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one of which is described as being - Richard Minshul's (brother of Elizabeth Milton) agreement with Elizabeth Milton for a house at Santwich, 1680." This document is mueb more fully described in the Athenæum, of September 22, 1849, by a correspondent who writes from Warrington, subscribing himself J. F. M., in whose possession the papers in question Dow are, as a Bond, dated June 4, 1650, from Richard Minshul of Wisterson, in Com. Cestr. frame-work knitter, to Elizabeth Milton, of the City of London, widow, reciting that be had surrendered a certain messuage, &e. at Brenley, &e.
Now this guides us at once to the particular family of Minshul to which the third wife of Milton belonged: a family which had been seated on a small estate at Wistaston, near Nantwich, from the time of Queen Elizabeth, but of a very different rank from the Minshuls of Stoke. There was a relationship between this family and the Randal Holmes of Chester, and this led to inquiries from the second Randal Holme, of Richard Minshul, concerning his descent and family, and these inquiries led to the two following letters, which are preserved among the Holmes Manuscripts at the Museum in Harl. 2039, f. 163 and 164:
“ Deare and Loveing Sonne,
“My love & best respects to you & to my daughter tendered wth trust of yor health. I have reaceived Mr. Alderman Holmes his letter, together wth yo's, wherin I understand that you desire to know what I can say concerning our coming out of Minshull house. I can say but little, but what I have heard from my Grandfather, Randall Minshull his owne mouth, wcb was this, he tould me his
father came out of Minshull house, and that his name was John Minshull, he married Robert Couper his younger daughter, who then lived at Wistaston house. This Couper had no sonne, but two daughters, and he devided his lande equallie betweene them. Now John Minshull, my great Grandfather, did builde upon that moitie, and halfe parte wch did falle to him, the wch, he himselfe, Randall Minshull my Grandfather, and Thomas Minshull my father, and I Richard Minshull, have enjoyed and doe enjoy the same unto this p'sent. This is all I can say, soe I comitt you to God, and ever Rest
“Yo' loveing Father, “ May 3, 1656.
“Ric. MINSHULL. “For my deare and loveing Sonne Richard Minshull at Chester.” “D' & loveing Cosin,
“my true love, and best respects tendred, wth trust of yo' health, I have reaceived yoletter, wherin I understand, that you desire to be certefied whose daughter my Grandmother was, alsoe whose daughter my Mother was; moreover, what unckles or Auntes or great unckles I had. Now, for yor better satisfaction herin, my Grandmother was Rawlinson his daughter of Crew, my mother was Gouldsmyth his daughter of Namptwch; and as for unckle or unckles, I never had any that I did knowe, but I had two Auntes, one married Crew of Audlim, the other married Aston of Hedsford, neare Leichfield. Noe more for p'sent, soe I remayn yo' ever loveing freund and kinsman,
“RICHARD MINSHULL. “ Wistaston, 20 May, 1656. “ For his Loving Cosin Mr. Alderman Holmes at Chester
To those who are acquainted with the manuscripts of the Randal Holmes, which were bought by the Earl of Oxford, and therefore know what an immense multitude of very minute facts are preserved by those most industrious collectors, it will appear extraordinary that they should have permitted the subject to rest here, and not have entered in some part of their collections other information which might easily have been obtained by them respecting the Minshuls of Wistaston : and perhaps it is equally extraordinary, considering the consequence the name had obtained, both by the verse and the political conduct and writings of Milton, and the connection which he had formed with a member of a family allied to their own, that we search in vain in this vast collection of Cheshire evidence for any special notice of the Miltons of that county, who, though not persons of the first consideration, were yet of superior note and position to many families of whom they have left very particular and valuable notices. The Pagets also who were connected with Elizabeth Minshul, who, herself a young woman, married the poet in his declining age and his state of blindness, are equally passed over by them. Possibly however the fact they have preserved that John Paget, a preacher at Amsterdam, 1612, married Bridget, daughter of Richard Maisterson of Nantwich,* may be the origin of the relationship between Elizabeth Minshul of Wistaston and Dr. Paget, who introduced her to Milton, and recommended her to him for his wife. There was a Dr. Paget, a doctor in physic, occupying a tenement at Hammersmith in 1651, who was doubtless Milton's friend.
* Harl, 2142. The mother of Mrs. Paget was a daughter of Sir Thomas Grosvenor, of Eaton ; and Mrs. Paget had a sister, wife of Sir John Gibson, LL.D.
The tradition at Nantwich that the poet was born there, noticed in Partridge's history of that town, has no other foundation than that there were persons of the name of Milton living at Nantwich in the seventeenth century, and that Elizabeth, the poet's widow, returned to Nantwich to end her days there, which is sufficiently explained by the fact that her own relatives were of that neighbourhood. A “ Mr. Milton” occurs among the tenants of the Whetenhalls at Nantwich in 1654, and a Humphrey Milton of Nantwich and Stapeley occurs in Holmes' pedigree of the Hodgsons of Minshul-Vernon, 1705, as father of Alice, who towards the close of the preceding century, married Joseph Hodgson of that place.* Humphrey was Receiver-General of the County of Chester in the time of the Commonwealth.
The disputes in the family of the poet after his decease, on which so much light has been let in by his latest and best biographer, may well be supposed to have ended in a perpetual estrangement between the widow and the children. The children appear to have been left very poorly provided for, to struggle with a world which was not over-kind to them, while the widow retired to the district in which her first breath was drawn, to live amongst the remains of her own family, and at her death, by a will which is singularly deficient of any thing of the least interest, she gives whatever she had to her nephews and nieces at Nantwich, without even calling any of them by their names. The date, according to the writer in the Athenæum for Sept. 29, 1849, is August 27, 1727, who further says that it was proved before
* Harl. 2142.
the Rural Dean of Nantwich on the 10th of October following. It would appear from this that she died between those two periods ; and yet in the printed copy of a sermon preached at her funeral by Isaac Kimber, it is said that it was preached on March 10, 1726.
Whatever may have been the exact time of her death, it appears that she must have survived her husband the long term of fifty-two or fifty-three years. She died at Nantwich where she was a member of a congregation of Anabaptists, one of three which only in her time existed in the County of Chester. That she belonged to this religious community is the more remarkable, inasmuch as it was at Nantwich that the family of Major-General Harrison lived, the first person put to death for his share in the death of King Charles the First, and the chief political leader of the sect of Anabaptists. It would appear from this, that she had imbibed some of the peculiarities of her husband in respect of outward religious ministrations, for if she could not conform to the Church, there was a Presbyterian congregation with a very learned and pious minister in the town ready to receive her. She made the minister of her own congregation, Samuel Acton, one of her executors. The other was John Alcock, who alone proved the will.* The effects were sworn to be under forty pounds.
* Isaac Kimber who preached the Funeral Sermon was assistant to Mr. Acton, for three years, 1724-1727, when he left Nantwich in some disgust. See Memoirs of his Life written by his son, Edward Kimber, and prefixed to “Sermons on the most interesting Religious, Moral and Practical Subjects, by the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Isaac Kimber," London, 8vo. 1756, the volume which contains the Funeral Sermon for Mrs. Milton. Both the Kimbers were writers for the public press.