John Milton Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

0111201565-Milton.jpg John Milton (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Milton grew up in a prosperous home that was strongly Protestant and moderately Puritan. A studious and gifted young man, he was given every educational advantage, including private tutoring and enrollment in St. Paul’s School and Christ’s College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, Milton pursued classical studies and wrote poems in Latin, English, and Italian. His schooling was expected to lead him to a career as a clergyman, but he disliked the direction of religious and civil affairs in England, so he did not take holy orders. From 1632 to 1638, he lived with his family as he continued his private study of European and classical literature and writings about church leaders. During this period he wrote the masque Comus (1634) and the elegy Lycidas (1637).

From about 1640 to 1660 Milton was preoccupied with public controversies and wrote prose treatises defending the Puritan cause that expressed his concerns about religious, civil, and domestic liberties. In works such as Of Reformation Touching Church Discipline in England (1641) and The Reason of Church- Government Urg’d Against Prealty (1642), Milton attacked the Episcopacy and the demand for a Presbyterian church. In 1643 and 1644, he published The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, four pamphlets arguing for legitimizing divorce on grounds of incompatibility. These pamphlets, which earned him notoriety from his Presbyterian allies and gained him a reputation as a radical, seem to have originated from difficulties in his own marriage. Further, feeling hampered by censorship of the press, he wrote his most famous prose work, Areopagitica (1644), a powerful plea for unlicensed printing, occasioned by a severe parliamentary ordinance for the control of printing.

After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Milton’s public role in helping to create the English Commonwealth was reinforced by his pamphlets against continental critics of Oliver Cromwell’s regime and in support of the execution of the king. Despite failing eyesight, Milton continued to write political pamphlets during the 1650’s. After the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, Milton was in danger of execution, so he went into hiding; he was arrested, but was soon released. His works, Eikonoklastes (1649) and Defensio Populi Anglicani (1650), were both called in by royal proclamation and burned in 1660, and Eikonoklastes was listed in the Roman Catholic church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

In the last fourteen years of his life, Milton returned to writing poetry, publishing his three major poems Paradise Lost (1667), Paradise Regained (1671), and Samson Agonistes (1671).


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

John Milton was born into an upper-middle-class family in London, his father being a scrivener with real estate interests, sufficiently affluent to assure Milton that he did not have to follow a profession to live. John Milton the elder, who achieved recognition in his own right as a composer and musician, encouraged his son in his studies and enrolled him in St. Paul’s School, then a quality day school in London. When he entered Christ’s College, Cambridge, at sixteen, Milton had an excellent grounding in Latin and Greek.

Even though he was once suspended from Cambridge, he was a serious and successful student, taking two degrees (B.A., 1629; M.A., 1632). While at Christ’s College, he wrote a significant amount of lyric poetry, and he altered his original intention of being ordained. Leaving Cambridge in 1632, he returned to his father’s estates at Horton and, later, Hammersmith, remaining there until 1638. Although he continued to write poetry, his essential purpose appears to have been further systematic study of classical and Renaissance literature, history, and philosophy.

Approaching the age of thirty, he set out in 1638 to tour France, Switzerland, and Italy, a journey that lasted fifteen months and enabled him to glean impressions of European nature, art, and architecture that later enriched his poetry. During the tour, he also visited such learned men as Hugo Grotius and Giovanni Diodati and attended the meetings of learned...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Milton was born in Bread Street, Cheapside, London, England, on December 9, 1608. His father, John Milton, was a very successful scrivener, one who copied legal documents and performed some of the services associated with banking and finance. His mother’s name was Sara Jeffrey Milton. Though the younger Milton was never rich, his father made enough money to guarantee his son’s financial independence throughout the great poet’s lifetime. Milton was a precocious child, demonstrating a particular facility with ancient and modern languages. By the time he was graduated from college, Milton read, spoke, and wrote Latin nearly as well as he did English and was competent in Greek, Hebrew, French, and Italian. From approximately the age of nine to twelve, Milton was tutored at home, and from the age of twelve to sixteen he walked about three blocks to attend St. Paul’s School at the famous London cathedral.

Milton started college in 1625, a few months after turning sixteen, attending Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he earned the nickname “the lady of Christ’s” because he took meticulous care of his appearance, had delicate features, and disdained many of the masculine activities, such as drinking and visiting brothels, that occupied many of his schoolmates. He may have been “rusticated,” or suspended from school, briefly, in 1626, because of a conflict with one of his teachers, but he returned to earn his B.A. in 1629 and his M.A. in 1632. Initially, Milton had planned to be a minister, but as a Puritan, or radical Protestant, he came to believe that the Anglican Church was too much like the Catholic church and decided to dedicate his life to poetry instead. While in school, Milton began writing poetry, mostly in Latin, and in December, 1629, just after his twenty-first birthday, he wrote, in English, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” which in effect signaled his great promise as a poet.

In the early 1630’s, Milton’s family moved to Horton, Buckinghamshire, seventeen miles west of London, where Milton’s father retired to a country estate. After leaving Cambridge in 1632, Milton lived with his family for six years (usually called the Horton period). During this time, he read voraciously, attempting to complete his education by reading everything that was written in the languages that he had mastered. While at Cambridge and during the years of the Horton period, Milton wrote many of the early works that helped to make him famous during his lifetime—the twin “mood” poems “L’Allegro” and “II Penseroso,” the masque, or play, Comus (pr. 1634, pb. 1637), the pastoral elegy “Lycidas,” and several of his familiar sonnets, such as “How Soon Hath Time.” Some poems, such as “Lycidas,” were published under very particular circumstances and can be easily dated, but most of Milton’s early poems circulated in manuscript well before they were formally published for the first time in his collected poems of 1645.

In August, 1638, Milton set out on his Grand Tour, a trip on the European continent that most educated men undertook in Milton’s day to complete their studies and to polish them as gentlemen. Milton traveled mostly in Italy, where he met many important people, including the great astronomer Galileo. He returned home somewhat prematurely in August,1639, because England was nearing its momentous civil war.

The English Civil War, which began in 1642, was caused by a power struggle between the monarchy and Parliament. In 1625, Charles I had taken over the throne from his father, James I, and by 1629 had dissolved Parliament in an attempt to govern autocratically. Parliament, however, insisted on a more representative form of government, and years of political infighting culminated in...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

If John Milton had written only Paradise Lost, he would still be considered one of the world’s greatest poets; but, like Shakespeare, Milton graced nearly everything he touched, from delicate Italian sonnets, such as “Methought I Saw My Late Espousèd Saint,” to the sonorous majesty of his great verse tragedy, Samson Agonistes. Milton wrote the greatest pastoral elegy ever written, “Lycidas,” and one of the greatest defenses of a free press, Areopagitica. Shakespeare is almost universally appealing to the twenty-first century because his work seems less learned and doctrinaire than Milton’s, but after becoming well acquainted with Milton, the modern reader will find universal meaning, poetic grace, and emotional intensity second only to that found in Shakespeare.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Milton was born in 1608 above his father’s scrivener’s shop on Bread Street, Cheapside, London. He was born to troubled times, living through the late Elizabethan period, the Jacobean upheavals and the Commonwealth corrections, and the fluctuating Restoration ascendancy.

The future poet’s grandfather, Richard Milton, a yeoman and under-ranger, lived near Oxford. Unswervingly Roman Catholic, he disinherited his son John for joining the Church of England. The latter moved to London, where he earned a satisfactory fortune to provide comforts for himself, his wife, and their three children, John, Christopher, and Anne. The home above the Bread Street shop must have possessed a cultural, artistic air, for John...

(The entire section is 1195 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

Milton was born in Cheapside, London, in 1608, the son of John Milton, Sr., a prosperous scrivener, notary, and composer, and Sara Jeffrey...

(The entire section is 604 words.)


(Epics for Students)

John Milton Published by Gale Cengage

John Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608, the son of a prosperous Puritan family. His father, a musician, encouraged him to pursue...

(The entire section is 674 words.)