Imatges de pÓgina


THE Introductions to the Poems in these volumes contain necessarily a considerable quantity of biographical matter. All that is needed here, therefore, by way of general memoir, is a map or chronology of the life as a whole. A very sure Topography of the life may be combined with such a Chronology.

1608-1625: ætat. 1-17.

Born in Bread Street, Cheapside, on Friday, December 9, 1608, in a house known as "The Spread Eagle," and baptized in Allhallows Church in the same street on the 20th of the same December, Milton was for the first sixteen years of his life a denizen of the very heart of Old London.

His father, John Milton, originally from Oxfordshire, was a prosperous London scrivener, and owner of the Spread Eagle, which served him both as residence and as place of business. See more about him in the Introduction to the Latin poem Ad Patrem. As to the name of Milton's mother there has hitherto been some uncertainty. One tradition calls her Sarah Bradshaw, and another Sarah Caston; and yet in the register of Allhallows Parish, Bread Street, there is this distinct record: "The xxIInd daye of February, Ao. 1610 [1610-11], was buried in this parishe Mrs. Ellen Jefferys, the mother of Mr. John Mylton's wyffe of this parishe." This Mrs. Ellen Jefferys, who seems thus to have lived with the scrivener and his wife till two years after the birth of her grandchild, the future poet, is ascertained to have been the widow of a Paul Jeffrey or Jeffreys, of an Essex family, who had died before 1583, after having been for some time Citizen



and Merchant Taylor of London, and an inhabitant of St. Swithin's Parish in that city. She had another daughter, Margaret Jeffrey or Jeffreys, who was married in 1602, at the age of twenty, to a "William Truelove, gentleman, of the parish of Hatfield Peverell, in the county of Essex, widower," afterwards designated as "of Blakenham upon the Hill, Co. Suffolk," and heard of as owning various properties in Essex and Herts. At the time of that marriage the widow's consent to it was signified through her son-in-law, the bride's brother-in-law, John Milton, of Allhallows, Bread Street.1 From this circumstance, and from other evidence, no doubt is now left that the maiden name of Milton's mother was Sarah Jeffrey. She had been married to the scrivener in 1600, the very year when he set up in business, her age being then about twenty-eight years, while his was about thirty


At the death of the widowed grandmother Jeffrey in February 1610-11, the Bread Street household consisted of the scrivener, his wife, and two children,-Anne and John. Three children were subsequently born; of whom only one, Christopher, seven years younger than John, outlived infancy. Anne, John, and Christopher, therefore, are to be remembered, and in that order, as the surviving children.

The first sixteen years of Milton's life were the last sixteen of the reign of James I. Amid the events of those sixteen years, and the growing discontent of the mass of the English people with the rule of James and his minister Buckingham, Milton passed his boyhood. He was most carefully educated, on the principles of a pious Puritan household of superior means and tastes, the head of which was himself distinguished as a musical composer. To be remembered, as having shared with this excellent father the honour of Milton's early education, are the Scottish preacher Thomas Young, his first domestic tutor, and the two Alexander Gills, father and son, respectively head-master and under-master of St. Paul's School, close to Bread Street. At this public school Milton was for some years a day-scholar; and here he first became acquainted

1 With the exception of the burial entry of Mrs. Ellen Jefferys in the register of Allhallows, the documents that have yielded the above particulars of Milton's maternal pedigree were recently discovered by the research of Colonel J. L. Chester, a distinguished American antiquary and genealogist, living in London.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »