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1608 - 1674.
JOHN MILTON - clarum et venerabile nomen – was born in London in December, 1608, and died November, 1674. He was the son of John Milton, a respectable scrivener. The younger John entered Christ's College, Cambridge, at the age of sixteen, and became distinguished during his University career for his brilliant poetical abilities. He was destined for the service of the Church; but, on arriving at manhood, he found - to quote his own words — “what tyranny had invaded the Church, and that he who would take orders must subscribe Slave.” He therefore turned his thoughts to the law, but soon abandoned it, and gave his undivided attention to literature. The death of his mother, in 1637, affected his health, and he sought to restore it hy travel. He visited several continental countries, and, while in Italy, made the acquaintance of Galileo. Returning to England in 1639, he found the nation in a fever of political excitement, and lost no time in declaring himself with reference to the momentous questions then under discussion. In 1641 and 1642 he published his first polemical treatises, which made a profound impression. In 1643 he was married to Mary Powell; but the union, like Shakespeare's, proved a rather unhappy one. The lady was volatile, and fond of gayety, and her family were enthusiastic Royalists, while Milton was a stern Puritan. Soon after the marriage a separation took place; but last a reconciliation was effected, and the partnership was renewed. Several of his political pamphlets brought Milton into prominence, and led to his being appointed, in 1649, Latin Secretary to the Council of State, which office he held eight years. During that period he wrote his famous Eikonoklastes, and several other books. In 1653 his wife died, and three years later he married again, finding, it is believed, real happiness in his new relation. In 1660 the monarchy was re-established, and thenceforward he took no conspicuous part in politics. Having lost his second wife, he took a third in 1664, who survived him nearly fifty years, dying in 1727.
His most famous composition, Paradise Lost, was written after he had become totally blind, which happened in 1652, it being dictated to his daughter. It is worthy of note that the whole remuneration received by the poet and his family for this poem, which ranks among the grandest in the world, was only twenty-eight pounds, about one hundred and forty dollars.
Paradise Lost represents the only successful attempt ever made to construct a drama whose principal personages are supernatural; in this character it stands above others unapproached. To the student it offers a field whose exploration never ceases to be delightful and remunerative. It is the finest flower of one of the greatest minds that ever commanded the reverence of the world; and in design, if not in execution, is the noblest poetical product of human genius.
THE INVOCATION AND INTRODUCTION TO PARADISE LOST.
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Say first, for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
ADAM AND EVE'S MORNING HYMN.
These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
five other wandering fires, that move
Or wet the thirsty Earth with falling showers,
Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
Hail bounteous May! that dost inspire
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
How charming is divirte philosophy !
JONATHAN SWIFT, commonly known as Dean Swift, was born in Dublin, in November, 1667, and died in October, 1745. He was not proud of his native land, but emphatically declared that his birth in Ireland was a "perfect accident," and lost no opportunity of reviling that country. At Dublin University, where he was matriculated, Swift distinguished himself by his contempt for college laws, and neglect of his studies; and only by special grace did he receive his degree of B. A., in 1685. He entered the family of Sir William Temple in the capacity of secretary; in the same household" Stella," immortalized in Swift's books, was a waiting-maid. King William took a fancy to Swift on account of the latter's services in making the sovereign acquainted with asparagus, and offered him the command of a troop of horse. But the favor was declined. In 1691 Swift was admitted to deacon's orders, and a few years later went to Ireland as chaplain to Lord Berkeley. Here he occupied various ecclesiastical offices, and in 1713 was made Dean of St. Patrick's. He began his career in literature as a writer of political tracts, and was secretly employed by the government to write in its behalf. In 1704 he published The Tale of a Tub. From that time till 1725 he was a resident of England, and mainly engaged in political controversy. In 1726 appeared Gulliver's Travels, and at frequent intervals thereaf ter, his other writings, prose and poetry. In 1740 he evinced the first symptoms of the madness which clouded his closing years. The story of his life is a sad one, and goes far to encourage the belief that sometimes, if not always, retribution comes in this life upon the wrong-doer. Swift's career was supremely selfish; nothing was suffered to stand in the way of his interest and gratification; everybody feared him, and nobody, save the three women whose names he has linked with his own, and whose unfaltering affection he requited so brutally, with these exceptions, nobody loved him. His life furnishes an impressive lesson, the gist of which is, that a man cannot make himself happy by exclusive devotion to himself.
As to Swift's rank as a writer it is not easy to define it; but of his extraordinary abilities there is no chance for doubt. He was, perhaps, the greatest master of satire that has ever written the English language. His originality is remarkable; no writer of his time, probably, borrowed so little from his predecessors; and his versatility for he succeeded in every department of literature that he attempted - is not less wonderful. All things considered, his Gulliver's Travels must be regarded as his greatest work, though several eminent critics, including Hallam, have found it inferior to The Tale of a Tub. Perhaps these words of Lord Jeffrey best embody the general estimate of Dean Swift as a literary man: "In humor and in irony, and in the talent of debasing and defiling what he hated, we join with the world in thinking the Dean of St. Patrick's without a rival." We give an extract from Gulliver's Travels, which illustrates his best manner as a satirist.
PHILOSOPHERS AND PROJECTORS.
I was received very kindly by the warden, and went for many days to the academy. Every room hath in it one or more projectors, and I believe I could not be in fewer than five hundred rooms.
The first man I saw was of a meager aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin were all of the same color. He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into vials hermetically sealed, and let out to