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SKINNER, and where at present is uncertain." Dr. Symmons also says, in a note, Vol. VII. p. 500: 'An answer to a libel on himself, and a system of Theology, called, according to Wood, Idea Theologiæ, are compositions of Milton which have been lost. The last was at one time in the hands of Cyriack Skinner, but what became of it afterwards has not been traced.'
It appears then from the above testimonies, that a treatise on Divinity was known to have been compiled by Milton, and deposited, either for safe custody, or from motives of friendship, in the hands of Cyriack Skinner ; since which time all traces of it have been lost. It is necessary to shew, in the next place, what are the grounds for supposing that the original work, from which the following translation has been executed, is the identical treatise so long concealed from the researches of all the editors and biographers of the author of Paradise Lost.
It is observable that neither Wood, nor any of the subsequent biographers of Milton, have mentioned the language in which his theological treatise was written. To prefix a learned title to an English composition would be so consistent with Milton's own practice, as well as with the prevailing taste of his age, that the circumstance of Aubrey's ascribing to it a Latin name affords no certain proof that the work itself was originally written in that language. In the latter part of the year 1823, however, a Latin manuscript, bearing the following title, JOANNIS MILTONI ANGLI DE DOCTRINA CHRISTIANA, EX SACRIS DUNTAXAT LIBRIS PETITA, DISQUISITIONUM LIBRI DUO POSTHUMI, was discovered by Mr. Lemon, in the course of his researches in the Old State Paper Office, situated in what is called the Middle Treasury Gallery, Whitehall. It was foi d in one of the presses, loosely wrapped in two or three sheets of printed paper, with a large number of original letters, informations, examinations and other curious records relative to the Popish plots in 1677 and 1678, and to the Rye House plot in 1683. * The same parcel likewise contained a complete and corrected copy of all the Latin letters to foreign princes and states written by Milton, while he officiated as Latin Secretary ; and the whole was enclosed in an envelope superscribed, - To Mr. Skinner, Mercht. The address seems distinctly to identify this important manuscript with the work mentioned by Wood, though an error has been committed, either by him. self or his informant, with respect to its real title.
Mr. Cyriack Skinner, whose name is already well known in association with that of Milton, appears, from a pedigree communicated by James Pulman, Esq., Portcullis Poursuivant at Arms, to have been the grandson of Sir Vincent Skinner or Skynner, knight, whose eldest son and heir, William Skynner, of
2 Life, p 148.
Thornton College, in the County of Lincoln, Esq., married Bridget, second daughter of Sir Edward Coke, knight, Chief Justice of England. The affinity between Cyriack Skinner and this distinguished ornament of the English Bar, is thus alluded to by Milton in his 21st Sonnet:
T. CYRIACK SKINNER.
Of British Themis, with no mean applause
Pronounc'd, and in his volumes taught, our laws,
In mirth that, after, no repenting draws;
Let Euclid rest, and Archimedes pause,
Toward solid good what leads the nearest way;
For other things mild Heav'n a time ordains,
That with superfluous burden loads the day,
And, when God sends a cheerful hour, refrains. All the biographers of Milton have mentioned that Cyriack Skinner was his favourite pupil, and subsequently his particular 3. William
Skynner, 0f7Bridget, second daughter of Sir Edward Thornton College, in the Coke, Knt., Chief Justice of England, county of Lincoln, Esq. and relict of William Berney, Esq. son and heir of Sir Will (in which she is described of Thorn
Vincent Skynner, Knt. ton College, Widow,) dated Sept. 26, Will dated Aug. 3rd, 1627, 1648, proved June 18, 1653, by her son
proved Feb. Ist, 1627-8. Cyriack Skynner, Executor. Edward FAnn, daughter William Cyriack Skyn- Bridget, livSkynner, of Sir Wil. Skyn ner, third son,
ing 1634. of Thorn liam Went. ner,
1634-named ton College
worth, Knt. second in 1657, of the Elizabeth, aforesaid, of Ashby son,
parish of St. wife of Esq., son Puerorum in 1634, Martin in the Philip and heir, Com. Linc. named Fields, where Weslid, of 1648.
Grandfather in 1648, he was buried Grimsby, Will dated of Thos. and in
Aug. 8, 1700.
in Com. May 20, Earl of Straf 1657. Administration Linc. 1657, ford. Ex.
of his Effects 1648. 1657.
granted to his Sept. 11,
daughter. Aug. Theophila, following
Edward Skynner, 1657. Daughters, 1657.
Annabella Skynner, 1700.
friend. Wood incidentally notices him in speaking of the wellknown club of Commonwealth's men, which used to meet in 1659 at the Turk's Head in New Palace Yard, Westminster. “Besides our author (James Harrington) and H. Nevill, who were the prime men of this club, were Cyriack Skinner, a merchant's son of London, an ingenious young gentleman, and scholar to Jo. Milton, which Skinner sometimes held the chair, Major John Wildman,' &c. &c.4 Wood further says that the discourses of the members about government, and ordering a commonwealth, were the most ingenious and smart that ever were heard; for the arguments in the Parliament House were but flat to them.' They were fond, it appears, of proposing models of democratical government, and at the dissolution of the club in February, 1659, at which time the secluded members were restored by General Monk, 'all their models,' Wood says, “vanished. These models are not now of common occurrence, but two of them are in the possession of the Rev. Henry J. Todd, from whom the following information respecting them is derived. One is entitled 'A Modell of a Democraticall Government, humbly tendered to consideration by a friend and well-wisher to this Commonwealth,' 4to. London, 1659. The title of the other is · Idea Democratica, or a Commonweal Platform,' 4to. London, 1659. Both consist of a very few leaves only, and neither are enumerated by Wood, among Harrington's pieces. Mr. Todd supposes, with much probability, that as the chair was often taken by the ingenious young gentleman, as Wood terms Skinner, he was concerned in the publication of these antimonarchical curiosities. Care however must be taken not to confound him with another individual of the same name, who likewise took a part against the crown in the politics of the day ; viz. Augustine Skinner, one of the small Rump Parliament of ninety members in 1659. It was probably the latter who belonged to the Committee appointed by the House to consider all orders, &c. touching absent, that is, the secluded members, in which Committee is the leader of the Rota Club, “Sir James Harrington,' as he was then usually called, though not knighted. Harrington is the fifth in the list of the Committee, and Mr. Skinner' the twelfth.5
In the year 1654, we learn from a letter addressed to Milton by his friend Andrew Marvell, and first published by Dr. Birch, that Skinner had got near’his former preceptor, who then occupied lodgings in Petty France, Westminster, probably for the sake of their contiguity to the Council. This was the house
* Fasti Oxonienses, Life of Mr. James Harrington, 389.
5 See • A brief Narrative of the late forcible Seclusion of divers Members of the House of Commons,' 1660. p. 6.
' next door to the Lord Scudamore’s, and opening into St. James's park,' where he is said to have remained eight years; namely, from 1652 till within a few weeks of the restoration of Charles the Second. By a comparison of dates, it may be conjectured that he removed into it when obliged to leave the lodgings in Whitehall, which, as is proved by the following curious extracts from the Council books, had been provided for him at the public expense, and fitted up with some of the spoils of the late King's property.
" 1649. Nov. 12. Ordered--That Sir John Hippesley be spoken to,
that Mr. Milton may be accommodated with the
Lodgings that he hath at Whitehall." “ 1619. Nov. 19.
That Mr. Milton shall have the Lodgings that were in the hands of Sir John Hippesley, in Whitehall, for his accommodation as being Secretary to the
Councell for Forreigne Languages.' “ 1650. June 14.
That Mr. Milton shall have a warrant to the Trustees and Contractors for the sale of the King's goods, for the furnishing of his Lodgeing at Whitehall
with some Hangings.”
“ These are to will and require you, forthwith, upon sight hereof, to deliver unto Mr. John Milton, or to whom hee shall appoint, such Hangings as shall bee sufficient for the furnishing of his Lodgings in White
hall. Given at Whitehall 189. Junii 1650. To the Trustees and Contractors for
the Sale of the late King's Goods." “ 1651. April 10. Ordered—That Mr. Vaux bee sent unto, to lett him
know that hee is to forbeare the removeing of Mr. Milton out of his Lodgings at Whitehall, until Sir Henry Mildmay and Sir Gilbert Pickering shall have
spoken with the Committee concerning that businesse." " 1651. June 1l.
- That Lieutnant Generall Fleetwood, Sir John Trevor, Mr. Alderman Allen, and Mr. Chaloner, or anie two of them, bee appointed a Committee to go from this Councell to the Committee of Parliament for Whitehall, to acquaint them with the case of Mr. Milton, in regard of their positive order for his speedie remove out of his Lodgings in Whitehall, and to endeavour with them, that the said Mr. Milton may bee continued where he is, in regard of the employment hee is in to the Councell, which necessitates him
to reside neere the Councell.' About a year after Skinner had thus become the neighbour of Milton, the latter addressed to him that beautiful sonnet on the loss of his sight, which, in consequence of the allusion contained
in it to the Defence of the People, was not published till twenty years after the author's death.
Cyriack, this three years' day these eyes, though clear,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot ;
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
In liberty's defence, my noble task,
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask
Content, though blind, had I no better guide. It appears from the title, that the work entrusted to Skinner's
was originally intended to be a posthumous publication. The reproaches to which its author had been exposed in consequence of opinions contained in his early controversial writings, may have induced him to avoid attracting the notice of the public, during the ascendancy of his political opponents, by a frank avowal of his religious sentiments. But by what means, by whom, or at what time this interesting document was deposited in the State Paper Office, is at present not known with certainty ; every trace of its existence having been lost for nearly a century and a half, till it was discovered by Mr. Lemon in the manner above described.
In the absence of all positive evidence on this subject, it is due to the sagacity of Mr. Lemon to state the satisfactory conjecture originally formed by that gentleman, which subsequent discoveries have almost converted into a moral certainty. From the decided republican principles which Cyriack Skinner was well known to have adopted, it is not improbable that he was suspected of participating in some of the numerous political conspiracies which prevailed during the last ten years of the reign of Charles the Second, and that his papers were seized in consequence. Supposing this step to have been taken, the Milton manuscript would have come officially, with the other suspected documents, into the possession either of Sir JOSEPH WILLIAMSON, or Sir LEOLINE JENKINS ; who held successively the office of Principal Secretary of State for the Southern or Home Department during the whole of the period alluded to, that is, from 1674 to 1684. It was at this time the custom for the Secretaries, on retiring from office, to remove with them the public documents connected with their respective administrations; but both these dis