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should be degraded to a fchool-master; but, fince it cannot be denied that he taught boys, one finds but 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 difgraceful. His father was alive; his allowance was not ample; and he fupplied its deficiences by an honest and useful employment.
It is told, that in the art of education he performed wonders; and a formidable lift is given of the authors, Greek and Latin, that were read in Aldersgate-street, by youth becween 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 his horse. Every man, that has ever undertaken to instruct others, can tell what Aow advances he has been able to make, and how much patience it requires to recall. vagrant inattention, to stimulate luggish indifference, and to rectify absurd misapprehension.
The purpose of Milton, as it seems, was to teach something more folid than the common literature of Schools, by reading those authors that treat of physical fubjects ; 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 fame plan of education in his imaginary College.
But the truth is, that the knowledge of external na- : ture, and the sciences which that knowledge requires or
includes, are not the great of 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 and moral knowledge of right and wrong; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and Justice are virtues, and excellences, of all times and of all places; we are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary, and at leisure. Phyfiological learning is of such rare emergence, that one man may know another half his life without being able to estimate his skill in hydroftaticks or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.
Those authors, therefore, are to be read at schools that supply most axioms of prudence, most principles of moral truth, and most materials for conversation; and these purposes are best served by poets, orators, and historians.
Let me not be censured for this digression as pedantick or paradoxical; for if I have Milton against me, I have Socrates on my side. It was his labour to turn philosophy from the study of nature to speculations upon life; but the innovators whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They seem to think, that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars. Socrates was rather of opinion, that what we had to learn was, how to do good, and avoid evil. “Οι τοι εν μεγάροισι κακόντ’ αγαθόνε τέτυκαι.
Of institutions we may judge by their effects. From this wonder-working academy, I do not know that there ever proceeded any man very eminent for knowledge: its only genuine product, I believe, is a small History of Poetry, written in Latin by his nephew Philips, of which perhaps none of my readers has ever heard.
That in his school, as in every thing else which he undertook, he laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for doubting. One part of his method deserves general imitation. He was careful to instruct his scholars in religion. Every Sunday was spent upon theology, of which he dictated a short system, gathered from the writers that were then fashionable in the Dutch universities,
He fet his pupils an example of hard study and spare diet; only now and then he allowed himself to pass a day of festivity and indulgence with some gay gentlemen of Gray's Inn.
He now began to engage in the controversies of the times, and lent his breath to blow the flames of contention. In 1641 he published a treatise of Reformation, in two books, against the established Church; being willing to help the Puritans, who were, he says' inferior to tbe Prelates in learning.
Hall, bishop of Norwich, had published an Humble Remonftrance, in defence of Episcopacy; to which, in 1641, fix ministers, of whose names the first letters made the celebrated word Smealymnuus, gave their Ana fwer. Of this Answer a Confutation was attempted by the learned U,ber ; and to the Confutation Milton published a Reply, intituled, Of Prelatical Episcopacy, and wherber it may be deduced from the Apoftolical Times, by virtue of those testimonies which are alledged to that pur. Vol. II.
pose in some late treatises, one whereof goes under the name of James Lord Bishop of Armag b.
I have transcribed this title, to fhew, by his contemptuous mention of Uther, that he had now adopted the puritanical favageness of manners. His next work was, The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, by Mr. John Milton, 1642. In this book he discovers, not with oftentatious exultation, but with calm confidence, his high opinion of his own powers ; and promises to undertake something, he yet knows not what, that may be of use and honour to his country. “ This,” says he, “ is not to be obtained but “ by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit that can en“ rich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out “ his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to “ touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases. To “ this must be added, industrious and select reading, “ steady observation, and insight into all seemly and
generous arts and affairs; till which in some measure “ be compast, I refuse not to sustain this expectation." From a promise like this, at once fervid, pious, and rational, might be expected the Paradise Lost.
He published the same year two more pamphlets, upon the same question. To one of his antagonists, who affirms that he was vomited out of the university, he answers, in general terms; “ The Fellows of the “ College wherein I spent some years, at my parting, “ after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is,
fignified many times how much better it would con“ tent them that I should stay.- As for the common
approbation or dislike of that place, as now it is, " that I should esteem or disesteem myself the more for “ that, too simple is the answerer, if he think to ob
( tain with me. Of small practice were the physician
keeps in her stomach, but the better she is ever
This is surely the language of a man who thinks
juftly charged,” says he, “ with this crime, it may
The style of his piece is rough, and such perhaps
to his prelate, one who serves not at the altar only “ but at the Court-cupboard, he will bestow on us a
pretty model of himfelf; and sers me out half a “ dozen prisical mortos, wherever he had them, hop
ping fhort in the measure of convullion fits; in “ which labour the agony of his wit having scaped “ narrowly, instead of well fized periods, he
greets us “ with a quantity of thumb-ring ponies.--And thus " ends this section, or rather dillection of hiinfelf.” Such is the controversial merriment of Milton; his gloomy seriousness is yet inore eflentve. Such is nis malignity, siue bell grows darker at bis frowen.