John Milton

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John Milton: England’s epic genius
John Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608, into a middle-class family. His education was impeccable and thorough. He was sent to St. Paul's School in London, where he began to write poetry in Latin, Italian, and English and prepared to enter the clergy. His university education took place at Cambridge, where he graduated with a B.A. degree in March 1629 and with a M.A. degree in July 1632. After university, however, he abandoned his plans to join the priesthood and spent the next six years in his father's country home in Buckinghamshire, reading extensively in the classics and writing “On the Morning of Christ's Nativity” (1629), “On Shakespeare” (1630), “L'Allegro” and “Il Penseroso” (1631), and Lycidas (1637). Milton travelled in France and Italy during this time and met Galileo Galilei, who appears in Milton's tract against censorship, “Areopagitica”. He preferred Puritanism to the Church of England, which he found to be hypocritical and superficial. In 1642, he married Mary Powell; even though they were estranged for most of their marriage, she bore him three daughters and a son before her death in 1652.
During the English Civil War, Milton championed the cause of the Puritans and Oliver Cromwell, writing a series of pamphlets on divorce, the freedom of the press, and support for the regicides. He also served as Latin Secretary for foreign languages in Cromwell's government, a position which can be compared to a correspondent of foreign affairs. During this time, Milton was gradually losing his vision, going completely blind in 1651, but he continued his duties with the aid of Andrew Marvell and other assistants. After the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, Milton was arrested as a defender of the Commonwealth, fined, and soon released. He lived the rest of his life in seclusion in the country, completing the epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) and writing Paradise Regained (1671) and Samson Agonistes (1671). He died in London in 1674.

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