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his mother died; and then he prevailed with his father to gratify an inclination he had long entertained of seeing foreign countries. Sir Henry Wotton, who had formerly been Ambassador at Venice, and was then Provost of Eton College, gave him a letter of advice for the direction of his travels, couched in the following terms:
Eton College, April 10, 1638. “IT was a special favour, when you lately bestowed upon me here the first taste of your acquaintance, though no longer than to make me know that I wanted more time to value it, and to enjoy it rightly. And in truth, if I could then have imagined your farther stay in these parts (which I understood afterwards by Mr. H.) I would have been bold, in our vulgar phrase, to mend my draught, for you with an extreme thirst, and to have begged your conversation again jointly with your said learned friend, at a poor meal or two, that we might have branded together some good authors of the ancient time; among which I observed you to have been familiar.
“Since your going, you have charged me with new obligations, both for a very kind letter from you, dated the sixth of this month, and for a dainty piece of entertainment, that came therewith; wherein I should much commend the tragical part, if the lyrical did not ravish with a
certain Doric delicacy in your Songs and Odes, wherein I must plainly confess to have seen yet nothing parallel in our language, Ipsa Mollities. But I must not omit to tell you, that I now only owe you thanks for intimating unto me, how modestly soever, the true artificer *. For the work itself I had viewed some good while before with singular delight, having received it from our common friend Mr. R, in the very close of the late R.'s Poems, printed at Oxford ; whereunto it is added, as I now suppose,
that the accessory might help out the principal, according to the art of stationers, and leave the reader con la bocca dolce.
“Now, Sir, concerning your travels, wherein I may challenge a little more privilege of discourse with you,
suppose you will not blanch Paris in your way. Therefore I have been bold to trouble you with a few lines to Mr. M. B. whom shall easily find attending the young Lord S. as his governor;
you may surely receive from him good directions for shaping your farther journey into Italy, where he did reside by my choice some time for the King, after mine own recess from Venice.
“I should think, that your best line will be through the whole length of France to Marseilles, and thence by sea to Genoa, whence the
* This is the Mask of Comus, of which Milton had not yet publicly acknowledged himself the author.
passage into Tuscany is as diurnal as a Gravesend barge. I hasten, as you do, to Florence or Sienna, the rather to tell you a short story, from the interest you have given me in your safety.
" At Sienna I was tabled in the house of one Alberto Scipione, an old Roman courtier in dangerous times, having been Steward to the Duca di Pagliano; who with all his family were strangled, save this only man, that escaped by foresight of the tempest. With him I had often much chat of those affairs; into which he took pleasure to look back from his native harbour; and at my departure toward Rome, which had been the centre of his experience, I had won confidence enough to beg his advice how I might carry myself securely there, without offence of others, or of my own conscience. Signor Arrigo meo (says he) i pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto; that is, your thoughts close, and
your countenance loose, will go safely over the whole world. Of which Delphian oracle (for so I have found it) your judgment doth need no commentary : and therefore, Sir, I will commit
with it to the best of all securities, God's dear love, remaining your friend, as much at command as any of longer date.
H. Wotton." P. S. “Sir, I have expressly sent this by my foot-boy, to prevent your departure without some acknowledgment from me of the receipt of your obliging letter, having myself, through some business, I know not how, neglected the ordinary conveyance.
In any part where I shall understand you fixed, I shall be glad and diligent to entertain you with home-novelties, even for some fomentation of our friendship, too soon interrupted in the cradle.”
By not observing an excellent maxim * in the above advice, he incurred great danger by disputing against the Superstition of the Church of Rome, within the verge of the Vatican ş. Having employed his curiosity about two years † in
* I pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto.
§ Though the Marquis of Villa had shown him distinguishing marks of favour at Naples, yet he told him at his departure, that he would have shown him much greater, if he had been more reserved in matters of religion. But he had a soul above dissimulation and disguise; he was neither afraid nor ashamed to vindicate the truth; and if any man had, he had in him the spirit of an old martyr. He was so prudent indeed, that he would not of his own accord begin any discourse of religion; but at the same time he was so honest, that if he was questioned at all about his faith, he would not dissemble his sentiments, whatever was the consequence. And with this resolution he went to Rome the second time, and staid there two months more, neither concealing his name, nor declining openly to defend the truth, if any thought proper to attack him.
France and Italy, on the news of a civil war breaking out in England, he returned, without taking a survey of Greece and Sicily, as at his setting out the scheme was projected. I At Paris the Lord Viscount Scudamore, Ambassador from King Charles I. at the Court of France, introduced him to the acquaintance of Grotius ; who at that time was honoured with the same character there by Christina, Queen of Sweden. In Rome, Genoa, Florence, and other cities of Italy, he contracted a familiarity with those who were of highest reputation for wit and learning: several of whom gave him very obliging testimonies of their friendship and esteem; which are printed before his Latin Poems. The first of them, written by Manso Marquis of Villa, a great patron of Tasso, by whom he is celebrated in his || Poem on the Conquest of Jerusalem, is as follows:
Ut mens, forma, decor, facies, mos, si pietas sic, Non Anglus, verùm herclè Angelus ipse fores. It is highly probable that to his conversation with this noble Neapolitan, we owe the first design which Milton conceived of writing an Epic Poem: and it appears by some Latin verses addressed to the Marquis with the title of Mansus, that he intended to fix on King Arthur
Defensio Secunda. Page 96. fol.
Risplende il Manso. — Gerusalemme Conquistata, lib.xx.