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Milton in public writings, and how many charges against him have been entertained, examined, and disposed of by former writers of his life, I shall proceed with a charge which has not, I think, been noticed by any of his biographers. I find it in the Life of Lord Keeper Williams, by Bishop Hacket, a work belonging to the highest rank of English literature for its historical information, its political wisdom, its vast compass of learning, and the eloquence with which every thing is enunciated. But Hacket was a strong party man, and he had an especial hatred of Milton. His work was not printed till 1693, but it was written as early as 1657, while the party in the State to which Milton belonged was in the ascendant.* I give the passage in his own words : “ What a venomous spirit is in that serpent Milton, that black-mouthed Zoilus that blows his viper's breath upon those immortal Devotions, from the beginning to the end ! This is he that wrote with all irreverence against the Fathers of our Church, and shewed as little duty to his father that begot him : the same that wrote for the Pharisees that it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause; and against Christ for not allowing divorce ; the same, 0 horrid! that defended the lawfulness of the greatest crime that ever was committed, to put our thrice excellent King to death: a petty school-boy scribbler that durst grapple in such a cause with the prince of learned men of his age Salmasius,” &c. p. 161. In this strain he proceeds, writing with a virulence which is not surpassed even by the Iambics of Du Moulin. But I refer back to the special charge that he was deficient in his duty to his father. My copy of Hacket’s work came from the library of some unknown but curious person living near the time of the publication of the book, who has written various pencil notes in the margin. He has underscored these words and written against them, “ Milton justly reflected on.” After all, however, the only foundation for this odious charge may have been that the poet did not conform to his father's wishes respecting the choice of a profession. We pass to another subject.
* This appears by what he has written, part ii. p. 229, “ That which my prayers and studies have long endeavoured, the dispatch of this labour, is come to pass by the good hand of God this seventeenth of February, 1657," &c.
III. MILTON'S MOTHER. It seems extraordinary that we should have no certain information concerning the mother to whom England owes this one of the noblest of its sons. I mean in respect of the family to which she belonged, for her son has enabled us to judge what kind of person she was, when, in the passage in the Second Defence from which we have already quoted, after speaking of his father as a man of high integrity, he adds, “ Matre probatissimâ et eleemosynis per viciniam potissimum notâ.” She was the kind hospitable wife of a man of easy fortune, who scattered blessings around her, especially amongst those of her neighbours who were poor and unfortunate. Nothing we see is said of her birth, her beauty, her attainments, or her genius, but we are called to admire her benevolent spirit and her extensive charities. Milton was twenty-eight when she died, but he who so eminently excelled in elegiac strains, has not honoured her memory, or
indeed his father's, in that particular manner. When his father died he had forsworn the Muses, and become the ecclesiastical and political controversialist, but when the mother died he was living in the inspiring shades of Horton.
There is the greatest uncertainty and contradiction in the authorities on this subject concerning the family to whom she belonged. Philips, her grandson, says, that she was a Caston of a genteel family, originally from Wales. Wood says, that he heard from one who had it from Milton himself, or his near relations, that she was of the ancient family of the Bradshaws. He means Aubrey, unless Aubrey is to be considered as a second testimony, for Aubrey certainly says, that her original name was Bradshaw.* But this does not assist in the identification, for the families bearing this name are not a few. President Bradshaw left Milton a legacy, but it may be presumed to have been a gift arising out of their political connection rather than any kindredship, for there is no place for the wife of Milton in the well-laboured pedigree by Mr. Ormerod of the Bradshaws of Marple, to whom the President belonged. If we go to Bradshaw of the Haigh in Lancashire, or Bradshaw of Eyam in Derbyshire, the search will be equally in vain ; yet the genealogy of those families has been investigated with some assiduity. Peck the antiquary has another story. According to information received from Mr. Roger Com.
* Wood's article on Milton is chiefly from information given him by Aubrey, but there are things which he did not derive from him: and this gives countenance to the statement of Mr. Loveday, that Wood received part of his information respecting Milton from — Joyner, a Fellow of one of the Colleges at Oxford.
berbach of Chester in 1736, there had been in the possession of Mrs. Milton, the widow of the Poet, who was then lately deceased, a painting which was said to be of the arms of the father and mother of Milton. Under the husband's coat was written, “Milton of Com. Oxon.” and under the wife's “Haughton of Haughton Tower, in Com. Lanc." Hence it was concluded, that the lady of whom we are in search, was of the family of Hoghton of Lancashire, the second family in England admitted into the Order of Baronets. But here the same difficulty presses. No trace of any such connection can be found in any of the Hoghton pedigrees. Besides, bringing with it, as such a marriage would have done, so many powerful connections, we should certainly have found some trace of it in the life or writings of the poet: or if not there, in the writings of the Philips'. On the whole, I am compelled to leave the question, with thus presenting the three opposed statements, and repeating the remark, how extremely difficult it is to recover genealogical facts which past generations have left unrecorded.
She was the mother of five children. The baptism of Anne the eldest, has not been found, but the others occur in the Register of All Hallows, Bread Street: viz. John, baptized December 20, 1608; Sarah, July 15, 1612; Tabitha, January 30, 1613; and Christopher, December 3, 1615. The same Register informs us, that Sarah was buried in the Church in August 1612.* Anne married, 1, Edward Philips, Secondary of the Crown Office, by whom two memorable sons, John and Edward ; and 2, — Agar, by whom, Mary, who died young, and Anne who was alive in 1654. Of Tabitha nothing more appears to be known.
* Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum, vol. ii. p. 10.
IV. MILTON INTENDED FOR THE LAW. When Milton left Cambridge he joined his father at Horton ; and then came the question to what course of life he should be devoted. This was likely to open a subject on which father and son might be expected not to accord. “It is certain,” says Mr. Todd, “ that he declined the Law, and also that he declined the Church.” Dr. Newton thinks that he had too free a spirit to be limited and confined ; that he was for comprehending all sciences and professing none. His conduct, however, on these occasions is a proof of the sincerity with which he had resolved to deliver his sentiments : “For me I have determined to lay up as the best treasure and solace of a good old age, if God vouchsafe it me, the honest liberty of free speech from my youth.”
That it was intended he should take up the Law as a profession, rests at present mainly upon the interpretation of a passage in the verses “Ad Patrem,” which I shall present in Mr. Strutt's translation.
O Father, sure that hatred is but feigned
Thy grateful son companion to the Muse. This scarcely goes so far as to prove a settled and mature design that Milton should enter upon the study of the