Prose Selections

Prose Selections

Prose Selections

Prose Selections

Excerpt

Our most familiar anecdote about Milton's education is the story that, shortly after he entered Christ's College, Cambridge, as a boy of sixteen with a brilliant record at St. Paul's School behind him, his college tutor "whipt him." His transfer to another director after that quarrel suggests that the better man won. The clash may have been personal, or it may have sprung from Milton's dislike even as a freshman for the established curriculum of studies. The remark of his unfriendly biographer, Anthony Wood, that in later years he became "a great reproacher of the universities," is quite justified by his attacks on Oxford and Cambridge in his antiepiscopal pamphlets, but his main motive for what he said then was political. How much of a rebel he was against the social and intellectual life of the Cambridge that he knew as an undergraduate, it is hard to tell; but he certainly was not a submissive or uncritical student. It is natural to suppose that he chose the more liberal of the two universities because he came from a liberal and Puritan home, yet we should remember that the father's guiding principle in the son's expensive education was respect for the boy's personality. His brother Christopher grew up in that same home to be a Royalist and a Catholic. At Cambridge Milton was already on the way to become the Independent in politics and religion whom we find misunderstanding himself in The Reason of Church Government, and discovering himself in Areopagitica.

2. Nine years after Milton took his M. A., when he was in the heat of his pamphlet war against the bishops, whose . . .

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