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From a family and town of his name in Oxfordshire our Author derived bis descent; but he was born at London in the year 1608. The publisher* of his works in prose (on whose veracity fome part of this Narrative mal entirely depend) dates his birth two years carlier than this; but, contradicting himself afterwards in his own computation, I reduce it to the time that Monsieur Bayle had afligned, and for the fame reason which prevailed with him to assign it, His father, John Milton, by profession a scrivener, lived in a reputable manner, on a competent estate entirely his own acquisition ; having been early disinherited by his parents for renouncing the communion of the Church of Rome, to which they were zealously devoted. By his wife, Sarah Caston, he had likewise one daughter, named Anna, and another son, Christopher, whom he trained to the practice of the Common law; who in the Great Rebellion adhered to the Royal cause; and in the reign of King James II. by too easy a compliance with the doctrines of the Court, both religious and civil, he attained to the dignity of being made a judge of the Common Pleas; of which he died divested not long after the Revolution,
* Mr. Toland.
An. Ætat. 12.
But John, the subject of the present Essay, was the favourite of his father's hopes, who, to cultivate the great genius which early displayed itself, was at the expense of a domestic tutor; whose care and capacity his pupil hath gratefully celebrated in an excellent
Latin elegy. At his initiation he is faid to have applied himself to letters with such indefatigable industry, that he rarely was prevailed with to quit his studies before midnight; which not only made him frequently subject to severe pains in his head, but likewise occasioned that weakness in his eyes which terminated in a total privation of sight. From a domestic education he was removed to St. Paul's school, to complete his acquaintance with the Classics, under the care of Dr. Gill: and after a short stay there was An. Ætat. 15. transplanted to Christ's College in Cambridge, where he distinguished himself in all kinds of academical exercises. Of this society he continued a member till he commenced Master of Arts; and then leaving the University, he returned to his father, who
had quitted the Town, and lived at Horton in Buckinghamshire, where he pursued his studies with unparalleled affiduity and success.
After some years spent in this studious retirement his mother died; and then he prevailed with his father to gratify an inclination he had long entertained
of seeing foreign countries. Sir Henry Voiton, at that time Provost of Eton College, gave
An. Ætat. 23.
An. #tat. 30.
him a letter of advice * for the direction of his travels; but by not observing an excellent maxim in it, he incurred great danger, by disputing against the superstition of the Church of Rome within the verge SIR,
Eton College, Ioth April, 1638. “ It was a special favour when you lately bestowed upon “ me here the first taste of your acquaintance, though “ no longer than to make me know that I wanted more " time to value it, and to enjoy it riglıtly. And in truth, “ if I could then have imagined your farther stay in these “ parts, which I understood afterwards by Mr. H. I would " have been bold, in our vulgar phrafe, 10 mend my draught, “ for you left me with an extreme thirst, and to have bega “ ged your conversation again, jointly with your faid learn" ed friend, at a poor meal or two, that we might bave “ banded together some good authors of the ancient time,
among which I observed you to have been familiar, “ Since your going, you have charged me with new obli“ gations, both for a very kind letter from you, dated the " 6th of this month, and for a dainty piece of entertainment " that came there with; wherein should much commend " the tragical part, if the lyrical did not ravish with a “ certain Doric delicacy in your Songs and Odes, wherein “ I must plainly confess to have seen yet nothing parallel “ in our language, ipsa mollities. But I must not omit to " tell you, that I now only owe you thanks for intimating “ unto me, how modestly foever, the true artificer: for the “ work itself I had viewed some good while before with fina “ gular delight, having received it from our common friend “ Mr. R. in the very close of the late R's poems, printed “ at Oxford, where into it is added, as I now suppoie, that " the acceffory might help out the principal, according to " the art of itationers, and leave the reader con la bocca * dolce.
“Now, Sir,concerningyourtravels, whereinl maychallenge “ a little more privilege of discourse with you: I suppote
you will not blanch Paris in your wiy: therefore i have “ been bold to trouble you with a few lines to Mr. M. B. “ whom you shall calily find attending the you: Lord S.
as his governor; and you may surely receive from him “ good directions for shaping of your farther journey into “ Italy, where he did relide, by my cloier, fume time for " the King, after mine owu receis from Vuice.
“ I should think that your best line will be through the whole length of France to Marseilles, and thence by lea