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the public, by His Majesty's gracious command, is now in possession.*
It will be admitted that the above mode of accounting for the unexpected discovery of Milton's theological work among the neglected treasures of the State Paper Office, is at least plausible. It occurred, however, to Mr. Lemon, that an accurate inspection of the papers relative to the plots of 1677, 1678, and 1683, deposited in the same press with the manuscript, might perhaps afford some information respect
He has therefore recently examined the whole of this part of the collection, and in a bundle of papers containing informations and examinations taken in the year 1677, the following letter was discovered from a Mr. Perwich, written at Paris, March 15, 1677, and addressed to Mr. Bridgeman, Secretary to Sir Joseph Williamson, which appears to throw considerable light on the preceding conjecture.
I have dd (delivered) Dr. Barrow's letter to Mr. Skinner, before witnesse, as you desired. I found him much surprised, and yet at the same time slighting any constraining orders from the Superiour of his Colledge, or any bene
* In the same office have been lately discovered some curious documents, hitherto unknown, respecting both the family history and the official life of Milton, which, by the permission of Mr. Secretary Peel, are now incorporated, with other materials, into an account of him and his writings, about to be published by the Rev. Mr. Todd, the wellknown and able editor of Milton's Poetical Works.
fit he expected thence, but as to Milton's Workes he intended to have printed, (though he saith that part which he had in M. S. S. are noe way to be objected ag', either with regard to Royalty and Government) he hath desisted from the causing them to be printed, having left them in Holland, and that he intends, notwithstanding the College sumons, to goe for Italy this summer. This is all I can say in that affaire. You have herein all our newes.
I am ST,
On this letter Mr. Lemon submits the following reasoning, which it is right to state in his own language :
• From the words in the preceding letter, “ Superiour of his Colledge,” it evidently appears that Mr. Skinner, who at that period is thus proved to have had unpublished manuscripts of Milton in his
possession, was a member of some Catholic religious order; and it is a very curious and interesting fact, which strongly corroborates the preceding conjecture, that in the original deposition of Titus Oates (which actually lay on the parcel containing the posthumous work of Milton when it was discovered) signed by himself, and attested by Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, on the 27th of September, 1678, a few days only before his mysterious murder, and also signed by Dr.
Ezrael Tonge, and Christopher Kirkby, the name of MR. SKINNER is inserted as a BENEDICTINE, in the list given in by Titus Oates of the persons implicated in the Popish plot of 1678.'
There are, however, some reasons for doubting whether Skinner the Benedictine can have been Cyriack Skinner, the original depositary of Milton's work. It appears from the pedigree inserted in a preceding page, that letters of administration were granted in August 1700 to Annabella, daughter of Cyriack Skinner, in which he is described as of the parish of St. Martin's in the fields, Widower. This is evidently inconsistent with the supposition that he was a member of a religious order. It is indeed barely possible that he may have assumed the Benedictine character in 1677 (the year in which Perwich's letter is dated) though it is most unlikely that such a change should have taken place in the principles of one who had been the intimate friend of Milton, and whose opinions had been so decidedly opposed to Popery during the Commonwealth. By the will of Edward, the eldest brother, dated 20th May 1657, and proved the 10th of February following, Cyriack was nominated guardian of his son, in case his wife (the daughter of Sir William Wentworth, who was killed at Marston Moor) should re-marry or die; and in the same document a legacy of one hundred pounds is bequeathed to each of the brothers William and Cyriack.
On the whole, therefore, it seems most probable, that the Benedictine Skinner, if an immediate connexion of this family, was William, the second son of William and Bridget, and elder brother of Cyriack ; a conjecture rendered more likely from the fact that no will of this individual is registered, nor is any record of him mentioned after 1657, when his elder brother died. Cyriack, aware of the suspicion to which he was liable as the friend of Milton, as well as on account of his own political character, might naturally conceive that his papers would be safer in the hands of his brother, out of the kingdom, than in his own custody ; and the government having been informed by Mr. Perwich of their concealment in Holland, perhaps obtained possession of them through their emissaries, while Skinner was travelling in Italy, according to his design mentioned in the letter to Mr. Bridgeman.
There seems no reason, however, why the words Superiour of his Colledge' should not apply with as much propriety to the head of a Protestant as of a Roman Catholic Society. Dr. Isaac Barrow, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, did not die till May 1677, two months after the date of Perwich's letter, and in the register of that College the following entries occur : Oct. 2, 1674. Daniel Skinner juratus et admissus in socium minorem.'
May 23d, 1679. Daniel Skinner juratus et admissus in socium majorem.' From the unusual interval between the first and second admission, which ordinarily
does not exceed a year and a half, as well as from the day, May 23, the regular day for the admission of major Fellows being in July, it is evident that his advance to the latter rank took place under some extraordinary circumstances. If he was the Skinner mentioned in Perwich's letter, it may be supposed that his contumacious absence retarded his rise in the College, and that his continuance in his fellowship, and subsequent election as major Fellow, is to be ascribed to the leniency of the Society. That the Skinner alluded to was not a Catholic may be inferred from his having gone to Holland, which does not seem the most obvious place of refuge for a Catholic emigrant; as also from the manner in which he speaks of Milton's manuscript works, especially if, as is probable, in describing them as “no way to be objected against either with regard to royalty and government, " he intended to have added, “ or with regard to religion," “ church polity,” or something similar, which by an oversight was omitted ; for he can hardly have meant to write “ royalty or government,” there being little or no difference between the terms, in the sense in which the writer would have used them. Nor is it likely that a member of a Catholic religious order would have entertained the design of publishing such works.
The manuscript itself consists of 735 pages, closely written on small quarto letter paper. The first part, as far as the 15th chapter of the first book, is in a small and beautiful Italian hand; being evidently a