« PreviousContinue »
To enter into a preliminary discussion of the doctrines or 34 opinions contained in the present volume, seems, properly speak
ing, to be no necessary part of the Translator's duty. After 36
stating, therefore, in the first place, the circumstances under which the original manuscript was discovered, and the reasons
for considering it as the long lost theological work of Milton, it 37 will be sufficient to subjoin, as briefly as possible, a few remarks
chiefly relating to certain peculiarities in the following treatise, 38 by which it is distinguished from the author's other compositions.
From information communicated by Robert Lemon, sen. Esq. Deputy Keeper of His Majesty's State Papers, who has lately completed from the documents under his care an entire series of the Order-Books of the Council of State during the Interregnum,
it appears that Milton retired from active official employment as 4 Secretary for Foreign Languages, 'about the middle of the year
1655. The following entry occurs under the date of April 17 in that year :
“ The Councell resumed the debate upon the report made from the 452 Committee of the Councell to whom it was referred to consider of the establishment of the Councell's contingencies.
“ Ordered...... That the former yearly Salary of Mr. John MILTON, of Two Hundred Eighty-Eight Pounds, &c., formerly charged on the Councell's contingencies, be reduced to One Hundred and Fiftie Pounds per annum, and paid to him, during his life, out of His Highness' Exchequer.”
This sum must have been intended as a retiring pension in consideration of past services, as it is evident from another entry, under the same date, that a successor was already appointed, at a reduced salary, to discharge the duties of the situation which Milton had previously occupied. “ For the Fee of Mr. Philip Medows, Secretary for per annum. the Latine Tongue, after the rate of.
£200 0 0" From this time it is presumed that Milton ceased to be employed in public business, as his name does not again occur in the
Books of the Council of State, which continue in uninterrupted succession till the 2d of September 1658, the day preceding the death of Cromwell."
It is mentioned by the biographers of Milton (l'oland's Life of John Milton, p. 148, 12mo. London, 1699; Newton's Life of Milton, vol. I, p. xl. and lxii. 8vo. London, 1757 ; Symmons's Life of Milton, appended to his edition of the Prose Works, Vol. VII. p. 500, London, 1806) that about the time when he was thus released from public business, he entered upon
composition of three great works, more congenial to his taste than the employments in which he had been recently engaged, and fitted to occupy his mind under the blindness with which he had been afflicted for nearly three years. The works commenced under these circumstances were Paradise Lost, a Latin Thesaurus, intended as an improvement on that by Robert Stephens, and a body of Divinity compiled from the Holy Scriptures, all which,' according to Wood (Fasti Oxonienses, Part I. 1635, col. 486, edit. 1817), ‘notwithstanding the several troubles that befel him in his fortunes, he finished after His Majesty's Restoration.' After enumerating the works of Milton then published, Wood gays ; • These I think are all the things he hath yet extant; those that are not, are, a Body of Divinity, which my friend (Aubrey) calls Idea Theologiæ, now, or at least lately, in the hands of the author's acquaintance, called CYRIACK SKINNER, living in Mark Lane, London; and the Latin Thesaurus, in those of EDWARD PHILIPPs, his nephew.'
In allusion to the work which is thus called by Wood, on the authority of Aubrey, Idea Theologiæ, Toland has the following passage : He wrote likewise a System of Divinity, but whether intended for public view, or collected merely for his own use, I cannot determine. It was in the hands of his friend CYRIACK
1 The Orders of the Council of State during the Interregnum, brought to light and arranged by the industry of Mr. Lemon, form one of the most interesting series of documents relative to English History at present in existence. They contain the daily transactions of the executive govern. ment in England from 1648-9 to September, 1658, and are particularly valuable from the period of the dissolution of the Long Parliament in. 1653, to the death of Cromwell in September 1658; as during the greater part of that time the Council of State, under the Protector, combined both the executive and legislative functions of government, and as these books are the authentic, but hitherto unknown records of their daily proceedings. It is greatly to be desired that the attention of the Record Commissioners should be drawn to these valuable documents, and perhaps it might be advisable that a fair transcript of them should be made, under their sanction, to guard against loss or damage by any accident which may happen to the originals.
SKINNER, and where at present is uncertain.”? Dr. Symmons
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 found 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 com. municated by James Pulman, Esq., Portcullis Poursuivant at Arms, to have been the grandson of Sir Vincent Skinner 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:
To 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.
Skynner, of Bridget, second daughter of Sir_Edward
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 proved 1657.
granted to his Sept. 11,
daughter, Aug. Theophila, following.
Edward Skynner, 1657. Daughters, 1657. Annabella Skynner, 1700.