Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Milton, or by his desire, Cyriack Skinner we may suppose to have been the person who first received it. He had been the pupil of Milton; he continued to be among his 8 learned familiar acquaintance; he lived indeed " near him; he was a member of the same club with him; and to him were addressed by the poet two Sonnets. Of this literary friend of Milton yet a word or two more. Wood tells us, that he was “ a merchant's son of London, an ingenious young gentleman, and scholar to John Milton;" and that he had distinguished himself in political disputation, as an occasional chairman at the Rota Club, where topicks in support of democracy on its deathbed were amply discussed in 1659, and where the zeal of Skinner sometimes perhaps disdained the bounds of circumspection; for it is spoken of him in derision by the younger nephew of Milton, among the memorable things of 1661, "i that it was one year since Mr. Skinner spake discreetly at the Rota!" He died in London, leaving a daughter only, it has been said, in 1700.

Possessed of this theological treatise, upon which he and Milton had probably often conversed, Cyriack Skinner might know whether the author himself had intended to publish it; which now indeed is a

5 As Aubrey has informed us.
h Dr. Sumner's Introduct. p. viii.

John Phillips's Almanack of Montelion for the year 1661. * Some expressions in the Preface to the treatise seem to signify an intention of this kind ; “ hæc si omnibus palam facio”

questionable point. Milton died at the close of 1674. Skinner appears, however, to have been in no haste to give the work to the world. The 'surreptitious edition of the State-Letters had certainly excited an alarm, and an inquiry, as to any other unpublished papers of the deceased secretary. But Skinner seems to have sought a publick notification of the religious sentiments of his friend, not from the typography of his own country, but from a foreign press. And accordingly a Mr. Daniel Skinner commenced à correspondence with the celebrated Daniel Elzevir of Amsterdam on the subject both of the Theological Treatise and the State-Letters of Milton Daniel Skinner was, at this time, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge ; and, it can hardly be doubted, a near relation of Cyriack; perhaps his nephew, as Mr. Lemon conjectures. He had been ” educated in Westminster School, which he left for the University in 1670; and the dates of his admission as a minor and a major fellow are in October 1674 and in May 1679. Of the letters, and of the first 196 pages of the treatise, this gentleman had been the "copyist. To the employment of transcribing he

“ hæc quàm possum latissimè libentissiméque impertio,” &c. But I lay no great stress upon this point..

See before, p. 181. m From Dr. Sumner. And see his Introduct. p. xiv.

The hand-writing of the 196 pages. is the same as that of the State-Letters; which latter is attested by Daniel Skinner himself to be his, as it has recently been discovered in the State-Paper Office. The whole treatise consists of 735 pages. See more upon this subject in a subsequent page.

had perhaps been incited, or recommended, by Cyriack Skinner, when · Milton, at the request of the Danish resident, consented to a transcript of his letters. He had been doubtless one of those, “ P whom Milton had daily about him to read to him; some, persons of man's estate, who of their own accord greedily catched at the opportunity of being his readers, that they might as well reap the benefit of what they read to him, as oblige him by the benefit of their reading; others, of younger years, sent by their parents to the same end.From copying more of the treatise Skinner perhaps desisted, when he found that Elzevir, to whom the whole of the manuscript was submitted, declined to print it; or when the letter from the master of his college aroused him to a sense of danger in what he purposed. His own 9 attestation, dated Oct. 18, 1676, now in the State-Paper Office, is, that he had sent “ the true perfect copy of State-Letters to Elzevir, at Amsterdam, to be printed.” In the November following, however, Daniel Elzevir addressed Sir Joseph Williamson, then one of the principal Secretaries of State, with the 'information, (dated

W

• See before, p. 180.
p Phillips's Life of Milton.

9 Discovered, since the publication of Dr. Sumner's volumes, by Mr. Lemon in the State-Paper Office.

Discovered also, since Dr. Sumner's publication, among the State-Paper treasures, by Mr. Lechmere, of that Office; and trans-: mitted to me, with his accustomed zeal to afford all the informa-tion in his power, by Mr. Lemon, while this portion of my narrative was passing through the press.

m

at Amsterdam,) “ that about a year before, Mr. Skinner put into his hands this collection of Letters and a Treatise on Theology, with directions to print them; but that on examining them he (Elzevir) found many things in them, which, in his opinion, had better be suppressed than divulged; that he declined printing them; and that Mr. Skinner had lately been at Amsterdam, had expressed himself to be highly gratified that he (Elzevir) had not commenced the printing of those works, and then took away the manuscripts." Still in possession of the manuscripts, Skinner did not yet return to England. But inquiry had now been certainly made after the papers of Milton, directed by the judicious vigilance both of political and academical precaution in our own country. In the February following, Dr. Isaac Barrow, master of Trinity College, communicated to Skinner by letter a peremptory order “ s to repair immediately to the College; no further allowance to discontinue being granted to you: this you are to doe upon penalty of ye Statute, which is expulsion from ye College if you disobey. We doe also warn you, that if you shall publish any writing mischievous to ye Church or State, you will thence incurre a forfeiture of your interest here. I hope God will give you ye wisedome and grace to take warning" Barrow had entrusted this letter to a friend ; to whom he says, “ I am sorry for the miscarriages

[ocr errors]

- Dated 13 Feb, 1676–7. State-Pap. Off. Domest. Papers, vol. xix. fol. 165. Directed For Mr. Daniel Skinner.

+ Dated as the preceding. Dom. Pap. ibid. p. 167. Directed,

of that wild young man to whom I have written the enclosed, which you may please to seale and send.” It was sent, and delivered in the March following to Skinner, then at Paris, by Mr. Perwich, " who communicated this intelligence to Mr. Bridgeman, Sir Joseph Williamson's secretary; and that he had delivered it before witness ; thus at once attesting the notice, which the English government also was taking, of Skinner and his project. “ I found him," Mr. Perwich says, much surprised, and yet at the same time slighting any constraining orders from the superiour of his College, or any benefit he expected thence; but as to Milton's workes he intended to have printed, (though he saith that part which he had in MSS. are noe way to be objected ag* either with regard to royalty and government,) he hath desisted from causing them to be printed, having left them in Holland ; and that he intends, notwithstanding the College summons, to goe for Italy this summer.” It should be mentioned, that after the words “ either with regard to royalty and government,” in Mr. Perwich's letter, something further seems to have been intended, in order to complete what either leads us to expect; such as,“ or to religion, church-polity, or a similar expression,” as Dr. Sumner has justly observed.

i Perhaps with the suspected papers Skinner soon

For my reverend friend, Mr. George Seignior, at Ely House in Holborne, London. .

Dr. Sumner's Introduct. p. xi.

« PreviousContinue »