John Milton, 1608 - 1674

portrait of John Milton


Born: 9 December 1608, Bread Street, Cheapside, London, England
Died: 8 November 1674, Bunhill, London, England

The elder John Milton was a scrivener, a legal intermediary who prepared and notarized documents, lent money, and arranged real estate transactions, which funded a private tutor for the younger Milton and entry into St Paul's School in 1620. Five years later he entered Christ's College, Cambridge, where a fist fight with his tutor led to a one-term suspension, but he earned his M.A. cum laude in 1632. After graduation he retreated to his family's homes in London and Horton, Buckinghamshire to study and write on his own. His tribute On Shakespeare was published anonymously as part of Shakespeare's Second Folio. In 1638 he set out on the customary "Grand Tour" of Europe, spent mostly at Paris, the major cities of Italy (where he made the acquaintance of Galileo, then under house arrest for heresy), back to France, and then home. He married for the first time in 1642, but his wife was unsatisfied and left almost immediately for three years, leading Milton to publish a pair of tracts on the subject of divorce before his wife moved back. England was in political tumult at the time, it's quite possible that Milton witnessed the public execution of Charles I in 1649. He became Secretary of Foreign Tongues under Cromwell that spring, responsible for translating the official acts and correspondence of the government into Latin for transmittal to other nations. He also wrote a fair amount of propaganda for the Commonwealth government. His vision deteriorated, possibly from glaucoma, and he was completely blind by 1654. When the English Republic collapsed following Cromwell's death in 1658, Milton went into hiding. He was arrested and released only by the influence of powerful friends at court. He lived quietly at London after that, working on a number of minor prose works and his magnum opus, the blank-verse Paradise Lost, which he composed in his head at night and dictated to aides in the morning. In his later years he suffered from gout, which led to renal failure and his death. His funeral was attended by "his learned and great Friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the Vulgar" according to one biographer, a monument was installed in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Biography from Wikipedia and Lunarium

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