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public affairs than poets usually are. And it has happened that more accounts have been written of his life, than of almost any author's, particularly by Antony Wood in his Fafti Oxonienses, by our author's nephew Mr. Edward Philips before the English translation of Milton's State-letters printed in 1694, by Mr. Toland before the edition of our author's profe works in three volumes folio printed in 1698, by Monsieur Bayle in his Historical and Critical Dictionary, by Mr. Fenton before the edition of our author's poetical works printed in 1725, by Mr. Richardson in the preface to his Explanatory .Notes and Remarks upon Milton's Paradise Loft, and by the reverend and ingenious Mr. Thomas Birch in the General Dictionary, and more largely before the edition of our author's prose works in two volumes folio printed in 1738. And I have not only read and compared these accounts together, and made the best extracts out of them which I possibly could; but have also collected some other particulars from Milton's own works as well as from other authors, and from credible tradition as well as from written testimonies: and all these, like so
different threds, I have woven into one piece, and formed into a continued narration, of which, whether it affords more or less satisfaction and entertainment than former accounts, the reader must judge and determin: but it has been my study and endevor, as in the notes to comprise the flower of all other notes, so in the life to include the substance of all former lives, and with improvements and additions.
In the conclusion are added copious indexes, one of the principal matters, and another of the words.
The man, who is at the pains of making indexes, is really to be pitied; but of their great utility there is no need to say any thing, when several persons, who pass in the world for profound scholars, know little more of books than title-pages and indexes, but never catch the spirit of an author, which is sure always to evaporate or die in such hands. The former of these indexes, if not drawn up by Mr. Tickell, was I think first inserted in his quarto edition of Milton's poetical works printed in 1720; and for the latter, which was much more laborious, it was composed at the desire and encouragement of Mr. Auditor Benson by Mr. Cruden, who hath also published a very useful Concordance to the Bible,
LIFE OF MILTO N.
T is agreed among all writers, that the family of
shire; but from which of the Miltons is not altogether fo certain.
Some say, and particularly Mr. Philips, that the family was of Milton near Abington in Oxfordshire, where it had been a long time seated, as appears by the monuments still to be seen in Milton-church. But that Milton is not in Oxfordshire, but in Barkshire; and upon inquiry I find, that there are no such monuments in that church, nor any remains of them. It is more probable therefore that the family came, as Mr. Wood says, from Milton near Halton and Thame in Oxfordshire: where it florished several years, till at last the estate was sequester’d, one of the family having taken the unfortunate fide in the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster. John Milton, the poet's grand-father, was, according to Mr. Wood, an under-ranger or keeper of the forest of Shotover near Halton in Oxfordshire; he was of the religion of Rome, and such a bigot that he disinherited his fon only for being a protestant. Upon this the son, the poet's father, named likewise John Milton, settled in London, and became a scrivener by the advice of a friend eminent in that profession: but he was not so devoted to gain and to business, as to lose all taste of the politer arts, and was particularly skilled in music, in which he was not only a fine performer,
but is also celebrated for several pieces of his composition: and yet on the other hand he was not so fond of his music and amusements, as in the least to' neglect his business, but by his diligence and economy acquired a competent estate, which enabled him afterwards to retire, and live in the country. He was by all accounts a very worthy man; and married an excellent woman, Sarah of the ancient family of the Bradshaws, says Mr. Wood; but Mr. Philips, our author's nephew, who was more likely to know, says, of the family of the Castons derived originally from Wales. Whoever she was, she is faid to have been a woman of incomparable virtue and goodness; and by her her husband had two sons and a daughter.
The elder of the sons was our famous poet, who was born in the year of our Lord 1608, on the gth of December in the morning between 6 and 7 o'clock, in Bread-street London, where his father lived at the fign of the spread eagle, which was also the coat of arms of the family. He was named John, as his father and grand-father had been before him; and from the beginning discovering the marks of an uncommon genius, he was designed for a scholar, and had his education partly under private tutors, and partly at a public school. It has been often controverted whether a public or private education is best, but young Milton was so happy as to share the advantages of both. It appears from the fourth of his Latin elegies, and from the first and fourth of his familiar epistles, that Mr. Thomas Young, who was afterwards paftor of the company of English merchants residing at Hamburg, was one of his private preceptors; and when he had made good progress