John Milton was born in 1608 in London. His father was a composer of some note, successful enough that Milton was raised with a tutor. At an early age he learned both Latin and Greek. A contemporary of his said that "When he was young, he studied very hard and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock at night".
He spent time at
Cambridge, where he was apparently suspended for fighting a few times.
While there he also made contacts with various people, like Roger
Williams a theologian. While at Cambridge, Milton was already marked
for his poetic skills. After school he went to his father's house and
studied hard on subjects of his own choosing for the next six years. He
kept a record of his studies, which is now in the British Library.
toured Europe, mostly France and Italy. While doing so, his poetic
skills were given a larger audience and he met several of the leading
intellectual lights of the continent. He skipped a visit to Greece
because he wanted to return to England before civil war erupted there.
the civil war, Milton was outspoken against Catholicism and a vocal
proponent of 'republicanism', the belief that the head of state should
be elected, not inherited. He also made an ill considered marriage and
wrote about the advisability of divorce. These writings were attacked
and Milton wrote the subject of this month, 'Areopagitica'.
the war was over, Milton worked for Cromwell's government as the
'Secretary for Foreign Tongues'. His job was mainly to translate the
correspondence into Latin but he also worked as a propagandist and
censor. He wrote several defenses of the regicide of Charles I. By
1654, he was totally blind and had to dictate his work to assistants.
died in 1658 and the Restoration (of the monarchy) period was a hard
one for him. He went into hiding, only emerging after a general pardon
had been issued. He was still arrested and briefly spent time in
prison. Some influential friends sprung him and he lived quietly in
London, being forced to move out of the city during the plague of 1665.
1667, 'Paradise Lost' was published. He'd been working on it since at
least 1658. It's widely regarded as one of the best poems ever written
in English. He followed it up with 'Paradise Regained' and other
notable poems such as 'Samson Agonistes'.
He died of kidney failure in November of 1674.