« AnteriorContinuar »
unfortunately drowned that same year in the month of August, on the Irish seas, in his passage from Chester. Despite the subject, however, this poem is not all made up of sorrow and tenderness; there is a mixture of satire and indignation ; for in part of it the poet takes occasion to inveigh against the corruptions of the clergy, and seems to have first discovered his acrimony against Archbishop Laud, and to have threatened him with the loss of his head, which afterwards happened to him through the fury of his enemies, At least I can think of no sense so proper to be given to the following verses in Lycidas
“Besides, what the grim wolf with privy paw
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more." About this time, as we learn from one of his familiar epistles, he had some thoughts of taking chambers at one of the inns of court, for he was not very well pleased with living so obscurely in the country: but his mother dying, he prevailed upon his father to let him indulge a desire, which he had long entertained, of seeing foreign countries, and particularly Italy; and having communicated his design to Sir Henry Wotton, who had formerly been Ambassador at Venice, and was then Prorost of Eton College, and having also sent him his “ Mask,” of which he had not yet publicly acknowledged himself the author, he received from him å most friendly and complimentary letter, dated from the College the 10th of April, 1638.
He now set out on his travels, attended by only one servant, who accompanied him through all his travels; and he went first to France, where he had recommendations to Lord Scudamore, the English Ambassador there at that time; and as soon as he came to Paris, he waited upon his Lordship, and was received with wonderful civility; and having an earnest desire to visit the learned Hugo Grotius, he was, by his Lordship's means, introduced to that great man, who was then Ambassador at the French court from the famous Christina, Queen of Sweden; and the visit was to their mutual satisfaction; each of them being pleased to see a person, of whom he had heard such commendations. But at Paris he stayed not long, his
oughts and his wishes hastened into Italy; and so after a few days he took leave of the Lord Scudamore, who
very kindly gave him letters to the English merchants in the several places through which he was to travel, requesting them to do him all the good offices which lay in their power.
From Paris he went directly to Nice, where he took shipping for Genoa, from whence he went to Leghorn, and thence to Pisa, and so to Florence, in which city he found sufficient inducements to make a stay of two months. For besides the curiosities and other beauties of the place, he took great delight in the company and conversation there, and frequented their academies, as they are called, the meetings of the most polite and ingenious persons, which they have in this, as well as in the other principal cities of Italy, for the exercise and improvement of wit and learning among them. And in these conversations he bore so good a part, and produced so many excellent compositions, that he was soon taken notice of, and was very much courted and caressed by several of the nobility and prime wits of Florence. Giacomo Gaddi, Antonio Francini, Carlo Dati, Beneditto Bonmatthei, Cultellino, Frescobaldi, Clementilli, are reckoned among his particular friends. At Gaddi's house the academies were held, which he constantly frequented. Antonio Francini composed an Italian ode in his commendation. Carlo Dati wrote a Latin eulogium of him, and corresponded with him after his return to England. Bonmatthei was at that time about publishing an Italian grammar; and the eighth of our author's familiar epistles, dated at Florence, September 10, 1638, is addressed to him upon that occasion, commending his design, and advising him to add some observations concerning the ue pronunciation of that language for the use of foreigners.
So much good acquaintance would probably have detained him longer at Florence, if he had not been going to Rome, which, to a curious traveller, is certainly the place the most worth seeing of any in the world. And so he took leave of his friends at Florence, and went from thence to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he stayed much about the same time that he had continued at Florence, feasting both his eyes and his mind, and delighted with the fine paintings, and sculptures, and other rarities and antiquities of the city, as well as with the conversation of several learned and ingenious men, and particularly of Lucas Holstenius, keeper of the Vatican library, who re
ceived him with the greatest courtesy, and showed him all the Greek authors, whether in print or in manuscript, which had passed through his correction; and also pre. sented him to Cardinal Barberini, who, at an entertain. ment of music, performed at his own expense, waited for him at the door, and taking him by the hand brought him into the assembly.
From Rome he went to Naples, in company with a certain hermit, and by his means was introduced to the acquaintance of Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, a Neapolitan nobleman, of singular merit and virtue, to whom Tasso addresses his dialogue of friendship, and whom he likewise mentions in his “ Gierusalemme Liberata” with great honour. This nobleman was particularly civil to Milton, frequently visited him at his lodgings, and went with him to show him the viceroy's palace, and whatever was curious or worth notice in the city: _and, moreover, he honoured him so far as to make a Latin distich in his praise, which is printed before our author's Latin poems, with several other eulogies of a similar cha racter. As a testimony of his gratitude, Milton presented to the marquis, at his departure from Naples, his eclogue, entitled “ Mansus,” which is well worth reading among his
Having seen the finest parts of Italy, Milton was now thinking of passing over into Sicily and Greece, when he was diverted from his purpose by the news from England, that things were tending to a civil war between the King and Parliament: for he thought it unworthy of himself to be taking his pleasure abroad, while his countrymen were contending for liberty at home. He resolved, therefore, to return
way of Rome, though he was advised to the contrary by the merchants, who had received intelligence from their correspondents, that the English Jesuits there were forming plots against him, in case he should return thither, by reason of the great freedom which he had used in all his discourses of religion. For he had by no means observed the rule, recommended to him by Sir Henry Wotton, of keeping his thoughts close and his countenance open. He had visited Galileo, prisoner to the Inquisition for asserting the motion of the earth, and thinking otherwise in astronomy than the Dominicans and Franciscans thought. And though the Marquis of Villa had shown him such distinguishing marks of favour at Naples, yet he told him
at his departure that he would have shown him much greater, if he had been more reserved in matters of religion. But he had a soul above dissimulation and disguise : he was neither afraid nor ashamed to vindicate the truth; and if any man had, he had in him the spirit of an old martyr. He was so prudent, indeed, that he would not, of his own accord, begin any discourse of religion ; but, at the same time, he was so honest, that if he was questioned at all about his faith, he would not dissemble his sentiments, whatever was the consequence. And, with this resolution, he went to Rome the second time, and stayed there two months more, neither concealing his name, nor declining openly to defend the truth, if any thought proper to attack him. And yet, God's good providence protecting him, he came safe to his kind friends at Florence, where he was received with as much joy and affection as if he had returned into his own country.
Here, likewise, he stayed two months, as he had done before, ex pting only an excursion of a few days to Lucca; and then crossing the Apennines, and passing through Bologna and Ferrara, he came to Venice, in which city he spent a month; and having shipped off the books, which he had collected in his travels, and particularly a chest or two of choice music books of the best masters fiourishing about that time in Italy, he took his course through Verona, Milan, and along the lake Leman to Geneva. In this city he tarried some time, meeting here with people of his own principles, and contracted an intimate friendship with Giovanni Deodati, a most learned professor of divinity, whose annotations upon the Bible are published n English. And from thence returning through France, the same way that he had gone before, he arrived safe in England, after a peregrination of one year and about three months, having seen more, and learned more, and conversed with more famous men, and made more real improvements, than most others in double the time.
His first business after his return was to pay his duty to his father, and to visit his other friends ; but this pleasure was much diminished by the loss of his dear friend and schoolfellow, Charles Deodati, in his absence. While he was abroad, he heard it reported that he was dead; and upon his coming home he found it but too true, and lamented his death in an excellent Latin eclogue entitled Epitaphium Damonis." This Deodati had a father origi
nally of Lucca, but his mother was English, and he was born and bred in England, and studied physic, and was an admirable scholar, and no less remarkable for his sobriety and other virtues, than for his great learning and ingenuity.
Soon after his return, he had taken a lodging at one Russel's, a tailor, in St. Bride's Churchyard; but he continued not long there, having not sufficient room for his library and furniture, and therefore determined to take a house, and accordingly took a handsome garden-house in Aldersgate-street, situated at the end of an entry, which was the more agreeable to a studious man for its privacy and freedom from noise and disturbance. And in this house he continued several years, and his sister's two sons were put to board with him—first the younger, and after. wards the elder; and some other of his intimate friends requested of him the same favour for their sons, especially since there was little more trouble in instructing half a dozen than two or three: and he, who could not easily deny
nything to his friends, and who knew that the greatest men in all ages had delighted in teaching others the prin. ciples of knowledge and virtue, undertook the office, not out of any sordid and mercenary, views, but merely from a benevolent disposition, and a desire to do good. And his method of education was as much above the pedantry and jargon of the common schools, as his genius was superior to that of a common schoolmaster, and the course of reading extensive as compared with the ordinary range adopted in schools. The Sunday's exercise for his pupils was for the most part to read a chapter of the Greek Testament, and to hear his learned exposition of it. The next work after this was to write from his dictation some part of a system of divinity, which he had collected from the ablest authors, who had written upon that subject. Such were his academic institutions; and thus, by teaching others, he in some measure enlarged his own knowledge; and, having the reading of so many authors as it were by proxy, he might possibly have preserved his sight if he had not moreover been perpetually busied in reading or writing something himself. It was certainly a very recluse and studious life that both he and his pupils led; but the young men of that age were of a different turn from those of the present; and he himself gave an example to those
1 A strange contrast to the Aldersgate-street of our day!