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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 inentioned 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 first part,
The manuscript itself consists of 735
pages, closely written on small quarto letter paper. as far as the 15th chapter of the first book, is in a small and beautiful Italian hand; being evidently a
corrected copy, prepared for the press, without interlineations of any kind. This portion of the volume, however, affords a proof that even the most careful transcription seldom fails to diminish the accuracy of a text; for although it is evident that extraordinary pains have been employed to secure its legibility and correctness, the mistakes which are found in this part of the manuscript, especially in the references to the quotations, are in the proportion of 14 to 1 as compared with those in the remaining three-fifths of the work. The character is evidently that of a female hand, and it is the opinion of Mr. Lemon, whose knowledge of the hand-writings of that time is so extensive that the greatest deference is due to his judgement, that Mary, the second daughter of Milton, was employed as amanuensis in this part of the volume. In corroboration of this conjecture, it may be remarked that some of the mistakes above alluded to are of a nature to induce a suspicion that the transcriber was merely a copyist, or, at most, only imperfectly acquainted with the learned languages. For instance, in p. 19, 1. 17, of the Latin volume, the following quotation occurs : Heb. iv. 13. omnia sunt nuda, et ab intimo patentia oculis ejus ; where in the manuscript the word patientia is substituted for patentia. This might have been supposed an accidental oversight, occasioned by the haste of the writer ; but on turning to the Latin Bible of Junius and Tremellius, which Milton generally uses in his quotations, it will be found that the same error occurs in the edition printed at Geneva, 1630, but not in that printed at London, 1593. This not only seems to fix the precise edition of the Bible from which the texts were copied, but, considering that the mistake is such as could hardly fail to be corrected by the most careless transcriber, provided he understood the sentence, affords a strong presumption that the writer possessed a very moderate degree of scholarship. On the other hand, a great proportion of the errors are precisely such as lead to a supposition that the amanuensis, though no scholar, was to a certain degree acquainted with the language verbally ; inasmuch as they generally consist, not of false combinations of letters, but of the substitution of one word for another of nearly similar sound or structure. Of this kind are gloriæ for gratiæ, corruentem for cor autem, nos for non, in jus for ejus, re for rex, imminuitur for innuitur, in quam for inquam, iniquam for inquam, assimulatus for assimilatus, alienæ tuæ for alienatæ, cælorum for cæcorum, decere for docere, explorentur for explerentur, examinatis for exanimatis, juraverunt for jejunarunt, errare for orare, &c. &c. Faults of this description, especially considering that very few occur of a different class, and taken in connexion with the opinion of Mr. Lemon stated above, will perhaps remind the reader of a charge which, as Mr. Todd notices, has been brought against the paternal conduct of Milton; “I mean his teaching his children to read and pronounce Greek and several other languages, without understanding any but English."* This at least is certain, that the transcriber of this