Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of St. Giles, Cripplegate, attended to the grave by “ all his learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar." Andrew Marvell, who may have been among the mourners, promised Aubrey to write some account of Milton to be sent to Anthony Wood for his Fasti Oxonienses ; but, Marvell having died in 1678, without having fulfilled the promise, Aubrey himself collected what information he could from Milton's widow, his brother, the elder Phillips, and others.

POSTHUMOUS DETAILS. Milton, before his death, estimated his estate at about £1000 in money, besides household goods. Actually about tgoo in money (worth about £2700 now) was the sum at once realised. It was the subject of litigation between the widow and the three daughters. A few months before his death, Milton, in a conversation with his brother Christopher, then a bencher of the Inner Temple, had signified his intention as to the disposition of his property thus : “ The portion due to me from Mr. Powell, my former (first] wife's father, I leave to the unkind children I had by her, having received no part of it; but my meaning is that they shall have no other benefit of my estate than the said portion and what I have besides done for them, they having been very undutiful to me. All the rest of my estate I leave to the disposal of Elizabeth, my loving wife.” For the right understanding of this, it is to be explained that there was due to Milton's estate a promised marriage-portion of £1000 with his first wife, and arrears of interest on the same since 1643, and that, though there had been little prospect of a recovery of the money at Mr. Powell's death in 1647, the Powell family were now in circumstances to bear the debt, and were under obligation to do so by Mr. Powell's will. Milton's meaning, therefore, was that his daughters should have a claim on their relatives, the Powells, for the £ 1000 and arrears of their grandfather's money, while his widow should have the whole of his own actual estate. The daughters, however, probably with the Powells urging them,-for their grandmother, Mrs. Powell, was still alive,-disputed the “nuncupative” or word-of-mouth will of their father, alleging that they had been and were “great frequenters of the church

and good livers,” and insinuating that their uncle Christopher had an interest in upholding the will, inasmuch as there was a private understanding that the widow should hand over to his children, according to a desire which the deceased had expressed, any overplus that the estate might yield above £ 1000. The result was that, though there was perfect evidence of the facts, it was decided (Feb. 1674-5), on technical grounds, that the widow should have two-thirds and the daughters one-third among them. The widow acquiesced, and punctually paid to the three daughters about £100 each, having about £600 left for herself. She was then thirtysix years of age, and the money would yield her a meagre annuity.

The widow, after remaining in London till about 1681, retired to Nantwich in her native Cheshire, where she lived to as late as 1727, a pious member of a Baptist congregation, having survived her husband nearly fifty-three years. The inventory of her effects at her death has been recovered, and shows that she retained to the last some trinkets that had belonged to Milton, copies of his Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and two juvenile portraits of him.---Milton's eldest daughter, Anne, “lame, and with a defect in her speech, but with a very handsome face,” married “a masterbuilder," and died in her first childbirth, the child dying also. Mary, the second daughter, never married, and was dead before 1694. Deborah, the youngest and the best, and “very like her father,'' had gone to Dublin, as companion to a lady, before her father's death, and married there an Abraham Clarke, described as a weaver or silk-mercer. They came to London some time between 1684 and 1688, and settled in the weaving business in Spitalfields. She lived till 1727, and was visited in her later years by Addison and others, who were much pleased with her, and whom she surprised by repeating stray lines she remembered from Homer, Euripides, and Ovid. The Princess Caroline of Wales sent her fifty guineas, and a fund was raised for her benefit. Of ten children of hers only two survived to have issue. A son, Caleb Clarke, had gone to Madras before 1703, and had died as “parish-clerk of Fort George” in 1719, leaving progeny who are supposed to have all died in India. The last trace of them is the registration at Madras, April 2, 1727, of the birth of a daughter of Abraham

Clarke, the son of Caleb (i.e. a great-great-granddaughter of Milton, actually born while Milton's widow was still alive at Nantwich); but there is just a possibility that there was other and farther descent from Milton in these Indian Clarkes. Otherwise, the direct descent from Milton ended in his granddaughter Elizabeth Clarke, the youngest daughter of Deborah. She married a Thomas Foster, a Spitalfields weaver ; she afterwards kept “a small chandler's shop” in Holloway ; she removed thence to Shoreditch, where she and her husband had some little dispute in 1750 as to the investment of about £130, the proceeds of a performance of Comus which Dr. Johnson and others had got up for her benefit; and she died in Islington in 1754. She struck those who visited her as “a good, plain, sensible woman,” in very infirm health. Seven children of hers had all died in infancy.-- Christopher Milton, the poet's lawyer-brother, but who had always been opposite to him in politics, was not only a bencher of the Inner Temple at the time of his brother's death, but also Deputy-Recorder of Ipswich. In the reign of James II., having pushed his compliance so far as to turn Roman Catholic, he became Sir Christopher Milton, Knt., and a judge. At the Revolution he retired into private life at or near Ipswich ; where he died in 1692, in his seventy-seventh year. He left a son, Thomas Milton, and two or three daughters, who are traced some way into the eighteenth century. --So far as is known, the Milton pedigree was transmitted farthest and most respectably in the descent from Milton's sister Anne, who was first Mrs. Phillips and afterwards Mrs. Agar, and who seems to have died some years before the poet, leaving Mr. Agar still alive. Her two sons by the first marriage, Edward and John Phillips, Milton's two nephews, and educated by him (John wholly, but with two years at Oxford added in Edward's case), can hardly, indeed, be reckoned among fortunate men. They struggled on cleverly and industriously, but never very prosperously, in private tutorship, schoolmastering, and hack-authorship ; and their numerous publications in prose and verse, lists of which have been made out, are among the curiosities of the minor literature of England in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Edward died not long after 1694, in which year he had published his brief but valuable Life of Milton, prefixed to an English translation of Milton's State Letters ; John,

VOL. I.

who seems to have been the less reputable in his life, and the more reckless in the spirit and style of his writings, was alive till 1706. Their families have not been traced. Meanwhile, their half-sister, Ann Agar, their mother's only surviving child by her second marriage, had carried the pedigree, in more flourishing circumstances, into another line, with another change of name. Her father, Mr. Thomas Agar, resuming his post of Deputy-Clerk of the Crown at the Restoration, had come to be a man of some wealth ; and, before his death in 1673 (when he was succeeded in his office by Thomas Milton, the son of Christopher), she had married a David Moore, of Sayes House, Chertsey, in the county of Surrey, Esq. From this marriage came a Thomas Moore of Sayes House, who was knighted in 1715; and from him have descended, branching out by intermarriages, a great many Moores and Fitzmoores, traceable in the squirearchy, the church, or the public service of England, to the present day. All these are related to Milton in so far as they are descended from his sister, the mother of the “Fair Infant" of his early

Elegy.

In 1681, seven years after Milton's death, there was published a thin tract of a few pages, entitled Mr. John Milton's Character of the Long Parliament and Assembly of Divines, professing to be a passage which had been omitted from his History of Britain, when that work was published by himself in 1670. It is now generally inserted into that work within brackets. In 1682 there was published from Milton's manuscript a compilation called “ A Brief History of Moscovia, and of other less known countries lying eastward of Russia as far as Cathay.” The collections he had made towards a Latin Dictionary went into the hands of Edward Phillips, were used by Phillips in some compilations of his own, and have been embodied in subsequent Dictionaries. Two packets of manuscript left by Milton about the fate of which he was somewhat anxious were his Latin System of Divinity drawn direct from the Bible, and dictated to various amanuenses, and his Latin Letters of State to Foreign Powers, written in his Secretaryship to the Commonwealth and Protectorate. These packets he had intrusted to one of his latest amanuenses, a young Cambridge man, Daniel Skinner, a relative of his friend Cyriack. They were conveyed by Skinner to Amsterdam for publication by Daniel Elzevir ; but, the English Government having heard of them, the publication was stopped, and they were sent back to London in a brown paper parcel, which was thrown aside in the State Paper Office. This was in 1677; but in the previous year, 1676, a London bookseller, who had somehow obtained imperfect copies of the Latin State Letters, had published a surreptitious edition of them, entitled Litere Pseudo-Senatus Anglicani, necnon Cromwelli, nomine et jussu Conscripta. A better edition was printed at Leipsic in 1690, and Phillips's English translation appeared in 1694. Quite different from these Milton State Letters, though sometimes called The Milton Papers, is a thin folio edited in 1743 by John Nickolls, and consisting of Letters and Addresses to Cromwell, and other intimate Cromwellian documents, from 1650 onwards, which had somehow been in Milton's keeping, and which were afterwards in possession of the Quaker Ellwood. Finally, in 1823, attention having been at last called to the brown paper parcel that had been lying in the State Paper Office since 1677, Milton's long lost treatise De Doctrina Christianá, part of the contents of the parcel, was published, in 1825, by Dr. Sumner, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, with the addition of an English translation in the same year.

It is from this Treatise of Christian Doctrine that Milton's theological and philosophical opinions at the close of his life, so far as they could be expressed in formal and systematic language, are to be most authentically learnt. The treatise shows him to have been an Anti-Trinitarian, in his later years at least, holding views as to the nature of Christ which were substantially those of high Arianism, as distinct from the lower Socinianism. It shows him also to have been, on the whole, Arminian and Anti-Calvinistic in his views of Free Will and Predestination. It contains, moreover, a very curious doctrine on the subject of Matter and Spirit, Soul and Body, which it is difficult to define otherwise than by calling it Materialistic Pantheism, or Pantheistic Materialism. While Deity himself is represented as One Infinite Spirit, and so Milton starts in his philosophical system with a pure Spiritual. istic Theism, yet all that we call Matter or Creation, he avers, including angels and men, the animate and the inanimate, is originally a production or efflux out of the very substance of

« AnteriorContinuar »