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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 period; 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.
have inferred that the son, who was made the object of so flattering a distinction by a father, in competent indeed, but by no means in affluent circumstances, could not have been a common child.
“ Pater me puerulum humaniorum literarum studiis destinavit; quas ita avidè arripui, ut ab anno atatis duodecimo vix unquam ante mediam noctem à lucubrationibus cubitum discederem; quæ prima oculorum pernicies fuit: quorum ad naturalem debilitatem accesserant et crebri capitis dolores; quæ omnia cum discendi impetum non retardarent, et in ludo literario, et sub aliis domi magistris erudiendum quotidie curavit.” *
My father destined me” (our author says) when I was yet a child to the study of elegant literature, and so eagerly did I seize on it that, from my twelfth year, I seldom quitted my studies for
bed till the middle of the night. This proved the first cause of the ruin of my eyes; in addition to the natural weakness of which organs, I was afflicted with frequent pains in my head. When these maladies could not restrain my rage for learning, my father provided that I should be daily instructed in some school abroad, or by domestic tutors at home.” How great aré
h Defen. Secun. P. W. vol. v. p. 230,
the obligations of Britain and of the world to such a father, engaged in the assiduous and well-directed cultivation of the mind of such a son!
But the reward of the father was ample; and no one, but a parent of taste and sensibility, under circumstances of some resemblance, can form any estimate of the gratification, which he must have felt from his child's increasing progress, and froin the prospects which this gradually opened. How exquisite must have been his sensations on receiving, in that admirable latin poem, which is addressed to him, the fullest evidence of the learning, genius, taste, piety, and gratitude, which had unfolded under his eye! How pleased must he have been to accept immortality from the hand, which he had himself fostered-to be assured of visiting posterity as the benefactor of his illustrious offspring, and of being associated, as it were, with him, in the procession and expanding pomp of his triumph! We may imagine with what pleasure a father would read the following elegant compliment to his own peculiar talent, from the
of his accomplished and poetic son.
Nec tu perge, precot, sacras contemnere Musas,
Munere, mille sonos numeros componis ad aptos,
Nori you affect to scorn the Aonian quire,
i If I have refused to avail myself of Mr. Cowper's translations, which are given to us by Mr. Hayley, I will hope that my conduct may not be attributed to affectation, or to the childish wish of entering the lists, for so trivial a prize, with that justly admired poet, and most excellent man, the author of "the Task.” My translations, as I am conscious, stand in need of apology; they reflect indeed the thought of the original, but they reflect it sometimes in a peculiar mode, and with images of their own. When I refuse, therefore, to accept the more accurate transcript of another pen, I am induced solely by the persuasion that my reader will have cause to be out of humour with me, if I offer to him only what he has seen and purchased before. My own verses are new; and novelty will generally be acceptable, even when the wares, which are stamped with it, happen to be of inferior value.