Thursday, November 18, 2010 | By: Furqon Abdi

Biography of John Milton

John Milton
John Milton was born on December 9, 1608, in London, as the second child of John and Sara (neé Jeffrey). John Milton Sr. worked as a scrivener, a legal secretary whose duties included preparation and notarization of documents , as well as real estate transactions and moneylending. Milton's father was also a composer of church music, and Milton himself experienced a lifelong delight in music. The family's financial prosperity afforded Milton to be taught classical languages, first by private tutors at home, followed by entrance to St. Paul's School at age twelve, in 1620.
In 1625, Milton was admitted to Christ's College, Cambridge. During his temporary return to London, Milton attended plays, and perhaps began his first forays into poetry. Then he returned to Cambridge. Life at Cambridge was still not easy on Milton; he felt he was disliked by many of his fellow students and he was dissatisfied with the curriculum.

Concerned with the Puritan cause, Milton published a series of pamphlets against episcopacy (1642), on divorce (1643), in defense of the liberty of the press (1644), and in support of the regicides (1649). He also served as the secretary for foreign languages in Cromwell's government. After the death of Charles I, Milton expressed in THE TENURE OF KINGS AND MAGISTRATES (1649) the view that the people have the right to depose and punish tyrants.
In 1651 Milton became blind, but like Jorge Luis Borges centuries later, blindness helped him to stimulate his verbal richness. "He sacrificed his sight, and then he remembered his first desire, that of being a poet," Borges wrote in one of his lectures. One of his assistants was the poet and satirist Andew Marvell (1621-78), who spoke for him in Parliament, when his political opinions stirred much controversy. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, Milton was arrested as a noted defender of the Commonwealth, but was soon released. However, for his opposition Milton was forced to pay a massive fine. Besides public burning of EIKONKLASTES (1649) and the first DEFENSIO (1651) in Paris and Toulouse, Milton escaped from more punishment, but he became a relatively poor man. The manuscript of Paradise Lost he sold for £5 to Samuel Simmons, and was promised another £5 if the first edition of 1,300 copies sold out. This was done in 18 months.
Milton was married three times. His first marriage started unhappily; this experience promted the poet to write his famous essays on divorce. He had married in 1642 Mary Powell, seventeen at that time. She grew soon bored with her busy husbandand went back home where she stayed for three years. Their first child, Anne, was born in 1646. Mary died in 1652 and In 1656, Milton married Katherine Woodcock, but the happiness was short-lived. Milton's daughter Katherine was born in late 1657, but by early 1658, both mother and daughter had passed away. For her memory Milton devoted the sonnet 'To His Late Wife'. In the 1660s Milton moved with his third wife, Elizabeth Minshull, again a much younger woman, to what is now Bunhill Row. The marriage was happy, in spite of the great difference of their ages. Milton spent in Bunhill Row the remaining years of his life, apart from a brief visit to Chalfont St Giles in 1665 during a period of plague. His late poems Milton dictated to his daughter, nephews, friends, disciples, and paid amanuenses.
History of Britain was published in 1670; Paradise Regain'd andSamson Agonistes were published together in 1671. Of True Religion and Poems, &c. upon Several Occasions were published in 1673. In summer 1674, the second edition of Paradise Lost was published, in twelve books.
Milton died on November 8, 1674. He was buried beside his father in the church of St Giles, Cripplegate. It has been claimed that Milton's grave was desecrated when the church was undergoing repairs. All the teeth and "a large quantity of the hair" were taken as souvenirs by grave robbers.


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