John Milton

John Milton  (1608-1674)
John Milton (1608-1674)

John Milton was born in Bread Street, Cheapside, London, England on December 9, 1608. He was the second of the three children of John Milton (Sr), a scrivener or notary of London. The inherited his intense religious convictions and his musical talent from his father.

John Milton was educated at St Paul’s and Christ’s College, Cambridge. He began writing poetry while yet a student in Cambridge. On the Death of a Fair Infant (1628) is considered to be the first of his poems in the English language. After taking his MA degree in July 1632, Milton went to stay at his father’s country house in Horton, where he devoted himself to the life of a scholar. Two short poems written in this period reveal his preoccupation with religion.

In 1638 Milton left for Italy. The Italian men of letters gave him a cordial welcome and though a staunch Protestant, Milton was impressed by Italian scholarshipe. He returned to England in 1639 and set up a school in London. For the next twenty years, Milton devoted himself to writing prose tracts in the cause of religious and eivil liberties.

In 1642 Milton married Mary Powell, a young Royalist girl. The marriage was not a very successful one. This was the period of Milton’s divorce tracts, which was followed in 1654 by the Areopagitica, his monumental defence of the freedom of press.

Milton had become secretary for foreign languages to Oliver Cromwell’s Council of State in 1649. By 1651, however, he was completely blind. His bitterest hour came when in May 1660, Charles II was restored as king.

With the re-establishment of monarchy, Milton was in real danger, having been earlier a supporter of regicide. He was taken into custody, but his life was spared through the efforts of the poet Andrew Marvell.
Milton died in 1674 and is buried in St Giles Cripplegate.

Milton is best remembered for his epics Paradise Lost (1667) and Paradise Regained (1671). He combined his immense reading, his knowledge of the classics and deep religious conviction to produce an epic unparalleled in the English language. The Invocation with which Paradise Lost opens is a perfect example of Milton,s style. His fusion of the classical with the christian, and his deep spiritual convictiuon make it a gem of English literature.