The Politics And Poetry Of John Milton
By | September 13, 2019
Best known for writing Paradise Lost, John Milton was a 17th Century historian and writer, engaging in both poetry and prose. His political influence during his lifetime impacted not only the British civil wars but also the American and French revolutions. Meanwhile, his literary influence went on to inspire the likes of Wordsworth and Blake, as well as Percy and Mary Shelly.
Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608. His father, John Milton Sr., was a scrivener and moneylender, having been disinherited by his own father, Richard Milton. His mother, Sara Jeffrey Milton, was the daughter of a merchant tailor. Sara and John Sr. had several children but only three survived to adulthood. Milton was the middle child with an older sister, Anne, and younger brother, Christopher.
Around 1620, Milton’s father enrolled him at St. Paul’s School. He also hired a private tutor named Thomas Young, a Scottish Presbyterian whose influence likely led to Milton’s interest in politics and religion. It was at St Paul’s that Milton met Charles Diodati with whom he would remain friends through adulthood. It was also there that Milton learned Latin and Greek. He would later go on to become proficient in Italian, Hebrew, French, and Spanish. In 1625, he enrolled at Christ’s College, Cambridge, originally to be educated in ministry, but it was with a Bachelor of Arts degree that he graduated in 1629. He stayed on and received a Master of Arts degree in 1632.
After Cambridge, Milton moved back into his family home in Hammersmith, London. He stayed there for three years before moving with his family to Buckinghamshire where he would spend another three years. He spent these six years reading extensively, primarily Greek and Latin authors, preparing for a career in poetry. His reading material incorporated a wide range of subjects including religion, science, philosophy, politics, and literature. He wrote several poems during this time, including “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” “On Shakespeare,” and “Lycidas.”