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Milton, John

TOBIAS B. GREGORY


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


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John Milton (1608–74) was born in London on 9 December 1608. His father John was a scrivener (preparer of legal documents), moneylender, and accomplished amateur musician; of his mother Sara little is known. The young Milton was educated by private tutors and at St Paul's School. He entered Christ's College, Cambridge in 1625, receiving his BA in 1629 and his MA in 1632. After Cambridge, Milton spent the next six years living with his parents. In this period he read deeply in the classics and composed his first major poems, the masque Comus in 1634, and the pastoral elegy Lycidas in 1637. In 1638–39 Milton toured the Continent for 15 months, including stays in Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice. He and his Latin verses were well received in Florentine literary circles; he also met Hugo Grotius in Paris, Cardinal Francesco Barberini in Rome, and Torquato Tasso's former patron G. B. Manso in Naples. Upon his return to London in the autumn of 1639, Milton became schoolmaster to a small number of pupils, including his two nephews. Shortly thereafter he wrote the first of his polemical works, five fervently anti-episcopal tracts published in 1641–42. In summer 1642 Milton married Mary Powell, the 16-year-old daughter of an Oxfordshire gentleman who owed money to his father; Milton had visited the Powells to collect an interest payment on the debt, and as his nephew would later put ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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