Abbildungen der Seite

Milton repaid Salsilli, though not secure against a stern grammarian, turn the balance indisputably in Milton's favour.

Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud enough to publish them before his poems; though 5 he says, he cannot be suspected but to have known that they were said non tam de se, quam supra se.

At Rome, as at Florence, he stayed only two months : a time indeed sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer of its antiquities, or to view palaces and count 10 pictures; but certainly too short for the contemplation of learning, policy, or manners.

From Rome he passed on to Naples, in company of a hermit, a companion from whom little could be expected; · yet to him Milton owed his introduction to Manso, Marquis 15 of Villa, who had been before the patron of Tasso. Manso was enough delighted with his accomplishments to honour him with a sorry distich, in which he commends him for everything but his religion: and Milton, in return, addressed him in a Latin poem, which must have raised a high opinion 20 of English elegance and literature.

His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and Greece; but hearing of the differences between the king and parliament, he thought it proper to hasten home, rather than pass his life in foreign amusements while his countrymen 25 were contending for their rights. He therefore came back to Rome, though the merchants informed him of plots laid against him by the Jesuits, for the liberty of his conversations on religion. He had sense enough to judge that there was no danger, and therefore kept on his way, and 30 acted as before, neither obtruding nor shunning controversy. He had perhaps given some offence by visiting Galileo, then a prisoner in the Inquisition for philosophical

heresy; and at Naples he was told by Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, he had excluded himself from some distinctions which he should otherwise have paid him. But such conduct, though it did not 5 please, was yet sufficiently safe; and Milton stayed two months more at Rome, and went on to Florence without molestation.

From Florence he visited Lucca. He afterwards went to Venice; and, having sent away a collection of music and 10 other books, travelled to Geneva, which he probably considered as the metropolis of orthodoxy.

Here he reposed as in a congenial element, and became acquainted with John Diodati and Frederick Spanheim, two

learned professors of divinity. From Geneva he passed 1; through France; and came home, after an absence of a year and three months.

At his return he heard of the death of his friend, Charles Diodati; a man whom it is reasonable to suppose of great

merit, since he was thought by Milton worthy of a poem, 20 intituled “Epitaphium Damonis,' written with the common but childish imitation of pastoral life.

He now hired a lodging at the house of one Russel, a tailor in St. Bride's Churchyard, and undertook the educa

tion of John and Edward Phillips, his sister's sons. Finding 25 his rooms too little, he took a house and garden in Alders

gate Street, which was not then so much out of the world as it is now, and chose his dwelling at the upper end of a passage, that he might avoid the noise of the street. Here

he received more boys, to be boarded and instructed. 30 Let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with

some degree of merriment on great promises and small performance, on the man who hastens home, bec his countrymen are contending for their liberty, and, when he


reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in
a private boarding-school. This is the period of his life from
which all his biographers seem inclined to shrink. They are
unwilling that Milton should be degraded to a schoolmaster;
but since it cannot be denied that he taught boys, one finds 5
out 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 disgraceful.
His father was alive; his allowance was not ample ; and 10
he supplied its deficiencies by an honest and useful employ-

It is told, that in the art of education he performed wonders; and a formidable list is given of the authors, Greek and Latin, that were read in Aldersgate Street by 15 youth between 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 20 others can tell what slow advances he has been able to make, and how much patience it requires to recall vagrant inattention, to stimulate sluggish indifference, and to rectify absurd misapprehension.

The purpose of Milton, as it seems, was to teach some- 25 thing more solid than the common literature of schools, by reading those authors that treat of physical subjects, such as the georgic, 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 30 means than Milton of knowing what was wanting to the embellishments of life, formed the same plan of education in his imaginary college.

But the truth is, that the knowledge of external nature, and the sciences which that knowledge requires or includes, are not the great or the frequent business of the human mind.

Whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we 5 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 10 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. Physiological learning is of such rare emergence, 15 that one man may know another half his life without being

able to estimate his skill in hydrostatics 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 20 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 pedantic 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 30 how to do good and avoid evil.

"Όττι τοι εν μεγάροισι κακόν τ' αγαθόν τε τέτυκται. 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 Phillips, of which perhaps none of my readers has ever heard.

That in his school, as in everything else which he under- 5 took, 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 so fashionable in the Dutch universities.

He set 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.

13 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 the Prelates in 20 learning.'

Hall, Bishop of Norwich, had published an “Humble Remonstrance,' in defence of Episcopacy; to which, in 1641, five ministers, of whose names the first letters made the celebrated word Smectymnuus, gave their · Answer. Of this 25 'Answer' a confutation was attempted by the learned Usher; and to the confutation Milton published a reply, entitled, 'Of Prelatical Episcopacy, and whether it may be deduced from the Apostolical Times, by virtue of those Testimonies which are alleged to that purpose in some late Treatises, one 30 whereof goes under the name of James, Lord Bishop of Armagh.'

I have transcribed this title to show, by his contempetuous,

« ZurückWeiter »