporary dismission into the country, with perhaps the loss of a term; Me tenet urbs refluâ quam Thamesis alluit undâ,

Meque nec invitum patria dulcis habet.
Jam nec arundiferum mihi cura revisere Camum,

Nec dudum vetiti me laris angit amor.-
Nec duri libet usque minas perferre magistri,

Cæteraque ingenio non fubeunda meo.
Si fit hoc exilium patrias adiiffe penates,

Et vacuum curis otia grata sequi,
Non ego vel profugi nomen sortemve recuso,

Lætus et exili conditione fruor. I cannot find any meaning but this, which even kind. ness and reverence can give to the terin, 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 tbreats of a rigorous master, and something else, which a temper like hiş cannot undergo. What was more than threat was probably punishment. This poem, which mentions his exile, proves likewise that iï was not perpetual; for iç


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 Batchelor it 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 comprise the whole time which men usually spend in literature, from their entrance upon grammar, till they proceed, as it is called, mafiers 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 superylitious uses, Jould be applied to such academies all over the land, where languages and arts may be taught togeiber; 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 tbe 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 deligned for orders in the Church were permitted to act plays, writhing and unboning their clergy limós to all the antick and difhoneft gestures of Trincalos, buffoons and bawds, prostituting ibe Shame of that ministry which they had, or were near having, to the eyes of courliers and courtladies, their grooms and mademoiselles *.

This * This pafiage, it may be supposed, was a cenfure of the practice of acting plays in the universities, of whieh the instances are inany,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

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 cri. minal when they were acted by academicks,

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 clergymnan must“ subscribe slave, and take an oath withal, which, unless

he took with a conscience that could retch, he must “ straight perjure himself. Hệ thought it better to prefer a blarneless silence before the office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and for“ swearing."

I hese 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 fantastick luxury of various knowledge. To this he writes a cool In 1566 was represented before queen Elizabeth in the hall of Chrilt church college, Oxford, by the scholars thereof, the comedy of Palemon :nd Arcite, written by Richard Edwards, matter of the royal chapel children; and afterwards, before king James 1. at Trinity college, Cambridge, the comedy of Ignorainus. And later than that, viz. in 1636, was acted before the king and queen, in the hall of St. John's in Oxford, a play entitled Love's Hospital, by the scholars of that college.


and plaufible 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 give advantage to be more fit.

When he left the university, he returned to his fa. To ther, then residing at Horton in Buckinghamshire, withi whom he lived five years; in which time he is said to have read all the Greek and Latin writers. With what limitations this univerfality is to be understood, who shall inform us?

It might be supposed that he who read so much Tould have done nothing else; but Milton found time to write the Masque 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


* It has nevertheless its foundation in reality. The earl of Bridge water being president of Wales in the year 1634, had his residence at Ludlow castle in Shropshire, at which time lord Brackly and Mr. Egerton his fons, and lady Alice Egerton his daughter, passing through a place called the Hay-wood forest, or Haywood in Herefordshire, were benighted, and the lady for a short time loft: this accident being related to their father upon their arrival at his callle, Milton, at the request of his friend Henry Lawes who taught mufic in the family, wrote this masque. 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 reprefentation,

The lady Alice Egerton became afterwards the wife of the earl of Carbury, who at his feat called Golden-grove, in Caermarthenshire, harbored Dr. Jeremy Taylor in the time of the Usurpation. Among the doctor's ferinons is one on her death, in which her character is finely pourtrayed. Her ffer, lady Mary, was given in marriage to lord Herbert of Cherbury. Vol. II.



« VorigeDoorgaan »