Obrazy na stronie

may be

malice, nor brib’d by favor, and as well daring to say all that is true, as scorning to write any falfhood, I shall not conceal what thought against my author's honor, nor add the least word for his reputation : but three things I would have you fpecially observe. First, I shall not be too minute in relating the ordinary circumstances of his life, and which are common to him with all other men. Writings of this nature should, in my opinion, be design'd to recommend virtue, and to expose vice; or to illuftrat history, and to preserve the memory of extraordinary things. That a man, for example, was sick at such a time, or well at another, should never be mention'd ; except in the causes or effects, cure or continuance, there happens something remarkable, and for the benefit of mankind to know. I had not therfore related Milton's headachs in his youth, were it not for the influence which this indispofition had afterwards on his eys; and that his blindness was rafhly imputed by his enemies to the avenging judgment of God. Secondly, In the characters of sects, and parties, books or opinions, I shall produce his own words, as I find 'em in his works; that those who

approve his reasons, may ow all the obligation to him. self, and that I may escape the blame of such as may dislike what he says. For it is com


[ocr errors]

monly seen, that historians are suspected rather to make their hero what they would have him to be, than such as he really was; and that, as they are promted by different passions, they put those words in his mouth which they might not speak themselves without incurring som danger, and being accus'd perhaps of flattery or injuftice : but I am neither writing a fatyr, nor a panegyric upon Milton, but publishing the true history of his actions, works, and opinions. In the third place, I would not have it expected that when I quote a few verses or passages in a different language, I thould always pretend to tranflate 'em, when the whole turn or fancy absolutely depends upon the force of the original words; for the Ignorant could be nothing the wiser, and the best translation would spoil their beauty to the Learned. But this happens so rarely, and almost only during his travels abroad, that it scarce deserv'd an advertisement. The amplest part of my materials I had from his own books, where, constrain’d by the diffamations of his enemys, he often gives an account of himself. I learnt som particulars from a person that had bin once his amanuensis, which were confirm’d to me by his daughter now dwelling in London, and by a letter written to one at my desire from his last wife, who is still alive. I perus’d the papers of one of



· his nephews; learnt what I could in discourfe

with the other ; and lastly consulted such of his acquaintance, as, after the best inquiry, } was able to discover. Thus completely furnish'd, I undertook, moft ingenious Sir, the following work, as well to oblige you, as to inform poflerity : and perform'd what I knew would be acceptable to my friend with as much pleasure as ever you perus'd our author's excel lent sheets.

[ocr errors]

OHN MILTON, the son likewise of FoHxMILTON,

and SARAH CASTON, a woman exemplary for her liberality to the Poor, was born in London, in the year of Christ 1608, a gentleman by his education and family, being descended from the MilTONS of Milton in Oxfordshire ; tho if you consider him in his admirable works or genius, he was truly and eminently noble. But he had too much good sense to value himfelf upon any other qualities except those of his mind, and which only he could properly call his own : for all external and adventitious titles, as they may at the pleasure of a tyrant, or by an unfortunat attemt against his government, be quite abolish'd; fo we often find in hereditary honors, that those distinctions which the Brave and the Wise had justly obtain'd from their country, descend indifferently to cowards, traytors, or fools, and spoil the industry of better souls from indeavoring to equal or excede the merits of their anceitors. His father was a polite man, a great master of music, and by profession a scrivener, in which calling, thro his diligence and honesty, he got a competent estare in a small time: for he was disinherited by his bigotted parents for imbracing the protestant religion, and abjuring the popish idolatry. He had two other children, AnnA marry'd to EDWARD Philips; and CHRISTOPHER bred to the common law; who, more resembling his grandfather than his father or bļother, was of a very superstitious nature, and a man of no parts or ability. After the late civil wars, tho he was intirely addicted to the royal cause, no notice was taken of him, till the late king James, wanting a set of judges that would declare his will to be superior to our legal constitution, created him the same day a ferjeant and one of the barons of the Exchequer, knighting him of course, and making him next one of the judges of the Common Pleas: but he quickly had his quietus eft, as his master not long after was depos’d for his maladministration by the people of England, represented in a convention at Westminster. To return now to the person who makes the subject of this discourse, John MILTON was destin'd to be a scholar, and partly under domestic teachers (whereof one was Thomas YOUNG, to whom the first of his familiar letters is inscribed) and partly under Dr. Gill, the chief master of Paul's school (to whom likewise the fifth of the same letters is written) he made an incredible progress in the knowlege of words and things, his diligence and inclination outstripping the care of his instructors. After the twelfth year of his of his age, such was his insatiable B2



he gave

thirst for learning, he feldom went to bed before midnight. This was the first undoing of his eys, to whose natural debility were added frequent headachs, which could not retard or extinguish his laudable passion for letters. Being thus initiated in several tongues, and having noc Nightly tasted the inexpressible sweets of philosophy, he was sent at fifteen to Christ's College in Cambridg * to pursue more arduous and folid studies. This same

year several proofs of his early genius for poetry, wherin he afterwards succeded so happily, that to all ages he'l continue no less the ornament and glory of England, than Homer is own’d to be that of Greece, and VIRGIL of Italy. He first translated som Psalms into English verse, wherof the 114th begins in this manner.

When the blest seed of TERAH's faithful fon,
After long toil, their liberty had won,
And past from Pharian fields to Canaan land,
Led by the strength of the Almighty's hand;
Jehovah's wonders were in Israel shown,

His praise and glory was in Israel known.
In his seventeenth year he wrote a handsom copy

of verses on the death of a sister's child that dy'd of a cough; and the same year a Latin elegy on the death of the bishop of Winchester, with another on

* It was not till his seventeenth year, that he was entered there, as is evident from the register of that college, into which he was admitted penfionarius minor, February 12, 1624:5, under the tuition of Mr. William CHAPPEL, &c. a divine highly distinguished for his politeness, and extensive learning.

Dr. Birch's Life of Micron, printed for A. Millar, 1753, page 3


« PoprzedniaDalej »