John Milton.

John Milton, based on a painting by Faed. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

John Milton
Born December 9 1608(1608-Template:MONTHNUMBER-09)
Bread Street, Cheapside, London, England
Died November 8 1674(1674-Template:MONTHNUMBER-08) (aged 65)
Bunhill, London, England
Occupation Poet, prose polemicist, civil servant
Language English (L1), Latin, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian
Notable work(s) Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained

John Milton (9 December 1608 - 8 November 1674) was an English poet, a pamphleteer, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. He is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.



Milton was born 9 December 1608 in Bread Street, London. His father, also John, was the son of a yeoman of Oxfordshire, who cast him off on his becoming a Protestant. He had then become a scrivener in London, and grew to be a man of good estate. From him his illustrious son inherited his lofty integrity, and his love of, and proficiency in, music. Milton received his 1st education from a Scotch friend of his father's, Thomas Young, a Puritan of some note, 1 of the writers of Smectymnuus. Thereafter he was at St. Paul's School, and in 1625 went to Cambridge, where for his beauty and his delicacy of mind he was nicknamed "the lady." His sister Anne had married Edward Phillips, and the death of her 1st child in infancy gave to him the subject of his earliest poem, "On the death of a Fair Infant" (1626). It was followed during his 7 years' life at the University, along with others, by the poems, "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1629), "On the Circumcision," "The Passion," "Time," "At a Solemn Music," "On May Morning," and "On Shakespeare", all in 1630; and 2 sonnets, "To the Nightingale" and "On arriving at the Age of Twenty-three," in 1631. In 1632, having given up the idea of entering the Church, for which his father had intended him, he lived for 6 years at Horton, near Windsor, to which the latter had retired, devoted to further study. Here he wrote "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" in 1632, "Arcades" (1633), "Comus" in 1634, and "Lycidas" in 1637. Had he written nothing else these would have given him a place among the immortals. In 1638 he completed his education by a period of travel in France and Italy, where he visited Grotius at Paris, and Galileo at Florence. The news of impending troubles in Church and State brought him home the following year.Soon after his return Milton settled in London, and employed himself in teaching his nephews, Edward and John Phillips, turning over in his mind at the same time various subjects as the possible theme for the great poem which, as the chief object of his life, he looked forward to writing. But he was soon to be called away to far other matters, and to be plunged into the controversies and practical business which were to absorb his energies for the next 20 years. The works of this period include the Tractate on Education (1644), Areopagitica (1644), A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing (his greatest prose work), The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649), Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio (1650), the second Defensio (1654), which carried his name over Europe, and The Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth, written on the eve of the Restoration. In 1649 the reputation of M. as a Latinist led to his appointment as Latin or Foreign Sec. to the Council of State, in the duties of which he was, after his sight began to fail, assisted by A. Marvell and others, and which he retained until the Restoration. At the Restoration he was, of course, deprived of his office, and had page 273to go into hiding; but on the intercession of Marvell, and perhaps Davenant, his name was included in the amnesty. In 1663, being now totally blind and somewhat helpless, he asked his friend Dr. Paget to recommend a wife for him. The lady chosen was Elizabeth Minshull, aged 25, who appears to have given him domestic happiness in his last years. She survived him for 53 years. He was now free to devote his whole powers to the great work which he had so long contemplated. For some time he had been in doubt as to the subject, had considered the Arthurian legends, but had decided upon the Fall of Man. The result was Paradise Lost, which was begun in 1658, finished in 1664, and published in 1667. A remark of his friend, Thomas Ellwood, suggested to him the writing of Paradise Regained, which, along with Samson Agonistes, was published in 1671. The work of Milson was now done. In addition to his blindness he suffered from gout, to which it was partly attributable, and, his strength gradually failing, but with mind unimpaired and serene, he died peacefully on November 8, 1674.[1]

In Milton the influences of the Renaissance and of Puritanism met. To the former he owed his wide culture and his profound love of everything noble and beautiful, to the latter his lofty and austere character, and both these elements meet in his writings. Leaving Shakespeare out of account, he holds an indisputable place at the head of English poets. For strength of imagination, delicate accuracy and suggestiveness of language, and harmony of versification, he is unrivalled, and almost unapproached; and when the difficulties inherent in the subject of his great masterpiece are considered, the power he shows in dealing with them appears almost miraculous, and we feel that in those parts where he has failed, success was impossible for a mortal. In his use of blank verse he has, for majesty, variety, and music, never been approached by any of his successors. He had no dramatic power and no humour. In everything he wrote, a proud and commanding genius manifests itself, and he is one of those writers who inspire reverence rather than affection. His personal appearance in early life has been thus described, "He was a little under middle height, slender, but erect, vigorous, and agile, with light brown hair clustering about his fair and oval face, with dark grey eyes."[1]

The phases of Milton's life parallel the major historical and political divisions in Stuart Britain. Under the increasingly personal rule of Charles I and its breakdown in constitutional confusion and war, Milton studied, travelled, wrote poetry mostly for private circulation, and launched a career as pamphleteer and publicist. Under the Commonwealth of England, from being thought dangerously radical and even heretical, the shift in accepted attitudes in government placed him in public office, and he even acted as an official spokesman in certain of his publications. The Restoration] of 1660 deprived Milton, now completely blind, of his public platform, but this period saw him complete most of his major works of poetry.


Main article: Early life of John Milton

John Milton was born on Bread Street, London, on 9 December 1608, as the son of the composer John Milton and his wife Sarah Jeffrey. The senior John Milton (1562–1647) moved to London around 1583 after being disinherited by his devout Catholic father, Richard Milton, for embracing Protestantism. In London, the senior John Milton married Sarah Jeffrey (1572–1637), the poet's mother, and found lasting financial success as a scrivener.[2] He lived in, and worked from, a house on Bread Street, where the Mermaid Tavern was located in Cheapside. The elder Milton was noted for his skill as a musical composer, and this talent left Milton with a lifetime appreciation for music and friendship with musicians such as Henry Lawes.[3]

File:John Milton plaque Bread Street London.jpg

Milton's father's prosperity provided his eldest son with a private tutor, Thomas Young, and then a place at St Paul's School in London. There he began the study of Latin and Greek, and the classical languages left an imprint on his poetry in English (he wrote also in Italian and Latin). His first datable compositions are two psalms done at age 15 at Long Bennington. One contemporary source is the Brief Lives of John Aubrey, an uneven compilation including first-hand reports. In the work, Aubrey quotes Christopher, Milton's younger brother: "When he was young, he studied very hard and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock at night".[4]

Milton matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1625 and graduated with a B.A. in 1629,[5] ranking fourth of 24 honours graduates that year in the University of Cambridge.[6] Preparing to become an Anglican priest, he stayed on to obtain his Master of Arts degree on 3 July 1632.

Milton was probably rusticated for quarrelling in his first year with his tutor, William Chappell. He was certainly at home in the Lent Term 1626; there he wrote his Elegia Prima, a first Latin elegy, to Charles Diodati, a friend from St Paul's. Based on remarks of John Aubrey, Chappell "whipt" Milton.[4] This story is now disputed. Certainly Milton disliked Chappell.[7] Christopher Hill cautiously notes that Milton was "apparently" rusticated, and that the differences between Chappell and Milton may have been either religious or personal, as far as we can know.[8] Another factor, possibly, was the plague, by which Cambridge was badly affected in 1625. Later in 1626 Milton's tutor was Nathaniel Tovey.

At Cambridge Milton was on good terms with Edward King, for whom he later wrote Lycidas. He also befriended Anglo-American dissident and theologian, Roger Williams. Milton tutored Williams in Hebrew in exchange for lessons in Dutch.[9] Otherwise at Cambridge he developed a reputation for poetic skill and general erudition, but experienced alienation from his peers and university life as a whole. Watching his fellow students attempting comedy upon the college stage, he later observed 'they thought themselves gallant men, and I thought them fools'.[10] Milton, due to his hair, which he wore long, and his general delicacy of manner, was known as the "Lady of Christ's".

The university curriculum was dour, and he worked towards formal debates on topics, conducted in Latin. Yet his corpus is not devoid of humour, notably his sixth prolusion and his epitaphs on the death of Thomas Hobson. While at Cambridge he wrote a number of his well-known shorter English poems, among them On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, his Epitaph on the admirable Dramatick Poet, W. Shakespeare, his first poem to appear in print, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso.

Study, poetry, and travelEdit

Template:Details Upon receiving his M.A. in 1632, Milton retired to Hammersmith, his father's new home since the previous year. He also lived at Horton, Berkshire, from 1635 and undertook six years of self-directed private study. Christopher Hill points out that this was not retreat into a rural or pastoral idyll at all: Hammersmith was then a "suburban village" falling into the orbit of London, and even Horton was becoming deforested, and suffered from the plague.[11] He read both ancient and modern works of theology, philosophy, history, politics, literature and science, in preparation for a prospective poetical career. Milton's intellectual development can be charted via entries in his commonplace book (like a scrapbook), now in the British Library. As a result of such intensive study, Milton is considered to be among the most learned of all English poets; in addition to his years of private study, Milton had command of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Italian from his school and undergraduate days; 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.[12]

Milton continued to write poetry during this period of study: his Arcades and Comus were both commissioned for masques composed for noble patrons, connections of the Egerton family, and performed in 1632 and 1634 respectively. Comus argues for the virtuousness of temperance and chastity.

He contributed his pastoral elegy Lycidas to a memorial collection for one of his Cambridge classmates. Drafts of these poems are preserved in Milton’s poetry notebook, known as the Trinity Manuscript because it is now kept at Trinity College, Cambridge.

In May 1638, Milton embarked upon a tour of France and Italy that lasted up to July or August 1639.[13] His travels supplemented his study with new and direct experience of artistic and religious traditions, especially Roman Catholicism. He met famous theorists and intellectuals of the time, and was able to display his poetic skills. For specific details of what happened within Milton's "grand tour", there appears to be just one primary source: Milton's own Defensio Secunda. Although there are other records, including some letters and some references in his other prose tracts, the bulk of the information about the tour comes from a work that, according to Barbara Lewalski, "was not intended as autobiography but as rhetoric, designed to emphasise his sterling reputation with the learned of Europe."[14]

In [Florence], which I have always admired above all others because of the elegance, not just of its tongue, but also of its wit, I lingered for about two months. There I at once became the friend of many gentlemen eminent in rank and learning, whose private academies I frequented — a Florentine institution which deserves great praise not only for promoting humane studies but also for encouraging friendly intercourse.[15]

– Milton's account of Florence in Defensio Secunda

He first went to Calais, and then on to Paris, riding horseback, with a letter from diplomat Henry Wotton to ambassador John Scudamore. Through Scudamore, Milton met Hugo Grotius, a Dutch law philosopher, playwright and poet. Milton left France soon after this meeting. He travelled south, from Nice to Genoa, and then to Livorno and Pisa. He reached Florence in July 1638. While there, Milton enjoyed many of the sites and structures of the city. His candour of manner and erudite neo-Latin poetry made him friends in Florentine intellectual circles, and he met the astronomer Galileo, who was under virtual house arrest at Arcetri, as well as others.[16] Milton probably visited the Florentine Academy and the Academia della Crusca along with smaller academies in the area including the Apatisti and the Svogliati.

He left Florence in September to continue to Rome. With the connections from Florence, Milton was able to have easy access to Rome's intellectual society. His poetic abilities impressed those like Giovanni Salzilli, who praised Milton within an epigram. 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 also attended musical events, including oratorios, operas and melodramas. Milton left for Naples toward the end of November, where he stayed only for a month because of the Spanish control.[18] During that time he was introduced to Giovanni Battista Manso, patron to both Torquato Tasso and to Giovanni Battista Marino.[19]

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,[20] were "sad tidings of civil war in England."[21] Matters became more complicated when Milton received word that Diodati, his childhood friend, had died. Milton in fact stayed another seven months on the continent, and spent time at Geneva with Diodati's uncle after he returned to Rome. 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. He was introduced to Cardinal Francesco Barberini who invited Milton to an opera hosted by the Cardinal. Around March Milton travelled once again to Florence, staying there for two months, attending further meetings of the academies, and spent time with friends. After leaving Florence he travelled through Lucca, Bologna, and Ferrara before coming to Venice. In Venice Milton was exposed to a model of Republicanism, later important in his political writings, but he soon found another model when he travelled to Geneva. From Switzerland, Milton travelled to Paris and then to Calais before finally arriving back in England in either July or August 1639.[22]

Civil war, prose tracts, and marriage Edit

Main article: Milton's antiprelatical tracts

On returning to England, where the Bishops' Wars presaged further armed conflict, Milton began to write prose tracts against episcopacy, in the service of the Puritan and Parliamentary cause. Milton's first foray into polemics was Of Reformation touching Church Discipline in England (1641), followed by Of Prelatical Episcopacy, the two defences of Smectymnuus (a group of presbyterian divines named from their initials: the "TY" belonged to Milton's old tutor Thomas Young), and The Reason of Church-Government Urged against Prelaty. With frequent passages of real eloquence lighting up the rough controversial style of the period, and deploying a wide knowledge of church history, he vigorously attacked the High-church party of the Church of England and their leader, William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Though supported by his father’s investments, at this time Milton became a private schoolmaster, educating his nephews and other children of the well-to-do. This experience, and discussions with educational reformer Samuel Hartlib, led him to write in 1644 his short tract, Of Education, urging a reform of the national universities.

In June 1643 Milton paid a visit to the manor house at Forest Hill, Oxfordshire, and returned with a 16-year-old bride, Mary Powell.[23] A month later, finding life difficult with the severe 35-year-old schoolmaster and pamphleteer, Mary returned to her family. Because of the outbreak of the Civil War(Citation needed), she did not return until 1645; in the meantime her desertion prompted Milton, over the next three years, to publish a series of pamphlets arguing for the legality and morality of divorce. (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 the private life so animated the public polemicising.) In 1643 Milton had a brush with the authorities over these writings, in parallel with Hezekiah Woodward, who had more trouble.[24] It was the hostile response accorded the divorce tracts that spurred Milton to write Areopagitica, his celebrated attack on pre-printing censorship.

Secretary for Foreign TonguesEdit

With the parliamentary victory in the Civil War, Milton used his pen in defence of the republican principles represented by the Commonwealth. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649) defended popular government and implicitly sanctioned the regicide; Milton’s political reputation got him appointed Secretary for Foreign Tongues by the Council of State in March 1649. Though Milton's main job description was to compose the English Republic's foreign correspondence in Latin, he also was called upon to produce propaganda for the regime and to serve as a censor. In October 1649 he published Eikonoklastes, an explicit defence of the regicide, in response to the Eikon Basilike, a phenomenal best-seller popularly attributed to Charles I that portrayed the King as an innocent Christian martyr. A month after Milton had tried to break this powerful image of Charles I (the literal translation of Eikonoklastes is 'the image breaker'), the exiled Charles II and his party published a defence of monarchy, Defensio Regia Pro Carolo Primo, written by the leading humanist Claudius Salmasius. By January of the following year, Milton was ordered to write a defence of the English people by the Council of State. 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. On 24 February 1652 Milton published his Latin defence of the English People, Defensio Pro Populo Anglicano, also known as the First Defence. Milton's pure Latin prose and evident learning, exemplified in the First Defence, quickly made him a European reputation, and the work ran to numerous editions.[25]

In 1654, in response to an anonymous Royalist tract Template:Q, a work that made many personal attacks on Milton, he completed a second defence of the English nation, Defensio secunda, which praised Oliver Cromwell, now Lord Protector, while exhorting him to remain true to the principles of the Revolution. Alexander Morus, to whom Milton wrongly attributed the Clamor (in fact by Peter du Moulin), published an attack on Milton, in response to which Milton published the autobiographical Defensio pro se in 1655. In addition to these literary defences of the Commonwealth and his character, Milton continued to translate official correspondence into Latin. The probable onset of glaucoma finally resulted in total blindness by 1654, forcing him to dictate his verse and prose to amanuenses (helpers), one of whom was the poet Andrew Marvell. One of his best-known sonnets, On His Blindness, is presumed to date from this period.

Family Edit

Milton and Mary Powell (1625–1652) had four children:

  • Anne (born 7 July 1646)
  • Mary (born 25 October 1648)
  • John (16 March 1651 – June 1652)
  • Deborah (2 May 1652 – ?)

His first wife, Mary Powell, died on 5 May 1652 from complications following Deborah's birth. Milton's daughters survived to adulthood, but he had always a strained relationship with them.

On 12 November 1656, Milton was married again, to Katherine Woodcock. She died on 3 February 1658, less than four months after giving birth to a daughter, Katherine, who also died.

Milton married for a third time on 24 February 1662, to Elizabeth Mynshull (1638-1728), the niece of Thomas Mynshull, a wealthy apothecary and philanthropist in Manchester. Despite a 31-year age gap, the marriage seemed happy, according to John Aubrey, and was to last more than 11 years until Milton's death. (A plaque on the wall of Mynshull's House in Manchester describes Elizabeth as Milton's "3rd and Best wife".)

Two nephews, John Phillips and Edward Phillips, were well known as writers. They were sons of Milton's sister Anne. John acted as a secretary, and Edward was Milton's first biographer.

The RestorationEdit

Template:Refimprove Though Cromwell’s death in 1658 caused the English Republic to collapse into feuding military and political factions, Milton stubbornly clung to the beliefs that had originally inspired him to write for the Commonwealth. In 1659 he published A Treatise of Civil Power, attacking the concept of a state-dominated church (the position known as Erastianism), as well as Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings, denouncing corrupt practises in church governance. As the Republic disintegrated, Milton wrote several proposals to retain a non-monarchical government against the wishes of parliament, soldiers and the people(Citation needed):

File:John Milton 1.jpg
  • A Letter to a Friend, Concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth, written in October 1659, was a response to General Lambert's recent dissolution of the Rump Parliament
  • Proposals of certain expedients for the preventing of a civil war now feared, written in November 1659
  • The Ready and Easy Way to Establishing a Free Commonwealth, in two editions, responded to General Monck's march towards London to restore the Long Parliament (which led to the restoration of the monarchy). The work is an impassioned, bitter, and futile jeremiad damning the English people for backsliding from the cause of liberty and advocating the establishment of an authoritarian rule by an oligarchy set up by unelected parliament.

Upon the Restoration in May 1660, Milton went into hiding for his life, while a warrant was issued for his arrest and his writings burnt. He re-emerged after a general pardon was issued, but was nevertheless arrested and briefly imprisoned before influential friends, such as Marvell, now an MP, intervened. On 24 February 1663 Milton remarried, for a third and final time, a Wistaston, Cheshire-born woman Elizabeth (Betty) Minshull, then aged 24, and spent the remaining decade of his life living quietly in London, only retiring to a cottage – Milton's Cottage – in Chalfont St. Giles, his only extant home, during the Great Plague of London.

During this period Milton published several minor prose works, such as a grammar textbook, Art of Logic, and a History of Britain. 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. 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 formation of the Whig party and the Glorious Revolution.

Milton died of kidney failure on 8 November 1674 and was buried in the church of St Giles Cripplegate; 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.”[26]



Main article: MIlton's poetry

Milton's poetry was slow to see the light of day, at least under his name. His first published poem was On Shakespear (1630), anonymously included in the Second Folio edition of Shakespeare. In the midst of the excitement attending the possibility of establishing a new English government, Milton collected his work in 1645 Poems. The anonymous edition of Comus was published in 1637, and the publication of Lycidas in 1638 in Justa Edouardo King Naufrago was signed J. M. Otherwise the 1645 collection was the only poetry of his to see print, until Paradise Lost appeared in 1667.

He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval in England, and his poetry and prose reflect deep convictions and deal with contemporary issues, such as his treatise condemning licensing, Areopagitica. As well as English, he wrote in Latin and Italian, and had an international reputation during his lifetime.

Paradise LostEdit

Main article: Paradise Lost

Milton dictating Paradise Lost to his daughters, by Soma Orlai Petrich (1822–1880), circa 1862. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Milton’s magnum opus, the blank-verse epic poem Paradise Lost, was composed by the blind and impoverished Milton from 1658 to 1664 through dictation given to a series of aides in his employ. It reflects his personal despair at the failure of the Revolution, yet affirms an ultimate optimism in human potential. Milton encoded many references to his unyielding support for the "Good Old Cause".[27]

On 27 April 1667,[28] Milton sold the publication rights to Paradise Lost to publisher Samuel Simmons for £5, equivalent to approximately £7,400 income in 2008,[29] with a further £5 to be paid if and when each print run of between 1,300 and 1,500 copies sold out.[30] The first run, a quarto edition priced at three shillings per copy, was published in August 1667 and sold out in eighteen months.[31]

Milton followed up Paradise Lost with its sequel, Paradise Regained, published alongside the tragedy Samson Agonistes, in 1671. Both these works also resonate with Milton’s post-Restoration political situation. Just before his death in 1674, Milton supervised a second edition of Paradise Lost, accompanied by an explanation of "why the poem rhymes not" and prefatory verses by Marvell. Milton republished his 1645 Poems in 1673, as well a collection of his letters and the Latin prolusions from his Cambridge days. A 1668 edition of Paradise Lost, reported to have been Milton's personal copy, is now housed in the archives of the University of Western Ontario.

John Dryden, an early enthusiast, in 1677 began the trend of describing Milton as the poet of the sublime.[32] Dryden's The State of Innocence and the Fall of Man: an Opera (1677) is evidence of an immediate cultural influence. In 1695, Patrick Hume became the first editor of Paradise Lost, providing an extensive apparatus of annotation and commentary, particularly chasing down allusions.[33]


In 1732 the classical scholar Richard Bentley offered a corrected version of Paradise Lost.[34] Bentley was considered presumptuous, and was attacked in the following year by Zachary Pearce. Christopher Ricks judges that, as critic, Bentley was both acute and wrong-headed, and "incorrigibly eccentric"; William Empson also finds Pearce to be more sympathetic to Bentley's underlying line of thought than is warranted.[35][36]

There was an early, partial translation of Paradise Lost into German by Theodore Haak, and based on that a standard verse translation by Ernest Gottlieb von Berge. A subsequent prose translation by Johann Jakob Bodmer was very popular; it influenced Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. The German-language Milton tradition returned to England in the person of the artist Henry Fuseli.

Literary legacyEdit

Milton's use of blank verse, in addition to his stylistic innovations (such as grandiloquence of voice and vision, peculiar diction and phraseology) influenced later poets. At the time poetic blank verse was considered distinct from its use in verse drama, and Paradise Lost was taken as a unique examplar.[37] Said Isaac Watts in 1734, "Mr. Milton is esteemed the parent and author of blank verse among us".[38] "Miltonic verse" might be synonymous for a century with blank verse as poetry, a new poetic terrain independent from both the drama and the heroic couplet.

Lack of rhyme was sometimes taken as Milton's defining innovation. He himself considered the rhymeless quality of Paradise Lost to be an extension of his own personal liberty:

This neglect then of Rhime ... is to be esteem'd an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recover'd to heroic Poem from the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing.[39]

This pursuit of freedom was largely a reaction against conservative values entrenched within the rigid heroic couplet.[40] Within a dominant culture that stressed elegance and finish, he granted primacy to freedom, breadth and imaginative suggestiveness, eventually developed into the romantic vision of sublime terror. Reaction to Milton’s poetic worldview included, grudgingly, acknowledgement that of poet’s resemblance to classical writers (Greek and Roman poetry being unrhymed. Blank verse came to be a recognised medium for religious works and for translations of the classics. Unrhymed lyrics like Collins' Ode to Evening (in the meter of Milton's translation of Horace's Ode to Pyrrha) were not uncommon after 1740.[41]

File:Temple of British Worthies John Milton.jpg

A second aspect of Milton's blank verse was the use of unconventional rhythm:

His blank-verse paragraph, and his audacious and victorious attempt to combine blank and rhymed verse with paragraphic effect in Lycidas, lay down indestructible models and patterns of English verse-rhythm, as distinguished from the narrower and more strait-laced forms of English metre.[42]

Before Milton, "the sense of regular rhythm ... had been knocked into the English head so securely that it was part of their nature".[43] The "Heroick measure", according to Samuel Johnson, "is pure ... when the accent rests upon every second syllable through the whole line  The repetition of this sound or percussion at equal times, is the most complete harmony of which a single verse is capable",[44] Caesural pauses, most agreed, were best placed at the middle and the end of the line. In order to support this symmetry, lines were most often octo- or deca-syllabic, with no enjambed endings. To this schema Milton introduced modifications, which included hypermetrical syllables (trisyllabic feet), inversion or slighting of stresses, and the shifting of pauses to all parts of the line.[45] Milton deemed these features to be reflective of "the transcendental union of order and freedom".[46] Admirers remained hesitant to adopt such departures from traditional metrical schemes: "The English ... had been writing separate lines for so long that they could not rid themselves of the habit”.[47] Isaac Watts preferred his lines distinct from each other, as did Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Pemberton, and Scott of Amwell, whose general opinion it was that Milton's frequent omission of the initial unaccented foot was "displeasing to a nice ear".[48] It was not until the late 18th century that poets (beginning with Gray) began to appreciate "the composition of Milton's harmony ... how he loved to vary his pauses, his measures, and his feet, which gives that enchanting air of freedom and wilderness to his versification".[49]

While neo-classical diction was as restrictive as its prosody, and narrow imagery paired with uniformity of sentence structure resulted in a small set of 800 nouns circumscribing the vocabulary of 90% of heroic couplets ever written up to the eighteenth century,[50] and tradition required that the same adjectives attach to the same nouns, followed by the same verbs, Milton's pursuit of liberty extended into his vocabulary as well. It included many Latinate neologisms, as well as obsolete words already dropped from popular usage so completely that their meanings were no longer understood. In 1740 Francis Peck identified some examples of Milton's "old" words (now popular).[51] The “Miltonian dialect” as it was called, was emulated by later poets; Pope used the diction of Paradise Lost in his Homer translation, while the lyric poetry of Gray and Collins was frequently criticised for their use of “obsolete words out of Spenser and Milton”.[52] The language of Thomson’s finest poems (e.g. The Seasons, Castle of Indolence) was self-consciously modelled after the Miltonian dialect, with the same tone and sensibilities as Paradise Lost. Following to Milton, English poetry from Pope to John Keats exhibited a steadily increasing attention to the connotative, the imaginative and poetic, value of words.[53]

Miltonic effectsEdit

The varied manifestations of personal liberty in Milton’s works (e.g. abandonment of rhyme, irregular rhythms, peculiar diction) converge to create specific Miltonian effects that live on to this day. Raymond Dexter identifies nine outstanding characteristics specific to Paradise Lost that survived into later poetic movements:

1. Dignity, reserve and stateliness

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse (i. 1–6)

2. Sonorous, orotund voice

O thou that, with surpassing glory crown'd
Look'st from thy sole dominion like the god
Of this new World. (iv. 32-4)

3. Inversion of the natural order of words and phrases

Ten paces huge
He back recoil’d. (vi. 193-4)

"temperate vapours bland"(v. 5)
"heavenly form Angelic"(ix. 457-8)
"unvoyageable gulf obscure"(x. 366)

4. The omission of words not necessary to the sense

And where their weakness, how attempted best,
By force or subtlety. (ii. 357-8)

5. Parenthesis and opposition

Their song was partial, but the harmony
(What could it less when Spirits immortal sing?)
Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment
The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet
(For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense)
Others apart sat on a hill retired (ii. 552-7)

6. The use of one part of speech for another

"with gems . . . rich emblazed," "grinned horrible," (adjective used as adverb)
"Heaven's azure" or "the vast of Heaven." (adjective used as noun)
"without disturb they took alarm"; "the place of her retire." (verbs used as nouns )
May serve to better us and worse our foes (adjective used as verb)
Yet oft his heart, divine of something ill (verb, adjective employed in participal sense)
"fuell'd entrails," "his con-sorted Eve," "roses bushing round." (substantive used as verb).

7. Vocabulary

Archaic words from Chaucer, Spenser and Shakespeare : "erst," "grunsel," "welkin," "frore," "lore," "grisly," "ken" etc. Unusual Words from Greek or Latin: "dulcet," "panoplie," "sapience," "nocent," "congratulant” etc. Words employed in senses obsolete to the eighteenth century: "the secret top Of Oreb," "a singèd bottom all in-volved With stench," "tempt an abyss,” "his uncouth way"

8. The introduction into a comparatively short passage of proper names in number, not necessary to the sense, but adding richness, color, and imaginative suggestiveness

And what resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son,
Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptised or infidel,
jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond;
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore
When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
By Fontarabbia. (i. 579-87)

9. Unusual compound epithets

"Sail-broad vans," "high-climbing hill," "arch-chemic sun," "half-rounding guards," "night-warbling bird," "love-labour'd song"


An unfinished religious manifesto, De doctrina christiana, probably written by Milton, lays out many of his heterodox theological views, and was not discovered and published until 1823. Milton's key beliefs were idiosyncratic, not those of an identifiable group or faction, and often they go well beyond the orthodoxy of the time. Their tone, however, stemmed from the Puritan emphasis on the centrality and inviolability of conscience.[54] He was his own man, but it is Areopagitica, where he was anticipated by Henry Robinson and others, that has lasted best of his prose works.


By the late 1650s, Milton was a proponent of monism or animist materialism, the notion that a single material substance which is "animate, self-active, and free" composes everything in the universe: from stones and trees and bodies to minds, souls, angels, and God.[55] Milton devised this position to avoid the mind-body dualism of Plato and Descartes as well as the mechanistic determinism of Hobbes. Milton's monism is most notably reflected in Paradise Lost when he has angels eat (5.433–39) and engage in sexual intercourse (8.622–29) and the De Doctrina, where he denies the dual natures of man and argues for a theory of Creation ex Deo.

Political thoughtEdit

File:Areopagitica 1644bw gobeirne.png
Main article: John Milton's politics

In his political writing, Milton addressed particular themes at different periods. The years 1641–42 were dedicated to church politics and the struggle against episcopacy. After his divorce writings, Areopagitica, and a gap, he wrote in 1649–54 in the aftermath of the execution of Charles I, and in polemic justification of the regicide and the existing Parliamentarian regime. Then in 1659–60 he foresaw the Restoration, and wrote to head it off.[56]

Milton's own beliefs were in some cases both unpopular and dangerous, and this was true particularly to his commitment to republicanism. In coming centuries, Milton would be claimed as an early apostle of liberalism.[57] According to James Tully:

... with Locke as with Milton, republican and contraction conceptions of political freedom join hands in common opposition to the disengaged and passive subjection offered by absolutists such as Hobbes and Robert Filmer.[58]}}

A friend and ally in the pamphlet wars was Marchamont Nedham. Austin Woolrych considers that although they were quite close, there is "little real affinity, beyond a broad republicanism", between their approaches.[59] Blair Worden remarks that both Milton 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.[60] Woolrych speaks of "the gulf between Milton's vision of the Commonwealth's future and the reality".[61] In the early version of his History of Britain, begun in 1649, Milton was already writing off the members of the Long Parliament as incorrigible.[62]

He praised Oliver Cromwell as the Protectorate was set up, though subsequently he had major reservations. 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.[63][64] 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.[65] Milton had already commended Overton, along with Edmund Whalley and Bulstrode Whitelocke, in Defensio Secunda.[66] Nigel Smith writes that

... 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 [...][67]

As Richard Cromwell fell from power, he envisaged a step towards a freer republic or “free commonwealth”, writing in the hope of this outcome in early 1660. Milton had argued 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.[68] His proposal, backed by reference (amongst other reasons) to the oligarchical Dutch and Venetian constitutions, was for a council with perpetual membership. 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.[69] Milton, an associate of and advocate on behalf of the regicides, was silenced on political matters as Charles II returned.


Main article: John Milton's religion

Like many Renaissance artists before him, Milton attempted to integrate Christian theology with classical modes. In his early poems, the poet narrator expresses a tension between vice and virtue, the latter invariably related to Protestantism. In Comus Milton may make ironic use of the Caroline court masque by elevating notions of purity and virtue over the conventions of court revelry and superstition. In his later poems, Milton's theological concerns become more explicit. In 1648 he wrote a hymn How lovely are thy dwelling fair,[70] a paraphrase of Psalm 84, that explains his view on God.

Milton embraced many heterodox Christian theological views. 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: in August 1650 he licensed for publication by William Dugard the Racovian Catechism, based on a non-trinitarian creed.[71][72] A source has interpreted him as broadly Protestant, if not always easy to locate in a more precise religious category.

In his 1641 treatise, Of Reformation, Milton expressed his dislike for Catholicism and episcopacy, presenting Rome as a modern Babylon, and bishops as Egyptian taskmasters. These analogies conform to Milton's puritanical preference for Old Testament imagery. He knew at least four commentaries on Genesis: those of John Calvin, Paulus Fagius, David Pareus and Andreus Rivetus.[73]

Through the Interregnum, Milton often presents England, rescued from the trappings of a worldly monarchy, as an elect nation akin to the Old Testament Israel, and shows its leader, Oliver Cromwell, as a latter-day Moses. These views were bound up in Protestant views of the Millennium, which some sects, such as the Fifth Monarchists predicted would arrive in England. Milton, however, would later criticise the "worldly" millenarian views of these and others, and expressed orthodox ideas on the prophecy of the Four Empires.[74]

The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 began a new phase in Milton's work. In Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes Milton mourns the end of the godly Commonwealth. The Garden of Eden may allegorically reflect Milton's view of England's recent Fall from Grace, while 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. Illustrated by Paradise Lost is mortalism, the belief that the soul lies dormant after the body dies.[75]

Despite the Restoration of the monarchy Milton did not lose his personal faith; Samson shows how the loss of national salvation did not necessarily preclude the salvation of the individual, while Paradise Regained expresses Milton's continuing belief in the promise of Christian salvation through Jesus Christ.

Though he may have maintained his personal faith in spite of the defeats suffered by his cause, the Dictionary of National Biography recounts how he had been alienated from the Church of England by Archbishop William Laud, and then moved similarly from the Dissenters by their denunciation of religious tolerance in England.

Milton had come to stand apart from all sects, though apparently finding the Quakers most congenial. He never went to any religious services in his later years. When a servant brought back accounts of sermons from nonconformist meetings, Milton became so sarcastic that the man at last gave up his place.

Religious tolerationEdit

Milton called in the Aeropagitica for "the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties" (applied however, only to the conflicting Protestant sects, and not to atheists, Jews, Muslims or even Catholics). "Milton argued for disestablishment as the only effective way of achieving broad toleration. Rather than force a man's conscience, government should recognize the persuasive force of the gospel."[76]


Main article: Milton's divorce tracts

His thinking on divorce caused him considerable trouble with the authorities. An orthodox Presbyterian view of the time was that Milton's views on divorce constituted a one-man heresy:

The fervently Presbyterian Edwards had included Milton’s divorce tracts in his list in Gangraena of heretical publications that threatened the religious and moral fabric of the nation; Milton responded by mocking him as “shallow Edwards” in the satirical sonnet “On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament,” usually dated to the latter half of 1646.[77]

Even here, though, his originality is qualified: Thomas Gataker had already identified "mutual solace" as a principal goal in marriage.[78] Milton abandoned his campaign to legitimise divorce after 1645, but he expressed support for polygamy in the De doctrina christiana, the theological treatise that provides the clearest evidence for his views.[79]


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.[80] Milton himself wrote that "Worthy deeds are not often destitute of worthy relaters", in Book II of his History of Britain. 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".[81]


A memorial monument to Milton, by John Michael Rysbrack, was erected in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, in 1737. Milton was buried in the nearby churchyard of St. Margaret's Church, and a memorial window to him was installed there in 1886.[82]

William Hayley's 1796 biography called him the "greatest English author".[83] He remains generally regarded "as one of the preeminent writers in the English language and as a thinker of world importance."[84]

Literary reputationEdit

Once Paradise Lost was published, Milton's stature as epic poet was immediately recognised.

After his death, Milton's critical reception oscillated, a state of affairs that continued through the centuries. At an early stage he became the subject of partisan biographies, such as that of John Toland from the nonconformist perspective, and a hostile account by Anthony à Wood. Samuel Johnson wrote unfavourably of his politics as those of "an acrimonious and surly republican"; but praised Paradise Lost "a poem which, considered with respect to design may claim the first place, and with respect to performance, the second, among the productions of the human mind".

He cast a formidable shadow over English poetry in the 18th and 19th centuries; he was often judged equal or superior to all other English poets, including Shakespeare. 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,[85] 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.[86]

Many enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century revered and commented on Milton's poetry and non-poetical works. In addition to John Dryden, among them were Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Thomas Newton, and Samuel Johnson. For example in The Spectator[87]Joseph Addison wrote extensive notes, annotations, and interpretations of certain passages of Paradise Lost. Jonathan Richardson, senior, and Jonathan Richardson, the younger, co-wrote a book of criticism.[88] In 1749, Thomas Newton published an extensive edition of Milton's poetical works with annotations provided by himself, Dryden, Pope, Addison, the Richardsons (father and son) and others. Newton's edition of Milton was a culmination of the honour bestowed upon Milton by early Enlightenment thinkers; it may also have been prompted by Richard Bentley's infamous edition, described above. Samuel Johnson wrote numerous essays on Paradise Lost, and Milton was included in his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1779–1781).


File:Milton by Blake.jpg

William Blake considered Milton the major English poet. Blake placed Edmund Spenser as Milton's precursor, and saw himself as Milton's poetical son.[89] In his Milton: a Poem, Blake uses Milton as a character.

Romantic theoryEdit

Edmund Burke was a theorist of the sublime, and he regarded Milton's description of Hell as exemplary of sublimity as aesthetic concept. For Burke it was to set alongside mountain-tops, a storm at sea, and infinity.[90] In The Beautiful and the Sublime he wrote "No person seems better to have understood the secret of heightening, or of setting terrible things, if I may use the expression, in their strongest light, by the force of a judicious obscurity than Milton."[91]

The Romantic poets valued his exploration of blank verse, but for the most part rejected his religiosity. William Wordsworth began his sonnet "London, 1802" with "Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour"[92] and modelled The Prelude, his own blank verse epic, on Paradise Lost. John Keats found the yoke of Milton's style uncongenial;[93] he exclaimed that "Miltonic verse cannot be written but in an artful or rather artist's humour."[94] Keats felt that Paradise Lost was a "beautiful and grand curiosity"; but his own unfinished attempt at epic poetry, Hyperion, was unsatisfactory to the author because, amongst other things, it had too many "Miltonic inversions".[94] In The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar note that Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein is, in the view of many critics, "one of the key 'Romantic' readings of Paradise Lost."[95]

Later legacyEdit

The Victorian age witnessed a continuation of Milton's influence, George Eliot[96] and Thomas Hardy being particularly inspired by Milton's poetry and biography. By contrast, the early 20th century, with the efforts of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, witnessed a reduction in Milton's critical stature. Harold Bloom, in The Anxiety of Influence, could still write that "Milton is the central problem in any theory and history of poetic influence in English".[97]

18 of his poems ("Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity," "On Time," "At a Solemn Musick," "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso," "Arcades (excerpt)" "Comus i (excerpt)," "Comus ii (excerpt)," "Comus iii (excerpt)," "Comus iv (excerpt)," "Lycidas," "On His Blindness," "To Mr. Lawrence," "To Cyriack Skinner," "On His Deceased Wife," "Light," "Samson Agonistes i (excerpt)," and "Samson Agonistes ii (excerpt)") were included in the Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900.[98]

Milton's Areopagitica is still cited as relevant to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[99] A quotation from Areopagitica – "A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life" – is displayed in many public libraries, including the New York Public Library.

The title of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is derived from a quotation, "His dark materials to create more worlds", line 915 of Book II in Paradise Lost. Pullman was concerned to produce a version of Milton's poem accessible to teenagers,[100] and has spoken of Milton as "our greatest public poet".[101]

T.S. Eliot believed that "of no other poet is it so difficult to consider the poetry simply as poetry, without our theological and political dispositions... making unlawful entry".[102]



  • "Lycidas," in Justa Edovardo King, naufrago, ab Amicis moerentibus, amoris & eis khai. Cantabrigiæ: Apud Thomam Buck & Rogerum Daniel, 1638
    • part 2: Obsequies to the Memorie of Mr. Edward King, Anno Dom. 1638 Cambridge, UK: Printed by Th. Buck & R. Daniel, 1638, pp. 20-25.
  • Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin, Compos'd at Several Times. Printed by His True Copies. The Songs were Set in Musick by Mr. Henry Lawes. London: Printed by Ruth Raworth for Humphrey Moseley, 1645.
  • "Sonnet to Henry Lawes," in Choice Psalmes, Put into Musick for Three Voices, by Henry and William Lawes. London: Printed by James Young for Humphrey Moseley, 1648.
  • Paradise Lost: A poem written in ten books. London:Peter Parker, Robert Boulter, & Matthias Walker, 1667.
    • Paradise Lost: A poem in twelve books: The second edition, revised and augmented. London:S. Simmons, 1674.
  • Paradise Regain'd: A poem in IV books; to which is added "Samson Agonistes". London: J.M. for John Starkey, 1671).
  • Poems, &c. upon Several Occasions: Both English and Latin, &c. composed at several times; with a small Tractate of Education To Mr. Hartlib. London: Tho. Dring, 1673.
  • The Poetical Works of Mr. John Milton. Containing Paradise Lost, Paradise Regain'd, Sampson Agonistes, and His Poems on Several Occasions. Together with Explanatory Notes on Each Book of the Paradise Lost and a Table Never before Printed, with notes to Paradise Lost by David Hume. London: Jacob Tonson, 1695.
  • The Poetical Works of Mr. John Milton (2 volumes). London: Jacob Tonson, 1705.
  • Paradise Regain'd: A poem in IV books; to which is added "Samson Agonistes" / Poems on Several Occasions.... From the text of Thomas Newton, D.D. Birmingham, UK: John Baskerville for J. & R. Tonson, London, 1758.
  • Paradise Lost. A poem, in twelve books.... From the Text of Thomas Newton D.D.. Birmingham, UK: John Baskerville for J. & R. Tonson, London, 1758.
  • Poems upon Several Occasions: English, Italian and Latin; with translations by John Milton.... with notes critical and explanatory, and other illustrations (edited by Thomas Warton). London: J. Dodsley, 1785.
  • The Poetical Works; with a life of the author, by William Hayley (3 volumes), London:W. Bulmer for John & Josiah Boydell & George Nicol, 1794-1797.
  • Poemata: Latin and Italian poems of Milton translated into English verse, and a fragment of a commentary on Paradise Lost (translated by William Cowper, edited by William Hayley). London: J. Seagrave for J. Johnson & R.H. Evans, 1808.
  • Poetical Works; with Notes of Various Authors; to which are added illustrations, and some account of the life and writings of Milton.... Second edition, with considerable additions and with a Verbal Index to the whole of Milton's poetry (edited by H.J. Todd). (7 volumes), London: Law & Gilbert for J. Johnson, 1809.
  • Life and Poetical Works; with notes by William Cowper.... with Adam, a Sacred Drama (edited by William Hayley). (4 volumes), Chichester, UK: W. Mason for J. Johnson, London, 1810.
  • Paradise Regained: To which is added, a complete collection of the minor poems. London: F.C. & J. Rivington, J. Nichols and son, et al, 1817.
  • The Poetical Works.... with imaginative illustrations by J.M.W. Turner (edited by Sir Egerton Brydges). (6 volumes), London: J. Macrone, 1835.
  • The Poems of John Milton (edited by Thomas Keightley). (2 volumes), London: Chapman & Hall, 1859.
  • Poetical Works (with memoir by David Masson). Boston: Osgood, 1871. Volume III,
  • English Poems (edited by R.C. Browne). (2 volumes), Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1870; revised, 1873.
  • The Poetical Works (edited by David Masson). (3 volumes), London: Macmillan, 1874; revised, 1890.
  • The Complete Poetical Works (edited by William Vaughn Moody). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1899.[103]
  • Samson Agonistes (edited by John Churton Collins). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1883.[104]
  • The Poetical Works, edited after the 0riginal texts (edited by H.C. Beeching). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1900.
  • Poetical Works (edited by William Aldis Wright). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1903.
  • Poems (edited by H.J.C. Grierson). (2 volumes), London: Chatto and Windus, 1925.
  • Paradise Regained, the Minor Poems and Samson Agonistes: Complete and arranged chronologically (edited by Merritt Y. Hughes). New York: Odyssey Press, 1937.
  • English Poems: From the edition of H.C. Beeching, together with an introduction by Charles Williams, and a Reader's Guide to Milton Compiled by Walter Skeat. London: Oxford University Press, 1940.
  • Complete Poetical Works (edited by Harris Francis Fletcher). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1941.
  • Complete Poetical Works: Reproduced in photographic facsimile (edited by Harris Francis Fletcher). (4 volumes), Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1943-1948).
  • Poetical Works (edited by Helen Darbishire). (2 volumes), Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1952-1955.
    • revised edition (with Latin poems edited by H.W. Garrod & Italian poems edited by John Purves), London & New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.
  • Poems (edited by B.A. Wright). London: Dent, 1956; New York: Dutton, 1956.
  • Complete Poetical Works (edited by Douglas Bush). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965; London: Oxford University Press, 1966.
  • Poems (edited by John Carey and Alastair Fowler). London: Longmans, Green, 1968.
  • Complete Poetry revised edition (edited by John T. Shawcross). Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971.
  • Complete Poems (edited by Wright, with introduction by Gordon Campbell). London: Dent / New York, Dutton, 1980.




  • Of Reformation Touching Church-Discipline in England: And the cavses that hitherto have hindered it. London: Printed for Thomas Underhill, 1641.
  • Of Prelatical Episcopacy, and Whether it may be deduc'd from the Apostolical times by vertue of those Testimonies which are alledg'd to that purpose in some late Treatises: One whereof goes under the Name of Iames' Archbishop of Armagh. London: Printed by R.O. & G.D. for Thomas Underhill, 1641.
  • Animadversions upon the Remonstrants Defence, against Smectymnvvs. London: Printed for Thomas Underhill, 1641.
  • The Reason of Church-governement Urg'd against Prelaty. London: Printed by E.G. for John Rothwell, 1641 [1642].
  • An Apology Against a Pamphlet Call'd A Modest Confutation of the Animadversions upon the Remonstrant against Smectymnuus. London: Printed by E.G. for John Rothwell, 1642.
  • The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce: Restor'd to the Good of Both Sexes, From the bondage of Canon Law, and other mistakes, to Christian freedom, guided by the Rule of Charity. London: Thomas Payne & Matthew Simmons, 1643
    • second edition "revis'd and much augmented". London, 1644.
  • Of Education: To Master Samuel Hartlib. London: Printed for Thomas Johnson, 1644.
  • Areopagitica: A Speech of Mr. John Milton For the Liberty of Vnlicenc'd Printing, To the Parlament of England. London, 1644.
  • Colasterion: A Reply to A Nameless Answer Against the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. London: Printed by Matthew Simmons, 1645.
  • Tetrachordon: Expositions Upon The foure chief places in Scripture, which treat of Mariage, or nullities in Mariage. London: Printed by Thomas Payne & Matthew Simmons, 1645.
  • The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. London: Matthew Simmons, 1649; 2nd edition, enlarged, 1650.
  • EIKONOKLA'TE. in Answer to a Book Intitl'd 'EIK'N BAIAIKE, The Portraiture of his Sacred Majesty in His Solitudes and Sufferings. London: Printed by Matthew Simmons, 1649
    • second edition, enlarged. London: Printed by T.N. & sold by Tho. Brewster & G. Moule, 1650.
  • Considerations Touching The likeliest means to remove Hirelings out of the church. Wherein is also discourc'd of Tithes, Church-fees, Church-revenues; and whether any maintenance of ministers can be settl'd by law. London: Printed by T. N. for L. Chapman, 1659.
  • A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes: Shewing That it is not lawfull for any power on earth to compell in matters of Religion. London: Printed by Tho. Newcomb, 1659.
  • The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof Compar'd with The inconveniences and dangers of readmitting kingship in this nation. London: Printed by T.N. & sold by Livewell Chapman, 1660
    • second edition, "revis'd and augmented". London: Printed for the author, 1660.
  • Brief Notes Upon a late Sermon, titl'd, The Fear of God and the King; Preachd, and since Publishd, By Matthew Griffith, D.D. And Chaplain to the late King. London, 1660.
  • Accedence Commenc't Grammar, Supply'd with Sufficient Rules, For the use of such as, Younger or Elder, are desirous, without more trouble then needs, to attain the Latin Tongue; the elder sort especially, with little teaching, and their own industry. London: Printed by S. Simmons, 1669.
  • The History of Britain, That part especially now call'd England. From the first Traditional Beginning, continu'd to the Norman Conquest. London: Printed by J.M. for James Allestry, 1670.
  • Of True Religion, Hæresie, Schism, Toleration, and what best means may be us'd against the growth of Popery. London, 1673.
  • *A brief History of Moscovia, and other less known Countries lying Eastward of Russia as far as Cathay, gathered from the writings of several Eye-witnesses. London: Printed by M. Flesher for Brabazon Aylmer, 1682.
  • Letters of State, Written by Mr. John Milton, to most of the Sovereign Princes and Republicks of Europe. From the Year 1649. Till the Year 1659. To Which Is Added, an Account of His Life. Together with Several of His Poems. London, 1694).
  • The Prose Works (with introduction by Rufus Wilmot Griswold). (2 volumes), Philadelphia: John W. Moore, 1847.
  • The Prose Works (edited by J.A. St. John). (5 volumes), London: Bell (Bohn's Standard Library), 1848-1881.
  • Selected Prose Writings (with introductory essay by Ernest Myers). New York: D. Appleton, 1884.[105]
  • Milton's Prose (edited by Malcolm W. Wallace). London: Oxford University Press, 1925.
  • Areopagitica, and other prose works. Lonon: Dent, 1927; New York: Dutton, 1927.
  • Prose selections (edited by Hughes). New York: Odyssey Press, 1947.
  • Complete Prose Works of John Milton (edited by Don M. Wolfe & others). ((8 volumes in 10), New Haven< CT: Yale University Press, 1953-1982).
  • The Prose of John Milton (edited by J. Max Patrick). Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967).
  • Selected Prose (edited by C.A. Patrides). Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1974.


  • Epitaphivm Damonis. Argvmentvm. London: Printed by Augustine Mathewes?, 1640?.
  • Joannis Miltoni Angli, Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio Contra Claudii Anonymi, alias Salmasii, Defensionem Regiam. Londini: Typis DuGardianis, 1651.
  • Joannis Miltoni Angli, Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio Secunda. Contra infamen libellum anonymum cui titulus, Regii sanguinis clamor ad cælum adversus parricidas Anglicanos. Londini: Typis Neucomianis, 1654.
  • Joannis Miltoni Angli pro se Defensio contra Alexandrum Morum Ecclesiasten, Libelli famosi, cui titulus, Regii sanguinis clamor ad cælum adversuçs Parricidas Anglicanos, authoren recteç dictum. Londini: Typis Neucomianis, 1655.
  • Joannis Miltoni Angli, Artis Logicæ Plenior Institutio, Ad Petri Rami Methodum concinnata. Londini: Impensis Spencer Hickman, 1672.
  • Joannis Miltoni Angli, Epistolarum Familiarum Liber Unus: Quibus Accesserunt, Ejusdem, jam olim in Collegio Adolescentis, Prolusiones Quædam Oratoriae. Londini: Impensis Brabazoni Aylmeri, 1674.
  • Literæ Pseudo-Senatûs Anglicani, Cromwellii, Reliquorumque Perduellium nomine ac jussu conscriptæ. Amsterdam: Printed by Peter & John Blaeu, 1676.
  • Joannis Miltoni Angli, De Doctrina Christiana libri duo posthumi, quos ex schedis mauscripts deprompsit et typis mandari primus curavit C. R. Sumner. Cantabrigiae: Typis Academicis excudit Joannes Smith, 1825.


  • The Ivdgment of Martin Bucer, Concerning Divorce. Writt'n to Edward the sixt, in his second Book of the Kingdom of Christ. And now Englisht. London: Printed by Matthew Simmons, 1644.
  • A Declaration, or Letters Patents of the Election of this present King of Poland John the Third, Elected on the 22d of May last past, Anno Dom. 1674 (translated by Milton). London: Printed for Brabazon Aylmer, 1674.

Collected editionsEdit

  • A Common-place Book of John Milton, and a Latin Essay and Latin Verses Presumed To Be by Milton (edited by A.J. Horwood). Westminster: Printed for the Camden Society (Camden Society Publications, new series 16), 1876; revised, 1877).
  • A Common-Place Book of John Milton. Reproduced by the Autotype Process from the Original Manuscript in the Possession of Sir Frederick J. U. Graham.... With an Introduction by A. J. Horwood. London: Privately printed at the Chiswick Press, 1876.
  • The Works. London, 1697.
  • A Complete Collection of the Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous Works, both English and Latin; with some Papers Never Before Publish'd. (3 volumes), Amsterdam [London]: 1698.
  • The Works in Verse and Prose: Printed from the original editions with a life of the author (edited by John Mitford). (8 volumes), London: Pickering, 1851. Volume I, Volume II, Volume VII,Volume VIII
  • The Cambridge Milton for Schools (10 volumes, edited by A. Wilson Verity). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Pitt Press series), 1891-1896
    • revised edition of Comus, 1909; revised edition of Paradise Lost, 1910).
  • The Student's Milton, Being the Complete Poems of John Milton, with the Greater Part of His Prose Works, Now Printed in One Volume, Together with New Translations into English of His Italian, Latin and Greek Poems (edited by Frank Allen Patterson). New York: Crofts, 1930; revised, 1933.
  • The Works of John Milton (18 volumes in 21, edited by Patterson). New York: Columbia University Press, 1931-1938.
  • Complete Poems and Major Prose (edited by Hughes). New York: Odyssey Press, 1957.
  • John Milton (edited by Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg). Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[106]

Poems by John MiltonEdit

Lycidas by John Milton

Lycidas by John Milton

  1. On His Blindness

See alsoEdit


  • Beer, Anna. Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008.
  • Campbell, Gordon and Corns, Thomas. John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Chaney, Edward, The Grand Tour and the Great Rebellion: Richard Lassels and 'The Voyage of Italy' in the Seventeenth Century (Geneva, CIRVI, 1985) and "Milton's Visit to Vallombrosa: A literary tradition", The Evolution of the Grand Tour, 2nd ed (Routledge, London, 2000)
  • Dexter, Raymond. The Influence of Milton on English Poetry London: Kessinger Publishing. 1922
  • Dick, Oliver Lawson. Aubrey's Brief Lives. Harmondsworth, Middl.: Penguin Books, 1962.
  • Eliot, T. S. "Annual Lecture on a Master Mind: Milton", Proceedings of the British Academy 33 (1947).
  • Hill, Christopher. Milton and the English Revolution". New York: Viking Press, 1977.
  • Gray, Thomas. Observations on English Metre. "The Works of Thomas Gray" ed.Mitford London: William Pickering 1835.
  • Hobsbaum, Philip. "Meterem,Rhythm and Verse Form" New York: Routledge, 1996.
  • Hunter, William Bridges. A Milton Encyclopedia. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1980.
  • Johnson, Samuel. "Rambler #86" 1751
  • Lewalski, Barbara K. The Life of John Milton. Oxford: Blackwells Publishers, 2003.
  • A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5: Bullingdon Hundred. 1957. pp. 122–134. 
  • Masson, David. The Life of John Milton and History of His Time, vol. 1. Cambridge: 1859.
  • McCalman, Iain. et al., An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture, 1776–1832. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Milton, John. Complete Prose Works 8 Vols. gen. Ed. Don M. Wolfe. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959.
  • Milton, John. The Verse, "Paradise Lost" London, 1668.
  • Peck, Francis. "New Memoirs of Milton" London, 1740.
  • Pfeiffer, Robert H. "The Teaching of Hebrew in Colonial America", The Jewish Quarterly Review, (April 1955).
  • Saintsbury, George. "The Peace of the Augustans: A Survey of Eighteenth Century Literature as a Place of Rest and Refreshment" London: Oxford University Press. 1946.
  • Saintsbury, George. "A History of English Prosody: From the Twelfth Century to the Present Day" London: Macmillan and co. 1908
  • Scott, John. "Critical Essays" London 1785
  • Toland, John. Life of Milton in The Early Lives of Milton. Ed. Helen Darbishere. London: Constable, 1932.
  • von Maltzahn, Nicholas. "Milton's Readers" in The Cambridge Companion to Milton. ed. Dennis Richard Danielson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Watts, Isaac. "Miscellaneous Thoughts" no. lxxiii. Works 1810
  • Wedgwood, C. V. Thomas Wentworth, First Earl of Strafford 1593–1641. New York: Macmillan, 1961.
  • Wilson, A. N. The Life of John Milton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.


  1. 1.0 1.1 John William Cousin, "Milton John," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: Dent / New York: Dutton, 1910, 271-274. Wikisource, Web, Feb. 13, 2018.
  2. Forsyth, Neil (2008). "St. Paul's". John Milton A Biography (1st ed.). Wilkinson House, Jordan Hill Road, Oxford OX2 8DR, England: Lion Hudson. p. 16. ISBN 9780745953106. 
  3. Lewalski 2003 p. 3.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dick 1962 pp. 270–5.
  5. Milton, John in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  6. Hunter 1980 p. 99.
  7. Wedgwood 1961 p. 178.
  8. Hill 1977 p. 34.
  9. Pfeiffer 1955 pp. 363–373
  10. Milton 1959 pp. 887–8.
  11. Hill 1977 p. 38.
  12. Lewalski 2003 p. 103.
  13. Chaney, 1985 and 2000
  14. Lewalski 2003 pp. 87–88
  15. Milton 1959 Vol. IV part I. pp. 615–617
  16. Lewalski 2003 pp. 88–94
  17. Chaney, 1985 and 2000, and Lewalski, p. 96.
  18. Chaney, 1985, p. 244-51 and Chaney, 2000, p. 313
  19. Lewalski 2003 pp. 94–98
  20. Lewalski 2003 p. 98
  21. Milton 1959 Vol IV part I. pp. 618–619
  22. Lewalski 2003 pp. 99–109
  23. Lobel, 1957, pages 122–134
  24. Lewalski 2003 pp. 181–2, 600.
  25. von Maltzahn 1999 p. 239
  26. Toland 1932 p. 193.
  27. Hill, 1977
  28. Lindenbaum, Peter (1995). "Authors and Publishers in the Late Seventeenth Century: New Evidence on their Relations". The Library (Oxford University Press) s6-17 (3): 250–269. doi:10.1093/library/s6-17.3.250. ISSN 0024-2160. 
  29. MeasuringWorth, 2010, "Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1264 to Present". Access date: 13 March 2011.
  30. Darbishire, Helen (October 1941). The Review of English Studies (Oxford University Press) 17 (68): 415–427. 
  31. "John Milton's Paradise Lost". The Morgan Library & Museum. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  32. Al-Zubi, Hasan A. (2007). "Audience and human nature in the poetry of Milton and Dryden/Milton ve Dryden'in siirlerinde izleyici ve insan dogasi – Interactions – Find Articles at BNET". Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  33. Joseph M. Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (1994), p. 247.
  34. "Online text of one book". Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  35. Christopher Ricks, Milton's Grand Style (1963), p. 9, p. 14, p. 57.
  36. William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral (1974 edition), p. 147.
  37. Saintsbury 1908 ii. 443
  38. Watts 1810 iv. 619
  39. Milton 1668 xi
  40. Gordon 2008 p. 234
  41. Dexter 1922 p. 46
  42. Saintsbury 1908 ii. 457
  43. Saintsbury 1916 p. 101
  44. Johnson 1751 no.86
  45. Dexter 1922 p. 57
  46. Saintsbury 1908 ii. 458-9
  47. Dexter 1922 p. 59
  48. Saintsbury 1916 p. 114
  49. Gray 1748 Observations on English Metre
  50. Hobsbaum 1996 p. 40
  51. They included "self-same", "hue", "minstrelsy", "murky", "carol", and "chaunt". Among Milton’s naturalized Latin words were "humid", "orient", "hostil", "facil", "fervid", "jubilant", "ire", "bland", "reluctant", "palpable", "fragil", and "ornate". Peck 1740 p. 110-111.
  52. Scott 1785 63
  53. Saintsbury 1908 ii. 468
  54. See, for instance, Barker, Arthur. Milton and the Puritan Dilemma, 1641–1660. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1942: 338 and passim; Wolfe, Don M. Milton in the Puritan Revolution. New York: T. Nelson and Sons, 1941: 19.
  55. Stephen Fallon, Milton Among the Philosophers (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 81.
  56. Blair Worden, Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England: John Milton, Andrew Marvell and Marchamont Nedham (2007), p. 154.
  57. Milton and Republicanism, ed. David Armitage, Armand Himy, and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  58. James Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (1993), p. 301.
  59. Austin Woolrych, Commonwealth to Protectorate (1982), p. 34.
  60. Worden, p. 149.
  61. Austin Woolrych, Commonwealth to Protectorate (1982), p. 101.
  62. G. E. Aylmer (editor), The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement 1646–1660 (1972), p. 17.
  63. Christopher Hill, God's Englishman (1972 edition), p. 200.
  64. "Online Library of Liberty – To S r Henry Vane the younger. – The Poetical Works of John Milton". Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  65. "John W. Creaser – Prosodic Style and Conceptions of Liberty in Milton and Marvell – Milton Quarterly 34:1". Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  66. William Riley Parker and Gordon Campbell, Milton (1996), p. 444.
  67. Nigel Smith, Popular Republicanism in the 1650s: John Streater's 'heroick mechanics' , p. 154, in David Armitage, Armand Himy, Quentin Skinner (editors), Milton and Republicanism (1998).
  68. Blair Worden, Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England: John Milton, Andrew Marvell and Marchamont Nedham (2007), Ch. 14, Milton and the Good Old Cause.
  69. Austin Woolrych, Last Quest for Settlement 1657–1660, p. 202, in G. E. Aylmer (editor), The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement 1646–1660 (1972), p. 17.
  70. Nr 106 in The Church Hymn book 1872 (ed. Hatfield, Edwin F., New York and Chicago, USA)
  71. Lewalski, Life of Milton, p. 253.
  72. William Bridges Hunter, A Milton Encyclopedia (1980), Volume VIII p. 13.
  73. Arnold Williams, Renaissance Commentaries on "Genesis" and Some Elements of the Theology of Paradise Lost, PMLA, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Mar., 1941), pp. 151–164.
  74. Walter S. H. Lim, John Milton, Radical Politics, and Biblical Republicanism (2006), p. 141.
  75. John Rogers, The Matter of Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998), p. xi.
  76. Hunter, William Bridges A Milton Encyclopedia, Volume 8(East Brunswick, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1980) pp. 71, 72 ISBN 0838718418
  77. (PDF) Nicholas McDowell, Family Politics; Or, How John Phillips Read His Uncle's Satirical Sonnets, Milton Quarterly Volume 42 Issue 1, Pages 1–21, Published Online: 17 Apr 2008
  78. Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution (1977), p. 127.
  79. John Milton, The Christian Doctrine in Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Hughes (Hackett: Indianapolis, 2003), pp. 994–1000; Leo Miller, John Milton among the Polygamophiles (New York: Loewenthal Press, 1974)
  80. Lewalski, Life of Milton, p. 199.
  81. Timothy Kenyon, Utopian Communism and Political Thought in Early Modern England (1989), p. 34.
  82. John Milton, People, History, Westminster Abbey. Web, July 12, 2016.
  83. McCalman 2001 p. 605.
  84. Contemporary Literary Criticism, "Milton, John – Introduction"
  85. Kevin Sharpe, Remapping Early Modern England: The Culture of Seventeenth-century Politics (2000), p. 7.
  86. J. P. Kenyon, Revolution Principles (1977), p. 77.
  87. Nos 267, 273, 279, 285, 291, 297, 303, 309, 315, 321, 327, 333, 339, 345, 351, 357, 363, and 369.
  88. Explanatory Notes and Remarks on Milton's Paradise Lost (1734).
  89. S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary (1973), p. 274.
  90. Bill Beckley, Sticky Sublime (2001), p. 63.
  91. Part II, Section I:
  92. "Francis T. Palgrave, ed. (1824–1897). The Golden Treasury. 1875". Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  93. Thomas N. Corns, A Companion to Milton (2003), p. 474.
  94. 94.0 94.1 Leader, Zachary. "Revision and Romantic Authorship". Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 298. ISBN 0-19-818634-7
  95. Cited from the original in J. Paul Hunter (editor), Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1996), p. 225.
  96. Nardo, Anna, K. George Eliot’s Dialogue with Milton
  97. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A theory of poetry (1997), p. 33.
  98. Alphabetical list of authors: Jago, Richard to Milton, John. Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 19, 2012.
  99. "Milton's Areopagitica and the Modern First Amendment by Vincent Blasi". Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  100. "Imitating Milton: The Legacy of Paradise Lost". Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  101. "Philip Pullman opens Bodleian Milton exhibition – University of Oxford". Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  102. Eliot 1947 p. 63.
  103. Search results = au:William Vaughan Moody, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Dec. 21, 2014.
  104. Search results = au:John Churton Collins, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Jan. 5, 2015.
  105. Selected Prose Writings (1884), , Internet Archive, Web, Apr. 8, 2012.
  106. John Milton 1608-1674, Poetry Foundation, Web, Nov. 11, 2012.

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