« EdellinenJatka »
young poet became a great favourite, and their intimacy gradually ripened into friendship. At what age he was sent to St. Paul's School we are not informed, but he remained there till he was deemed qualified to go to one of the Universities. From family reasons perhaps, his father gave the preference to Cambridge; and on the 12th of February, 1624–5, he was entered as a pensioner at Christ's College in that University, being then just sixteen years and two months old. We will here pause and consider the progress he appears to have made in knowledge and literature at this time. He says himself:* “My father destined me while yet a child to the study of polite literature, which I embraced with such avidity that from the twelfth year of my age I hardly ever retired to rest from my studies till midnight, which was the first source of injury to my eyes, to the natural weakness of which were added frequent headaches; all of which not retarding my eagerness after knowledge, he took care to have me instructed daily both at school and by other masters at home.” Aubrey says, in accordance with this, “that when Milton went to school he studied very hard and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock, and his father ordered the maid to sit up for him.” We are also informed that Humphrey Lowndes the printer, who lived in the same street with his father, used to lend him books, chiefly of poetry, two of which, the works of Spenser, and Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas, are particularly noticed. Beside the Greek and Latin, in which latter language he composed in both verse and prose with ease and elegance, he seems, even before he went to the University, to have acquired a knowledge of Hebrew ; his instructor in it being his tutor Young.” Of his Latin compositions at this period we have no remains; but his first epistle to Young is dated March 26, 1625, only a few weeks after he had been entered at the University. In it he says, “Haec scripsi Londini inter urbana diverticula, non libris, ut soleo, circumseptus.” In 1623, his fifteenth year, he had made his translations of the 114th and 136th Psalms into English verse. The tutor at Cambridge under whom Milton was placed was the Reverend William Chappell, afterwards Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and eventually Bishop of Cork and Ross. The genius and the superior acquirements of the young student did not long lie concealed, and they were frequently called into exercise either in prose prolusions or in poetic elegies, etc., on the deaths of distinguished persons, which it was at that time customary in the Universities to impose on those eminent for their skill in Latin or English versification. But to the mind of Milton the barren, dry, useless systems of logic and other parts of science so-styled then read at the Universities were eminently distasteful, and he made no secret of his disgust. It was probably this, and some overt acts arising from it, which drew on him the sentence of rustication, which, as he informs us himself, was passed on him in some part of his University career.t. It is quite evident that it was nothing of which he had any reason to be ashamed ; and moreover it could not have been of any long duration, for he took the two degrees of Bachelor and of Master of Arts at the regular times. To one of his opponents at a later period, who asserted that he had been vomited out of the University after 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: “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.”f 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. §
* Defensio Secunda.
* Apology for Smectymnuus. See below, Writings of Milton.
f Defensio Secunda.
† 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, he says, that the then Registrar was negligent, and did not put down the incorporations from Cambridge, which were very numerous at that time.
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.if Hither Milton, on quitting the University, came, and took up his permanent abode. It had been his father's wish and his 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
* 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.
t 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 aestate proxime practerita—si dearum arcana eloqui liceat—summam cum Musis gratiam habuisse me jucunda memoria recolo, ubi et ego inter rura et semotos saltus velut occulto avo crescere mihi potuisse visus sum ”—all which applies very accurately to Horton, but not to any place nearer to London.