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John Milton

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The author of the epic Paradise Lost, John Milton belonged from a well to do Puritan family. Born on December 9, 1608 in London, Milton was the son of a musician who provided the young Milton with ample facilities and an excellent education. His father hired private tutors for him and sent him to the prestigious St. Paul’s school.

In 1625, Milton entered Christ’s College Cambridge where he continued the course of education until 1632. Although it was one of the best educational institutions, Milton was not very impressed by the educational standards at Cambridge. From 1632 to 1637, Milton spent time at his father’s country home near Windsor studying privately. He then travelled in France and Italy where he gained many inspirations for his literary work. Many descriptions in Paradise Lost are inspired from what he saw on these travels. This era is known to be the first stage of John Milton’s literary career. Some significant works from this period include Prolusions, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity (1629), Comus (1634), and Lycidas.

In 1640, Milton returned to England and began teaching his nephews. This period was the second stage of his literary career. He was surrounded by controversies and civil unrest in England. When war broke out between the Puritan Roundheads and the Royalist supporters of Charles I in 1642, Milton’s name was involved in many religious and political controversies. During this time, Milton wrote a many pamphlets and prose showing devotion to the principles of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

In 1642, Milton entered into marriage with Mary Powell who left him within nine months of the wedding. She did not return until 1645 after which the couple had two daughters, Anne and Mary. Milton’s only son, John was born in 1651.
Milton’s association with Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth strengthened when he was appointed Secretary in Foreign Tongues to the Council of State after the execution of Charles I in 1649. The execution created immense controversy in England and Europe. To defend Cromwell’s actions, Milton published Eikonoklastes. Once again he responded to the harsh criticism about Cromwell’s regime by publishing Defensio pro populo Anglicano.

The year 1652 did not prove to be a good one for Milton. His wife died within days of giving birth to their third daughter Deborah, a month later, his son, John also passed away. Life for John Milton became even more difficult when he lost his eyesight completely. His sight had been deteriorating since 1644. These happenings were very devastating especially for Milton. Losing sight was more tragic for Milton as a poet whose work had always been dominated by vivid visual imagery.

In 1656, Milton married once again. Unfortunately, his second wife, Kathenne Woodcock died less than two years after the wedding. John Milton published a number of tracts reflecting his concerns for the church government over the next few years.

During the restoration in 1960, Milton was briefly put under house arrest. From here on began the third stage of Milton’s career. In 1663, Milton married Elizabeth Minshul followed by the publication of the first edition of the ten books of Paradise Lost in 1667. Between 1670 and 1673 he published several of his greatest works, including Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. John Milton died on November 8, 1674. His body was laid to rest at St. Giles, Cripplegate in London.

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