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Grant of Letters of Administration to the widow Elizabeth'. Die 25to. Februarii 167.
MILTON. Vicesimo quinto
Die Februarii emanavit Commissio
'The reader will compare these evidences with the printed accounts of Milton's biographers on this subject; who say, that he sold his library before his death, and left his family fifteen hundred pounds, which his wi
dow Elizabeth seized, and only gave one hundred pounds to each of his three daughters. Of this widow, Philips relates, rather harshly, that she persecuted his children in his life time, and cheated them at his death.
These seem to have been the grounds upon which Milton's Nuncupative Will was pronounced invalid. First, there was wanting what the Civil Law terms a rogatio testium, or a solemn bidding of the persons present, to take notice that the words he was going to deliver were to be his Will. The Civil Law requires this form, to make men's verbal declarations operate as Wills; otherwise, they are to be presumed to be words of common calling or loose conversation. And the Statute of the twenty-ninth of Charles the Second [c. iii.] has adopted this rule; as may be seen in the 19th clause of that Statute, usually called the Statute of Frauds, which passed in the year 1676, two years after Milton's death. Secondly, the words here attested by the three witnesses, are not words delivered at the same time; but one witness speaks to one declaration made at one
time, and another to another declaration made at another time. And although the declarations are of similar import, this circumstance will not satisfy the demands of the Law; which requires, that the three witnesses who are to support a Nuncupative Will, must speak to the identical words uttered at one and the same time. There is yet another requisite in Nuncupative Wills, which is not found here; namely, that the words be delivered in the last sickness of a party; whereas the words here attested appear to have been delivered when the party was in a tolerable state of health, at least under no immediate danger of death. On these principles we may presume Sir Leoline Jenkins to have acted in the rejection of Milton's Will: although the three witnesses apparently told the truth in what they deposed. The Judge, deciding against the Will, of course decreed administration of the Intestate's effects to the widow,
For an investigation of these papers in the Prerogative Registry, for an explanation of their nature and purport, and of other technical difficulties which they present to one unacquainted with the records and more ancient practice of the Prerogative Court in testamentary proceedings, I must confess myself indebted to the kind attention and friendship of Sir William Scott.
There are other papers in the Commons belonging to this business: but as they are mere forms of law, as they throw no new light on the cause, and furnish no anecdotes of Milton and his family, they are here omitted.
Et sine fine magis, si quid magis est sine fine,
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanna legit.
QUI legis Amissam Paradisum, grandia magni
Et quæ cœlestes pugna deceret agros! Quantus in æthereis tollit se Lucifer armis!
Atque ipso graditur vix Michaele minor!
Quantis, et quam funestis concurritur iris,
Et metuit pugnæ non superesse suæ.
Et currus animes, armaque digna Deo,
Excidit attonitis mens omnis, et impetus omnis,
Ad pœnas fugiunt, et ceu foret Orcus asylum,
Et quos fama recens vel celebravit anus.
SAMUEL BARROW, M. D.
WHEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
I lik'd his project, the success did fear;
Or if a work so infinite he spann'd,
Pardon me, mighty Poet, nor despise
My causeless, yet not impious, surmise.