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On the Death of a fair Infant.
An Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester
LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
JOHN MILTON was born in Bread-street, London, December 9, 1608. His father was the son of a zealous Papist, by whom he was disinherited, on account of his holding opposite religious sentiments; and he was, in consequence, obliged to follow the profession of a scrivener for his support. He married a respectable female, of the name of Caston, who had by him three children; John, the poet, Christopher, and Anne.
Our author was instructed, at first, by private tuition, under the care of Thomas Young, who afterward became chaplain to the English merchants of Hamburgh. His education was next superintended by Mr. Gill, at St. Paul's School, whence he was removed to Christ's College, Cambridge, and admitted a pensioner, February 12, 1624. At this time he shewed considerable skill in the Latin tongue; and, it was subsequently said, by those who were best
capable of forming a judgment upon the point, that he was one of the first Englishmen who, upon the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with classic elegance. In 1628, he took the degree of bachelor, and that of master in 1632; but, either from a captious perverseness, or dislike of a supposed injudicious severity of his governors, he conceived a rooted antipathy to the university, and was impatient to be released from its jurisdiction. The design he once entertained of entering the church, he entirely relinquished; and, on quitting the college, returned to his father, at Horton, in Buckinghamshire, where he continued five years, which he chiefly employed in studying the Greek and Roman writers, occasionally indulging himself in the cultivation of his favourite poetry. The mask of 'Comus' was produced in 1634; and three years after, his 'Lycidas,' an elegy on the death of Mr. King, son of Sir John King, secretary for Ireland. About this period,
also, he wrote his Arcades.'
The death of his mother set him at liberty to travel; for which he obtained his father's consent, and a letter of advice from Sir Henry Wotton, provost of Eton College. He left England in 1638, and went first to Paris, where he was introduced to the celebrated Grotius, who was then residing at the French court, as an ambassador from Sweden. He next proceeded into Italy; and, after an absence of fifteen months, came back to his native country,
which he found a prey to civil commotion; being decidedly opposed to the monarchy, he wrote very ably in favour of the republican party. Whatever may have been the effect produced by his publications on this subject at that time, they are not likely to excite particular notice in our day; and, therefore, we forbear making any distinct comment upon them.
On his return to England, he lodged with one Russel, a tailor, in St. Bride's-churchyard, and undertook the education of John and Edward Philips, his sister's sons; but the room he occupied being too small, he hired a house in Aldersgate-street, and increased his number of pupils. He endeavoured to teach his scholars something more solid than the common literature of schools, by reading those authors that treat of physical subjects; such as the Georgics, and astronomical treatises of the ancients. Nor was religious instruction excluded from his plan; every Sunday was spent upon theology, of which he dictated a concise system, gathered from popular writers in the Dutch universities.
The controversies of the times were too important to allow of his remaining an indifferent spectator, and, in 1641, he published a treatise of Reformation, in favour of the Puritans. In his thirty-fifth year, he married the daughter of Mr. Powel, a justice of the peace, of Foresthill, in Oxfordshire, whose principles were so contrary to those of his sonin-law, that the marriage is more remarkable than
the separation, which took place about a month after. Her desertion much irritated him, and, as he began to contemplate a divorce, he wrote three treatises to justify the step, and paid his addresses to a young lady of great wit and beauty; but, before he had proceeded so far as to conclude the matrimonial treaty, his wife contrived to prostrate herself before him-penitently implored his forgiveness, and effected a cordial reconciliation. At a subsequent period, when the royalists were distressed, Milton received her father and brothers, with others of that party, into his house.
In 1645, he published a collection of Latin and English poems, in which were included the 'Allegro' and Penseroso.' Soon after the death of the king, he was advanced by Cromwell to the station of Latin secretary to himself and the Parliament; and he continued to hold the latter office till the restoration of Charles II. In 1649, Salmasius, a professor of polite learning at Leyden, and a man of extraordinary literary attainments, produced his 'Defensio Regis,' to which Milton replied in so forcible a manner, that it became difficult to determine whose language was best, or whose arguments were worst. Our author lived for some time with his family at Whitehall, but his ill health obliged him to take lodgings, which opened into St. James's-park, where his wife died in childbed, shortly after his settlement, leaving him three daughters. This painful occurrence was soon