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him in his own opinion, and confirmed him in the hope, that, “by labour and intense study, which, says he, “I take to be my portion in this life, joined with a strong propensity of nature,” he might “leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die.'
It appears, in all his writings, that he had the usual concomitant of great abilities, a lofty and steady confidence in himself, perhaps not without some contempt of others; for scarcely any man ever wrote so much, and praised so few. Of his praise he was very frugal; as he set its value high, and considered his mention of a name, as a security against the waste of time, and a certain preservative from oblivion.
At Florence he could not, indeed, complain that his merit wanted distinction: Carlo Dati presented him with an encomiastick inscription, in the tumid lapidary style; and Francini wrote him an ode, of which the first stanza is only empty noise; the rest are, perhaps, too diffuse on common topicks; but the last is natural and beautiful.
From Florence he went to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he was again received with kindness by the learned and the great. Holstenius, the keeper of the vatican library, who had resided three years at Oxford, introduced him to cardinal Barberini; and he,at a musical entertainment, waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into the assembly. Here Selvaggi praised him in a distich, and Salsilli in a tetrastick; neither of them of much value. The Italians were gainers by this literary com
merce; for the encomiums with which Milton repaid Salsilli, though not secure against a stern grammarian, turn the balance indisputably in Milton's favour.
Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud enough to publish them before his poems; though he says, he cannot be suspected but to have known that they were said, “non tam de se, quam supra se.
At Rome, as at Florence, he staid only two months; a time, indeed, sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer of its antiquities, or to view palaces and count pictures; but certainly too short for the contemplation of learning, policy, or manners.
From Rome he passed on to Naples in company of a hermit, a companion from whom little could beexpected; yet to him Milton owed his introduction to Manso, marquis of Villa, who had been before the patron of Tasso. Manso was enough delighted with his accomplishments to honour him with a sorry distich, in which he commends him for every thing but his religion: and Milton, in return, addressed 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 con
versations on religion. He had sense enough to judge that 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 philosophicial heresy; and at Naples he was told by Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, he had excluded himself 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 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.
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, entitled Epitaphium Damonis, written with the common, but childish, imitation of pastoral life.
He now hired a lodging at the house of one Russel, a tailor, in St. Bride's church-yard, and under
took 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.
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 schoolmaster; but, since it cannot be denied that he taught boys, one finds out that he taught for nothing, and 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
1 This is inaccurately expressed: Philips, and Dr. Newton, after him, say a garden-house, i. e, a house situated in a garden, and of which there were, especially in the north suburbs of London, very many, if not few else. The term is technical, and frequently occurs in the Athen, and Fast. Oxon. The meaning thereof may be collected from the article, Thomas Farnaby, the famous schoolmaster, of whom the author says, that he taught in Goldsmith's rents, in Cripplegate parish, behind Redcross street, where were large gardens and handsome houses. Milton's house in Jewin street was also a garden-house, as were, indeed, most of his dwellings after his settlement in London. H.
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. 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 the 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 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