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dressed him in a Latin poem, which must have raised an high opinion of English elegance and literature.
His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and Greece; but, hearing of the differences between the king and parliament, he thought it proper to hasten home, rather than pass his life in foreign amusements while his countrymen were contending for their rights. He therefore came back to Rome, though the merchants informed him of plots laid against him by the Jesuits, for the liberty of his conversations on religion. He had sense enough to judge that 10 there was no danger, and therefore kept on his way, and acted as before, neither obtruding nor shunning controversy. He had perhaps given some offence by visiting Galileo, then a prisoner in the Inquisition for philosophical heresy; and at Naples he was told by Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, he had excluded him. self from some distinctions which he should otherwise have paid him. But such conduct, though it did not please, was yet sufficiently safe ; and Milton staid two months more at Rome, and went on to Florence without 20 molestation.
From Florence he visited Lucca. He afterwards went to Venice; and having sent away a collection of musick and other books, travelled to Geneva, which he probably considered as the metropolis of orthodoxy. Here he reposed, as in a congenial element, and became acquainted with John Diodati and Frederick Spanheim, two learned professors of Divinity. From Geneva he passed through France; and came home, after an absence of a year and three months.
30 At his return he heard of the death of his friend Charles Diodati; a man whom it is reasonable to suppose of great merit, since he was thought by Milton worthy of a poem, intituled, “ Epitaphium Damonis," written with the common but childish imitation of pastoral life.
He now hired a lodging at the house of one Russel, a taylor in St. Bride's Churchyard, and undertook the education of John and Edward Philips, his sister's sons. Finding his rooms too little, he took a house and garden in Aldersgate-street, which was not then so much out of the world as it is now; and chose his dwelling at the upper end of a passage, that he might avoid the noise of the street. Here he received more boys, to be boarded and
instructed. 10 Let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with
some degree of merriment on great promises and small performance, on the man who hastens home, because his countrymen are contending for their liberty, and, when he reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in a private boarding-school. This is the period of his life from which all his biographers seem inclined to shrink. They are unwilling that Milton should be degraded to a school-master; but, since it cannot be denied that he
taught boys, one finds out that he taught for nothing, and 20 another that his motive was only zeal for the propagation
of learning and virtue; and all tell what they do not know to be true, only to excuse an act which no wise man will consider as in itself disgraceful. His father was alive; his allowance was not ample; and he supplied its deficiencies by an honest and useful employment.
It is told, that in the art of education he performed wonders; and a formidable list is given of the authors, Greek and Latin, that were read in Aldersgate-street, by
youth between ten and fifteen or sixteen years of age. 30 Those who tell or receive these stories should consider that
nobody can be taught faster than he can learn. The speed of the horseman must be limited by the power of his horse. Every man, that has ever undertaken to instruct others, can tell what slow advances he has been able to make, and how much patience it requires to recall vagrant inattention,
to stimulate sluggish indifference, and to rectify absurd misapprehension.
The purpose of Milton, as it seems, was to teach something more solid than the common literature of Schools, by reading those authors that treat of physical subjects; such as the “ Georgick,” and astronomical treatises of the ancients. This was a scheme of improvement which seems to have busied many literary projectors of that age. Cowley, who had more means than Milton of knowing what was wanting to the embellishments of life, formed the same plan of 10 education in his imaginary College.
But the truth is, that the knowledge of external nature, and the sciences which that knowledge requires or includes, are not the great or the frequent business of the human mind. Whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we wish to be useful or pleasing, the first requisite is the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong ; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions. 20 Prudence and Justice are virtues, and excellences, of all times and of all places; we are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary, and at leisure. Physiological learning is of such rare emergence, that one man may know another half his life without being able to estimate his skill in hydrostaticks or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.
Those authors, therefore, are to be read at schools 30 that supply most axioms of prudence, most principles of moral truth, and most materials for conversation; and these purposes arė best served by poets, orators, and historians.
Let me not be censured for this digression as pedantick or paradoxical; for if I have Milton against me, I have
Socrates on my side. It was his labour to turn philosophy from the study of nature to speculations upon life; but the innovators whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They seem to think, that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars. Socrates was rather of opinion, that what we had to learn was, how to do good, and avoid evil.
Οττι τοι εν μεγάροισι κακόντ’ αγαθόντε τέτυκται. Of institutions we may judge by their effects. From 10 this wonder-working academy, I do not know that there
ever proceeded any man very eminent for knowledge : its only genuine product, I believe, is a small History of Poetry, written in Latin by his nephew Philips, of which perhaps none of my readers has ever heard.
That in his school, as in every thing else which he undertook, he laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for doubting. One part of his method deserves general imitation. He was careful to instruct his scholars
in religion. Every Sunday was spent upon theology,of which 20 he dictated a short system, gathered from the writers that were then fashionable in the Dutch universities.
He set his pupils an example of hard study and spare diet; only now and then he allowed himself to pass a day of festivity and indulgence with some gay gentlemen of Gray's Inn. * He now began to engage in the controversies of the times, and lent his breath to blow the flames of contention. In 1641 he published a treatise of “Reformation,” in two books, against the established Church; being willing to
help the Puritans, who were, he says, inferior to the Prelates 30 in learning.
Hall bishop of Norwich had published an “Humble Remonstrance,” in defence of Episcopacy; to which, in 1641, six ministers, of whose names the first letters made the celebrated word Smectymnuus, gave their Answer. Of this
answer a Confutation was attempted by the learned Usher; and to the Confutation Milton published a Reply, intituled, “ Of Prelatical Episcopacy, and whether it may be deduced from the Apostolical Times, by virtue of those testimonies which are alledged to that purpose in some late treatises, one whereof goes under the name of James Lord Bishop of Armagh.”
I have transcribed this title, to shew, by his contemptuous mention of Usher, that he had now adopted the puritanical savageness of manners. His next work was, 10 “The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, by Mr. John Milton,” 1642. In this book he discovers, not with ostentatious exultation, but with calm confidence, his high opinion of his own powers; and promises to undertake something, he yet knows not what, that may be of use and honour to his country. “This,” says he, “is not to be obtained but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit that can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases. To this 20 must be added, industrious and select reading, steady observation, and insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs; till which in some measure be compast, I refuse not to sustain this expectation.” From a promise like this, at once fervid, pious, and rational, might be expected the “ Paradise Lost.”
He published the same year two more pamphlets, upon the same question. To one of his antagonists, who affirms that he was vomited out of the university, he answers, in general terms; “ The Fellows of the College wherein I 30 spent some years, at my parting, after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified many times how much better it would content them that I should stay.-As for the common approbation or dislike of that place, as now it is, that I should esteem or disesteem myself the more