Milton, John

Milton, John, poet, born in London, son of a scrivener; graduated at Cambridge, and settled to study and write poetry in his father's house at Horton, 1632; in 1638 he visited Italy, being already known at home as the author of the “Hymn on the Nativity,” “Allegro,” “Penseroso,” “Comus,” a mask, and “Lycidas,” an elegy on his friend King, who was drowned in the Irish Sea in 1637, besides much excellent Latin verse; the outbreak of the Civil War recalled him, and silenced his muse for many years; settling in London he took pupils, married in 1643 Mary Powell, and became active as a writer of pamphlets on public questions; his first topic was Church Government, then his wife's desertion of him for two years called forth his tracts on Divorce, a threatened prosecution for which elicited in turn the “Areopagitica, a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing”; his father died in 1647, his wife in 1652; under the Common wealth he was “Secretary of Foreign Tongues,” and successfully defended the execution of Charles I. in his Latin “Defence of the English People,” and other bitter controversial works; he married in 1656 his second wife, who died two years later; the Restoration gave him back to leisure and poetry; his greatest work, “Paradise Lost,” was composed rapidly, dictated to his daughters, and completed in 1663, but not published till 1667; 1671 saw “Paradise Regained” and “Samson Agonistes”; he had been blind since 1652; he married Elizabeth Minshull in 1663, who comforted him in his closing years; a man of fervent, impulsive temperament, and a lover of music, he was sincere in controversy, magnanimous in character, and of deep religious faith; the richness, melody, and simplicity of his poetry, the sublimity of his great theme, and the adequacy of its treatment, place him among the greatest poets of the world; in later years he leaned to Arianism, and broke away from the restraints of outward religious practice; his last prose work, a Latin treatise on “Christian Doctrines,” was lost at the time of his death, and only recovered 150 years later (1608-1674).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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