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JOHN MILTON was born December 9, 1608, at the Spread Eagle in Bread Street, London where his father, a disinherited son of an ancient Oxfordshire family, supported himself as a scrivener, and beguiled his leisure with music, in which he was not only a great enthusiast, but a distinguished composer.
Young Milton received his education first in St Paul's School, and afterwards at Christ's College, Cambridge. In the composition of Latin verse he exhibited a mastery rarely attained by modern scholars, and his noble “ Hymn on the Nativity," written at one-and-twenty, shews how soon his poetical faculty developed.
At the age of thirty he enjoyed the great advantage of an extended continental tour—making the acquaintance of Hugo Grotius at Paris, of Spanheim and Düodati at Geneva, and of Galileo, whom he visited in the prison of the Inquisition at Rome. To a mind like Milton's, the materials were invaluable which he amassed during these fifteen months in the library of the Vatican, among the galleries of Florence, and amidst scenes where the events of history and the beauties of nature impart so much interest to one another.
He came back revolving high projects ; but, as often happens to men of ardent aspirations, dull realities demanded his immediate care. He was obliged to do something for a maintenance; and, being neither clergyman nor lawyer, but only a scholar, there was not much choice : and so John Milton commenced a school, But we have no reason to
attend thereunto. But at the hear whether they will or ne great consolation of believers. be their own relations despis hated, reproached; but the ] them. He will not pass by t in rags—it may be reckoned among malefactors. They m. and love of God in this matte nation of His Son was to wherein He might naturally that He might not be ashar their wants, their state and c always ready and meet to re take its course, and the men rage, and the powers of hel them load them with reproa over with the filth and di them bring them into rags,
i comes in the midst of all these are my brethren, the becomes their Saviour. A comfort and supportment not taught our duty also of Him or of His gospel, < The Lord Christ is now ! the worst of men esteem deed, they are no less ash been when He was carr or hanging upon the tr in this world they are worship, His Spirit, His of their scom; and in t] be truly honoured or be
suppose that he felt it a hardship; for, as one of his biographers truly observes, he was now engaged in the noblest employment of mankind, that of instructing others in knowledge and virtue ;" * and in the pains which he took with his pupils, as well as the wide range of subjects over which his teaching extended, there is abundant evidence that he found in his calling neither degradation nor drudgery.
For ten years, including all the dismal period of the Civil War, Milton taught successive scholars in his various London residences-St Bride's Churchyard, Aldersgate, and Holborn ; and the following ten years he was employed as Latin Secretary to the Council of State, at a salary of fifteen shillings and tenpence-halfpenny per diem. As respects his worldly circumstances, this last was the happiest decade of his history; but it was by no means exempt from trial, and it was during this period that he sustained a bereavement wellnigh the sorest that can befall a scholar, for it was then that the calamity which had long threatened was consummated, and he found himself doomed to spend his remaining years in total blindness.
But long before this visitation apparently as early as the time of his continental tour-he had conceived the project of some immortal work; and although at first his mind oscillated between various lofty themes, it would appear that before the Restoration he had fixed his choice, and had begun to paint on the mental canvas, and in vast cartoons, the creation and the fall of man. It was in troublous times that “Paradise Lost” was carried on and completed. It had hardly been begun when the King's arrival not only deprived the author of his maintenance, but placed his life in jeopardy; and although a pardon again released him from the penalties of treason,
* The “Life of Milton,” by the Rev. J. H. Todd, M.A., 1826–a work in which was first given to the light a large mass of information, principally derived from documents in the State-Paper Office.
APPEARANCE AND HABITS.
other dangers intervened from which even kings can give no protection; and it was in the village of Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, to which he was driven by the Plague of London, that we have the first intimation of its being brought to a conclusion. But although it was finished in 1665, it did not appear till 1667; and it is rather remarkable that the masterpiece of English poetry should be the ripe result of fifty years and upwards.
The residue of his dark but industrious days was given to the "Paradise Regained,” “Samson Agonistes," a "Treatise on Logic,” a “ History of England,” and other works of minor moment. Latterly he suffered much from gout, and betwixt sickness and blindness was confined almost entirely to his house in Artillery Walk; and it was there that, on Sunday, the 8th of November 1674, his spirit passed so gently and peacefully away that the moment of his departure was unknown. He was buried beside his father, in the chancel of St Giles, Cripplegate, and his remains were followed to the grave by “all his learned and great friends then in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar.”
“Milton has the reputation of having been in his youth eminently beautiful, so as to have been called the lady of his college. His hair, which was of a light brown, parted at the foretop, and hung down upon his shoulders, according to the picture which he has given of Adam. He was, however, not of the heroic stature, but rather below the middle size, according to Mr Richardson, who mentions him as having narrowly escaped from being short and thick. He was vigorous and active, and delighted in the exercise of the sword, in which he is related to have been eminently skilful. His eyes are said never to have been bright; but if he was a dexterous fencer, they must have been once quick. His domestic habits, so far as they are known, were those of a severe student. He drank little strong drink of any kind, and fed without excess in quantity, and in