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suffered this publick indignity, rests solely upon the testimony of Aubrey, which I am unable to controvert: But it is remarkable that it never should have been noticed by those who would have rejoiced in such an opportunity of exposing Milton to a little ridicule. Yet further. It is related by Mr. Warton, that, “ in the University Statutes at Oxford, compiled in 1635, ten years after Milton's admission at Cambridge, corporal punishment is to be inflicted on boys under sixteen. We are to recollect, that Milton, when he went to Cambridge, was only a boy of fifteen." This is a mistake. Milton was in his seventeenth Y year, when he was admitted at Christ's College. And if the same exemption was granted to boys of sixteen at Cambridge, as to those of the same age at Oxford, the flagellation of Milton becomes still less entitled to credit. One of the statutes of Christ's College, entitled Cap. 37. De Lectoris Authoritate in Discipulos, seems to countenance the supposition of similar exemption: After prescribing that they, who absent themselves from certain Lectures, shall be fined, the Statute subjoins the following reservation; “ si tamen adultus fuerit ; alioquin, virgâ corrigatur.”
The application also of cætera may be perhaps more general than Mr. Warton and Dr. Johnson have been pleased to consider it; instead of corporal punishment, it may suggest the idea of academical
See the Extract from the College Register, p. 9.
restrictions, to which a youth of Milton's genius could not submit; or merely of threats perhaps, which he thought he did not deserve; and, if he therefore acquiesced in a short exile from Cambridge, as some biographers suppose, it should seem that, by his admission to the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1628, he had incurred no loss of terms; which rustication however must have occasioned, and which the Register of his College, or of the University, would probably have noticed. His reply to an enemy, who in the violence of controversy had asserted that he was expelled, may here be cited. 2« I must be thought if this libeller (for now he shews himself to be so) can find belief, after an inordinate and riotous youth spent at the University, to have been at length vomited out thence. For which commodious lye, that he may be encouraged in the trade another time, I thank him; for it hath given me an apt occasion to acknowledge publickly, with all gratefull mind, that more than ordinary favour and respect which I found above any of my equals at the hands of those courteous and learned men, the fellows of the College wherein I spent some years; who at my parting, after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified many ways, how much better it would content them that I would stay; as by many letters, full of kindness and loving respect, both before that time, and long after, I was assured of their singular
2 Apology for Smectymnuus. Prose-Works, vol. i. p. 174, edit. 1698.
good affection towards me.” . And still more pointedly in another place: * “ Pater me —- Cantabrigiam misit: Illic disciplinis atque artibus tradi solitis septennium studui; procul omni flagitio, bonis omnibus probatus, usquedum magistri, quem vocant, gradum," &c.
· To oblige one of the fellows, his friends so affectionately noticed, he wrote, in 1628, the comitial verses, entitled Naturam non pati senium. I mention this in order to obviate a remark made by Dr. Johnson, that the poet countenanced an opinion, prevalent in his time, “ that the world was in its decay, and that we had the misfortune to be produced in the decrepitude of nature.” In the preceding year the following very learned work had been published, “ An Apologie or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God in the Government of the World, by George Hakewill, D.D. and Archdeacon of Surrey, 1627.” The young poet, I conceive, had been much pleased with this excellent work, which refutes, with particular felicity of argument, the absurdity of supposing nature impaired. This forgotten folio has found an able advocate in modern days. “ They,” says Dr. Warton, b.“ whom envy, malevolence, discontent, or disappointment, have induced to think that the world is totally degenerated, and that it is daily growing worse and
a Defens. Sec. Prose-Works, vol. iii. p. 95, edit. 1698. • Pope's Works, edit. 1797. vol. iv. p. 319.
worse, would do well to read a sensible, but too much neglected, treatise of an old Divine, written in
1630, Hakewill's Apology &c." This work was commended too by Archbishop • Usher. A truly amiable and learned author, it may here be added, to whom the literature of this country is peculiarly indebted, has closed his Philological Inquiries with a chapter, well calculated, like the animated lines of Milton, to banish the timid and unbenevolent idea of nature's decrepitude.
Milton was designed by his parents, and once in his own resolutions, for the Church. But his subsequent unwillingness to engage in the office of a minister was communicated to a friend in a letter; (of which two draughts exist in manuscript ;) with which he sent his impressive Sonnet, On his being arrived at the age of twenty-three. The truth is, Dr. Newton says, he had conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the Church. This, no doubt, was a disappointment to his friends, who though in comfortable were yet by no means in great circumstances. Nor does he seem to have
. This is the second edition of the work, which Dr. Warton seems not to have known.
See a Letter from Dr. Hakewill to Archbishop Usher, in the Life and Letters of Usher by R. Parr, D.D. fol. 1686. Letters, p. 398. .
• See Birch's Life of Milton, Dr. Newton's edit. of Milton, Sonnet vii. General Dictionary, 1738, vol. vii. And Biograph, Brit. 1760, vol. v. Art. Milton, where they are printed.
been disposed to any profession. It is certain that he also declined the f Law. He had probably read, with no slight attention, the conduct of Tasso, as described by the noble biographer to whom he has addressed his admired eclogue :
“8. Il qual poema (il Rinaldo) måndò egli fuori per voler del Cardinal Luigi da Este; e con poco piacer di suo padre; il quale non haurebbe ciò per due ragioni desiderato. Primieramente percioche Bernardo non rimaneua appagato, che l'animo del giouanetto s'appigliasse alla piaceuolezza della poesia, perche non deuiasse (come aduienne.) dallo studio delle leggi dal qual' egli speraua maggiori comodi con l'essempio in contrario di se medesimo, che per molto, e per bene c' hauesse, et in versi, et in prosa saputo scriuere, non potette giammai però auanzare la mezzanità della sua fortuna ne difendersi dalla rea: nella qual cosa malageuolmente Torquato l' obediua, tirato altroue dal proprio genio, come ne' versi che seguono dietro a que' che detti habbiamo, si legge:
His contempt of the Law, as well as of the Church, is rather strongly marked, as in his Verses Ad Patrem, ver. 71, &c. To the ecclesiastical lawyers he has shown no mercy; but alludes to “ chancellours and suffragans, delegates and officials, with all the hell-pestering rabble of sumners and apparitors,” in the very spirit of Quevedo. See his Animadversions, &c. Prose-Works, vol. i. p. 159, edit. 1698. .Vita di Torq. Tasso, scritta da G. B. Manso, 12mo. Venet. 1621, p. 32, 33.