Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

temperate life, and was at little unnecessary expence besides buying of books. Though he was of the vice torious party, yet he was far from sharing in the spoils of his country. On the contrary, he sustained great Josses during the civil war, and was not at all favoured in the impofition of taxes, but sometimes paid beyond his due proportion. Upon a turn of affairs he was not only deprived of his place, but also lost 2009 l. which he had for security and improvement put into the excise-office. He loft likewise another confiderable fum for want of proper care and management, as perfons of Milton's genius are seldom expert in moneymatters. In the fire of London his house in Bread. street was burnt, before which accident foreigners have gone out of devotion (fays Wood, to see the house and chamber where he was born. His gains were inconsiderable in proportion to his losses; for, excepting "the thousand pounds which were given him by the government for writing his Defence of the People against Salmafius, we may conclude that he got very little by the copies of his Works, when it doth not appear that he received any more than 10 l. for Paradife Loft. Some time before he died, he fold the greatest part of his library, as his heirs were not qualified to make a proper ufe of it, and as he thought that he could dispose of it to greater advantage than they could after his decease. Finally, by one means or other, he died worth 1500 l. besides his householdgoods, which was no incompetent subfiftence for him, who was as great a philosopher as a poet *.

To this account of Milton it may be proper to add fomething concerning his family. We faid before, that he had a young brother and a filter. His brother Christopher Milton was a man of totally opposite prin

Whoever considers (fays Mr. Fenton,) the ports to which Milton was advanced, and the times in which' he cnjoyed them, will, ! believe, confess he might have accumulated a much more plentiful fortune : In a dispassionate mind it will not require any extraordiniry measure of candour conclude, that though he abode in the. beritage of oppreffors, and the spoils of his country lay at his feet, neither his conscience, nos his hononr, could stoop to gather them.

ciples;

ciples; was a strong royalist, and after the civil war made his composition through his brother's interest; had been entered young a student in the Inner Tem. ple, of which house he lived to be an ancient bencher; and, being a professed Papist, was in the reign of K. James II. made a judge and knighted, but foon obtained his quietus by reason of his age and infirmie ties, and retired to Ipswich, where he lived all the latter part

of his life. His fifter Anne Milton had a considerable fortune given her by her father in marriage with Mr. Edward Philips, (son of Mr. Edward Philips of Shrewsbury,) who, coming young to London, was bred up in the crown-office in chancery, and at length became fecondary of the office under Mr. Bembo. By him she had, besides other children who had died infants, two sons, Edward and John, whom we have had frequent occafion to mention before. She had likewise two daughters, Mary, who died very young, and Anne, who was living in 1694, by a second husband Mr. Thomas agar, who succeeded Mr. Philips in his place in the crown-office, which he enjoyed many years, and left to Mr. Thomas Milton, fon of Sir Christopher before mentioned. As for Milton himself, he appears to have been no enemy to the fair sex by having had three'wives. What fortune he had with any of them is no where faid; but they were gentlemens daughters; and it is remarkable that he married them all maidens; for (as he says himself,) he * thought with them, who both in prudence and ele.

gance of spirit would chuse a virgin of mean for"" tunes, honestly bred, before the wealthiest widow." But yet he seemeth not to have been very happy in any of his marriages; for his first wife had justly offended him by her long abfence and separation from him ; the second, whose love, sweetness, and goodness he commends, lived not a twelvemonth with him; and his third wife is said to have been a woman of a most violent spirit, and a hard mother-in-law to his children. She died very old, above thirty years ago, [i. e. about the year 1729,) at Nantwich in Cheshire. From the accounts of those who had seen her, I have

learned,

learned, that the confirmed several things which have been related before, particularly that her husband used to compofe his poetry chiefly in winter, and on his waking in a morning would make her write down sometimes twenty or thirty verses. Being asked whether he did not often read Homer and Virgil ? The understood it as an imputation upon him for stealing from those authors, and answered with eagerness, that he stole from no body but the Muse who inspired him; and being asked by a lady present, who the Muse was? replied it was God's Grace, and the Holy Spirit that' visited him nightly. She was likewise asked whom he approved most of our English poets ? and answered, Spenser, Shakespear, and Cowley. Being asked, what he thought of Dryden she faid Dryden used fometimes to visit him, but he thought him no poet, but a good rhymist: but this was before Dryden had composed his best poems, which made his name so famous afterwards. She was wont moreover to say, that her husband was applied to by message from the King, and invited to write for the court; but his answer was, that such a behaviour would be very inconsistent with his former conduct, for he had never get employed bis pen against his conscience. By his first wife he had three daughters, who survived him. They were not fent to school, but were instructed by a mistress kept at home for that purpose: and he himself, excusing the eldest on account of an impediment in her speech, taught the two others to read and pronounce Greek and Latin, and several other languages, without understanding any but English; for he ufed to say that one tongue was enough for a woman.

But this employment was very irksome to them; and this, together with the sharpness and severity of their motherin-law, made them very uneasy at home: and therefore they were all fent abroad to learn things more proper for them, and particularly embroidery in gold and filver. As Milton at his death left his affairs very much in the power of his widow, though she acknowledged that he died worth 1 500 l. yet the allowed but 2001. to each of his three daughters. Anne the eldest

was

[ocr errors]

was decrepit and deformed, but had a very handsome face: She married a master-builder, and died in child. bed of her first child, who died with her. Mary the second lived and died single. Deborah the youngest, in her father's life-time, went over to Ireland with a lady, and afterwards was married to Mr. Abraham Clarke, a weaver in Spittlefields, and died in August 1727, in the 76th year of her age. She is said to have been a woman of good understanding and genteel behaviour, though in low circumstances. As the had been often called upon to read Homer and Ovid's Me. tamorphoses to her father, the could have repeated a considerable number of verses from the beginning of both those poets; and she has been heard to repeat several verses likewise out of Euripides. Mr. Addifon, and other gentlemen, who had opportunities of seeing her, knew her immediately to be Milton's daughter by the fimilitude of her countenance to her father's pieture. Mr. Addison made her a handsome prefent of a purfeof guineas, with a promise of procuring for her some annual provision for her life: but, his death happening foon after, the lost the benefit of his generous design. She received presents likewise from feveral other gentlemen, and Q. Caroline sent her 501. by the hands of Dr. Freind the physician. She had ten children, feven fons, and three daughters; but none of them had any children, except her fon Caleb, and her daughter Elizabeth. Caleb went to Fort St. George in the East-Indies, where he married and had two fons, Abraham and Isaac; the elder of whom came to England with the late Gov. Harrison, but returned upon advice of his father's death; and whether he or his brother be now living is uncertain. Elizabeth, the youngest child of Mrs. Clarke, was married to Mr. Thomas Foster a weaver in Spittlefields, and had feven children, who are all dead; and the herself is aged about fixty, and weak and infirin. She feemeth to be a good plain sensible woman, and has confirmed several particulars related above, and informed me of some others, which she had often heard from her mother: That her grandfather loft 2000 I.

by

bý a money-scrivener, whom he had intrusted with that sum, and likewise an estate at Weltminster of 60 l. a year, which belonged to the Dean and Ch.p. ter, and was restored to them at the Refloration : That he was very temperate in his eating and drinke ing; but what he had he always loved to have of the bet: That he seldom went abroad in the latter part of his life, but was visited even then by persons of diftin&tion, both foreigners and others: That he kept his daughters at a great distance, and would not allow them to learn to write, which he thought unneceflary for a woman: That her mother was his greatest favourite, and could read in seven or eight languages, though she understood none but English: That her mother inherited his headachs and disorders, and had such à weakness in her eyes, that she was forced to make use of spectacles from the age of eighteen: and the herfelf, she says, has not been able to read a chapter in the Bible these twenty years: That she was mistaken in informing Mr. Birch *, what he had printed upon her authority, that Milton's father was born in France; and a brother of hers who was then living was very angry with her for it, and like a true-born Englisha man resented it highly, that the family should be thought to bear any relation to France: That Milton's second wife did not die in child-bed, as Mr. Philips and Toland relate, but above three months after of a consumption; and this too Mr. Birch relates upon her authority: but in this particular she must be mistaken as well as in the other; for our author's fonnet on bis deceafed wife plainly implies, that she did die in child.

* Accounts of Milton's life have been wrote by feven different persons, viz. by Antony Wood in his Fafti Oxonionjes ; by Mr. Edward Philips before the English translation of Milton's State-letters, printed in 1694; by Mr. Toland before the edition of Milton's Profe Works in three volumes folio, printed in 1698; by M. Bayle in his Historical and Critical Dictionary; by Mr. Fenton before the edi tion of Milton's Poetical Works printed in 1725; by Mr. Richardson in the Preface to his explanatory notes and remarks upon Pa• radise Lost; and by Mr. Thomas Birch in the General Didionary, end more largely before the edition of Milton's Profe Works in two volumes folio, printed in 1738.

D

bed,

« ForrigeFortsæt »