Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in November 1638. The Marquis appears to have taken a great liking to the young Englishman, and to have been particularly gracious to him. “As long as I staid at Naples,” says Milton, “I found him truly most friendly to me, he himself acting as my guide through the different parts of the city and the palace of the Viceroy, and coming himself more than once to my inn to visit me; and at my going away he seriously excused himself to me in that, though he wished extremely to have shown me much greater attention, he had not been able to do so in that city, because I would not be more close in the matter of Religion.” In the two Latin lines of compliment given by Manso to Milton, and included by Milton among the Testimonies prefixed to his Latin Poems, there is a hint at this Protestantism of Milton as the only fault he had in the old man's eyes. “Were but your creed like your mind, form, grace, face, and morals, then you would not be Anglic only, but, in faith, Angelic,” says the old man, reviving in Milton's favour the play upon the words Anglus and Angelus attributed in the legend to Pope Gregory when he beheld the English youths in the Roman slavemarket and grieved that such comely youths should be Pagans. But Milton carried away with him another token of Manso's regard. He describes distinctly in his Epitaphium Damonis two cups which Manso had given him as a keepsake, carved round or painted by Manso himself with two designs, the one of an oriental subject, the other of a subject from classic mythology.

In return for Manso's distich and his cups, or possibly before receiving them, and in mere acknowledgment of Manso’s great courtesy generally, Milton, before leaving Naples (Jan. 1638-9), sent to Manso the hundred hexameter lines now under notice. They are a very graceful acknowledgment indeed. There is one passage, of information and compliment finely blended, which may have told Manso more about the stranger than he already knew, and roused his curiosity. It is the passage beginning O mihi si mea sors” at line 78, and containing the first published hint by Milton of his contemplated Arthurian Epic, or poem from British legendary History. The passage is worth reading, not only on this account, but also for its pathos and eloquence. Manso must have admired it, and may have thought of the young Englishman sometimes through the next few years, and wondered what he was doing in his native land. Much news of Milton, however, in Poetry at least, can hardly have reached Manso before his death. He died at Naples, at the age of eighty-four, in 1645, the very year when Milton's first edition of his Poems was published.

EPITAPHIUM DAMONIS.

In the Introductions to the Elegia Prima and the Elegia Sexta the story of Milton's friendship with the half-Italian youth Charles Diodati has been brought down to the end of the year 1629. Since then there had been no interruption of the friendship, but rather a strengthening of it by new ties as the two friends grew older. Two Latin letters of Milton to Diodati, both written in September 1637, and now printed among Milton's Epistolæ Familiares, are the best information we have as to the mutual position of the two friends at that date, when Milton was near his thirtieth year, and Diodati close on the same age. Diodati, it appears from those letters, had finished his medical education, and was in practice somewhere in the north of England ; near Chester, it has been supposed, but that is only a guess from the fact that he had been in that neighbourhood in 1626, the date of the Elegia Prima. Milton, on the other hand, was mainly at Horton, but sometimes in London ; whence, indeed, his two letters are written. They are full of gossip and affection. “How is it with you, pray?" asks Milton in the first, dated Sept. 2. "Are you in good health ? Are there in those parts any learned folks or so with whom you can willingly associate and chat, as we were wont together? When do you return? How long do you intend to dwell among those hyperboreans ?” Again, in the second, dated Sept. 23, Diodati having replied in the meanwhile, and there having been the usual excuses on both sides for laziness in letterwriting : “ Your probity writes with me in your stead and indites true letters on my inmost heart ; your blamelessness of morals writes to me, and your love of the good ; your genius also, by no means a common one, writes to me, and commends you to me more and more. ... Know that it is impossible for me not to love men like you." There is added some talk about Milton's doings. He is thinking, he says, of taking chambers in London, in one of the Inns of Court, having begun to find Horton inconvenient. He has been engaged in a continuous course of historical reading, and has reached the mediæval period. Could Diodati lend him the History of Venice by Justiniani? And what is Diodati doing? Is he crowing over his medical dignity ? Is he troubling himself too much with family matters ? Unless this stepmotherly war is very bad indeed, worse than Dacian or Sarmatian, may not one hope to see him soon in winter quarters in London? (Nisi bellum hoc novercale vel Dacico vel Sarmatico infestius sit, debebis profecto maturare, ut ad nos saltem in hiberna concedas.) The meaning is that Diodati had recently received a stepmother, by his father's second marriage in his sixty-fourth year, and was not much pleased with the acquisition.

Seven months after Milton had written these letters to Diodati, he went abroad on his Italian journey (April 1638). It is very possible that he and Diodati may have met in the interval, and talked over the intended tour. Diodati, as half an Italian, and acquainted with the Italian traditions and connections of his family, may have had hints to give to Milton for his use abroad, or even letters of introduction. At all events, we find Milton, while abroad, thinking much of Diodati. He mentions expressly in his Defensio Secunda that, in the second two months he spent at Florence (March and April 1639), he found time for an excursion of “a few days” to Lucca, about forty miles distant; and I suspect that his main motive in the excursion was to see the town whence the Diodati family had derived their origin. Then, again, in one of the Five Italian Love Sonnets, written, as is generally believed, in the north of Italy, towards the end of Milton's Italian tour, we find Diodati directly addressed, and, as it were, taken, though absent, into his friend's confidence in the sudden love-incident that had befallen him. I feel sure that Milton talked of Diodati, his half-Italian friend at home, to the various groups of Italian wits and literati in the midst of whom he found himself in the different Italian cities he visited, and especially to his acquaintances of the Florentine group, — Gaddi, Dati, Frescobaldi, Coltellini, Chimentelli, Francini, and others. It is not a matter of fancy either, but of actual information by Milton himself, that, while he was enjoying the society of these Italian

friends, and the other pleasures of his Italian tour, he looked forward to the time when he should meet Diodati again, after so long an absence, and pour into his ear, in long sittings within doors, or in walks together through English fields and country lanes, the connected story of all he had done and seen in the wondrous southern land of olives and myrtles, blue skies and soft winds, art and antiquities, poetry and beauty.

All the more terrible was the shock that awaited Milton. His friend Diodati was no longer alive. He had died in August 1638, very soon after Milton had left England. The news had reached Milton very slowly. It did reach him while he was still on the Continent,-if not at Florence on his second visit in March 1639, at latest at Geneva on his return homewards in June 1639; for he tells us that, while at Geneva on his return, he was much in the company of the celebrated theologian, Jean Diodati, the uncle of Charles Diodati, and it is natural to suppose that the uncle had heard of his nephew's death. Not till Milton was in England, however, did he fully ascertain the particulars. They eluded all modern research till August 1874, when the present editor received the following conclusive information in a letter from the late Colonel J. L. Chester, whose great work, The Westminster Abbey Registers, is only a sample of the stores of antiquarian and genealogical knowledge he had accumulated by his labours among English parish registers and collections of archives after he had settled among us from America, and whose contribution of facts to Milton's biography we have had occasion already to mention specially :

-" Charles Diodati was buried at St. Anne, Blackfriars, London, 27 Aug. 1638. The entry in the Register is simply · Mr. Charles Deodate, from Mr. Dollam's.' Seventeen days before, viz. 10 Aug. 1638, was also buried there · Mrs. Philadelphia Deodate, from Mr. Dollan's.' On the 29th of June 1638 was baptized Richard, son of John and Isabell Deodate'; and on the 23d of June in the same year was buried · Isabell, wife to John Deodate. These are all the entries of the name that occur in the Register of St. Anne, Blackfriars.” 1——The interpretation of these facts and dates is not difficult. Since 1637, as we have seen, the second

i First published by me in the preface to the Cambridge Edition of Milton's Poetical Works in September 1874.

marriage of the naturalized London physician, Dr. Theodore Diodati, had rather alienated from him the children of his first marriage. Accordingly, in 1638, and probably before Milton had gone abroad, the two brothers, John and Charles Diodati, had left their father's house in Little St. Bartholomew, and were domiciled in Blackfriars,—John a married man, and apparently in a house of his own, and Charles unmarried, and boarding, it seems, together with his sister (?) Philadelphia, in the house of a Mr. Dollam. In June 1638, John Diodati was made a widower by the death of his wife, Isabell, just after she had given birth to a son, Richard ; and in August 1638 Charles Diodati and his sister (?) Philadelphia were carried to their graves from Mr. Dollam's house, within three weeks of each other, the victims perhaps of some epidemic in the neighbourhood. The widower, John Diodati, it has been ascertained by Colonel Chester, took out letters of administration to the effects of his deceased brother Charles on the 3d of October 1638. — All this, and much more, Milton must have learnt in detail on his return to London in July or August 1639. One of his first visits must have been to the house of Mr. Dollam in Blackfriars, whence there had been the funeral a year before.

For some time after his return Milton seems to have gone about, between London and Horton, thinking of little else than Charles Diodati's melancholy death. His return, his reminiscences of Italy, and all the other delights of his foreign tour, were saddened and spoiled for him by this one irremediable loss. At length his musings over it took poetic form, and some time in the autumn of 1639, or in the winter of 1639-40, he wrote his Epitaphium Damonis.

The poem is, beyond all question, the finest, the deepest in feeling, of all that Milton has left us in Latin, and one of the most interesting of all his poems, whether Latin or Eng. lish. It is purely the accident of its being in Latin that has prevented it from being as well known as Lycidas, and that has transferred to the subject of that English pastoral, Edward King of Christ's College, Cambridge, the honour of being remembered and spoken of as the pre-eminent friend of Milton's youth and early manhood. That is a mistake. Not Lycidas but Damon, not the Irish-born Edward King, but the half-Italian Charles Diodati, was Milton's dearest, most intimate, most peculiar friend. The records prove this

« AnteriorContinuar »