« AnteriorContinuar »
having spent there a riotous youth, he replied :* "It hath given me an apt occasion to acknowledge publicly with all grateful mind the more than ordinary favour and respect which I found, above any of my equals, at the hands of those courteous and learned men, the Fellows of the College wherein I spent some years, who at my parting, after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified many ways how much better it would content them if I would stay, as by many letters full of kindness and loving respect, both before that time and long after, I was assured of their singular good affection toward me." At a still later period, in reply to a similar charge, he says :f “My father sent me to Cambridge; there I devoted myself for a space of seven years to the literature and arts usually taught, free from all reproach, and approved of by all good men, as far as the degree of Master, as it is termed.”I In the year 1632, the twenty-fourth of his age,
Milton having taken the degree of M.A., finally quitted Cambridge. According to Wood, he was admitted three years later to the same degree at Oxford. S
* Apology for Smectymnuus. See below, Writings of Milton. of Defensio Secunda.
I Wood says that at College “he was esteemed to be a virtuous and sober person, yet not to be ignorant of his own parts.”
§ This Wood's informant [Aubrey] says he had from Milton himself. The reason of his incorporation not being to be found in the books at Oxford was,
says, that the then Registrar was negligent, and did not put down the incorporations from Cambridge, which were very numerous at that time.
AT HORTON AND ON THE CONTINENT.
A. D. 1632-1639.
A. ET. 24–31.
Milton's father, who was now an old man, and who had retired from business on a competent income, was at this time, and had been perhaps for the last few years, wholly or in part, resident on a property he had purchased in the village of Horton, near Colnebrooke, in Buckinghamshire,* the Suburban from which his son dates one of his letters to his friend Alexander Gill.Hither Milton, on quitting the University, came, and took up
his permanent abode. It had been his father's wish and his
* Mr. Todd was informed by the rector of the parish in 1808, that the house had been pulled down about ten years previously. Birken Manor-house, near the church, is still said to have been Milton's residence.
† Warton, in his note on Eleg. i. 50, says, Some country-house of Milton's father, very near London, is here intended, of which we have now no notices.” In our note on this place we have shown that Warton misunderstood it. It could not of course have been the house at Horton that he meant, yet he immediately after quotes the date of a letter from Milton to his friend A. Gill, “E nostro Suburbano, Decemb. 14, 1634,” which was plainly written from Horton. Warton also quotes from one of the Academic Prolusions : “Testor ipse lucos et flumina et dilectos villarum ulmos, sub quibus æstate proxime præterita-si dearum arcana eloqui liceat-summam cum Musis gratiam habuisse me jucunda memoria recolo, ubi et ego inter rura et semotos saltus velut occulto ævo crescere mihi potuisse visus sum ”—all which applies very accurately to Horton, but not to any place nearer to London.
own intention that he should enter the Church, but he had given up that design. His own account is as follows :*
By the intentions of my parents and friends I was destined of a child to the service of the Church, and in my own resolutions. Till coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the Church, that he who would take orders must subscribe Slave and take an oath withal, which, unless he took with a conscience that he would relish, he must either straight perjure or split his faith-I thought better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing."
It is not perhaps possible to conceive a higher degree of happiness than that which Milton must have enjoyed during the five years which he spent at Horton. His days were in general devoted to intense and unremitting study, varied by occasional visits to London for the purpose of purchasing books or of getting instruction in mathematics or in music, in both of which he took great pleasure. He corresponded with his friends Gill and Diodati, and probably with others with whose names we are unacquainted. In one of his letters to Diodati, dated from London, Sept. 23, 1637, he says:
“You shall likewise have some account of my studies. In a continued course of reading I have deduced the affairs of the Greeks to the time when they ceased to be Greeks. I was long occupied in the obscurity of those of the Italians under the Lombards, the Franks, and the Germans, to the time when liberty was granted to them by Rodolf King of Germany; from that point it will be better to read separately what each community has done by its own resources.” In this same letter he mentions an intention he had of taking chambers in one of the Inns of Court, where there would be a pleasant shady walk [he had Gray's Inn probably in view], where he could enjoy himself with some companions, and more readily pay visits to such places as he might wish to frequent. “For you know," says he, “that where I now am * I am cramped and obscure.”
* Reasons of (hurch Government, etc.
Beside the course of historic reading which he indicates above, he read the Greek and Latin writers in general, and probably some of the Fathers of the Church. To these he added the poets and other writers of modern Italy; and as he was acquainted with French and Spanish, he may, though we have no information to that effect, have studied Rabelais, Montaigne, Cervantes, and other eminent writers in these languages.
While he was thus enjoying the delights of literature, and storing his mind with various kinds of knowledge, his muse did not slumber. It was, beyond doubt, at this period that he wrote his beautiful pendents, L’Allegro and Il Penseroso. Horton also witnessed the birth of Arcades, Comus,t and Lycidas; and in all probability it was here also that he wrote his beautiful Latin poem, Ad Patrem.
Ad Patrem. The whole of the poetry produced at Horton bears strong evidence of the calm, cheerful frame of mind which he seems to have enjoyed while dwelling amid its sequestered rural scenery. In his poems written during the latter years of his residence at the University, and while he was engaged in the study of theology, all is solemn, serious, and deeply imbued with the spirit of devotion ; but in those com
* He would seem to mean Horton, but Hayley says he means the lodgings which he was in in London whence the letter is dated.
+ See Note D. at the end of this Part.
posed at Horton we everywhere discern animation, grace, elegance, and sweetness; the tone is cheerful, and the verses replete with rural imagery. Even in Il Penseroso and Lycidas there is no gloom, and both terminate in a tone of calm and tranquil cheerfulness. We may say of his Muse in these
As lives within the neighbourhood of joy.”* On the 3rd of April, 1637, our poet's excellent mother departed this life. It had probably been her maternal uneasiness which had hitherto checked his desire to visit the Continent; and that impediment being now removed, he easily obtained his father’s permission to put his design into execution. As he had lately, by means of his Comus, formed the acquaintance of Sir Henry Wootton, the Provost of Eton, who had been for some time ambassador at Venice, that accomplished scholar and statesman wrote him a letter of advice and directions for his travels, with an introduction to the tutor, it would appear, in the family of Lord Scudamore, Viscount Sligo, the English resident at the Court of France. Sir Henry's letter is dated April 18, 1638, and in the following month Milton embarked for the Continent. He travelled as a gentleman, being attended all the time he was abroad by his own servant, whom he had taken with him from England.t
At Paris he met with a very kind reception from Lord Scudamore, to whom he had an introduction. At his particular desire he introduced him to the celebrated Hugo Grotius, at that time resident there for Christina
* Dodsley's Collection, vi. 310.
# For the following account of his travels we are indebted to Milton himself, in his Defensio Secunda.