The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places

By A. L. Rowse | Go to book overview

THE MILTON COUNTRY

THE name and fame of Milton are so strongly associated with Cambridge -- and rightly -- that people are apt to forget that he came of purely Oxfordshire stock, that his family associations were with Oxford and that his native neighbourhood, where some important events in his life took place, was right on the threshold of the city. The Milton name indeed goes back in those parts to the Middle Ages and the first taking of surnames: it comes from the place-names of Great and Little Milton, villages some eight or nine miles to the east of Oxford. Closer in, only four and five miles away, is the broken, hilly country that once was the royal Forest of Shotover: still wooded in parts, and with the magnificent green slopes of Shotover Hill, the ridge along which ran the ancient highway to London: haunts and coverts familiar to all Oxford men. There are the villages of Stanton St. John and Forest Hill, so closely associated with Milton's forbears and his own life. This is the Milton country.

Milton's forbears were of good Oxfordshire yeoman stock. A Roger Milton was collector of tenths and fifteenths for the county in 1437. We are on firm ground with Milton's great-grandfather, whose will is in the Bishop's Registry at Oxford. It is a typical will of a small yeoman, made on 21 November 1558. Elizabeth was already Queen; but nothing had been changed as yet and the Miltons were Catholics. "I, Henry Milton of Stanton St. John's, sick of body but perfect of mind, do make my last will and testament in manner and form following: First, I bequeath my soul to God, to our Lady St. Mary and to all the holy company of heaven, and my body to be buried in the churchyard of Stanton. I give to Isobel, my daughter, a bullock and half a quarter of barley, and Richard my son shall keep the said bullock until he be three years old. Item, I give to

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The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • All Souls (1945) 1
  • Bisham and the Hobys 15
  • Hillesden in Buckinghamshire 46
  • Dear Dr. Denton - An English Gentleman of The Seventeenth Century 66
  • The Milton Country 85
  • Swift at Letcombe 113
  • Afternoon at Haworth Parsonage 143
  • Thomas Hardy and Max Gate 165
  • John Buchan at Elsfield 184
  • Nottingham: A Midlands Capital 196
  • D. H. Lawrence at Eastwood 217
  • Alun Lewis: A Foreword 238
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