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MEMORANDA RELATING TO THE FAMILY OF POWELL OF FOREST-HILL, OXFORDSHIRE.
"Milton married, in 1643, a daughter of Justice Powell of Sandford, in the vicinity of Oxford, and lived in a house at Forest-hill, about three miles from Oxford." Todd's Life Of Milton, vol. i, p. 25, ed. 1809.
Nothing can possibly be more erroneous. The families of Powell, alias ap Howell, of Sandford, and Powell of Forest-hill, were not in the remotest degree connected: the former were Roman Catholics. Milton's first wife was Mary, daughter of Richard Powell of Forest-hill. About twenty years ago, the writer, being strongly impressed with the incorrectness of the above statement, and residing for a few months at Oxford, compiled a pedigree of the family of Powell of Sandford, by which the fact is proved to demonstration. There were then no memorials of the family in the church of Forest-hill; and the earliest register commencing A. D. 1700, no notice respecting them could be gleaned from that source.
It is probable they came gradually into prosperity under the wings of the Bromes. One Richard Powell is "remembered" as a "servant" (perhaps bailiff or steward) under the will of George Brome of Halton, and is mentioned before the testator's armourer.
Richard Powell of Forest-hill, and Sir Edward Master of Ospringe in Kent, were executors under the will of George Brome's widow, Eliz. (made 8th September, 1629) proved February 6th, 1634-5.
The will of Edmund Brome of Forest-hill, made November 8th, 1625, was proved August 12th, 1628, by Richard Powell, (sole executor,) Milton's father-in-law. There is no pedigree of the family to be met with; but the following are some memoranda respecting the will of Richard Powell of Forest-hill, Esq., made December 30th, 1646, proved March 26th, 1647, by his widow, Anne; and on May 10th, 1662, by his son Richard; by which act the effect of the power so given to the mother was done away with.
One of the attesting witnesses was John Milton, his son-in-law; but the original will not being now (1831) at Doctors' Commons, curiosity will be disappointed in the expectation of seeing the poet's handwriting.
The testator names as executor, in the first place, his eldest son Richard; and in the second, in case of said Richard's unwillingness to act, his wife Anne; and in the third place, in case of said Anne being unwilling to do so, his friend Mr. John Ellstone of Forest-hill, to whom he gives twenty shillings for a ring. He appoints as overseers his loving friends Sir John Curson and Sir Robert Pye, Knights, and gives to them twenty shillings each for a ring.
He devises his house, &c., at Forest-hill, (alias Forsthall) and alludes to his recently compounding for the same at Goldsmith's Hall, to his eldest son Richard; subject, however, to as follows :— Payment of debts and funeral expenses, &c., satisfying a bond to Anne his, the testator's, wife, in reference to her jointure, and which the testator was not able at that period (1646) to discharge out of his personal property; and the remainder was then to be divided into two parts: one of them to belong to the said Richard, and the other to be divided among such of his brothers and sisters as might not have been already, at the time of the testator's decease, provided for; and the sisters to have one-third more apiece than their brothers.
The testator desires that his daughter, Milton, may be had regard to, as to the sufficiency of her portion; and more, if his, the testator's, estate will bear it.
His houses and lands at Wheatley, and all other properties of the testator, not so above specifically bequeathed, &c., are given to his said son Richard.
The marriage portion, .£1000, promised to John Milton by his father-in-law, was never paid, according to the biographies of the poet. His distresses in the royal cause prevented, probably, the payment of it.
[I am indebted for this information to the kindness of Mr. Frederick Holbrooke, of Parkhurst, Bexley.—Ed.]
"milton's direct descendants can only exist, if they exist at all, among the posterity of his youngest and favourite daughter Deborah, afterwards Mrs. Clarke, a woman of cultivated understanding, and not unpleasing manners, known to Richardson and Professor Ward, and patronized by Addison, who intended to have procured a permanent provision for her, and presented with fifty guineas by Queen Caroline. Her affecting exclamation is well known, on seeing her father's portrait for the first time more than thirty years after his death :—" Oh, my father, my dear father!" "She spoke of him," says Richardson, "with great tenderness; she said he was delightful company, the life of the conversation, not only by a flow of subject, but by unaffected cheerfulness and civility." This is the character of him whom Dr. Johnson represents as a morose tyrant, drawn by one of the supposed victims of his domestic oppression.
* From a Critique on Godwin's 'Lives of Milton's Nephews,' in Edinburgh Review, No. L.
"Her daughter, Mrs. Foster, for whose benefit Dr. Newton and Dr. Birch procured Comus to be acted, survived all her children. The only child of Deborah Milton, of whom we have any accounts besides Mr. Foster, was Caleb Clarke, who went to Madras in the first years of the eighteenth century, and who then vanishes from the view of the biographers of Milton. We have been enabled, by accident, to enlarge a very little this appendage to his history. It appears from an examination of the parish register of Fort St. George, that Caleb Clarke, who seems to have been parish-clerk of that place, from 1717 to 1719, was buried there on the 26th of October of the latter year. By his wife Mary, whose original surname does not appear, he had three children born at Madras:—Abraham, baptized on the 2nd of June, 1703; Mary, baptized on the 17th of March, 1706, and buried on December the 15th of the same year; and Isaac, baptized the 13th of February, 1711. Of Isaac no further account appears. Abraham, the great-grandson of Milton, in September, 1725, married Anna Clarke; and the baptism of his daughter, Mary Clarke, is registered on the 2nd of April, 1727. With her all notices of this family cease. But as neither he nor any of his family, nor his brother Isaac, died at Madras, and as he was only twenty-four years of age at the baptism of his daughter, it is probable that the family migrated to some other part of India, and that some trace of them might yet be discovered by examination of the parish