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fixteenth year, to Christ's College in Cambridge, where he entered a fizar, Feb, 12, 1624.
He was at this time eminently skilled in the Latin tonguez and he himself, by annexing the dates to his first compositions, a boast of which the learned Politian had given him an example, seems to commend the earliness of his own proficiency to the notice of pofterity. But the products of his vernal fertility have been furpaffed by many, and particularly by his contemporary Cowley. Of the powers of the Itind it is difficult to form an estimate : many have excelled Milton in their first effays, who never rose to works like Paradise Loft.
At fifteen; a date which he uses till he is fixteen, he translated or versified two Psalms, 114 and 136, which he thought worthy of the publick eye; but they raise no great expectations : they would in any numerous school have obtained praise, but not excited wonder.
Many of his elegies appear to have been written in his eighteenth year, by which it appears that he had then read the Roman authors with very nice difcern
I once heard Mr. Hampton, the translator of Polybius, remark what I think is true, that Milton was the first Englishman who, after the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with claffick elegance. If any exceptions can be made, they are very few : Haddon and Ascham, the pride of Elizabeth's reign, however they may have succeeded in prose, no sooner attempt verfes than they provoke derision. If we produced any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was perhaps Alabaster's Roxana.
Of these exercises which the rules of the University required, fome were published by him in his maturer years. They had been undoubtedly applauded; for
they were such as few can perform : yet there is feq. son to suspect that he was regarded in his college with no great fondness. That he obtained no fellowship is certain; but the unkindness with which he was treated was not merely negative. I am ashamed to relate what I fear is true, that Milton was one of the last students in either university that suffered the publick indignity of corporal correction.
It was, in the violence of controversial hostility, objected to him, that he was expelled ; this he steadily denies, and it was apparently not true ; but it seems plain from his own verses to Diodati, that he had incurred Rustication ; a temporary dismission into the country, with perhaps the loss of a term : Me tenet urbs refluâ quam Thamesis alluit undâ,
Meque nec invitum patria dulcis habet.
Nec dudum vertiti me laris angit amor.-
Cæteraque ingenio non subeunda meo.
Et vacuum curis oția grata sequi,
Lætus et exilii conditione fruor. I cannot find any meaning but this, which even kind, ness and reverence can give to the terin, vetiti laris,
a habitation from which he is excluded ;” or how exile can be otherwise interpreted. He declares yet more, that he is weary of enduring the threats of a rigorous master, and something else, which a temper. like bis cannot undergo. What was more than threat was probably punishment. This poem, which mencions his exile, proves likewise that it was not perpetual; for it
concludes with a resolution of returning some time to Cambridge. And it may be conjectured from the willingnefs with which he has perpetuated the memory of his exile, that its caufe was such as gave him no shame.
He took both the ufual degrees; that of Batchelor in 1628, and that of Master in 1632; but he left the university with no kindness for its institution, alienated either by the injudicious severity of his governors, or his own captious perverseness. The cause cannot now be known, but the effect appears in his writings. His scheme of education, inscribed to Hartlib, fupersedes alt academical instruction, being intended to comprise the whole time which men usually spend in literature, from their entrance upon gramınar, till they proceed, as it is called, masters of arts. And in his Discourse on the likeließ Way to remoze Hirelings out of the Church, he ingeniously proposes, that the profits of the lands forfeited by the agt for fuperfiitious uses, fhould be applied to such academies all over the land, where languages and arts may be taught together; so that youth may be at once brought up, to a competency of learning and an toorest trade, by which means such of them as bad tbe gift, being enabled to fupport themselves (without tithes) by the latter, way, by she help of the former, become wortby preachers.
One of his objections to academical education, as it was then conducted, is, that men designed for orders in the Church were permitted to act plays, writhing and unboning tbeir clergy limbs to all the antick and difhonest gesiures of Trincalos, buffoons and bawds, proftituting the foame of that ministry which they had, or were ncar băving, to tbe eyes of courtiers and courtladies, their grooms and mademoiselles *
This * This paffage, it may be supposed, was a censure of the practice of acting plays in the universities, of which the instances are many,
This is sufficiently peevish in a man, who, when he mentions his exile from the college, relates, with great luxuriance, the compensation which the pleasures of the theatre afford him. Plays were therefore only criminal when they were acted by academicks.
He went to the university with a design of entering into the church, but in time altered his mind; for he declared, that whoever became a clergyman muft“ fub“scribe flave, and take an oath withal, which, unless “ he took with a conscience that could retch, he must “ straight perjure himself. He thought it better to “ prefer a blameless filence before the office of speak
ing, bought and begun with fervitude and for“ swearing.”
These expressions are, I find, applied to the subscription of the Articles; but it seems more probable that they relate to canonical obedience. I know not any of the Articles which seem to thwart his opinions : but the thoughts of obedience, whether canonical or civil, raised his indignation.
His unwillingness to engage in the ministry, perhaps not yet advanced to a settled resolution of declining it, arpears in a letter to one of his friends, who had reproved his suspended and dilatory life, which he seems to have imputed to an insatiable curiosity, and fantastick luxury of various knowledge. To this he writes a cool In 1566 was represented before queen Elizabeth in the hall of Christ church college, Oxford, by the scholars thereof, the comedy of Palemon and Arcite, written by Richard Edwards, master of the royal chapel children; and afterwards, before king James 1. at Tripity college, Cambridge, the comedy of Jgnoramus. And later than that, viz. in 1636, was acted before the king and queen, in the hall of St. John's in Oxford, a play entitled Love's Hospital, by the scholars of that college.
and plàusible answer, in which he endeavours to persuade him that the delay proceeds not from the delights of defultory study, but from the desire of obtaining more fitness for his task; and that he goes on, not taking thought of being late, so it give advantage to be more fit.
When he left the university, he returned to his fa. ther, then residing at Horton in Buckinghamshire, with whom he lived five years; in which time he is faid to have read all the Greek and Latin writers. With what limitations this univerfality is to be understood, who shall inform us ?
It might be supposed that he who read so much should have done nothing else; but Milton found time to write the Masque of Comus, which was presented at Ludlow, then the residence of the Lord President of Wales, in 1634; and had the honour of being acted by the Earl of Bridgewater's sons and daughter. The fiction is derived from Homer's Circe * ; but we never
* It has nevertheless its foundation in reality. The earl of Bridgewater being president of Wales in the year 1634, had his residence at Ludlow castle in Shropshire, at which time lord Brackly and Mr. Egerton his fons, and lady Alice Egerton his daughter, passing through a place called the Hay-wood forest, or Haywood in Herefordshire, were benighted, and the lady for a Mort time lost: this accident being related to their father upon their arrival at his castle, Milton, at the request of his friend Henry Lawes who taught music in the family, wrote this masque. Lawes set it to music, and it was acted on Michaelmas night; the two brothers, the young lady, and Lawes himfelf, bearing each a part in the representation.
The lady Alice Egerton became piterwards the wite of the earl of Carbury, who at his feat called Golden-grove, in Caermarthenshire, harbored Dr. Jeremy Taylor in the time of the Usurpation. Among the doctor's fermons is one on her death, in which her chainuter is finely pourtrayed. Her fitter, lady Vary, was given in marriage !o lord Herbert of Cherbury. VOL.Il.