« AnteriorContinuar »
and the parliament; and he thought it his duty to hasten home, where his countrymen were contending for their rights, rather than to pursue the enjoyments of more extended travel. “Turpe enim existimabam, dum mei cives de libertate dimicarent, me animi causâ, otiose peregrinari.' He returned by way of Rome, though some merchants had informed him of the enmity of the Jesuits on account of his freedom of conversation ; and Manso was withheld from showing him some favours by the opinions which Milton had too openly expressed on religious questions. Sir Henry Wotton's advice, though neglected, was now seen to be prudent and wise; but we may conceive, that, in those times, it was difficult to withhold opinions on subjects so much agitated, affecting the temporal interests of some, and awakening the spiritual alarm of others. The schism between the churches was comparatively fresh; the Church of Rome reluctantly beheld a great and growing kingdom rescued from her avarice and
In the freedom of opinion, and by the discussion of rights, she saw her safety endangered, or her splendour diminished. She had fostered for her protection a body of men the most politic, and deep in worldly wisdom, whose existence depended on her prosperity : we shall not therefore be surprised if a young and zealous Protestant, who could not well endure the ecclesiastical establishment of his own country, simple and moderate as it was, should give offence when expressing his feelings in the inmost bosom of the Papal Church, in the verge of the Vatican, and under the very chair of St. Peter himself. He says, speaking of his conduct whilst in Italy,33 • I laid it down as a rule for myself, never to begin a conversation on religion in these parts, but if interrogated concerning my faith, whatever might be the consequence, to dissemble nothing. If any one attacked me, I defended in the most open manner, as
32 · Dum Cathedram, venerande tuam, diademaque triplex
Ridet Hyperboreo gens barbara nata sub axe
Miltoni Sylo. Quint. Nov. v. 94. 33 See Second Defence of the People, p. 384, ed. Burnet.
before, the orthodox faith for nearly two months more, in the city even of the sovereign Pontiff.'
Milton staid about two months at Rome, and pursued his journey without molestation to Florence. He then visited Lucca, and spent a month at Venice. There he shipped for England the collection of books and music which he had formed, and travelled to Geneva, which, Johnson observes, he probably considered as the metropolis of orthodoxy.
At Geneva he became acquainted with John Deodati,34 and Frederic Spanheim, the father of the eminently learned scholar and antiquary, whom Milton subsequently knew. He now passed through France, and returned home after an absence of fifteen months. Of his habitual purity of morals, and sanctity of character, when abroad, he has himself informed us. “Deum hic rursus testem in vocem, me his omnibus in locis ubi tum multa licent, ab omni flagitio ac Probro, integrum atque intactum vixisse, illud perpetuo cogitantem, si hominum latere oculos possem, Dei certe non posse.'
On his return he heard of the death of Charles Deodati,35 and he has recorded the affection which he felt for his friend, in the Epithalamium Damonis.
Nec dum aderat Thyrsis, pastorem scilicet illum
Some passages in this poem are borrowed from the Aminta of
34 See some account of this Giov. Deodati, of his preaching at Venice in a trooper's dress, and converting a Venetian courtesan, in Warton's Milton, p. 548. He was uncle of Charles,' mentioned below.
35 C. Deodati was a native of England, but of an Italian family, which came originally from Lucca ; but in its last generation established at Geneva. His father, Theodore, came early in life to England, married a lady of family and fortune, and practised as a physician. The son was bred to the same profession, and settled in Cheshire. See some further account in Todd's Milton, vol. vi. p. 173. 360. The two Greek letters of Deodati, possessed by Toland, are now in the British Museum, (MS. Add. No. 5017. f. 71.) and will be found in the Appendix to this Memoir.
36 v. Ep. Damonis, ver. 12.
Tasso; a few more lines, alluding to his recent travels, I shall quote.
* Heu quis me ignotas traxit vagus error in oras,
O ego quantus eram, gelidi cum stratus ad Ari
In these verses37 he repeats his design of writing an epic poem on some part of the ancient British history. Dr. Johnson has observed that this poem is written with the common but childish imitation of pastoral life.' As it is not however intended deeply to move the sources of our sympathy, or to come across a strong and recent sorrow,38 but to express, as in Lycidas, in a pleasing and gentle manner, the poet's affection and regret; the pastoral veil, in imitation of ancient poetry, and of later Italian models, is not inelegantly assumed. Besides, as Warton observes, the common topics are recommended by a novelty of elegant expression; some passages wander far beyond the bounds of bucolic song, and are in his own original style of the more sublime poetry.' He might speak of its purpose as he does in his Prolusions (p. 91) of the Province of History; ‘Nunc inquietos animi tumultus sedet et componit, nunc delibatum gaudio reddit, mox evocat lacrymas, sed mites eas, et pacatas, et quæ mæstæ nescio quid voluptatis secum afferat.'
Milton's return to England took place about the time of Charles's second expedition against the Scots, in which his forces were defeated by General Lesly, in the month of August, 1639, and therefore not long before the meeting of the long parliament. In a Bible, once in the possession of Mr. Blackburn, and which is supposed to have been the companion of Milton's travels, are some manuscript remarks, dated Canterbury, 1639, among which is a quotation from Maccabees 1, xiv. 15: Now when it was heard at Rome, and as far as Sparta, that Jonathan was dead, they were very sorry.'
37 See ver. 161-167.
3 Methinks, said Sancho, the thoughts that give way to rerses, are not rery troublesome. Therefore rersify as much as you list, and I'll sleep as much as I can.' Don Quixote, vol. iv. p. 212. (Shelton's Transl.)
When that day of death shall come,
Of the authenticity of these remarks, and of the book having been the property of Milton, reasonable doubts have been entertained ; but I consider it my duty not to pass over in silence a circumstance which has been recorded and credited by the most industrious and inquisitive among the biographers of the Poet. 39
He now hired a lodging in St. Bride's Churchyard, Fleet Street, at the house of one Russel, a tailor, and undertook the education of his two nephews, John and Edward Philips.40 Finding his rooms inconvenient, and not large enough for his books, he soon removed into a handsome garden-house in Aldersgate Street, free from the noise and disturbance of passengers, 41 and received some of his friends' sons to be instructed and educated by him. His father was still living; the allowance which he received was small, and he supplied its deficiences by a respectable employment. The expense of his travels, to which he has alluded in one of his tracts, probably rendered it necessary for him to abstain from pressing more deeply on the limited resources of his father. “My life,' he says, “has not been unexpensive, in learning and voyaging about.' The Aubrey Letters mention that Milton went to the university at his own charges only, but in his Latin Epistle to his father, ver. 77, he says ;
39 See Todd's Life (first edit.) p. 39, Gent. Mag. July, Sept. Oct. 1792, Feb. 1790, March, 1803, p. 199.
40 Their mother had married again; therefore Milton might feel it his duty to take these boys under his care. They lived with him about five or six years. Mr. Godwin thinks John Philips's Scarronides (1664) was written in an excessive spirit of spite and malignity against Milton. v. Life of Philips, p. 148. As long as he lived he never relaxed in his unnatural animosity against his uncle, p. 157. Mr. Godwin calls him a shameless unfeeling buffoon, p. 161. Milton made his nephews songsters, and sing from the time they were with him. V. Aubrey, Let. 3. 446.
41 Philips says, ' He made no long stay in his lodgings in St. Bride's Churchyard, necessity of having a place to dispose his books in, and other goods fit for the furnishing of a good handsome house, hastening him to take one; and accordingly a pretty gardenhouse he took in Aldersgate St. at the end of an entry, and therefore the fitter for his turn, by the reason of the privacy, besides that there were few streets in London more free from noise than that.' v. p. lii. Al. Gill, his old tutor, being driven from St. Paul's, set up a private school in the same street. Wood's Ath. Or. ii. c. 22
Tuo pater optime sumptu
Per te nosse licet, per te, si nosse licebit, &c.
The system of education which he adopted was deep and comprehensive: it promised to teach science with language ; or rather to make the study of languages subservient to the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Dr. Johnson has severely censured this method of instruction, but with arguments that might not unsuccessfully be met. The plan recommended by the authority of Milton seems to be chiefly liable to objection, from being too extensive ; and while it makes authors of all ages contribute to the developement of science, it of course must reject that careful selection, which can alone secure the cultivation of the taste. We may also reply to Johnson, that, although all men are not designed to be astronomers, or geometricians, a knowledge of the principles on which the sciences are built, and the reasonings by which they are conducted, not only forms the most exact discipline which the mind can undergo, giving to it comprehension and vigour, but is the only solid basis on which an investigation of the laws of nature can be conducted, or those arts improved that tend to the advantage of society, and the happiness of mankind. Johnson says, we are not placed here