« PreviousContinue »
Psalm VI. Aug. 13, 1653
PREFATORY MEMOIR OF MILTON.
The great epic Poet of England was born at a period of change and political agitation, which gave a variety of incident to his life not often found in those of students and writers.
John Milton was born December 9th, 1608, between six and seven in the morning, at the “Spread Eagle,” in Bread Street, Londonnot a tavern, as our non-antiquarian readers might suppose, but his father's own house, distinguished by the sign of his armorial bear. ings, as were the houses of even the nobility at that period, when dwellings were not numbered.
Milton was the son of John Milton, a gentleman by descent, whose ancestors had formerly possessed Milton, near Thame, in Oxfordshire; but this property they had forfeited during the Wars of the Roses, and the family had ceased to be Milton of that ilk” for more than a hundred years.
Milton's grandfather (also a John Milton), keeper of the forest of Shotover, was a bigoted Papist. He sent his son John to Christ Church, Oxford, for education, but the youth there imbibed the principles of the Reformation, and was consequently disinherited by his father.
Compelled to work for his living, John Milton adopted the profession of a Scrivener, which he practised at the "Spread Eagle," in Bread Street. He was a man of great ability, a classical scholar, and a good musician, and highly respected in his profession. He married Sarah Caston, the daughter of a Welsh gentleman. On December 9th, 1608, she became, as we have said, the mother of a son who was destined to immortalize the name of his parents.
We will here let Milton speak of his own childhood :-“ My
1 Numbers to houses were very rare till 1756. It is said, that the first house numbered in London was No. 1, Strand, which still, we believe, stands next to Northumberland House.- Athenaeum.