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talent and energy, he resolved to devote himself to that inferior branch of the law, the professors of which were named Scriveners.” A friend, who was himself of that profession, having saved him from the necessity of serving an apprenticeship, he commenced business in the city of London, in Bread-street, near St. Paul's, as we are told. f. As was the usage, he had a sign to his shop, adopting for that purpose a spread eagle, the armorial bearing of his family. From all that we can collect and conjecture respecting him, John Milton of Bread-street appears to have been a man of much more than ordinary talent. By skill and diligence in his profession, he was enabled to bring up and support a family in credit and respectability, and to accumulate such a fortune as enabled him eventually to retire from business, and pass his days in ease and independence. But he was at no period of his life the mere man of business. Amid his legal avocations, he found leisure to cultivate literature,f and still more the science of music, for which he had a natural genius, and in which he became such a proficient as to rank among the most celebrated composers of the time. Ş. John Milton must have been more than forty years of age” when his circumstances seemed to entitle him to enter into the state of matrimony. According to her grandson Phillips, the name of his wife was Sarah Caston, of a respectable family originally from Wales, but then probably settled in London, while Aubrey tells us, apparently on the authority of her son Christopher, that her name was Bradshaw. This is a point then not easy to decide: it seems strange that a son should not know the maiden name of his mother, or a grandson that of his grandmother. Milton certainly appears to have been related to the celebrated John Bradshaw; and the most probable supposition is, that it was through his mother. We have the testimony of her son to the excellence of her character, and her numerous deeds of charity. It was probably from her that he derived his weakness of sight; for Aubrey tells us that her eyes were weak, and that she had to use spectacles at an early age.
* The Scrivener would seem (as the name denotes) to have been originally merely a copyist, as at the present day. But in the time of John Milton, he answered to the notary of the Continent, and in some respects to the modern lawyer or attorney. His business was to draw up wills, bonds, mortgages, and all other legal contracts, and to this he usually added the occupation of a money-lender, using his own money or that of his clients.
t Aubrey, Phillips. This perhaps is not quite correct, for Mr. Hunter (Milton, p. 10) notices a bond dated March 4, 1602, and made payable “at the new shop of John Milton, scrivener, in Breadstreet.”
f Some wretched verses of his are given by Mr. Hunter, p. 13. § See Burney's Hist. of Mus. vol. iii. p. 134. “I have been told,”
The offspring of this marriage was two sons and three daughters, named, in the order of their births, Anne, John, Sarah, Tabitha, and Christopher. Of these Sarah and Tabitha died in infancy, the former very shortly after her birth;f of Anne and Christopher we shall treat when we come to our poet's family. says Phillips, “and I take it by our author himself, that his father composed an Il Domine of forty parts, for which he was rewarded with a gold medal and chain by a Polish prince, to whom he presented it; and that some of his songs are to be seen in old Whitby's set of airs, beside some compositions of his in Ravenscroft's Psalms.”
* As he died in 1647, and as Aubrey says that he was able to read without spectacles at the age of eighty-four, he must have been past forty at the time of his marriage.
+ “Matre probatissima et eleemosynis per viciniam potissimum nota." —Defensio Secunda.
† Todd gives the following extracts from the registry of Allhallows:– -/
“The xvil daye of July, 1642, was baptized Sara, the daughter of
John Milton, third of the name, was born at his father's house, in Bread-street, on the 9th of December, 1608, and, as appears from the register of the adjacent church of Allhallows, was baptized on the 20th of the same month. It is probable that, as is usually the case, he gave early indications of his genius, for his father engaged, as a tutor for him, a clergyman named Thomas Young, a man of learning and piety, for whom his pupil conceived a sincere affection. If we may credit Aubrey, he had given proofs of poetic genius at the age of ten years; and it may have been this, combined with his beauty, for Nature had been nearly as liberal to his person as to his mind, that induced his father to have his portrait painted, when he was at that age, by a Dutch artist named Cornelius Jansen,*—a portrait still extant.
But his father was too wise a man to deprive him of the advantages of a public school, when they could be had without danger to his morals. He accordingly, while retaining his private tutor, sent him to the school of St. Paul's, which was at no great distance from his home, and was then presided over by Alexander Gill, a man of learning, with whose son of the same name, then usher to his father, and afterwards his successor, the
John Mylton, scrivener. She was buried the vi" of August following, in the church." “The xxx" of January, 1613 [i.e. 1614], was baptized Tabitha, the daughter of Mr. John Mylton.” It may be useful to observe, that at that time, and till the year 1752, the year began in England on the 22nd of March. • Todd tells us, from Walpole, that 1618 is the date of Jansen's first works in England, so that John Milton must have been one of the first who employed him. + This, we think, may be inferred from his own words, presently to be quoted. Todd thinks that he was not sent to St. Paul's till Young quitted England, in 1623. - *
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 1923, 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.f. 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
* Defensio Secunda.