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time, his daughters were employed. He composed much in the morning, and dictated in the day, sitting obliquely in an elbowchair, with his leg thrown over the arm.
Fortune appears not to have had much of his care. In the civil wars he lent his personal estate to the parliament; but when, after the contest was decided, he solicited repayment, he met not only with neg. lect, but “sharp rebuke;” and, having tired both himself and his friends, was given up to poverty and hopeless indignation, till he showed how able he was to do greater service. He was then made Latin secretary, with two hundred pounds a year; and had a thousand pounds for Defence of the People. His widow, who, after his death, retired to Namptwich, in Cheshire, and died about1729, is said to have reported, that he lost two thousand pounds by intrusting it to a scrivener; and that, in the general depredation upon the church, he had grasped an estate of about sixty pounds a year belonging to Westminster Abbey, which, like other sharers of the plunder of rebellion, he was afterwards obliged to return. Two thousand pounds, which he had placed in the excise-office, were also lost. There is yet no reason to believe that he was ever reduced to indigence. His wants, being few, were competently supplied. He sold his library before his death, and left his family fifteen hundred pounds, on which his widow laid hold, and only gave one hundred to each of his daughters. His literature was unquestionably great. He read
all the languages which are considered either as learned or polite: Hebrew, with its two dialects, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish. In Latin his skill was such as places him in the first rank of writers and criticks; and he appears to have cultivated Italian with uncommon diligence. The books in which his daughter, who used to read to him, represented him as most delighting, after Homer, which he could almost repeat, were Ovid's Metamorphoses and Euripides. His Euripides is, by Mr. Cradock's kindness, now in my hands: the margin is sometimes noted; but I have found nothing remarkable.
Of the English poets, he set most value upon Spenser, Shakespeare, and Cowley. Spenser was apparently his favourite; Shakespeare he may easily be supposed to like, with every other skilful reader; but I should not have expected that Cowley, whose ideas of excellence were so different from his own, would have had much of his approbation. His character of Dryden, who sometimes visited him, was, that he was a good rhymist, but no poet.
His theological opinions are said to have been first Calvinistical; and afterwards, perhaps, when he began to hate the presbyterians, to have tended towards Arminianism. In the mixed questions of theology and government, he never thinks that he can recede far enough from popery, or prelacy; but what Baudius says of Erasmus seems applicable to him,
magis habuit quod fugeret, quam quod sequeretur.” He had determined rather what to condemn, than what to approve. He has not associated himself
with any denomination of protestants; we know rather what he was not, than what he was. He was not of the church of Rome; he was not of the church of England.
To be of no church is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by faith and hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind, unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary influence of example. Milton, who appears to have had full conviction of the truth of christianity, and to have regarded the holy scriptures with the profoundest veneration, to have been untainted by any heretical peculiarity of opinion, and to have lived in a confirmed belief of the immediate and occasional agency of providence, yet grew old without any visible worship. In the distribution of his hours, there was no hour of prayer, either solitary or with his household; omitting publick prayers, he omitted all.
Of this omission the reason has been sought upon a supposition, which ought never to be made, that men live with their own approbation, and justify their conduct to themselves. Prayer certainly was not thought superfluous by him, who represents our first parents as praying acceptably in the state of innocence, and efficaciously after their fall. That he lived without prayer can hardly be affirmed; his studies and meditations were an habitual prayer. The neglect of it in his family was, probably, a fault for which he condemned himself, and which he in
tended to correct, but that death, as too often happens, intercepted his reformation.
His political notions were those of an acrimonious and surly republican, for which it is not known that he gave any better reason than that “a popular government was the most frugal; for the trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth.” It is surely very shallow policy that supposes money to be the chief good; and even this, without considering that the support and expense of a court is, for the most part, only a particular kind of traffick, by which money is circulated, without any national impoverishment.
Milton's republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an envious hatred of greatness, and a sullen desire of independence; in petulance impatient of control, and pride disdainful of superiority. He hated monarchs in the state, and prelates in the church; for he hated all whom he was required to obey. It is to be suspected, that his predominant desire was to destroy, rather than establish, and that he felt not so much the love of liberty, as repugnance to authority.
It has been observed, that they who most loudly clamour for liberty do not most liberally grant it. What we know of Milton's character, in domestick relations, is, that he was severe and arbitrary. His family consisted of women; and there appears in his books something like a Turkish contempt of females, as subordinate and inferiour beings. That his own daughters might not break the ranks, he suf
fered them to be depressed by a mean and penurious education. He thought women made only for obedience, and man only for rebellion.
Of his family some account may be expected. His sister, first married to Mr. Philips, afterwards married Mr. Agar, a friend of her first husband, who succeeded him in the crown-office. She had, by her first husband, Edward and John, the two nephews whom Milton educated; and, by her second, two daughters.
His brother, sir Christopher, had two daughters, Mary and Catharine ; and a son, Thomas, who succeeded Agar in the crown-office, and left a daughter living, in 1749, in Grosvenor street.
Milton had children only by his first wife; Anne, Mary, and Deborah. Anne, though deformed, married a master-builder, and died of her first child. Mary died single. Deborah married Abraham Clark, a weaver in Spital fields, and lived seventy-six years, to August, 1727. This is the daughter of whom publick mention has been made. She could repeat the first lines of Homer, the Metamorphoses, and some of Euripides, by having often read them. Yet here incredulity is ready to make a stand. Many repetitions are necessary to fix in the memory lines not
e Both these persons were living at Holloway, about the year 1734, and, at that time, possessed such a degree of health and strength, as enabled them, on Sundays and prayer-days, to walk a mile up a steep hill to Highgate chapel. One of them was ninety-two at the time of her death. Their parentage was known to few, and their names were corrupted into Melton. By the crown-office, mentioned in the two last paragraphs, we are to understand the crown-office of the court of Chancery. H.