« VorigeDoorgaan »
deficiency, than that of obligation, he has freely availed himself of assistance from whatever quarter it could be obtained; and if his circumstantial or imperfect detail should neither fatigue attention, nor disappoint curiosity, his end will be accomplished, and his wishes, of course, completely satisfied. His anxiety has been solely to display truth; and, not professing himself to be exempt from those prejudices, which cling to every human being, he has been studious to prevent them from disturbing the rectitude of his line, or from throwing their fəlse țints upon his
The lineage and ancestry of a great man are apt to engage enquiry; as we are desirous of knowing whether the virtue or the intellect, which we are contemplating, he a spring, gushing immediately from the bosom of the earth, or a reservoir, (if the allusion may be permitted,) formed and supported by a long continued stream. Of the family of Milton nothing more is known than that it was respectable and antient; long resident at
spects, his merit as the biographer of our great Poet is certainly considerable, and entitles him to an honourable station among the asserters of historic truth. The admirers of Milton are un
great obligations to him,
Milton,' in Oxfordshire; and possessed of property, which it lost in the wars between the rival houses of York and Lancaster. The fortune alone of a female, who had married into it, preserved it at this crisis from indigence. The first individual of the family, of whom any thing is mentioned, is John Milton, the grandfather of our author; and of him we are told nothing more than that he was under-ranger of the forest of Shotover, in Oxfordshire; that he was a zealous catholic, and that he disinherited his son, whose name was also John, our author's father, for becoming a convert to the protestant faith. To whom the family property was bequeathed from the right heir, we are not informed; but we know that the son, on this disappointment of fortune, left his station at Christ Church in Oxford, where he was prosecuting his studies, and sought the means of subsistence in London, from the profession of a scrivener; a profession which, in those days, united the two businesses of the law, and the money-agent.
That he was not an ordinary man is evident from many circumstances.
circumstances. Under the constant pressure of an occupation, peculi
d Near Halton and Thame.
arly unfavourable to the cultivation of liberal knowledge or the elegant arts, his classical acquirements seem to have been cone siderable, and such was his proficiency in the science of music, that it entitled him to honourable rank among the composers of his age.
We are not informed of the precise time of his marriage; and there has even been a question respecting the maiden name and family of his wife. His grandson, Philips, who seems on this occasion to be the preferable authority, affirms that she was a Caston, of a family originally from Wales. We are assured that she was an exemplary 'woman; and was particularly distinguished by her numerous charities. From this union sprang John (our author), Christopher and Anne. Of the two latter, Christopher, applying himself to the study of the law, became a bencher of the Inner Temple, and, at a very advanced period of his life, was knighted, and raised by James the second, first to be a baron of the Exchequer, and, subsequently, one of the judges of the Common Pleas, During the
© Burney's Hist, of Music, vol. iii. p. 134. i Londini sum natus, genere honesto, patre viro integerrimo, matre probatissima et eleemosynis per viciniam potissimum nota,
Def. Sec, P. W. vol. y. p. 230.
civil war, he followed the royal standard; and effected his composition with the victors only by the prevailing interest of his brother. Christopher Milton is asserted, by his nephew Philips, to have been a person of a modest and quiet temper, in whose estimation, justice and virtue were preferable to, worldly pleasure and grandeur: but he seems to have been also, as he is represented in another account, “ a man of no parts or ability." In his old age he retired from the fatigues of business, and closed, in the country, a life of study and devotion. His only sister, Anne Milton, was given by her father in marriage, with a considerable fortune, to Mr. Edward Philips, a native of Shrewsbury; who coming young to London obtained, in a course of years, the lucrative place of secondary in the Crown Office in Chancery: of the children, which she had by him, only two survived to maturity, John and Edward; the latter of whom became the biographer, after having, with his brother, been the pupil of his uncle, our author. By a second husband, a Mr. Agar, she had two daughters, one of whom, Mary, died young; and of the other, Anne; we know nothing more than that she survived till the year 1694.
John MILTON, the illustrious subject of
our immediate notice, was born at his father's house in Bread street, on the 9th, and was baptized on the 20th of december, 1608. His promise of future excellence was made, as we are assured, at a very early périod; and the advantages, which he derived from the attentions of a father, so qualified as his, to discover and to appreciate genius, must necessarily have been great. Every incitement to exertion, and every mode of instruction, adapted to the disposition and the powers of the child, were unquestionably employed; and no means, as we may be certain, were omitted to expand the intellectual Hercules of the nursery into the full dimensions of that mental amplitude for which he was intended. We know that a portrait of him, when he was only ten years of age, was painted by the celebrated Cornelius Jansen; and, if we had not been positively told, on the authority of Aubrey,' that he was then a poet, we should
& Aubrey, who is usually distinguished by the title of the Antiquarian, is the author of " Monumenta Britannica,” and of a MS. Life of Milton, preserved in the Mus. Ash. Oxon. He was personally acquainted with our poet, and from him, Wood professes to derive the materials of his account of Milton. It is but fair to state, that I owe my acquaintance with Aubrey principally to Mr. Warton, who speaks of the “ Monumenta Britannica," as a very solid and rational work, and vindicates Aubrey from the charge of fantastical, except on the subjects of chemistry and ghosts.