Page images
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


[merged small][ocr errors]




280.4. 298


The present edition of part of Milton's Poems is an attempt to turn an English classic to a stricter academic use than hitherto. Every competent critic acknowledges the immense value of the national literature; and the desire has very naturally arisen in the public mind that it should be made available in some way or other for the purposes of a liberal education. The mere verbal study of Latin and Greek is apt to end in a meagre culture and a pedantic spirit. Unless earnestly carried on for a series of years, it yields no very rich results either in knowledge or mental discipline. Perhaps, therefore, the best complement to such partial training in scholarship is the study of the master-pieces of English Literature, in which boys can more vividly feel the charm of thought and sentiment than in languages whose grammatical difficulties they have still to overcome. Latin and Greek will no doubt always remain the basis of genuine literary culture ; but the superstructure must more and more be English. The Editor has endeavoured to keep this in view, and hopes that teachers may find the book helpful, not only in fostering a love of literature among their pupils, but also in imparting a more exact and vigorous discipline in language than is customary in the English department of education. The Notes accompanying the Text are both original and selected. The References have been carefully verified, and numerous errors in Todd and others have been corrected. The Editor takes this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the assistance he has received in the revision of the proof-sheets from his colleague, William Macdonald, Esq., M.A., Classical Master in the High School of Edinburgh ; . from George Ross Merry, Esq., B.A., Lincoln College, Oxford, Classical Master in the Edinburgh Academy; and from Dr. Andrew Findlater, Editor of Chambers's Encyclopædia.

High SCHOOL, August 1871.


John MILTON was born on the 9th of December 1608, in the house of his father, who then lived at the sign of the Spread Eagle in Bread Street, Cheapside. He was the third of a family of six, only three of whom survived namely, the poet; a sister named Anne, some years older than himself; and a brother named Christopher, seven years younger. The ancestry of Milton was respectable. * He was descended from an Oxfordshire family, which, according to Philips, had been impoverished by the Wars of the Roses ; but which, in point of fact, cannot be traced back beyond the poet's grandfather.+ Wood states, on the uncertain recollection of Aubrey, that the grandfather's name was also John; but Mr. Hunter, in his pamphlet entitled Milton: A Sheaf of Gleanings (1850), has endeavoured-successfully, it seems to us—to show that it was Richard. If we accept the results of Mr. Hunter's investigations, we must be prepared to acknowledge that there is no positive evidence to confirm the additional statement of Wood, that the grandfather was an under-ranger or keeper of the Forest of Shotover, near Holton in Oxfordshire. It is possible, however, that he may at some time have held that post; and, at any rate, there is proof that the substantial yeoman, Richard Milton of Stanton, St. John's, near Holton, was a "zealous Papist;"I for the “Recusant Rolls" for Oxfordshire show that he was twice fined in the sum of £60 for non-attendance at his parish church. His son, John, was educated at Christ Church, Oxford ; $ where, it is surmised, he imbibed the doctrines of the Reformation. Having been cast off by his father on account of this change of religion, he proceeded to London, probably between 1585-90, became a scrivener, or conveyancing lawyer, and in due time acquired, says Aubrey, “a plentiful estate.” About the year 1600 he married a lady whose name is variously given as Haughton, Caston, or Bradshaw, evidence preponderating in favour of the last of these. Very little is known regarding her, but that little is valuable. We have the testimony of her son that she

* Milton's own language is: "Londini sum natus, genere honesto." - - Defensio Secunda, Birch, ed. 1738, vol. ii., p. 331.

Masson, however (Life of Milton, vol. i., pp. 15, 16), quotes the will of Henri Mylton, the great-grandfather of the poet. Wood.

§ Aubrey

« PreviousContinue »