John Milton

  • ‘Too well I see and rue the dire event, That with sad overthrow and foul defeat Hath lost us Heaven’
  • ‘An acrimonious and surly Republican’

Contents

Early Life and Education

Family background

Childhood

Education

St Paul’s

Cambridge

Student Career

Literary production at Cambridge

Early adulthood 1632-1639

Private Study

Published Works

Comus 1634

Lycidas 1637

Grand Tour 1638-9

Paris

Florence (July-September 1638)

Rome

Naples

Geneva

Rome again

Venice

Geneva

The Tour cut short

Pre-War England

In the Civil War

Pre-war pamphleteering

Hostilities

First Marriage 1642

Divorce Tracts 1643

Of Education 1644

Areopagitica 1644

Reunion with Mary 1645

Poems 1646-9

Commonwealth and Protectorate

‘Tenure of Kings’ February 1649

Latin secretary March 1649

Eikonoklastes October 1649

Mercurius Politicus 1651

Defence of the English People 1652

The Protectorate, 1653

Defensio Secunda 1654

De Doctrina Christiana

Blindness 1652

Second Marriage 1656

Interregnum

A Treatise of Civil Power

Republican principles defended against the factions

The Ready and Easy Way 1660

Restoration

Punishment

Third Marriage 1663

Last Years

Paradise Lost 1667

Later works

History of Britain 1670

Paradise regained 1671

Samson Agonistes 1671

Of True Religion 1672

Paradise Lost 2nd Edition 1674

Death and Posthumous Reputation

Death

Posthumous reputation

17th Century

18th Century

Nineteenth Century

Twentieth Century

Modern Times

Bibliographical Notes

Bibliography

FRESCI

Foreign and Military

Religion and Ideas

Economic and Financial

Social and cultural

Constitutional and Legal

Individual and Random

ribbon(0) is my own thought

Early Life and Education

Family background

John Milton was an English (2,5) man of letters, (3) poet, pamphleteer, (1,2) champion of liberty (13,16) and historian. (2,6) He was born (1,2) into a middle-class family (9,17) in the house where his father lived and worked (17) on Bread Street (4,5) in Cheapside (12,17) near St. Paul’s Cathedral (15) in London on December 9th, 1608 (1,2) at the height of the Protestant Reformation [1] in England. (7) Bread Street also housed the Mermaid Tavern (14,17)

Milton10
Figure 1: Milton Aged 10

which was patronized by many notable literary figures of the time. (14) He was the third of six children of (11) his father, (5,7) also called John, (5,12) who was 46, (5) and his wife Sarah (5,12) [OR] Sara, (8,11) née Jeffrey, (11,12) the daughter of a wealthy merchant (12,13) -tailor. (13) who was 36. (11) The senior John Milton (17) had left Roman Catholicism (7,15) and moved to London around 1583 after being disinherited by (17) his devout Catholic father, Richard Milton, (15,17) following a conflict over religion, (15,17) because (17) he had read an English (i.e., Protestant) Bible’ (19) [OR] he had embraced Protestantism. (11,17) He was now a prosperous Puritan (11) scrivener (5,7) legal adviser, (14,15) notary, and financial broker (15) [OR] money-lender, (14) who dabbled in real estate (16) wrote contracts, (5,7) wills and deeds (12) and other legal documents (5,7) for others. (12) He was also a gifted (11) amateur musician (11,15) who composed (16,17) liturgical church (16) music. (5,12) Despite having been disinherited by his Catholic father for vigorously embracing Protestantism, John Senior (14) had achieved some success by the time John Junior was born. (7) He was prosperous enough to own a second house in the country, (16) so his son grew up in a prosperous family. (4,7) He had an older sister Anne, and a younger brother Christopher, and several siblings who died before reaching adulthood. (8,11)

 

[1. One might argue that that was in the second half of Edward VI’s reign]

Childhood

Milton seems to have had a happy childhood. (16) He spoke of his mother’s ‘esteem, and the alms she bestowed.’ (16) Though the senior Milton came from a Catholic family, he was a Puritan himself. (16) John Junior was raised Protestant, with a heavy tendency toward Puritanism. (7,16) His religion, therefore, was an outgrowth of family life and not something he chose at a later period in his maturity. (16) John was a good student and loved poetry from a very young age. (12,13) He showed a strong interest in and talent for academic subjects, particularly languages, and from the age of twelve, he regularly stayed up past midnight to study. (14) Although the Milton household was not particularly richly endowed with books, Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queen’ was one of only a few books that were owned by them during John’s upbringing. (7) He also loved music. (5,12) He taught Music—the music of the spheres, of angels, of humankind, and of all living things—was his preoccupation from first to last. (15) His father taught him, to play the organ (11,15) and bass viol (11) and to sing. (11,15) He became an accomplished consort singer. (11) He formed friendships with musicians such as Henry Lawes. (17) Of Shakespeare little is known, but of Milton little is unknown.

MiltonChild

(15) Details of his appearance and personality—medium height, auburn hair, delicate, almost feminine features, a cheerful egotist and a scathing wit—and his daily work habits, education, religious and political thought, employment, health, family fortunes, travels, and friendships, are all voluminously recorded in his own writing and in letters and biographies written by those who knew him. (15)

Education

His early education equipped his capacious mind with the best that the classical and the Judeo-Christian traditions could offer. (15) Shakespeare’s genius seems romantically untutored, while Milton’s talents were certainly developed through exhaustive study.

LadyofChrists
Figure 2: ‘The Lady of Christ’s’

(15) He was a studious boy (11,15) reading by candlelight past midnight and continuing his devotion to study throughout his life, even after he was totally blind. (15) His father could afford to back this up with excellent education, (7,14) first with private tutoring (7,11) by a string of (14) tutors (11,14) [OR] from a Scottish (12,15) Presbyterian (15,18) cleric (15) named Thomas Young (12,15) who held an M.A. degree from the University of St. Andrews, and probably infused radical ideas into the young Milton. (12,18) private tutor, Thomas Young, a Scottish Presbyterian with an M.A. from the University of St. Andrews. (18) Research suggests that Young’s influence served as the poet’s introduction to religious radicalism. He had learned Latin and Greek from Young (11,15) by the age of twelve (15) and added several other languages, including Hebrew (11,15) and Italian, soon after. (15) He read the Church Fathers and the Testaments in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. (15) He read the classical philosophers, historians, and poets. (15) He mastered the trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and found that analysis, paraphrase, and imitation of classic authors came easily. (15) Milton corresponded with Young for many years and found himself again working with him against the bishops during the early years of the Commonwealth. (15)

 

St Paul’s

Next, (5,6) when Thomas Young left London (15) in around 1620 (11) when John was aged seven (16) [OR] at about 12, Milton was sent to St Paul’s school. (5,6) Sometime, but perhaps later, Milton became a student at St. Paul’s school, which was attached to the great cathedral of the same name. (16) St. Paul’s was a prestigious English public school — what would be called a ‘private school’ in the U’s. (16) Milton spent eight years as a ‘Pigeon at Paules,’ as the students were known, and came out a rather advanced scholar. (16) He had studied the Trivium of Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic and had probably been exposed to the Quadrivium of Mathematics, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music. (16) He had also learned Latin well, was competent in Greek and Hebrew, had a smattering of French, and knew Italian well enough to write sonnets in it. (16) The one language he did not study was English. (16) There he excelled in languages and classical studies. (7) He wrote in English, Latin (1,3) Greek, (3,6) and Italian. (1,3) began to write poetry. (9) His first datable compositions are two psalms done at age 15 at Long Bennington. (17) Some of his language acquisition — Italian — came from private tutors hired by his father. (16) Also at St. Paul’s, the young Milton made a friendship that was among the closest of his life with Charles Diodati. (16) After leaving St. Paul’s, the two young men would write each other in Latin. (16) Through his friendship with Diodati, Milton came into contact with many of the foreign residents of London. (16) During this time, Milton may have heard sermons by the poet John Donne, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was within view of his school. (19) He intended to become a priest (7,9) [OR] a minister (16) in the ‘Church of England’. (7,9)

Cambridge

Student Career

At the age of 15 (13) [OR] 16, actually rather late for the time, (14) he was admitted (13) to Christ’s College, Cambridge, (1,4) which he attended between 1625 and 1632 (1,5) He studied ethics, logic, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. (12,13) It seems he was a bit of an outsider. (14,17) in correspondence with a former tutor at St. Paul’s School, Alexander Gill, Milton complained about (19) a lack of friendship with fellow students (17,19) and alienation from university life as a whole. (17) He was nicknamed The Lady of Christ’s (4,14) in reference to his long hair and sensitive manner. (4) [OR] his effeminate ways and youthful looks. (14) He was in his turn scornful of the majority of his peers, (14,17) disparaging their buffoonery and carousing. (14) This extended to his fellow students who were planning to become ministers but whom he considered ill-equipped academically. (19) Watching his fellow students attempting comedy upon the college stage, he later observed ‘they thought themselves gallant men, and I thought them fools’. (17) [OR] he was a ladies’ man by the age of seventeen, and popular with his schoolmates. (15) He was on good terms with Edward King, for whom he later wrote Lycidas. (17) He also befriended Anglo-American dissident and theologian Roger Williams. (17) Milton tutored Williams in Hebrew in exchange for his giving Milton three lessons in Dutch. (17) Milton felt a sense of frustration at the (14,16) medieval scholastic (16,19) curriculum, (14,16) which consisted of stilted formal debates on abstruse topics, conducted in Latin. (17) He found it stultifying to the imagination. (19) This displeasure or perhaps some other minor infraction, caused him to become involved in frequent (16) disputes, including some with (16,17) his tutor (12,13) Bishop (12) William Chappell. (16,17) In his first year he was certainly at home in the Lent [2] Term 1626; there he wrote his Elegia Prima, a first Latin elegy, (17) [OR] a verse letter (14) to Charles Diodati, a (16,17) [OR] his best (14,16) friend from St Paul’s. (16,17) In it Milton wrote of having been (14) suspended from the college for a brief period in 1626 due to some disagreement with his tutor (12,13) William Chappell. (12,16) Book 17 agrees that Aubrey suggests that Chappell beat him. (17) Christopher Hill cautiously notes that Milton was ‘apparently’ rusticated, and that the differences between Chappell and Milton may have been either religious or personal. (17) It is also possible that, like Isaac Newton four decades hence, Milton was sent home because of the plague, by which Cambridge was badly affected in 1625. (17) Whatever the reason, Milton did not seem to mind the respite from (16) ‘the reedy fens of the Cam and … the hum of the noisy school.’ (19) His bombastic (yet playfully tongue-in-cheek) sense of self-worth is attested by his comparison of his suspension to Ovid’s exile from eighth [3] century BC Rome. (14) The rustication did not impede his progression through the school (sic) in any significant way, either. (16) He was reinstated in the college in April 1626 and (12,13) assigned a different tutor, (13,17) Nathaniel Tovey [4]. (17,19) He was awarded his BA in 1629 (5,12) and was ranked fourth (12,15) among twenty-four (12,17) honours graduates (17) [OR] 259 (15) other candidates who had appeared for the examination. (12) Preparing to become an Anglican priest, he stayed on to obtain his Master of Arts degree (17) which he got (5,11) on 3rd (17) July (11,12) 1632. (5,11)

Literary production at Cambridge

Cambridge afforded him time to write poetry. (5.7) He gained a reputation for erudition and poetic skill, (11,17) writing several accomplished poems (11) in English, Latin and Italian while still a student. (9,11) He composed epigrams (short poems dealing pointedly with a single thought or event and often ending with a clever turn of thought). (13) in 1626 he wrote ‘In Quintum Novembris’ (‘On the Fifth of November’), celebrating the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. (19) University students typically composed poems that attacked Roman Catholics for their involvement in treachery of this kind. (19) The papacy and the Catholic nations on the Continent also came under attack. (19) Milton’s poem includes two larger themes that would later inform Paradise Lost: that the evil perpetrated by sinful humankind may be counteracted by Providence and that God will bring greater goodness out of evil. (19) John Milton wrote his first serious poem in 1628 titled ‘On the Death of a Fair Infant, Dying of the Cough’ which was based on the sadness caused by the death of his sister’s baby. (12) In 1629 Milton wrote (1,5) a poem (5,12) celebrating the harmonizing power of (13) divine love, (12,13) called (5) ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’. (1,5) In poems and exercises written during Milton’s time at Cambridge, we see the seeds of poetic ambition germinating, and witness his growing interest in the English language and the service to which it could be put. (14) In this time he wrote a number of notable short poems including ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’. (14,16) (‘The Cheerful Man’ and ‘The Pensive Man’) (16) These works have not achieved any fame for Milton, but they did demonstrate the genius that was within him. (16) His academic exercises at Christ’s College, delivered in Latin, are models of rhetorical invention. (15) In one of his college orations (public speeches), he broke with the usual practice of speaking in Latin by delivering English verse, beginning ‘Hail native language’. (13) Thereafter, he wrote Latin verse occasionally and a series of sonnets (poems of fourteen lines with a specific rhyming pattern) in Italian, but he composed increasingly in English. (13) In the same year his poem ‘On Shakespeare’, (6,8) was published (6,14) in the second folio of Shakespeare’s plays (14) in 1632. (6,14) Entitled ‘Epitaph on the admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare’ (18) It was the first he published, at the age of 24. (6)

[2. Spring, now called ‘Hilary’ Term.]
[3. Sic? Ovid’s career spanned the first centuries AD and BC]
[4. Aubrey says he was ‘Mr Tovell, who died Rector of Lutterworth’.]

According to Milton, Shakespeare himself created the most enduring monument to befit his genius: the readers of the plays, who, transfixed with awe and wonder, become living monuments, a process renewed at each generation through the panorama of time. (19)

Early adulthood 1632-1639

Private Study

 

Camus
Figure 3: Comus

After finishing his studies, Milton had intended to enter the clergy, (7,9) a career for which his education had prepared him, (15) but was put off that, (7,9) disillusioned with the scholastic elements of the clergy at Cambridge (7) [OR] because he was unwilling to take the oaths required (11) by the religious policies of Archbishop Laud. (11,18) [OR] because he was increasingly opposed to the governance and ceremonies of the Anglican Church, as they constrained the liberty of the individual conscience, (15) and in part because he was increasingly committed to the vocation of poetry. (15,16) In 1632, after seven years at Cambridge, Milton returned to his family home, now (19) in (1,11) Hammersmith, (12,14) on the outskirts of London. (19) Christopher Hill points out that this was not retreat into a rural or pastoral idyll: Hammersmith was then a ‘suburban village’ falling into the orbit of London. (17) He spent six years with his family (8,11) Three years later, perhaps because of an outbreak of the plague, the family relocated to (19) his father’s recently purchased (16) country estate, (12,16) Berkyn Manor Farm (18) in Horton, (1,11) a village of about 300 people in (16) Buckinghamshire (1,8) which was becoming deforested, and suffered from the plague. (17) [OR] After University he toured the continent. (4) At Horton he pursued a rigorous course of study (9,11) to prepare for a career in literature (9,11) as a poet. (9,15) Without gainful employment, Milton was supported by his father during this period. (19) He said that God had called him to be a poet, (16) and this has been termed his ‘poetic apprenticeship’. (14) It involved (9,11) extensive (9) reading, (9,11) of both classical and modern works of (9) religion, (9,12) science, philosophy, politics, (9) history and literature, (9,12) in Greek, Latin and Italian. (11) He became proficient in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Italian, (8,9) and obtained a familiarity with Old English and Dutch as well. (9) He did this independently (9) [OR] with regular visits to London to take lessons in (11) mathematics (11,12) and music. (11)

 

Published Works

It was here that he wrote some of his first published poems, (7) 8 says that he wrote ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ at home, whereas 1 and 5 suggest that he wrote it at university. (8) [OR] Milton’s poem ‘On Shakespeare’, (6,8) dated 1630, (11) was published in 1632, (6,11) appearing in the second folio of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1632. (11) During this period, Milton wrote several (11) [OR]few (15) works that displayed his full powers as a poet, writing (11) L’Allegro, (1,8) (1632 (1)) II Penseroso (1,9) [OR] Penserosi. (8)

Comus 1634

LadyCamus
Figure 4: Female lead in Comus

During these six years he got involved in the cultural and social life of the city and its suburbs and wrote some sonnets and lyrics which includes (12) Arcades, 1632 (17) and a masque called (5,6) Comus (1,5) a courtly presentation (14) consisting of a mixture of poetry, dances and songs (12) to entertain (5,14) the Egertons (17,19) an aristocratic family (14,17) who had recently been involved in a licentious scandal, (14) and to celebrate the installation of John Egerton, earl of Bridgewater and Viscount Brackley and a member of Charles I’s Privy Council, as lord president of Wales [5]. (19) The piece argues for the virtuousness of temperance and chastity. (17) Its most vivid character is the villainous Comus. (19) His central artistic problem was to animate Christian virtue in response to the temptations of evil. (15) Whereas the would-be seducer argues that appetites and desires issuing from one’s nature are ‘natural’ and therefore licit, the Lady contends that only rational self-control is enlightened and virtuous. (19) To be self-indulgent and intemperate, she adds, is to forfeit one’s higher nature and to yield to baser impulses. (19) In this debate the Lady and Comus signify, respectively, soul and body, ratio and libido, sublimation and sensualism, virtue and vice, moral rectitude and immoral depravity. (19) To portray virtue as a refusal is to make it a merely paralyzing reaction, as indeed the chaste Lady of Comus is fixed in her chair after resisting Comus’ seduction. (15) It was acted, (5,6) with music and dance (5) at Ludlow Castle (6,15) on Michaelmas Night, (15,19) September 29th (19) in 1634. (1,5) It was later published anonymously (18) in 1637 (1,18) [OR] 1645 (7) (1,5)

[5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Egerton,_1st_Earl_of_Bridgewater
says he ceased to be Lord President in 1634!]

Lycidas 1637

His poetry and prose reflect his deep personal convictions on the urgent issues (3) and political turbulence of his day. (3,4) His writing contains self-aggrandizing sections but also a concurrent, more subtle, theme of the piety of waiting for grace. (14) In 1637 his mother died, (11,15) possibly of the plague, (16) and in that year (1,16) [OR] 1638 (7) he wrote Lycidas (1,5) a pastoral (9,14) elegy (8,9) in memory of one of his Cambridge (16) friends (8,16) Edward King, (14,16) a young minister (16) who drowned (8,14) in a shipwreck (14) while crossing the Irish Sea (19) [OR] in a boating accident. (16) Classmates at Cambridge decided to create a memorial volume of poetry for their dead friend. (16) It was called Justa Edouardo King Naufrago. (18) Milton’s poem, untitled in the volume but later called Lycidas, was the final poem, possibly because the editors recognized it as the artistic climax of the volume. (16) Whatever the reasoning, the poem, signed simply J. M., (16) [OR] J.M.Otherwise (18) has become one of the most recognized elegiac poems in English. (16) It dealt with the reason why good people normally died at a young age. (12) Writing at a time of religious flux and political upheaval (3,4) Milton takes the opportunity of contemplating King’s piety (14)

Cambridge University Press
Figure 5: Logo of Cambridge University Press

and by contrast levelling some heavy criticism against the church in the first sally of his long attack against the prelates (or bishops). (14,19) King’s premature death ended a career that, in Milton’s opinion, would have unfolded in stark contrast to the majority of the ministers and bishops of the Church of England, whom the poem condemns as depraved, materialistic, and selfish. (19) Likening bishops to vermin infesting sheep and consuming their innards, Milton depicts them in stark contrast to the ideal of the Good Shepherd that is recounted in the Gospel According to John. (19) It is now regarded as one of the greatest lyric poems in the English language. (14) It was published in 1638. (1,5) [OR] 1645 (7) he also wrote his first eight sonnets, including his apology for his long preparation, ‘How Soon Hath Time’ (1632). (15) This period of time may seem uneventful, but it is interesting that while Milton felt he was destined for greatness, he had the maturity to see that he wasn’t ready to compose a masterwork just yet. (14)

 

Grand Tour 1638-9

In April, (1) [OR] May (9) 1638 (1,5) still unknown (14) and accompanied by a manservant, (19) he left England. (1,5) He undertook (1,5) a 13 (9) [OR] 15 (12,14) month (9,12) tour of the continent, (1,5) [OR] tour of France and Italy (9,11) [OR] doing ‘the Grand Tour’ (6) as many young middle- and upper-class (14) [OR] cultivated (16) men did after university. (14) Milton as a true scholar and poet wanted more from this tour than just a good time away from home. (16)

Paris

He visited (1,5) European republics (4) [OR] France, (5,6), first going to Calais, and then on (17) to Paris, (11,16) riding horseback, with a letter from diplomat Henry Wotton to ambassador John Scudamore. (17) Through Scudamore, (17) in May of 1638 (16) Milton met (16,17) the famed Dutch (16) playwright, poet, (17) legal scholar and theologian Hugo (11,16) Grotius. (7,11). Grotius’ ideas on natural and positive law worked their way into many of Milton’s political writings. (16) Milton left France soon after this meeting. (17) He travelled south, from Nice to Genoa, and then to Livorno and Pisa. (17)

Florence (July-September 1638)

Milton particularly wanted to visit Italy. (1,5) He reached Florence (12,16) in July 1638. (17) He observed country-wide (4) Catholicism, in Italy. (4,15) Catholicism was anathema to English Puritans but the anti-Catholic Milton (14) valued Italy as the seat of learning and civilization. (15)

Milton Gallileo
Figure 6: Milton meets Galileo

He happily mingled with its literati and intelligentsia. (11,14) Wherever he visited, he was accepted easily into the social circles (12) thanks to his good looks, enthusiasm (13) candour of manner, erudite neo-Latin poetry (17) and ability to speak a variety of languages. (12) He was welcomed into intellectual circles (15,11) and met (6,7) young members of the Italian literati, whose similar humanistic interests he found gratifying. (19) The Florentine academies (15,19) democratic societies that met regularly to hear and critique scholarly papers and literary works in progress. (15) especially appealed to Milton. (15,19) The greatest benefit of his Italian journey was his being (15) accepted and praised as an accomplished poet in Italy, (14,15) a country proud of its vernacular poets. (15) This helped him decide to write his masterpiece in his native tongue, rather than in the international language of Latin. (15) He also met many (7,15) important intellectuals and influential people, (9,11) great Renaissance minds. (7,11) In Florence, (11,16) he enjoyed many of the sites and structures of the city. (17) He probably (8,16) [OR] certainly (15,19) met the aging (15) astronomer (9,17) Galileo (5,7) who was under virtual (17) house arrest (8,15) at Arcetri (17) by the Inquisition (15,16) at the time (8) because of his heliocentric views of the solar system. (16) The circumstances of this extraordinary meeting, whereby a young Englishman about 30 years old gained access to the aged and blind astronomer, are unknown. (19) Milton had a lifelong fascination with science and scientific discovery. (16) Book VIII of Paradise Lost mentions the telescope and deals with planetary motions. (16) Galileo was the only contemporary whom Milton mentioned by name in Paradise Lost, (in Book 1, Satan’s shield is likened to the Moon as viewed through Galileo’s telescope). (19) Milton held him up as a symbol of how religious dogmatism could restrain the progress of human knowledge. (15) He left Florence in September to continue to Rome. (17)

 

Rome

He spent most of his time in Italy, (12,15) in Rome (11,12) With the connections from Florence, Milton was able to have easy access to Rome’s intellectual society. (17) His poetic abilities impressed those like Giovanni Salzilli, who praised Milton within an epigram. (17) In late October, Milton, despite his dislike for the Society of Jesus, attended a dinner given by the English College, Rome, meeting English Catholics who were also guests, theologian Henry Holden and the poet Patrick Cary. (17) He met Giovanni (15,16) Battista (15) [OR] Batista, Marquis of (16) Manso, (15,16) patron (15) [OR] biographer of the great Italian epic poet (16) Torquato Tasso, (15,16) who praised the native fluency of Milton’s Italian verses. (15) Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered was obviously an influence on Milton’s own epic poetry. (16) To what extent Batista was also an influence is difficult to determine, but Milton did write the poem, Mansus, in his honor. (16) Milton’s own knowledge of and love for music shows up in much of his poetry, and, in some ways, Paradise Lost is operatic poetry. (16) Milton also encountered the power and monumental vastness of the Baroque, a style of art fostered by Catholicism, which he used, particularly in Paradise Lost, (1667, 1674) to portray the realms of the infernal and divine. (15)

Naples

Milton left for Naples toward the end of November, where he stayed only for a month because of the Spanish control. (17) During that time he was introduced to Giovanni Battista Manso, patron to both Torquato Tasso and to Giovanni Battista Marino. (17) Originally Milton wanted to leave Naples in order to travel to Sicily, and then on to Greece, but he returned to England during the summer of 1639 because of what he claimed, in Defensio Secunda, were ‘sad tidings of civil war in England.’ (17) Matters became more complicated when (17) Milton received word that Diodati, his childhood friend, had died. (17,19) possibly a victim of the plague. (19)

Geneva

Milton in fact stayed another seven months on the continent, and spent time at Geneva with Diodati’s uncle after he returned to Rome. (17)

Rome again

In Defensio Secunda, Milton proclaimed he was warned against a return to Rome because of his frankness about religion, but he stayed in the city for two months and was able to experience Carnival and meet Lukas Holste, a Vatican librarian, who guided Milton through its collection. (17) He was introduced to Cardinal Francesco (16,17) Barberino (16) [OR] Barberini. (11,17) He invited Milton to an opera he hosted (17) in Rome. (11,16) Milton thus heard Italian music and opera. (15,16)

Florence again

Around March Milton travelled once again to Florence, staying there for two months, attending further meetings of the academies, and spent time with friends. (17)

Venice

After leaving Florence he travelled through Lucca, Bologna, and Ferrara before coming to Venice. (17) In Venice, Milton was exposed to a model of Republicanism, later important in his political writings. (17)

Geneva

He soon found another model when he travelled to Geneva. (17)

The Tour cut short

He had intended to go on to Greece, but (12,16) cut short his tour (4,8) because of ‘sad tidings of civil war in England.’ (18) He returned to England (1,4) earlier than planned. (15) From Switzerland, Milton travelled to Paris and then to Calais before finally arriving back in England (17) in August (1,17) [OR] July (11,17) 1639. (4,8) [OR] Late in 1638. (16) The religious scene back home had become bad (12) and the political climate was charged as Charles I invaded Scotland, (16) in the start of the ‘Bishops’ War’ (12,17) in June 1639. (18) There was now the prospect of civil war between King and Parliament. (4,8) It seemed to Milton that England was preparing itself to become God’s own kingdom on earth and that the new nation would need his as yet unwritten historical epic, which he initially conceived as based in English history. (15)

Pre-War England

He took up residence in London. (1,5) Invigorated by their admiration for him, he corresponded with his Italian friends after his return to England, though he never saw them again. (19) His return was a sharp comedown from this time of contentment. (14) There was personal grief waiting for him, the news that (14) his old friend Charles Diodati had died (14,16) [OR] Milton learned that Diodati had died while on Tour, which was a reason for his return. (16,17) He wrote the poem Epitaphium Damonis, a beautiful but heart-rending poem of genuine loss. (14) In 1639 (16) he became a schoolteacher, (5,11) tutoring his sister’s sons (15,16) John and Edward Phillips (Edward became his most vivid early biographer); (15) and other children (16,17) of well-to-do (17) aristocratic families. (16) His little academy grew steadily. (15,16) For the first time in his life, Milton was on his own, earning his own way in the world. (16) [OR] he was supported by his father’s investments. (17) He held radical views on politics (4,14) and can be regarded as one of the founding fathers of champagne socialism (0) From a biographical point of view, Milton is an interesting subject as, unusually for the time, he wrote a fair amount about his poetic intentions in his poems, prose and notebooks. (14) He was contemplating subject matter for a great English work. (14) He wrote about the idea of an epic on the legends of King Arthur, and listed nearly a hundred stories from biblical and British history as potential subjects for a drama. (14)

In the Civil War

Pre-war pamphleteering

The Civil War was looming: (14,15) the Long Parliament was convened, (16) and he was the kind of person who could not just turn his back on civil injustice. (14) The rise of the printing press meant pamphlets were at the forefront of this revolution, and Milton became a polemicist (4) and pamphleteer, (1,4) contributing to the cause in the way he best could, with his pen. (15) The effort cost him his eyesight, briefly his liberty, and very nearly his life. (15) For more than twenty years, (7) for the young poet, the Puritan aspect of his work, at least in the public eye, (16) began to take precedence over his poetry (7,14) as he turned to writing prose (2,4) (as he called it, the work of his left hand (14)) in the current church controversy, (16) against episcopacy (11,14) and for the Parliamentary (17) [OR] Republican, (4) [OR] Puritan (7,17) [OR] Presbyterian (14) (in two ‘Defences of Smectymnuus’ (a group of presbyterian divines named from their initials: the ‘TY’ belonged to Milton’s old tutor Thomas Young). (17) [OR] humanist (7) cause (7,17) [OR] freedom (5,14) [OR] justice. (14) He began to write polemical tracts opposing church government (6,11) by bishops. (11,14) In the period 1641 to (1,6) 1642 he wrote (1,5) five (1) anti-episcopal pamphlets, (1,5) including ‘Of Reformation’ (6,16) touching Church Discipline in England’. (15,17) This examines the historical changes in the Church of England since its inception under King Henry VIII and criticizes the continuing resemblances between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, especially the hierarchy in ecclesiastical government. (19) He urges the Catholic (12) [OR] Anglican (14) bishops to release their hold on religious thoughts and practices, (12) saying that their powers were based on man-made traditions, self-interest, and a combination of ignorance, superstition, and deliberate lies. (13) He calls attention to resemblances between the ecclesiastical and political hierarchies in England, suggesting that the monarchical civil government influences the similar structure of the church. (19) ‘Of Prelatical Episcopacy’ (16,17), and Animadversions (16) in 1641. (6,16) He presented Rome as a modern Babylon, and bishops as Egyptian taskmasters. (18) The tracts contained frequent passages of real eloquence lighting up the rough controversial style of the period. (17) Milton deployed a wide knowledge of the Bible, with five to ten thousand direct Biblical quotations (18) and of church history. (17) He vigorously attacked the High-Church party of the Church of England and their leader, William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. (17) He advocated the abolition (2,8) [OR] reform of (7) the Church of England. (2,8) He continued his series of pamphlets, (9,14) learned and intellectual, and filled with clever and amusing rhetoric, satire and invective. (14) They advocated radical political topics, (9) liberty (5,10) Puritanism (12) self-determination (3) and populism. (9) He opposed tyranny and (2) state-sanctioned religion (2,8) like the Church of England,(8) and called for the suppression of the Catholic idolatry that he and others felt was increasingly present in it. (14) Milton more and more sided with the idea that the church needed ‘purification’ and that that sort of reform could not come from a church so closely connected to the king. (16) He opposed the monarchy (8,9) which was inextricably built into the Church f England; (8) he proposed regicide (9) [OR] at this stage Milton hadn’t rejected monarchism (14) and in ‘The Reason of Church-Government Urg’d Against Prelaty’ (February 1642). (15,17) he argued that the bishops were a threat to England and to the king (14) and appears to endorse Scottish Presbyterianism as a replacement for the episcopal hierarchy of the Church of England. (19) In time he came to realize that Presbyterianism could be as inflexible as the Church of England in matters of theology, and he became more independent from established religion of all kinds, arguing for the primacy of Scripture and for the conscience of each believer as the guide to interpretation. (19)

Hostilities

Milton ChairOn August 2nd 1642 civil war began between king and parliament (2,5) [OR] Protestants and the Catholics led by King Charles. (12) Milton never intended his studies to make him a reclusive scholar. (15) As a strong supporter of freedom (3,5) Milton naturally (5) supported parliament, (5,8) the Puritans and Oliver Cromwell. (9) During 1641 and 1642 [OR] From 1642 to long after the restoration of Charles II as king in 1660 (2) he brought his vast learning, his passionate convictions, and often his barbed satire to bear on the most pressing controversies of the Commonwealth, including matters of religious, domestic, political, and individual liberty. (15) As a Protestant, he believed that the individual reader should interpret the Bible. (13)

First Marriage 1642

In May (12) [OR] June (11,17) 1642, (4,8) [OR] 1643 (17) aged 33, (4,11) [OR] 34 (8,12) [OR] 35 (17) Milton paid a visit (17) into the countryside (9) to the manor house at Forest Hill, (17) Oxfordshire (11,14) He returned from the trip (9,17) perhaps unwisely (14) with a 16-year old (4,9) [OR] 17-year-old (8,11) bride Mary Powell. (4,6) Mary, the first of his three wives, was the third child of a (11) Royalist family. (11,14) It was the first of three (5,7) unhappy (7) marriages. (5,7) The conflict that split the nation also severed his marriage. (14,15) The marriage collapsed quickly. (11,14) After a few weeks (11,14) [OR] within a month (6) [OR] after two months (15) [OR] a month, (16,17) when Mary deserted Milton (16,17) and returned to her mother (6,11) This may have been due to personal problems (12,16) (because Mary was too stupid (14) [OR] because life was difficult with the severe 35-year-old schoolmaster and pamphleteer (17) [OR] because her mother didn’t like Milton (15) [OR] because of his financial problems (12) [OR] because her father owed Milton money. (15) [OR] political differences, (14,15) (the war initially went Charles I’s way, which may have made the Powells indisposed to favour their troublesome reformist son-in-law. (14) [OR] simple safety (16) (Oxford was the headquarters for the Royalist army (15,16) may have motivated her. (16)

Divorce Tracts 1643

At that time divorce was only granted on grounds of adultery. (12) These difficulties (1,6) Anna Beer, one of Milton’s most recent biographers, points to a lack of evidence and the dangers of cynicism in urging that it was not necessarily the case that his private life was the main motive (17) prompted Milton to write ( (1,6) a petition [OR] a series of (11,17) three (16) [OR] four pamphlets (1,6) known as ‘Divorce Tracts’ (8,11) arguing for the legality and morality of divorce. (17) Divorce on the grounds of incompatibility (14,15) would avoid wasting the partners’ domestic lives. (15) In ‘The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643) (15,16) and his other tracts, (15) he attacked English marriage law as a relic of medieval Catholicism and advocating the legality, morality and (11) availability of divorce. (8,11) His later pamphlets on divorce developed his notion of Christian liberty and the idea that the grace of God imbues the good Christian with the reasoning faculties to govern himself without recourse to worldly authority: this was considered a very dangerous and anarchical idea. (14) Each of these works centred on the need for individual liberty. (16) In 1643, Milton had a brush with the authorities over these writings, in parallel with Hezekiah Woodward, who also had trouble. (17) The ideas that Milton expressed in these writings are commonplace values today, (16) but because of this and other treatises, (11,14) although Milton was motivated by a very high and pure ideal of marriage as an intellectual union (14) he not for the last time came in conflict with the Puritanism he advocated: (7,16) his ideas were so radical that (16) he was publicly attacked on all sides for libertinism, (14) and acquired the nickname, ‘Milton the divorcer.’ (16) He made numerous enemies with his antimonarchic, often heretical stances (which partisan readers have frequently confused with his poetry), but his efforts always bespoke great moral courage. (15)

Of Education 1644

His time as a schoolteacher, (5,11), and discussions with educational reformer Samuel Hartlib, led him to write (17) in 1644 (1,3) a short tract (6,12) [OR] tractate (15) ‘Of Education’. (6,12) It discusses the development of discipline, (12) reasonableness, broad culture, all-round ability, and independence (13) of judgment and other traits in young boys. (12) His curriculum, mirroring Milton’s own education at St. Paul’s, (19) promoted ‘that which fits a man (15) [OR] a gentleman (19) to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously (15) all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war.’ (15,19) In line with the ideal of the Renaissance gentleman, his scheme suggested the Greek and Latin languages not merely in and of themselves but as the means to learn directly the wisdom of Classical antiquity in literature, philosophy, and politics. (19) Aimed at the nobility, not commoners, Milton’s plan does not include public education. (19) Nor does it include a university education, possible evidence of Milton’s dissatisfaction with Cambridge. (19) [OR] it urged a reform of the national universities. (11,17)

Areopagitica 1644

It was the hostile response accorded the divorce tracts (17) [OR] the government’s attempt to suppress his ideas on divorce (14) [OR] a parliamentary ordinance of June 1643 which stipulated that all books had to be examined and licensed by a censor before publication, (11) that prompted Milton to publish (1,3) in 1644 (1,3) [OR] in 1649 (12) a pamphlet (5) entitled Areopagitica, (1,3) in condemnation of pre-publication censorship. (3,11) Milton contends that governments insisting on the expression of uniform beliefs are tyrannical. (19) It is the finest (15) and most famous of Milton’s prose works. (14) Milton believed in the strength of truth and the importance of man being free to choose it. (14)

‘the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties’

In the pamphlet he mentions the case of Galileo. (9) Although it was ignored by Parliament, it came to be valued (11) as one of history’s most influential and impassioned (3) defences of freedom of speech (3,5) free intellectual inquiry (15) and of the press, (3,8) so that truth could prevail. (12) Toleration applied only to the conflicting Protestant denominations, and not to atheists, Jews, Muslims or Catholics. (18) and in spite of his fame as the author of Areopagitica, within five years Milton was himself working as a censor for the Republic. (15a,17) In 1645 (1,11) [OR] 1646 (6,12) (It’s dated 1645 in the old style) (14) he published a collected edition of his early poems (1,6 ) entitled ‘Poems…Both English and Latin’. (6) [OR] ‘Poems’. (11,14)

Reunion with Mary 1645

John and Mary (8,9) were estranged for most of their marriage. (9) Because of the outbreak of the Civil War, (17) they remained separated (6,8) for several years. (8,9) Mary didn’t return. (14) [OR] after three years, Mary returned (15,16) unannounced one evening (15) in 1645 (11,17) [OR] in around 1645. (15,16) The reasons for her return are unclear. (15,16) By 1645 Charles I had lost the Battle of Naseby and any hope for military victory. (16) The Powell family, avowed Royalists, were now in danger. (16) They were ejected from their home in Oxford as Charles’ power waned. (16) Whatever the reasons, Milton forgave her (15) and they were reconciled: (11,14) Mary Powell rejoined him as his wife, (6,9) and the couple went on to have four children. (4,8) His home life at this time was not particularly content; a number of Mary’s family (14) [OR] her entire family (16) moved in with the Miltons. (14,16) With the return of Mary and the arrival of her family, Milton was suddenly the head of a large household. (16) This created a noisy atmosphere which was not particularly conducive to study or writing. (14) He complained that he was surrounded by ‘uncongenial people’. (16)

Poems 1646-9

His first collection of poetry, entitled Poems, was published in 1646. (16) The volume included Lycidas, Comus, and ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.’ (16) In July, 1647, seven months after Poems was published, (16) Milton’s first daughter, Anne, was born. (12,15) The marriage that had begun inauspiciously now seemed, if not perfect, at least sound. (16) Shortly after the reunion of Milton with his wife and the birth of his first child, both his father-in-law, Richard Powell, (16) and his own father died. (11,16) Milton was left with a moderate estate. (16) The ‘uncongenial people,’ problem was resolved a few months later when all the Powell relatives moved back to Oxford. (16) Milton and his wife and daughter then moved into a smaller house in High Holborn. (16) For the first time, the couple had a reasonably normal life and family. (16) In 1648, (16) a second daughter, Mary, (12,15) was born. (16)

Commonwealth and Protectorate

‘Tenure of Kings’ February 1649

The year 1649 marked a decisive change in Milton’s life. (16) In 1649 Charles I was executed. (2,6) Milton was probably present. (8,16)) The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates’, his first republican pamphlet. (1,6) was probably written before and during the trial of King Charles I though it was not published until after his death on January 30th, 1649—urges the abolition of tyrannical kingship and the execution of tyrants. (19) The murder of a king was shocking to the people of a country that had always lived under a monarchy and for whom the king had an aura of divinity. (16) Within a fortnight (6,14) after the execution (6,11) he published ‘In it he declared his support for (11,14) popular government (17) and the republican Commonwealth (11,14) and defended (2,6) [OR] attempted to justify (16) [OR] implicitly sanctioned (17) the regicide. (2,6)

Latin secretary March 1649

The gifted, supremely articulate (15) Milton’s political reputation (17) [OR] his pamphlet ‘Tenure of Kings’, and his other work for the Puritans, resulted in (16) Milton becoming a civil servant (2,3) in 1652, [6] [OR] In March 1649 (11,15) when he was appointed Latin (1,11) Secretary to the Council (1,6) of State. (6,11) [OR] ‘Secretary for the Foreign Tongues’. (6,7) During this period, Milton worked out of official lodgings in Scotland Yard. (16) It was his first real job (15) [OR] tutoring his nephews was his first job. (16) Milton now assumed full-time political office, corresponding with heads of states or their secretaries in Latin, the lingua franca of the day. (16) In that capacity he translated into Latin (5,11) the diplomatic letters (11,12) and papers which passed between the revolutionary English government and foreign powers. (11,15) In that capacity his service to the government, chiefly in the field of foreign policy, is documented by official correspondence, the Letters of State, first published in 1694. (10) Milton became the voice of (2,4) the English Commonwealth (2,3) after 1649 (2,5) under Oliver Cromwell, (3,4) through his handling of its international correspondence and his (2) defence of the government against polemical attacks from abroad, (2,14) particularly those attacking the philosophy and morality behind the violent overthrow of the monarchy. (16) This was an important task in a democratic island near a monarchic continent. (15) He was a vigorous (10) defender of Cromwell’s government, (10,11) [OR] refused the Council of State’s order to write a refutation of the Leveller pamphlet England’s New Chains in 1649, possibly because he felt too much sympathy with the sentiments expressed to attack it. (11) He wrote official publications defending it. (8,11) Contrary to Hobbes’ Leviathan, (to be published in 1651) (14) he condemned the tyranny perpetuated by kings and monarchs on their subjects (12,15) defending the people’s right to call a tyrant to account, contending that (14,15) a monarch’s power is not absolute, but derived from the people he rules, and held in accordance with a social contract. (14) The governor therefore rules on behalf of, and with the consent of, the people. (14,15) If a monarch breaks this contract by abusing his position, the people (14) had the right to be free to decide their own fates (11,12) and remove him from power. (14)

Eikonoklastes October 1649

One of his assignments was to counteract the erosion of public support of the Commonwealth, a situation caused by the publication of the (10,11) Eikon Basilike (6,10) in October (17) 1649. (10,17) ‘The Image of the King’ (6) [OR] The King’s Book. (10) [OR] the Royal Image, (11) subtitled

[6.  Must be this rather than 1652 if he ‘held the post for ten years’ 
as (12) says]

‘The True Portraiture of His Sacred Majesty in His Solitudes and Sufferings’. (19) Believed to have been written by the king himself (6,10) on the night before his execution (16) though composed (10,19) entirely (19) [OR] chiefly by a royalist (19) episcopal divine, (10,19) Bishop (19) [OR] Dr. who later became a bishop (10) John Gauden (10,19) the work sought to win public sympathy by creating (10) the image of the monarch as a martyred saint, (10,19) pious, contemplative, caring toward his subjects, and gentle toward his family. (19) It had widespread distribution after Charles I’s execution, (10,17) becoming a phenomenal best-seller. (17) It was very effective in arousing sympathy in England and on the Continent for the king. (19) Milton tried to break (17) [OR] shatters (19) this powerful image of Charles (17) in his ‘Eikonoklastes’ (1649), (6,10) or ‘Imagebreaker’, (10,17) published in response to Eikon Basilike, (6,11) was a defence of the Commonwealth (6,11) [OR] of the unpopular execution of King Charles, (15,17) It made a personal attack on Charles I which likened him to William Shakespeare‘s duke of Gloucester (afterward Richard III), a consummate hypocrite. (10) An analogy that drives home how treachery is disguised by the pretence of piety. (19)

Mercurius Politicus 1651

From 1651, he superintended the official government newsbook Mercurius Politicus and became good friends with the journalist Marchamont Nedham. (11)

Defence of the English People 1652

He entered into controversy with (10,17) the leading humanist Claudius Salmasius. (17) [OR] Claude de Saumaise, (10) [OR] Salmatius (16) a French scholar residing in Holland and a polemicist who wrote (10) Defensio Regia (16,17) [OR] pro Carolo Primo [7] (17) on behalf of Charles I’s son in exile in France (10) in 1651. (17) By January of the following year, Milton was ordered to write a defense of the English people by the Council of State. (17) Given the European audience and the English Republic’s desire to establish diplomatic and cultural legitimacy, Milton worked more slowly than usual, as he drew on the learning marshalled by his years of study to compose a riposte. (17), The result was a further justification of the Commonwealth in Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio (‘Defence of the English People’) in 1651. (1,11) [OR] On 24th February 1652, also known as the ‘First Defence’. (17) Milton’s pure Latin prose and evident learning, exemplified in the First Defense, quickly made him a European reputation, and the work ran to numerous editions. (17) When Cromwell seemed to be backsliding as a revolutionary, after a couple of years in power, Milton moved closer to the position of Sir Henry Vane, to whom he wrote a sonnet in 1652. (18) The group of disaffected republicans included, besides Vane, John Bradshaw, John Hutchinson, Edmund Ludlow, Henry Marten, Robert Overton, Edward Sexby and John Streater; but not Marvell, who remained with Cromwell’s party. Milton had already commended Overton, along with Edmund Whalley and Bulstrode Whitelocke, in Defensio Secunda. Nigel Smith writes that … (18) John Streater, and the form of republicanism he stood for, was a fulfilment of Milton’s most optimistic ideas of free speech and of public heroism. (18)

The Protectorate, 1653

In ‘Sonnet 16’ in 1652 Milton praised Cromwell [8] as ‘Our Chief of Men’, and he continued to praise him as the Protectorate was set up. (18)

 7. The Latin ‘Primo’ suggests a defence of the father.
 8. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44749/sonnet-16-cromwell-our-chief-of-men-who-through-a-cloud

Defensio Secunda 1654

In 1654, an anonymous (17) Royalist tract ‘Regii sanguinis clamor’, (16,17) (Outcry of the King’s Blood) (16) appeared. (16,17) The ‘Clamor’ made many personal attacks on Milton. (17) Milton wrongly attributed ‘Clamor’ to Alexander Morus. (17) It is now known that it was written by Pierre du Moulin. (16,17) Milton was ordered to reply, (16) and completed a second defence of the English nation, (17) Defensio Secunda, (1,16) which was published in 1654. (1,11) Often imbued with personal invective, (19) Milton also mounts an eloquent, idealistic, and impassioned defense of English patriotism and liberty while (19) he extols the leaders of the Commonwealth (17,19) praising Oliver Cromwell, now Lord Protector, (17,19) while exhorting him to remain true to the principles of the Revolution. (17) The most poignant passages, however, are reserved for himself. (19) Soon after the publication of Defense of the English People, Milton had become totally blind, probably from glaucoma. (19) The Cry of the King’s Blood asserts that Milton’s blindness is God’s means of punishing him for his sins. (19) Milton, however, replies that his blindness is a trial that has been visited upon him, an affliction that he is enduring under the approval of the Lord, who has granted him, in turn, special inner illumination, a gift that distinguishes him from others. (19) In time, though, he became disillusioned with the failed promise of the Commonwealth, (15) particularly by the Dissenters’ denunciation of religious tolerance in England. (18,19)

Defensio Pro Se 1655

Morus then published a further attack on Milton, in response to which Milton published the autobiographical Defensio pro se in 1655. (17)

De Doctrina Christiana

In addition to these literary defenses of the Commonwealth and his character, Milton continued to translate official correspondence into Latin, (17) and his work load was enormous. (15) To that he also imposed extra work on himself. (15), His major personal project in the 1650s was (16,19) De Doctrina Christiana, (15,16) (1825 [9]) (15) a work in which he tried to state formally all of his religious views. (15,16)

Milton Eyes Closed
Figure 7: Milton blind

It was massive, and required compendious research. (15) It was probably composed between 1655 and 1660, though Milton never completed it. (19) The unfinished manuscript was discovered in the Public Record Office in London in 1823, translated from Latin into English by Charles Sumner and published in 1825 as A Treatise on Christian Doctrine. (19) He rejected the Trinity, in the belief that the Son was subordinate to the Father, a position known as Arianism; and his sympathy or curiosity was probably engaged by Socinianism [10]: in August 1650 he licensed for publication by William Dugard the Racovian Catechism, based on a non-trinitarian creed. (18) He expressed support for polygamy. (18)

Blindness 1652

Milton was plagued in his later years by failing eyesight. (4,10) He had been troubled for ten years by severe headaches and bodily discomfort associated with his failing vision that certainly sharpened his temper and shortened his patience. (15) His trouble was apparently as a result of continuing to strain his eyes by writing against the advice of his physician.

 9. Incomprehensible date!
 10. Socinians rejected the doctrine of original sin and God's omniscience: if God knew every possible future, human free will was impossible. It was rooted in skepticism, though the original Polish Socinians were believers in miracles, and the virgin birth, though some denied these. Although not directly a doctrinal belief, the principle of conscientious objection was supported by them.

(11) [OR] because of bilateral retinal detachment or (17) glaucoma (16,17) are most likely. (17) The exact cause is unknown, (10,17) but the symptoms did not deter Milton, who from an early age read by candlelight until midnight or later, even while experiencing severe headaches. (10) By the end of 1651 (14) [OR] in 1652 (1,5) [OR] 1654 (4,17) his blindness became total, (1,5) though his eyes appeared unclouded. (15) He was 43, blind, and with his great work still yet to be written. (14) However, he retained his offices throughout the Commonwealth and Protectorate. (11,14) He was allowed to cut back on his official labours and to (16) have the help of secretaries and amanuenses, (11,16) and many of his poems were dictated to (4) assistants, one of whom was the poet Andrew Marvell. (4,9) One of his best-known sonnets, On His Blindness, is presumed to date from this period. (17) His blindness must have heightened his love of music, which so tuned his ear that auditory images supersede the visual in his poems, and the sound and cadence of his language, so often compared to the grandeur of organ peals and vast choirs, would epitomize the grand heroic style that later writers have imitated and parodied, but not surpassed. (15) For ten years he had been troubled by severe headaches and bodily discomfort associated with his failing vision that certainly sharpened his temper and shortened his patience. (15) Even with his personal and physical problems, Milton continued to write. (16) he also added Old English to his linguistic repertoire in the 1650s while researching his History of Britain, and probably acquired proficiency in Dutch soon after. (17)

Second Marriage 1656

His first wife, Mary Powell Milton (6,11) died (8,9) in November (11) 1656 (6) [OR] on May (11,15) 5th (15) 1652 (8,9) from postnatal complications (12,15) three days after (15) the birth of their third daughter, Deborah. (12,15) [OR] Katherine. (15) His son John, (who had been born in 1651) died in infancy (11,15) a month after his mother (15) under mysterious circumstances. (16) In 1656 (12,15) John married a second wife, Katherine (6,8) [OR] Catherine (11) [OR] Kathrine (13) Woodcock, who gave birth to a daughter (11,15) in October 1657, (11) She died giving birth, (9) [OR] never recovered from childbirth and (15) she and her daughter died (11,12) on February (11,15) 3rd, (15) 1658 (9,11) after only two years of marriage (6,8) [OR] the child lived six months. (15) Milton was upset by losing his second wife, and dedicated a sonnet ‘To My late Departed Saint’ to her. (12 A plaque on the Mynshull House describes his 3rd wife Elizabeth as Milton’s ‘3rd and Best wife’.)) [OR] all his marriages were unhappy. (7)

Interregnum

A Treatise of Civil Power

On September 3rd, 1658, (4) on Oliver Cromwell’s death, (4,16) the English Republic collapsed (4) into feuding military and political factions. (17) Milton’s political fortunes were reversed, (15,16) but he stubbornly clung to the beliefs that had originally inspired him to write for the Commonwealth. (17) In 1659, (17) he published ‘A Treatise of Civil Power’, attacking the concept of a state-dominated church (12,17) (the position known as Erastianism), as well as ‘Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings’, denouncing corrupt practices in church governance. (17)

Republican principles defended against the factions

Richard Cromwell fell from power (18) and the Republic began to disintegrate. (17) Even with the Restoration imminent, Milton continued to defend the republic (6,11), Almost single-handedly he tried to prevent the reestablishment of the monarchy. (14,15) He wrote several proposals to retain a non-monarchical government against the wishes of parliament, soldiers and the people. (17) In October 1659 he wrote A Letter to a Friend, Concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth, a response to General Lambert’s recent dissolution of the Rump Parliament. (17) Both he and Nedham, with others such as Andrew Marvell and James Harrington, would have taken the problem with the Rump Parliament to be not the republic, but the fact that it was not a proper republic. (18) In November 1659 he wrote ‘Proposals of certain expedients for the preventing of a civil war now feared’. (17) He envisaged a step towards a freer republic or ‘free commonwealth’, writing in the hope of this outcome in early 1660. (18)

The Ready and Easy Way 1660

In April 1660, (6,11) when the coming Restoration (14,15) was barely a month away, and most former Republicans were already in exile or hiding for their lives, (15) Milton responded to General Monck’s march towards London to restore the Long Parliament (which led to the restoration of the monarchy) (17) by publishing (6,11) his final book of controversial prose (15) ‘The Ready and Easy Way to Establishing a Free Commonwealth’. (6,11) It expressed his feeling of despair at seeing (14) the English people backsliding from the cause of liberty and advocated the establishment of an authoritarian rule (14,17) by a council with perpetual membership, (18) an oligarchy (17,18) as in the Dutch and Venetian constitutions, (18) set up by an unelected parliament. (17) [OR] for the formation of a democratic government where the citizens would be able to elect their representatives by voting freely. (12) In this impassioned, bitter, and futile jeremiad, (17) Milton was arguing for an awkward position, in the Ready and Easy Way, because he wanted to invoke the Good Old Cause and gain the support of the republicans, but without offering a democratic solution of any kind. (18) He maintained that he spoke a greater truth in rebelling against a false authority, much like the character Abdiel as portrayed in Book V of Paradise Lost. (14)

Restoration

Punishment

In May (14,17) 1660 the Restoration took place (1,4) with Charles II as king. (8,11) Woolrych speaks of ‘the gulf between Milton’s vision of the Commonwealth’s future and the reality’. This attitude cut right across the grain of popular opinion of the time, which swung decisively behind the restoration of the Stuart monarchy that took place later in the year. (18) The collapse of the Commonwealth and the restoration of monarchy in 1660—the ruin of Milton’s hopes, in other words—brought threats against the life of this most vocal Republican, advocate of divorce, (15) and defender of regicide. (15,18) Near the end of 1659, (8) [OR] After Charles II was crowned (10) [OR] When Charles II arrived in London, Milton (11) was in serious trouble. (12,14) A number of Commonwealth leaders were imprisoned or executed, with some choosing to flee abroad for safety. (14) As Royalists regained power, (16,18) a warrant was issued for (17) Milton, an associate of and advocate on behalf of the regicides (18) to be arrested. (17) He went into hiding (11,14) at the home of a friend (16) [OR] with friends throughout the summer so he escaped immediate arrest. (14) Many of his books, including (11,12) Defensio and Eikonoklastes (11,16) were ordered to be burnt publicly. (11,12) by the common hangman during the summer of 1660. (11) His name was among those considered for exclusion from the (11,14) Act of Pardon (14) [OR] of Indemnity and Oblivion (11) passed in August, 1660. (14) He narrowly escaped execution, (4) avoiding being excluded from the Act (14) thanks to his stature among the intellectuals of Europe (15) [OR] due to the influence of powerful supporters, (8,10) including Andrew Marvell [11], (10,17) now an MP (17) Sir William Davenant [12], and perhaps Christopher Milton, (10) his younger brother and a Royalist (10,16) lawyer. (10), Milton stayed in hiding until Parliament passed the Acts of Oblivion (16,17) pardoning most of those who had opposed Charles II. (16) He lost most of his estate (15) and was (4,8) fined, (9,10) dismissed from governmental service, (10) and in October 1659 [13] (16) he was arrested and imprisoned (4,6) for a short time (7,9) [OR] for several months (11,14) [OR] for some time (12) for his views. (6,7) [OR] because of his role in the fall of Charles I (8,12) and the rise of the Commonwealth. (8) [OR] as a defender of the Commonwealth (9) [OR] because in 1660 he had published ‘The Ready and Easy Way to Establishing a Free Commonwealth’ (6,11) Fortunately for Milton, neither Charles nor his cohorts were especially bloodthirsty or vindictive, and (16) Milton was released (4,8) in December (16) and received a general pardon later (12) Elizabeth Milton says that he was invited by Charles II in 1664 to write for his court, but that he declined out of conscience and because he was midway through the seven years of composing his epic Paradise Lost, which he had postponed for twenty years while preparing his country, without success, to receive it. (15)

Third Marriage 1663

Milton had apparently had little time for his daughters, (15) and did not get on very well with them. (14,15), They were not academic and resented the schooling their father put them to. (14) They stole from him and sold off portions of his library. (14) [OR] they assisted him with his personal needs, read from books at his request, and served as amanuenses to record verses that he dictated. (19) Their recorded disaffection for him has been a chief support for his critics’ accusations of misogyny, a charge that has been repeatedly refuted by those who have studied his friendships with women and his loving, admiring portrait of Eve in Paradise Lost. (15) He continued to seek domestic happiness. (15) Despite opposition from his daughters, (11) on February (11,17) 24th (17) 1663 (6,11) [OR] 1662 (9) [OR] after his release from prison, (8,12) Milton married his third wife, (6,8) a 24 year old woman from Wistaston in Cheshire called (17) Elizabeth (6,8) Minshul (6) [OR] Minsull (8) [OR] Minshull, (9,11) [OR] Minshell (12) [OR] Minshall (15) who provided him with the companionship and tranquillity he needed to write his masterpieces.(15) Along with the daughters from his first marriage, she assisted him with his personal needs, read from books at his request, and served as an amanuensis to record verses that he dictated. (19) She managed his household affairs (11) and became his nurse as his health declined in his later years. (16) She outlived him by over fifty years. (11)

Last Years

In 1660, he emerged blind (7,18) silenced (18) and disillusioned with the England he saw (sic) around him. (7) The Restoration of 1660 deprived Milton of his public platform, but this period saw him complete most of his major works of poetry. (18) He was forced to leave the home which he had occupied for eight years in Petty-France, Westminster. (10) He lived the rest of his life (9,10) quietly (11) elsewhere, (9,10) in London, (17) including at the house of a friend in Bartholomew Close (10) [OR] in a home at Artillery Walk toward Bunhill Fields. (10) [OR] in seclusion in the country. (9) [OR] only retiring to a cottage—Milton’s Cottage—in Chalfont St. Giles, his only extant home, during the Great Plague of London. (17) He was eventually pardoned for his activities during the Interregnum, and devoted himself to literary pursuits. (11) Milton remained in London, with the exception of 1665-66 when he moved with his family to Chalfont St. Giles to escape the plague. (14) Milton spent his post-Restoration years composing his final works and receiving numerous admiring visitors from abroad, even as he had once visited Galileo. (15)

[11. Aubrey says that although he was Milton’s assistant as Latin Secretary 
and remained an advocate of a republic after 1660, he was a personal 
favourite of the King]
[12. Aubrey connects this with Milton’s having once procured Sir William’s 
release when imprisoned by the parliamentarians]
[13. Impossible. Must be 1660.]

Paradise Lost 1667

Milton Daughters
Figure 8: Milton dictating Paradise Lost to his daughters

By the time of the actual restoration of the monarchy in 1660, (12,16) Milton was hard at work on Paradise Lost. (16) He had long considered writing a major work on the grand themes of Christianity. (16) His familiarity with the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, and Jerusalem Delivered inclined him to the epic format. (16) His preparations for the ministry as well as the natural bent of his Puritanism led him toward the subject of Man’s fall. (16) During much of the early 1660s, he worked on his epic and, (16) in 1667 (1,3) [OR] over several years from 1658 to 1664, (12) blind and impoverished, (18) he wrote (1,2) [OR] published (12) in blank verse, (3,9) [OR] ‘Free verse’ (8) his epic (11,16) Paradise Lost’ (1,2) in ten books. (1,6) On 27 April 1667, he sold the publication rights for Paradise Lost to publisher Samuel Simmons for £5, equivalent to approximately £770 in 2015 purchasing power, with a further £5 to be paid if and when each print run sold out of between 1,300 and 1,500 copies. The first run was a quarto edition priced at three shillings per copy (about £23 in 2015 purchasing power equivalent), published in August 1667, and it sold out in eighteen months. (18) It is his best known work (2,3), and widely regarded as the greatest (2,7) epic poem (2,3) in world literature (9,12) in English. (2,8) In Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, Milton mourns the end of the godly Commonwealth. (18) It deals with the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, (5,8) He did not intend it to be taken literally, (13) though the Garden of Eden may allegorically reflect Milton’s view of England’s recent Fall from Grace. (18) He tried to convey some insight into God’s wisdom and providence, (13) [OR] the first failure to establish the sovereignty of human reason that explains all subsequent failures. (15) Reason for Milton was the image of God that remains in mankind, and its exercise requires the harmonious operation of all human faculties. (15) It can be interpreted as political allegory – the fall of man in Eden reflecting the lost paradise of Milton’s cherished Republic. (4,15) [OR] Why, Milton asks, with all circumstances apparently favourable, did God allow His Englishmen to fail in their attempt to establish His kingdom in England’s green and pleasant land? (15) In regard to his central issue of Christian virtue, in Paradise Lost, he portrays more active virtues in Adam and Eve, the angel Abdiel, and the Son. (15) The style and structure of the Spencer’s ‘The Faerie Queen,’ was another influence on Paradise Lost. (7)

Later works

History of Britain 1670

During this period, Milton published several minor (17) [OR] extraordinary (19) prose works, such as a grammar textbook, Art of Logic, and (17) History of Britain, (6,14) on which he had begun work in the 1640s. (6,14) History was particularly important for the political class of the period, and Lewalski considers that Milton ‘more than most illustrates’ a remark of Thomas Hobbes on the weight placed at the time on the classical Latin historical writers Tacitus, Livy, Sallust and Cicero, and their republican attitudes. (18) Milton himself wrote that ‘Worthy deeds are not often destitute of worthy relaters’, in Book II of his History of Britain. (18) A sense of history mattered greatly to him: the course of human history, the immediate impact of the civil disorders, and his own traumatic personal life, are all regarded by Milton as typical of the predicament he describes as ‘the misery that has bin since Adam’. While researching this in the 1650s he added Old English to his linguistic repertoire and probably acquired proficiency in Dutch soon after. (17) His History was published in 1670. (6) It was long in the making, for it reflects extensive reading that he began as a very young man. (19) He had once contemplated an epic centring upon British history and the heroic involvement of the legendary king Arthur, and for this Milton researched early accounts of Britain, ranging across records from the Anglo-Saxon era through works by the Venerable Bede and Geoffrey of Monmouth and into 16th- and 17th-century accounts by Raphael Holinshed and William Camden, along with many others. (19) All the while, Milton critically evaluated his sources for their veracity. (19) Because his own research and writing were interrupted by his service in Cromwell’s government, History of Britain remained incomplete even at publication, for the account ends with the Norman Conquest. (19) [OR] In the early version of this, begun in 1649, Milton was already writing off the members of the Long Parliament as incorrigible. (18)

Paradise regained 1671

He followed up his masterpiece (16) in 1671 (1,5) when he wrote ‘Paradise Regained’ (1,2) a sequel to ‘Paradise Lost’, (9,12) a brief New Testament epic (15) in which Jesus overcomes Satan’s temptations. (8,12) In it he tried to answer the question where might there be found the model of Christian heroism that might yet teach the human race the virtue that eludes it at the very moment it is most needed. (15) By outwitting Satan, the young Jesus in Paradise Regained—Milton’s favourite among his works—is the most successful exemplar of reason that Milton created. (15)

Samson Agonistes 1671

Milton’s model of Christian heroism is found in his epic, his 1671 Old Testament (15) tragedy (9,15) ‘Samson Agonistes’, (1,2) in which the Hebrew strongman (12) Samson succumbs to the temptations (8,12) of selfishness and passion, (12) and then redeems himself. (8) Samson’s blindness and captivity—mirroring Milton’s own lost sight—may be a metaphor for England’s blind acceptance of Charles II as king. (18) The story shows that Milton did not lose his personal faith; the loss of national salvation did not necessarily preclude the salvation of the individual. (18) Samson breaks the letter of the Hebrew Law but fulfils its spirit in destroying the temple. (15) In all three, the argument lies between the bondage of the Law and the liberty of the Gospel—the dilemma of human will suspended between the letter and spirit of God’s Word, between conformity and the exercise of divinely creative will—as it was in the controversial prose and in the De doctrina Christiana. (15) In 1673 he republished his 1645 collection of poems (1,12) with introductions in Latin (12) with some extra ones, (1) and a collection of letters that he had penned during his college days in Cambridge. (12) He wanted to publish the state papers he had written in Latin and a small history of Moscovia but failed. (12) Both were published after his death in 1676 and 1682 respectively. (12)

Of True Religion 1672

The years of essay and pamphlet writing did not diminish his creative spark. (16) In 1673 he got embroiled in a public controversy (12,17) by writing ‘Of True Religion’ which was a defence of Protestantism. (12) His only explicitly political tracts were the 1672 Of True Religion, arguing for toleration (except for Catholics), and a translation of a Polish tract advocating an elective monarchy. (17) Both these works were referred to in the Exclusion debate—the attempt to exclude the heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the throne of England because he was Roman Catholic—that would preoccupy politics in the 1670s and 80s and precipitate the Glorious Revolution. (17)

Paradise Lost 2nd Edition 1674

In 1674 he revised, enlarged (1,6) and oversaw the printing of a second edition of (9,11) ‘Paradise Lost’ by adding two more books. (1,6) Milton regarded rhyme as ‘the jingling sound of like endings,’ (19) and included an explanation of ‘why the poem rhymes not’, clarifying his use of blank verse, along with introductory notes by Marvell. (9) Milton is thus one of a relatively small group of creative geniuses whose greatest works were written after they turned 50. (16)

Death and Posthumous Reputation

Death

After the publication of the second edition, his health deteriorated. (16) He was impoverished and on the margins of English intellectual life. (18) Milton had come to stand apart from all sects, though apparently finding the Quakers most congenial. (18) He never went to any religious services in his later years. (18) When a servant brought back accounts of sermons from nonconformist meetings, Milton became so sarcastic that the man at last gave up his place. (18) He died (1,2) quietly (14) from complications from (10,16) gout (7,10) or kidney failure (17) in London (1,2) [OR] in Chalfont St. Giles (12) in Buckinghamshire, (9,12) on November 8th (1,2) [OR] 9th (16) 1674, (1,2) aged 65. (5,10) [OR] 66. (16) He was buried (5,6) near his father’s grave (16) in St Giles Church in Cripplegate, London. (5,6) According to an early biographer, his funeral was attended by ‘his learned and great Friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the Vulgar.’ (17) He was survived by his third wife and two of his daughters by Mary Powell. (16)

Posthumous reputation

Milton’s fame and reputation derive chiefly from Paradise Lost, which, when first published in 1667, did not gain wide admiration. (19) Because of Milton’s political and religious views, only his close friends and associates commended his epic. (19) Marvell, who assisted Milton when he was Latin secretary during the interregnum, expressed extraordinary admiration of Paradise Lost in verses at the outset of the 1674 edition. (19) [OR] He achieved international renown within his lifetime (3) and by 1700, Paradise Lost was recognized as one of the classics of English literature. (16) [OR] admiration of Paradise Lost extended beyond a small circle. (19)

17th Century

Milton Statue
Figure 9 statue in St Giles, Cripplegate

Very early on, though, he was championed by Whigs, and decried by Tories: with the regicide Edmund Ludlow he was claimed as an early Whig, while the High Tory Anglican minister Luke Milbourne lumped Milton in with other ‘Agents of Darkness’ such as John Knox, George Buchanan, Richard Baxter, Algernon Sidney and John Locke. The political ideas of Milton, Locke, Sidney, and James Harrington strongly influenced the Radical Whigs, whose ideology in turn was central to the American Revolution. He has been described as ‘the greatest English author’, (according to William Hayley’s 1796 biography). (3) [OR] ‘the most significant English author after William Shakespeare’. (2) [OR] ‘the greatest English writer of the 17th century. (5) Milton’s ability to combine his poetry with his polemics, in these and other works, was the key to his genius. (7) The classical influences in his work can be clearly delineated: Homer, Ovid, but especially Virgil. (7) Shakespeare was the leading playwright of his day, and there are some references to his works in Milton’s own poetry. (7) John Milton lost nearly every battle he entered with his prose from 1640 to 1660, though the ideas he advanced later prevailed. (15) and his influence extended not only through the civil wars and interregnum but also to the American and French revolutions. (2,8) Milton was a mixed product of his time. (7) On the one hand, as a humanist, (7) he fought for religious tolerance (2,7) and believed that there was something inherently valuable in man. (7) As a Puritan, however, he believed that the Bible was the answer and the guide to all, (2,7) even if it went against democracy itself. (7) Where the Bible didn’t afford an answer, Milton would turn to reason. (7) He valued liberty of conscience. (2) Though generally regarded ‘as one of the preeminent writers in the English language’, critical reception has oscillated in the centuries since his death (often on account of his republicanism). (3) Paradise Lost has continually elicited debate regarding its theological themes, political commentary, and its depiction of the fallen angel Satan who is often viewed as the protagonist of the work. (9) Some, like John Dryden (1631–1700), admired his work and used it as the basis for their own writing. (13)

18th Century

It inspired Alexander Pope‘s The Rape of the Lock, (9,19) a mock-epic that becomes a genial parody of Paradise Lost. (19) In general, eighteenth-century poets praised him for possessing outstanding spiritual, intellectual, and moral worth. (13) But by the end of the 18th century, Milton’s reputation had suffered because of Samuel Johnson (3,13) (1709–1784), (9) a Tory and recipient of royal patronage (3) who, in his critical biography in The Lives of the Poets (1779–81), (19) admitted the worth of Milton’s work (3,13) as ‘a poem which…with respect to design may claim the first place, and with respect to performance, the second, among the productions of the human mind’ (3) but disagreed with his religious and political views, (3,13) which were, he thought, those of an ‘acrimonious and surly republican’. (3) He praised the sublimity of Paradise Lost, disfavoured Milton’s images from nature, which he attributed not to direct experience but to derivations from books. (19) William Blake (9,13) (1757–1827) (13) was an admirer (9,13) and illustrated an edition of the epic. (9) He and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) praised Milton’s Satan as a romantic rebel, (13) although there must have been a certain amount of cognitive dissonance between the author of Comus and one who complained of those ‘binding with briars my joys and desires’ (0) [14] In 1790, some young men, drunk after a party, dug up the coffin, and relic-mongers sold bits of his hair, teeth, fingers, ribs, and other bones, (15) after which a monument by John Bacon the Elder was added in 1793. (17)

Nineteenth Century

During the early 19th century, Milton became popular among a number of major Romantic authors, such as William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron, who in Paradise Lost perceived Satan as a heroic rebel opposing established traditions and God as a tyrant. (19) Appropriating elements of Milton’s biography and of his works, these authors created a historical and literary context for their own revolutionary ideas. (19) Shelley’s Prometheus in Prometheus Unbound (1820), for instance, is modeled after Milton’s Satan. (19) Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, (9,17) William Wordsworth‘s The Prelude and John Keats‘s Endymion were influenced by it. (9) Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) praised Milton’s artistry and depth. (13)

Twentieth Century

By the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, however, Milton had yet again fallen into disfavour. (19) The most influential voice lessening Milton’s reputation was that of T.S. Eliot, (13,19) whose aesthetic interests gravitated toward the Metaphysical poets, certain Renaissance dramatists, and other contemporaries of Milton. (19) Eliot complained that Milton’s epic verse lacked earnest feeling, was ‘stiff and tortuous,’ and was so inflexible that (19) its influence (13) discouraged imitation. (19) since about 1930, Milton has again been highly respected for his work. (13) There is a monument dedicated to him in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey in London. (8) Yet another shift in Milton’s reputation occurred in the late 20th century, when the author, while still appreciated for his literary and aesthetic achievements in verse, came to be viewed as a chronicler—even in his poems—of the tensions, conflicts, and upheavals of 17th-century England. (19)

Modern Times

At the same time, however, scholars often portrayed Milton variously as a forebear of present-day sensitivities and sensibilities and as an exponent of regressive views. (19) In Paradise Lost, for instance, the conjugal relationship between Adam and Eve—both before and after the Fall—is strictly hierarchical, with the husband as overseer of the wife. (19) But this representation of marriage, considered an expression of Milton’s regressive views, contrasts with The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, where Milton contends that the basis of marriage is compatibility. (19) If the partners are no longer compatible, he argues, the marriage is in effect dissolved. (19) Though such a liberal view of divorce was unacceptable in Milton’s era, it struck a more responsive chord in those countries where at the turn of the 21st century marriage was understood as a voluntary union between equals. (19) By situating Milton’s work within the social, political, and religious currents of his era, scholars, nevertheless, demonstrated the enduring value and modern-day relevance of his works. (19)

[14. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45950/the-garden-of-love]

Bibliographical Notes

12 and 13 are too close. Corroboration discontinued. 12 has copied 13, and incorporated his huge blunder in calling the Church of England Catholic.

Bibliography

Milton Bibliography

FRESCI [15]

Foreign and Military

No reference at all to 30 Years’ War (his participation ‘little to non-existent’ [16] though ‘Charles I’s decisions in relation to it important for England) Knowledge of Europe from literature and Grand Tour; No opposition to Civil War and defended Cromwell’s Foreign policy.

Religion and Ideas

Lapsed Catholic family educated as Puritan. Wide knowledge of and quotation from Bible; Radicalism re church hierarchy & free speech. ‘lifelong fascination with scientific discovery’, but apart from one reference to Galileo in P Lost I haven’t seen any evidence of this. Saw Catholicism in action in France and Italy; De Doctrina Christiana shows complex evolution of his ideas away from Presbyterianism towards Unitarianism, so progressively less theocratic. Always stressing individual conscience and bible knowledge. Areopagitica pro free speech, but censored for Republic. Would not pamphleteer against the Levellers. Believed in toleration, but not for atheists, Jews, Catholics or Muslims.

Economic and Financial

Wealthy family financed 6 year private study and European Tour, and although he briefly taught, always subsidised by his father’s money. After 1660 estate confiscated and generally poor. P Lost made more for publisher than him. No sign of support for Diggers. No reference to wealth creation.

Social and cultural

M/class, conventionally and expensively educated, 3 marriages; pro divorce. Masque for aristocracy. Wrote on Education, but nothing about popular education & no reference to Universities. Intellectual snob at uni: ‘they thought themselves gallant men, and I thought them fools’; about being surrounded by Mary’s family ‘uncongenial people’. Loved being lionised in Florence academies. Several encounters with plague; Enjoyed Italian Opera but used baroque as scenery of hell. Rescued from execution at the Restoration by friends in high places. Sexism of his view of marriage a recent handicap.

Constitutional and Legal

Accepted monarchy until 1640s, attacking bishops’ erroneous theocracy but not principle of theocracy. In ‘Tenure of Kings’ defends people’s right to call a tyrant to account, contending monarch’s power is not absolute, but derived from the people he rules, and held in accordance with a social contract. The governor therefore rules on behalf of, and with the consent of, the people. If a monarch breaks this contract by abusing his position, the people had the right to be free to decide their own fates and remove him from power. Constant theme of his was the tension between law and conscience. No comment on Cromwell’s experiments. Restoration foreseen: ‘The Ready and Easy Way to Establishing a Free Commonwealth’ expressed his despair at seeing the English people backsliding from the cause of liberty. Advocated the establishment of an authoritarian rule by an oligarchy, a council with perpetual membership, as in the Dutch and Venetian constitutions, set up by an unelected parliament.

Individual and Random

Medium height, auburn hair, delicate, almost feminine features, ‘a cheerful egotist and a scathing wit’ Lord Fauntleroy ‘Lady of Christ’s’; good looks, enthusiasm, candour of manner, erudition; workaholic; unhappy marriage; blindness; linguist; ‘he was a ladies’ man by the age of seventeen, and popular with his schoolmates.’ Fell out with daughters; 2nd wife – ‘My late Departed Saint’; Met Galileo and Grotius.

[15. An analytical tool which I have found helpful over the years for 
summarising a topic]
[16. https://sites.google.com/site/paradiselostepicsproject/the-thirty-years-war]
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