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exercises brought to an end ; and one of the precautions taken was to interdict the continued passage of Hobson, with his letters and parcels, between Cambridge and London. Though many of his neighbours among the townspeople died of the Plague, the tough old carrier escaped that distemper. But the compulsory idleness of some months was too much for him. Some time in November or December 1630, just as the Colleges had re-assembled, and, the Plague having abated, he might have resumed his journeys, he sickened and took to his bed. On the first of January, 1630-31, he died, aged eighty-six. Before he died he had executed a will, in which he left good provision for a large family of sons, daughters, and grandchildren,-one of his daughters being then the wife of a Warwickshire baronet. Nor had he forgotten the town in which he had made his fortunes. Besides other legacies for public purposes to the town of Cambridge, he left money for the perpetual maintenance of the town-conduit; and to this day the visitor to Cambridge sees a handsome conduit, called after Hobson's name, in the centre of the town, and runnels of clear water flowing, by Hobson's munificence, along the sides of the footways in the main streets. In some respects, Hobson is still the genius loci at Cambridge.
Little wonder that the death of such a worthy as old Hobson made a stir among the Cambridge dons and undergraduates, and that many copies of verses were written on the occasion. Several such copies of verses have been recovered; but none so remarkable as Milton's. Milton seems to have had a fondness for the old man, whose horses he must have often hired, and by whom he must often have sent and received parcels. The title of Milton's two pieces is exact to the circumstances of the case : “ On the University Carrier, who sickened in the time of his vacancy, being forbid to go to London by reason of the Plague.” The gist of the poems themselves, too,-in which, through all their punning facetiousness, there is a vein of kindliness,—is that Hobson died of ennui. Both pieces must have been written in or about January 1630-31.
AN EPITAPH ON THE MARCHIONESS OF WINCHESTER.
The date of the composition of this poem is determined by that of the event to which it refers,—the death, in child-birth, of Jane, wife of John Paulet, fifth Marquis of Winchester. This
lady, who was but twenty-three years of age when she died, and was much spoken of for her beauty and mental accomplishments, was a daughter of Thomas, Viscount Savage, of RockSavage, Cheshire, by his wife, Elizabeth, the eldest daughter and co-heir of Thomas Darcy, Earl of Rivers. Her husband, the Marquis of Winchester, who had succeeded to the title in 1628, was a Roman Catholic ; he subsequently attained great distinction by his loyalty during the civil wars; and he did not die till 1674, forty-three years after he had been made a widower by the death of this, his accomplished (first) wife. That event occurred on the 15th of April 1631, in circumstances thus communicated in a contemporary news-letter, dated the 21st of the same month :-“The Lady Marquis of Winchester, daughter to the Lord Viscount Savage, had an imposthume upon her cheek lanced ; the humour fell down into her throat, and quickly despatched her, being big with child : whose death is lamented, as well in respect of other her virtues as that she was inclining to become a Protestant." An unusual amount of public regret seems to have been caused by the lady's melancholy death. It was the subject of a long elegy by the poet-laureate, Ben Jonson, printed in his “ Underwoods”; and there were verses on the occasion by Davenant and other poets. How Milton, then in his twenty-third year, and still at Cambridge, came to be so interested in the event as to make it the subject of a poem, is not known. Warton had been told that there was a Cambridge collection of verses on the occasion, among which Milton's elegiac ode first appeared ; and some expressions in the ode might imply that fact ; but no such volume has been found.
L'ALLEGRO AND IL PENSEROSO.
These were written as companion-pieces, and are to be read together. There is some doubt as to the time of their composition, there being no drafts of them among the Cambridge MSS. In the edition of 1645 they follow immediately after the pieces on Hobson, and precede the Arcades, with the intervention, however, of the ten Sonnets printed in that edition. With great probability they are assigned to the period immediately subsequent to Milton's student-life at Cambridge, i.e. to the time of his studious seclusion in his father's country house at Horton in Bucking
hamshire, near Windsor. Milton retired thither in 1632, after taking his degree of M.A., and he mainly resided there till the beginning of 1638. If the pieces were written at Horton, they were probably written soon after his going thither. That they were written in some peaceful country neighbourhood, amid the sights and sounds of quiet English landscape and English rural life, is rendered likely by their nature. But it is a mistaken notion of the poems, and a somewhat crude notion, to suppose that they must contain a transcript of the scenery of any one place, even the place where they were written. That place (and we incline to think it was Horton) may have shed its influence into the poems; but the purpose of the poet was not to describe actual scenery, but to represent two moods, and to do so by making each mood move, as it were, amid circumstances and adjuncts akin to it and nutritive of it. Hence the scenery is visionary scenery, made up of eclectic recollections from various spots blended into one ideal landscape. It is, indeed, the exquisite fitness with which circumstances are chosen or invented, in true poetic affinity with the two moods, that makes the poems so beautiful, and secures them, while the English language lasts, against the possibility of being forgotten.
The poems, we have said, are companion-pieces, and must be read together. Each describes an ideal day,-a day of twelve hours. But L'Allegro is the ideal day of the mind of an educated youth, like Milton himself, in a mood of light cheerfulness. And observe at what point that day begins. It begins at dawn. The first sound heard is the song of the lark; the first sights seen round the rustic cottage, or in the walk from it, are those of new-waked nature, and of labour fresh afield. Then the light broadens on to mid-day, and we have the reapers at their dinner, or the haymakers busy in the sun. And so, through the afternoon merry-makings, we are led to the evening sports and junkets and nut-brown ale round the cottage bench ; after which, when the country folks, old and young, have retired to rest, the imaginary youth of the poem, still in his mood of cheerfulness, may protract his more educated day by fit reading indoors, varied by sweet Lydian music. Contrast with all this the day of Il Penseroso. It is the same youth, but in a mood more serious, thoughtful, and melancholy. The season of the year, too, may be later. At all events, the ideal day now
begins with the evening. It is the song of the nightingale that is first heard ; lured by which the youth walks forth in moonlight, seeing all objects in their silver aspect, and listening to the sounds of nightfall. Such evening or nocturnal sights and sounds it is that befit the mood of melancholy. And then, indoors again we follow the thoughtful youth, to see him, in his chamber, where the embers glow on the hearth, sitting meditatively, disturbed by no sound, save (for it may be a town that he is now in) the drowsy voice of the passing bellman. Later still, or after midnight, we may fancy him in some high watch-tower, communing, over his books, with old philosophers, or with poets of grave and tragic themes. In such solemn and weirdly phantasies let the whole night pass, and let the morning come, not gay, but sombre and cloudy, the winds rocking the trees, and the rain-drops falling heavily from the eaves. At last, when the sun is up, the watcher, who has not slept, may sally forth ; but it is to lose himself in some forest of monumental oaks or pines, where sleep may overtake him recumbent by some waterfall. And always, ere he rejoins the mixed society of men, let him pay his due visit of worship to the Gothic cathedral near, and have his mind raised to its highest by the music of the pealing organ.
The studied antithesis of the two pieces has to be kept in mind in reading them. It needs only be added that the commentators have supposed that Milton may have been aided in his conception of the two poems by some passages in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, by a song in Beaumont and Fletcher's drama of Nice Valor, and by recollections of other pieces of a pensive kind, in octosyllabic measure, including Marlowe's pretty poem, the Passionate Shepherd to his Love, and Sir Walter Raleigh's answer to the same, called The Nymph's Reply. The help from any such quarters, however, must have been very small, the mere suggestion of a cadence here and there.
ARCADES. “ Part of an Entertainment presented to the CountessDowager of Derby at Harefield by some noble persons of her Family,” are the words added by Milton himself to the title of the poem, to explain its nature. In other words, it is part, and only part, of a masque presented before a venerable lady at her country-seat by some members of her family who had chosen this way of showing their affection and respect for her. The rest of the masque has perished ; only this fragment of it, supplied by Milton, remains. The date is a little uncertain. Historically, the Arcades is connected so closely with Comus that any Introduction to the one must serve also as partly an Introduction to the other; and the manner of the connexion is such that we must assume that the Arcades preceded Comus. Now, as the date of Comus is 1634, the same year, or the immediately preceding year, 1633, has been taken as the probable year for the Arcades; and, though arguments have been adduced in favour of an earlier date, they do not bear strict investigation (see ante, pp. 5, 6). It is chiefly necessary to bear in mind that the Arcades did, at all events, precede Conus, and that the lady in whose honour it was composed was one of the same noble family for whom Comus was subsequently written.
That lady was Alice, Countess-Dowager of Derby, who, in 1633, was about seventy-two years of age. The life of this lady had been one that would have made her venerable in the social and literary history of England even had there not been this association of her later years with the youth of Milton. Born, about the year 1560, one of the daughters of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe, Northamptonshire,— from whom are descended the Earls Spencer and their branches, -she had been married in early life to Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, eldest son of the fourth Earl of Derby. One of her sisters, Elizabeth Spencer, was then, by marriage, Lady Carey, and another, Anne Spencer, was Lady Compton. The three sisters seem to have at that time been especially well known to the poet Spenser, who, indeed, claimed to be related to the Spencers of Althorpe. Spenser's Muiopotmos (1590) was dedicated to Lady Carey ; his Mother Hubberd's Tale (1591) was dedicated to Lady Compton ; and to the youngest of the three sisters,—the one with whom we are at present concerned,—was dedicated in the same year (1591) his Teares of the Muses. In paying this honour to Alice, Lady Strange, Spenser had regard not only to her own accomplishments and his connexion with her family, but also to the reputation of her husband, Lord Strange. No nobleman of the day was of greater note in the world of letters than Lord Strange. He was himself a poet; among the dramatic companies of the time was one retained by him