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MILTON AT ST PAUL'S SCHOOL. From the first it had been the intention of Milton's father to send his son to one of the public schools in town, and before 1620 this intention had been carried into effect.
London was at that time by no means ill provided with schools. Besides various schools of minor note, there were some distinguished as classical seminaries. Notable among these was St. Paul's School in St. Paul's Churchyard, a successor of the old Cathedral School of St. Paul's, which had existed in the same place from time immemorial. Not less celebrated was Westminster School, * founded anew by Elizabeth in continuation of an older monastic school which had existed in Catholic times. Ben Jonson, George Herbert, and Giles Fletcher, all then alive, had been educated at this school; and the great Camden, after serving in it as under-master, had held the office of head-master since 1592. Then there was St. Anthony's free school in Threadneedle street, where Sir Thomas More and Archbishop Whitgift had been educated-once so flourishing that at the public debates in logic and grammar between the different schools of the city, St. Anthony's scholars generally carried off the palm. In particular there was a feud on this score between the St. Paul's boys and the St. Anthony's boys—the St. Paul's boys nicknaming their rivals "Anthony's pigs," in allusion to the pig which was generally represented as following this Saint in his pictures; and the St. Anthony's boys somewhat feebly retaliating by calling the St. Paul's boys "Paul's pigeons," in allusion to the pigeons that used to hover about the cathedral. Though the nicknames survived, the feud was now little more than a tradition-St. Anthony's school having come sorely down in the world, while the pigeons of Paul's fluttered higher than ever. A more formidable rival in the city now to St. Paul's, was the free-school of the Merchant Tailors' Company, founded in 1561. Finally, besides these public day schools, there were schools of note kept by speculative schoolmasters on their own account; of which by far the highest in reputation was that of Thomas Farnabie, in Goldsmith's Rents, near Cripplegate.
Partly on account of its nearness to Bread-street, St. Paul's school was that chosen by the scrivener for the education of his son, when he was in or just over his twelfth year.*
There were in all eight classes. In the first or lowest the younger pupils were taught their rudiments; and thence, according to their proficiency, they were at stated times advanced into the other forms till they reached the eighth, whence," being commonly by this time made perfect grammarians, good orators and poets, and well instructed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and sometimes in other Oriental tongues," they passed to the Universities. The curriculum of the school extended over from four to six years, the age of entry being from eight to twelve, and that of departure from fourteeen to eighteen.t .
* A description of St. Paul's School will be found on pages 141-142.
For the account of St. Paul's School given in the text, the authorities are,-Stow, edit. 1603, pp. 74, 75; Fuller, Church History, Book V., Section 1; Mr. Cunningham, in his Hand. book of London, article “Paul's School;" and, most of all, Strype in his edition of Slow, 1720, vol. 1., pp. 163–169. Strype was himself a scholar of St. Paul's from 1657 to 1661, or about thirty-seven years after Milton. The original school was destroyed in the great fire of 1666; but Strype remembered the old building well, and bis description of it is affectionately minute.
From the moment that Milton became a "pigeon of St. Paul's," all this would be familiar to him. The school-room, its walls and windows and inscriptions; the head-master's chair; the bust of Colet over it, looking down on the busy young flock gathered together by his deed and scheming a hundred years after he was dead; the busy young flock itself, ranged out in their eight forms, and filling the room with their ceaseless hum; the head-master and the sur-master walking about in their gowns, and occasionally perhaps the two surveyors from the Mercers dropping in to see—what man of any memory is there who does not know that this would impress the boy unspeakably, and sink into him so as never to be forgotten? For inquisitive boys, even the traditions of their school, if it has any, are of interest; and they soon become acquainted with them. And so in Milton's case, the names of old pupils of St. Paul's who had become famous, from Leland down to the still-living prodigy Camden, who (though he had been mainly educated elsewhere, bad also for a time been a St. Paul's scholar) would be dwelt on with pleasure; and gradually also the names of the head-masters before Mr. Gill would come to be known in order, from Richard Mulcaster, Gill's immediate predecessor, back through Harrison, Malim, Cook, Freeman, and Jones, to John Rightwis, Lilly's successor and son-in-law, who had acted in a Latin play with his scholars before Wolsey, and so to Lilly himself, the great Abraham of the series, and the friend of Colet.
After all, however, the paramount influence of the school lay necessarily in the character and qualifications of the two masters for the time being. These, at the time with which we are concerned, were Mr. Gill, the head-master, and his son, Alexander Gill, the younger, then acting as usher.
Old Mr. Gill, as he now began to be called, partly to distinguish him from his son, and partly because he was verging on his fifty-seventh year, fully maintained the ancient credit of the school. According to Wood, he was "esteemed by most persons to be a learned man, a noted Latinist, critic and divine, and also to have such an excellent way of training up youth that none in his time went beyond it." Having looked over all that remains of the old gentleman to verify or disprove this judgment—to wit, three works published by him at intervals during his life we can safely say that the praise does not seem overstated. The first of these works is a tract or treatise, originally published by him in 1601, seven years before his appointment to St. Paul's School, and written in 1597, when he was living as a teacher at Norwich. The tract is entitled "A Treatise concerning the Trinity of Persons in Unitie of the Deitie," and is in the form of a metaphysical remonstrance with one Thomas Mannering, an Anabaptist of Norwich, who "denied that Jesus is very God of very God," but said that he was "but man only, yet endued with the infinite power of God.” Far more interesting, in reference to Gill's qualifications as a teacher, is his next work, the first edition of which was published in 1619, or just before the time with which we have to do. It is entitled “Logonomia Anglica," and is dedicated to King James. Part of the work is taken up with an argument on that new-old subject, the reform of the English Alphabet, so as to bring the spelling of words into greater consistency with their sound; and those who are interested in this subject will find some sensible matter upon it in Gill's book. By adding to the English Alphabet the two Saxon signs for the two sounds of th, and another Saxon sign or two, and by farther using points over the vowels to indicate their various sounds, he contrives an Alphabet somewhat like those of our modern phonetic reformers, but less liable to objection from the point of view of Etymology; and he illustrates this Alphabet by spelling all the English words and passages in his book according to it. But the Spelling-Reform is by no means the main purpose of the book. It is, in fact, what we should now call a systematic grammar of the English tongue, written in Latin. Accordingly it is only in the first part that he propounds his spelling-reform; and the parts on Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody, possess quite a separate value. If Gill was only half as interesting in his school-room as he is in his book, he must have been an effective and even delightful teacher. For example, as an appendix to Syntax in general, he has a chapter on what he calls Syntaxis Schematistica, in which he trenches on what is usually considered a part of Rhetoric, and enumerates and explains the so-called tropes and figures of speech-Metaphor, Metonymy, Allegory, Irony, Climax, etc. This part of the book is studded with examples from the English poets, and above all from Spenser, showing a really fine taste in the selection.
The subsequent part of the work, on English Prosody, is, in like manner, illustrated by well-chosen examples; and, among other things, Gill discusses in it the compatibility of classical meters with the genius of the English tongue. The following passage, in which he refers to the supposed influence of Chaucer, exhibits what was apparently another of his crotchets, besides spelling-reformto wit, the necessity of preserving the Saxon purity of our tongue against Latinisms. After maintaining that, even during the Danish and Norman invasions, the Saxon or English tongue of our island remained pure, he proceeds (we again translate from his Latin) thus:
"At length about the year 1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, of unlucky omen, made his poetry famous by the use in it of French and Latin words. Hence has come down this new mange in our speaking and writing. * * O harsh lips, I now hear all around me such words as common, vices, envy, malice; even virtue, study, justice, pity, mercy, compassion, profit, commodity, color, grace, favor, acceptance. But whither, pray, in all the world have you banished those words which our forefathers used for these new-fangled ones? Are our words to be exiled like our citizens? Is the new barbaric invasion to extirpate the English tongue? O ye Englishmen, on you, I say, I call, in whose veins that blood flows, retain, retain what yet remains of our native speech, and, whatever vestiges of our forefathers are yet to be seen, on these plant your footsteps."
While thus working mainly in Philology, Mr Gill had not quite abandoned his Metaphysics. Some fifteen years after the time at which we have now arrived, he brought out his last and largest work, the "Sacred Philosophy of the Holy Scriptures"-a kind of detailed demonstration, as against Turks, Jews, Infidels, Heretics, and all gainsayers whatsoever, of the successive articles of the Apostles' Creed, on the principles of pure reason. It is not to be supposed but that in those days, when the idea of severing the secular from the religious in schools had not yet been heard of, his pupils would now and then have a touch of his Metaphysics as well as of his Philology. They were lucky if they had not also a touch of something else. "Dr. Gill, the father," says Aubrey in one of his MSS., "was a very ingeniose person, as may appear by his writings; notwithstanding, he had his moods and humors, as particularly his whipping fits. Often Dr. G. whipped Duncombe, who was afterwards a Colonel of Dragoong at Edgehill fight.”
Young Gill, the usher or sur-master, was by no means so steady a man as his father. Born about 1597, he had been educated at St. Paul's School; had gone thence, on one of the Mercers' Exhibitions, to Trinity College, Oxford; and, after completing his course there, and taking orders, had come back to town about 1619, and dropped conveniently into the place of his father's assistant, For a time, either before or after this, he assisted the famous Farnabie in his school.
Such were the two men, not uninteresting in themselves, to whose lot it fell to be Milton's schoolmasters. He was under their care, as we calculate, at least four years—from 1620, when he had passed his eleventh year, to the winter or spring of 16245, when he had passed his sixteenth. During a portion of this time-most probably till 1622-he had the benefit also of Young's continued assistance at home.
St. Paul's School, it is to be remembered, was strictly a grammar-schoolthat is, a school for classical instruction only. But since Colet's time, in virtue of the great development which classical studies had received throughout the nation at large, the efficiency of the school within its assigned limits had immensely increased. Instead of peddling over Sedulius, and other such small practitioners of later or middle-age Latinity, recommended as proper elass-books by Colet, the scholars of St. Paul's, as of other contemporary schools, were now led through very much the same list of Roman prose-writers and poets that are still honored in our academies. The practice of writing pure classical Latin, or what might pass for such, both in prose and in verse, was also carried to a perfection not known in Colet's time. But the improvement in Latin was as nothing compared with what had taken place in Greek. Although Colet in his testamentary recommendations to the Mercers had mentioned it as desirable that the head-master should know Greek as well as Latin, he had added, "if such a man can be gotten." That, indeed, was the age of incipient Greek in England. Colet had none himself; and that Lilly had mastered Greek, while residing in earlier life in Rhodes, was one of his distinctions. Since that time, however, the passion for Greek had spread; the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans, as the partizans of the new learning and its opponents were respectively called, had been fought out in the days of Ascham and Elizabeth; and, if Greek scholarship still lagged behind Latin, yet, in St. Paul's and other schools, Greek authors were read in fragments, and Greek exercises written, in anticipation of the more profound labors of the Universities. Probably Hebrew was taught optionally to a few of the highest boys.
Whatever support other instances may afford to the popular notion that the studious boys at school do not turn out the most efficient men in after life, tho believers in that notion may save themselves the trouble of trying to prove it by means of Milton's boyhood.
Milton's own account of his habits as a schoolboy.-"My father destined me while yet a little boy for the study of humane letters, which I seized with such eagerness that from the twelfth year of my age I scarcely ever went from my lessons to bed before midnight; which, indeed, was the first cause of injury to my eyes, to whose natural weakness there were also added frequent headaches. All which not retarding my impetuosity in learning, he caused me to be daily instructed both at the grammar-school and under other masters at home; and then, when I had acquired various tongues, and also some not insignificant taste for the sweetness of philosophy, he sent me to Cambridge, one of our two national universities."
Aubrey's account.-"When he went to school, when he was very young, he studied very hard, and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock at night; and his father ordered the maid to sit up for him.”
Wood's account.-" There (at Cambridge) as at school for three years before, 'twas usual with him to sit up till midnight at his book, which was the first thing that brought his eyes into danger of blindness. By this his indefatigable study he profited exceedingly."
Phillips' account. --(At Paul's School) "he was entered into the rudiments of learning, and advanced therein with * * admirable success, not more by the discipline of the school and the good instructions of his masters * than by his own happy genius, prompt wit and apprehension, and insuperable industry; for he generally sat up half the night, as well in voluntary improvements of his own choice, as the exact perfecting of his school-exercises; so that at the age of fifteen he was full ripe for academical training."
The boy's studies were not confined to the classic tongues. “When at your expense,” he says in a Latin poem addressed to his father in later years, “I had obtained access to the eloquence of the tongue of Romulus, and to the delights of Latium, and the great words, becoming the mouth of Jove, uttered by the magniloquent Greeks, you then advised me to add the flowers which are the pride of Gaul, and the speech which the new Italian, attesting the barbarian inroads by his diction, pours forth from his degenerate mouth, and the mysteries which are spoken by the prophet of Palestine." The application of these words extends beyond Milton's mere school-days; but it is probable that before they were over he had learnt to read French and Italian, and also something of Hebrew. In the letter to Young at Hamburg, already referred to, written in March, 1625, he acknowledges the gift of a Hebrew Bible which Young had Bent him.
It is not to be supposed that the literature of his own country remained a closed field to a youth so fond of study, and who had already begun to have dreams for himself of literary excellence. Accordingly there is evidence that Milton in his boyhood was a diligent reader of English books, and that before the close of his school-time in 1624, he had formed some general acquaintance, at least, with the course of English literature from its beginnings to his owu time.
MILTON AT CAMBRIDGE. Milton was admitted a Pensioner of Christ's College, Cambridge, on the 12th of February, 1624–5.* He was one of the fourteen students whose names appear in the entry-book of the College as having been admitted during the half-year between Michaelmas, 1624, and Lady-day, 1625. In the remaining half of the same academic year-namely, from Lady-day to Michaelmas, 1625— there were thirty fresh entries. Milton, therefore, was one of forty-three students who commenced their academic course at Christ's College, in the year 1624-5.
Eight of these fourteen students who were admitted before Lady-day, enter
* It may be well here to remind the reader of the reason for this double mode of dating. Prior to 1752, the year in England was considered to begin, not on the Ist of January, but on the 25th of March. All those days, therefore, intervening between the 31st of December and the 25th of March, which we should now date as belonging to a particular year, were then dated as belonging to the year preceding that. According to our dating, Milton's entry at Christ's College took place on the 12th of February, 1625; but in the old reckoning, that day was the 12th of February, 1624.