« PreviousContinue »
very Mndly gave him letters to the English merchants in the several places through which he was to travel, requesting them to do him all the good offices which lay in their power.
From Paris he went directly to Nice, where he took shipping for Genoa, from whence he went to Leghorn, and thence to Pisa, and so to Florence, in which city he found sufficient inducements to make a stay of two months. For besides the curiosities and other beauties of the place, he took great delight in the company and conversation there, and frequented their academies, as they are called, the meetings of the most polite and ingenious persons, which they have in this, as well as in the other principal cities of Italy, for the exercise and improvement of wit and learning among them. And in these conversations he bore so good a part, and produced so many excellent compositions, that he was soon taken notice of, and was very much courted and caressed by several of the nobility and prime wits of Florence. Giacomo Gaddi, Antonio Francini, Carlo Dati, Beneditto Bonmatthei, Cultellino, Frescobaldi, Clementilli, are reckoned among his particular friends. At Gaddi's house the academies were held, which he constantly frequented. Antonio Francini composed an Italian ode in his commendation. Carlo Dati wrote a Latin eulogium of him, and corresponded with him after his return to England. Bonmatthei was at that time about publishing an Italian grammar; and the eighth of our author's familiar epistles, dated at Florence, September 10, 1638, is addressed to him upon that occasion, commending his design, and advising him to add some observations concerning the true pronunciation of that language for the use of foreigners.
So much good acquaintance would probably have detained him longer at Florence, if he had not been going to Bome, which, to a curious traveller, is certainly the place the most worth seeing of any in the world. And so he took leave of his friends at Florence, and went from thence to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he stayed much about the same time that he had continued at Florence, feasting both his eyes and his mind, and delighted with the fine paintings, and sculptures, and other rarities and antiquities of the city, as well as with the conversation of several learned and ingenious men, and particularly of Lucas Holstenius, keeper of the Vatican library, who received him with the greatest courtesy, and showed him all the Greek authors, whether in print or in manuscript, which had passed through his correction; and also presented him to Cardinal Barberini, who, at an entertainment of music, performed at his own expense, waited for him at the door, and taking him by the hand brought hini into the assembly.
From Home he went to Naples, in company with a certain hermit, and by his means was introduced to the acquaintance of Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, a Neapolitan nobleman, of singular merit and virtue, to whom Tasso addresses his dialogue of friendship, and whom he likewise mentions in his "Gierusalemme Liberata" with great honour. This nobleman was particularly civil to Milton, frequently visited him at his lodgings, and went with him to show him the viceroy's palace, and whatever was curious or worth notice in the city: and, moreover, he honoured him so far as to make a Latin distich in his praise, which is printed before our author's Latin poems, with several other eulogies of a similar character. As a testimony of his gratitude, Milton presented to the marquis, at his departure from Naples, his eclogue, entitled " Mansus," which is well worth reading among his Latin poems,
Having seen the finest parts of Italy, Milton was now thinking of passing over into Sicily and Greece, when he was diverted from his purpose by the news from England, that things were tending to a civil war between the King and Parliament: for he thought it unworthy of himself to be taking his pleasure abroad, while his countrymen were contending for liberty at home. He resolved, therefore, to return by the way of Rome. though he was advised to the contrary by the merchants, who had received intelligence from their correspondents, that the English Jesuits there were forming plots against him, in case he should return thither, by reason of the great freedom which he had used in all his discourses of religion. For he had by no means observed the rule, recommended to him by Sir Henry Wotton, of keeping his thoughts close and his countenance open. He had visited Galileo, a prisoner to the Inquisition for asserting the motion of the earth, and thinking otherwise in astronomy than the Dominicans and Franciscans thought . And though the Marquis of Villa had shown him such distinguishing marks of favour at Naples, yet he told him at his departure that he would have shown him much greater, if he had been more reserved in matters of religion. But he had a soul above dissimulation and disguise: he was neither afraid nor ashamed to vindicate the truth; and if any man had, he had in him the spirit of an old martyr. He was so prudent, indeed, that he would not, of his own accord, begin any discourse of religion; but, at the same time, he was so honest, that if he was questioned at all about his faith, he would not dissemble his sentiments, whatever was the consequence. And, with this resolution, he went to Eome the second time, and stayed there two months more, neither concealing his name, nor declining openly to defend the truth, if any thought proper to attack him. And yet, God's good providence protecting him, he came safe to his kind friends at Florence, where he was received with as much joy and affection as if he had returned into his own country.
Here, likewise, he stayed two months, as he had done before, excepting only an excursion of a few days to Lucca; and then crossing the Apennines, and passing through Bologna and Ferrara, he came to Venice, in which city he spent a month; and having shipped off the books, which he had collected in his travels, and particularly a chest or two of choice music books of the best masters nourishing about that time in Italy, he took his course through Verona, Milan, and along the lake Leman to Geneva. In this city he tamed some time, meeting here with people of his own principles, and contracted an intimate friendship with Giovanni Deodati, a most learned professor of divinity, whose annotations upon the Bible are published n English. And from thence returning through France, the same way that he had gone before, he arrived safe in England, after a peregrination of one year and about three months, having seen more, and learned more, and conversed with more famous men, and made more real improvements, than most others in double the time.
His first business after his return was to pay his duty to his father, and to visit his other friends; but this pleasure was much diminished by the loss of his dear friend and schoolfellow, Charles Deodati, in his absence. While he was abroad, he heard it reported that he was dead; and upon his coming home he found it but too true, and lamented his death in an excellent Latin eclogue entitled "Epitaphium Damonis." This Deodati had a father origir nally of Lucca, but his mother was English, aad he was born and bred in England, and studied physic, and was an admirable scholar, and no less remarkable for his sobriety and other virtues, than for his great learning and ingenuity.
Soon after his return, he had taken a lodging at one Russel's, a tailor, in St. Bride's Churchyard; but he continued not long there, having not sufficient room for his library and furniture, and therefore determined to take a house, and accordingly took a handsome garden-house in Aldersgate-street, situated at the end of an entry, which was the more agreeable to a studious man for its privacy and freedom from noise and disturbance.1 And in this house he continued several years, and his sister's two sons were put to board with him—first the younger, and afterwards the elder; and some other of his intimate friends requested of him the same favour for their sons, especially since there was little more trouble in instructing half a dozen than two or three: and he, who could not easily deny anything to his friends, and who knew that the greatest men in all ages had delighted in teaching others the principles of knowledge and virtue, undertook the office, not out of any sordid and mercenary views, but merely from a benevolent disposition, and a desire to do good. And his method of education was as much above the pedantry and jargon of the common schools, as his genius was superior to that of a common schoolmaster, and the course of reading extensive as compared with the ordinary range adopted in schools. The Sunday's exercise for his pupils was for the most part to read a chapter of the Greek Testament, and to hear his learned exposition of it. The next work after this was to write from his dictation some part of a system of divinity, which he had collected from the ablest authors, who had written upon that subject. Such were his academic institutions; and thus, by teaching others, he in some measure enlarged his own knowledge; and, having the reading of so many authors as it were by proxy, he might possibly have preserved his sight if he had not moreover been perpetually busied in reading or writing something himself. It was certainly a very recluse and studious life that both he and his pupils led; but the young men of that age were of a different turn from those of the present; and he himself gave an example to those
1 A strange contrast to the Aldersgate-street of our day I
under him of hard study and spare diet; only now and then, once in three weeks or a month, he made a gaudy day with some young gentlemen of his acquaintance, the chief of whom, says Mr. Philips, were Mr. Alphry and Mr. Miller, hoth of Gray's-inn, and two of the greatest beaux of those times. *
But he was not so fond of this academical life as to be an indifferent spectator of what was acted upon the public stage of the world. The nation was now in a great ferment in 1641, and the clamour ran high against the bishops, when he joined loudly in the cry, to help the Puritan ministers (as he says himself in his second "Defence"), they being inferior to the bishops in learning and eloquence; and published his two books, "Of Reformation in England," written to a friend. About the same time, certain ministers having published a treatise against episcopacy, in answer to the "Humble Remonstrance of Dr. Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich," under the title of "Smectymnuus," a word consisting of the initial letters of their names, Stephen Marshal, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurstow; and Archbishop Usher having published at Oxford a refutation of "Smectymnuus," in a tract concerning the "Original of Bishops and Metropolitans," Milton wrote his little piece "Of Prelatical Episcopacy," in opposition chiefly to Usher, for he was for contending with the most powerful adversary: there would be either less disgrace in the defeat, or more glory in the victory. He handled the subject more at large in his next performance, which was the "Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty," in two books. And Bishop Hall having published a "Defence of the Humble Remonstrance," he wrote "Animadversions" upon it. All these treatises he published within the course of one year (1641), which show how very diligent he was in 'the cause that he had undertaken. And the next year he set forth his "Apology for Smectymnuus," in answer to the "Confutation of his Animadversions," written, as he thought himself, by Bishop Hall or his son. And here very luckily ended a controversy, which detained him from greater and better writings which he was meditating, more useful to the public, as well as more suitable to his own genius and inclination; but he thought all this while that he was vindicating ecclesiastical liberty.
In the year 1643, and the 35th of his age, he married a