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" It must not be omitted, that the groves near this village are famous for nightingales, which are so elegantly described in the Penseroso. Most of the cottage windows are overgrown with sweet-briars, vines, and "honėy-suckles; and, that Milton's habitation had the same rustick ornament, we may conclude from his description of the lark bidding him goodmorrow, ;
i «« Through the sweet-briar or the vine, :::. qo Or the twisted eglantine; for it is evident, that he meant a sort of honey-suckle by the eglantine ; though that word is commonly used for the sweet-briar, which he could not mention twice in the same couplet.
: “ If ever, I pass a month or six weeks at Oxford in the summer, I shall be inclined to hire and repair this venerable mansion, and to make a festival for a circle of friends, in honour of Milton, the most perfect scholar, as well as the sublimest poet, that our country ever produced. Such an honour will be less splendid, but more sincere and respectful, than all the pomp and ceremony on the banks of the Avon.”
If Milton resided at Forest Hill, it must have been at a time far distant from the composition of L'Allegro' and Il Penseroso. The tradition that he did reside at this beautiful and beautifully described village, is indeed " general; though none of
· Madame du Bocage, in her entertaining Letters concerning
his biographers assert the circumstance. But Sir William Jones represents him to have chosen this place of retirement, after his first marriage. Now Milton, we find, was not married before 1643, at which time he was in his thirty-fifth year; when, about Whitsuntide or a little after, “ he o took a journey," says his nephew Phillips, “ into the country; nobody about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was more than a journey of recreation ; after a month's stay, home he returns a married man: that went out a batchelor; his wife being Mary, the eldest daughter of Mr. Richard Powell, then a justice of peace, of Foresthil, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire.” Anthony Wood relates also, that Milton courted, married, and brought his wife to his house in London, in one month's time; and that she was very young. She continued, however, but a few weeks with her husband, and p returned to Forest Hill. Milton, as we shall presently see, disdained to follow her thither. After their reconciliation, it is possible that he might revisit the dwelling from which he had brought her, even before the seizure of it by the rebels in 1646.
England, &c. relates that, visiting, in June 1750, Baron Schutz and Lady at their house near Shotover Hill, “ they shewed me from a small eminence Milton's house, to which I bowed with all the reverence with which that poet's memory inspires me.”
° Life of Milton, p. xxii.
P See Mr. Warton's note on the Nuncupative Will of Milton, in this account of the poet's Life, relating to Forest Hill; and also the documents in regard to Mr. Powell's property there, and in the neighbourhood, now first given, in a subsequent portion of these pages, from his Majesty's State-Paper-Office.
Then too, in order to some arrangement of her loyal father's affairs, (for in those affairs he will soon be found to have been concerned with the ruling party,) it is indeed probable, that thither he might go for a short period. However, this concedes nothing to the assertion of L'Allegro being composed at Forest Hill. The early poems of Milton were written, I apprehend, long before the date of his first marriage; and, as I have already stated, most probably at Horton; a point in which Mr. Hayley concurs with me, at least in respect to L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. In the collection of these poems into a volume, which was published by Moseley in 1645, and of which more will presently be said, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso precede both Lycidas and Comus in the arrangement; both of which refer to matters of a much earlier date than 1640. But, not to insist on this circumstance, Moseley in his Address to the Reader, says, “ 9 The author's more peculiar excellency in these studies was too well known to conceal his papers, or to keep me from attempting to sollicit them from him.” So that Milton, we see, had con-“ cealed these papers, till he was solicited to permit them, with Lycidas and Comus already printed, to appear in one volume. I must observe also that Milton tells his friend Rouse, in presenting to him this collection of his poems, that they were the productions of his ' early youth.
. 9 Milton's Poems, ed. 1645, 12mo. sign. a. 4.
r“ Gemelle cultu simplici gaudens liber,
“ Fronde licet geminâ,
Milton, however, might compose at Forest Hill, or in the neighbourhood of it, as some have thought, part of his later productions. But sufficient authority is wanting, upon which to assert a fact so interesting. Mr. Warton indeed tells us, that he had seen in Mr. Powell's house at Forest Hill, many papers, which showed the active part he had taken in favour of the Royalists; but that Mr. Mickle, the ingenious translator of the Lusiad, had there searched in vain for any of Milton's papers or letters.
A pretended romantick circumstance in Milton's younger days has been publickly mentioned, as having formed the first impulse of his Italian journey, and as the parent too of some of his poetry! In the General Evening Post of 1789 it is believed to have appeared ; in which, or in any other journal, however, I had not, before the first edition of this account was published, discovered it. The marvellous anecdote was afterwards obligingly transmitted to me, exactly as it appeared in a Newspaper, (the Italian citation only being here corrected,) of which the date does not appear; and for which I was indebted, through the late Mr. Bindley, to M. Whish, Esq.
“ Munditieque nitens non operosâ ;
“ Believing that the following real circumstance has been but little noticed, we submit the particulars of it, as not uninteresting, to the attention of our readers :- It is well known that, in the bloom of youth, and when he pursued his studies at Cambridge, this poet was extremely beautiful. Wandering, one day, during the summer, far beyond the precincts of the University, into the country, he became so heated and fatigued, that, reclining himself at the foot of a tree to rest, he shortly fell asleep. Before he awoke, two ladies, who were foreigners, passed by in a carriage. Agreeably astonished at the loveliness of his appearance, they alighted, and having admired him (as they thought) unperceived, for some time, the youngest, who was very handsome, drew a pencil from her pocket, and having written some lines upon a piece of paper, put it with her trembling hand into his own. Immediately afterwards they proceeded on their journey. Some of his acquaintances, who were in search of him, had observed this silent adventure, but at too great a distance to discover that the highly-favoured party in it was our illustrious bard. Approaching nearer, they saw their friend, to whom, being awakened,
not singular : 3.C. Walker, erite-Eleanor
* This narrative is not singular : an exact and older counterpart may be found, as the late J.C. Walker, Esq. pointed out to me, in the Preface to Poésies de Marguerite-Eleanore Clotilde, depuis Madame de Surville, Poëte François du xv. Siecle. Par. 1803. The anecdote has been elegantly versified in the Original Sonnets, &c. of Anna Seward.