John Milton was born on 9th of December 1608 at Spread Eagle, on the East side of Bread Street. In Cheapside, Milton’s father owned a shop and conducted his business as a scrivener, a profession which by the seventeenth century, had extended beyond the work of a scribe to include the functions of notarizing, money-lending and investment brokerage.
To begin with, Milton’s early education was in the hands of private tutors until 1615 when he joined a school, St. Paul’s which adjoined the Cathedral. In 1621, one of the great metaphysical poets, John Donne was appointed as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Milton probably heard Donne preach on several occasions. Right from his childhood Milton was encouraged to read on extensive subjects until late in the night. This could probably have been one of the reasons for Milton’s total blindness in 1652. Milton thanks his father in Ad Patrem for the encouragement to learn five languages- Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French and Italian apart from English.
In 1625, Milton moved to Christ’s college, Cambridge. His stay at Cambridge was not altogether a happy one, with Milton developing differences first, with one of his tutors and later with the University’s way of awarding degrees which made it mandatory for candidates to sign a written declaration subscribing to the doctrines of the Church of England and acknowledge the supremacy of the King. For unknown reasons Milton had developed differences with his tutor William Chappell and was even sent down from the University. Later, he was readmitted and assigned to a new tutor. On 3rd July. 1632. Milton was awarded his M.A. degree and for Milton, the next six years were devoted to private study, primarily Greek and Latin authors. One of the most decisive influences on his life and his choice of vocation as a poet was the continental tour which Milton took in 1638. He had composed many of his poems in the English language, but the warmth with which they were received in Italy and other parts of Europe cemented his resolution of becoming not only a poet but a national poet.
The years following his return to England in 1639 are crucial as far as his pamphlet writing is concerned. From 1641-1642, Milton wrote five important anti-prelatical tracts; Of Reformation in England, Of Prelatical Episcopacy; Animad versions upon the Remonstrant’s Defence; The Reason of Church Government and Apology for Smectymus. However, Of Education and a tract on the freedom of the press, Areopagitica, both published in 1644 are his most important pamphlets.
Milton’s tumultuous life as a public figure during the 1640 and 1650 distracted his activities as a poet, and a series of personal crises disturbed his domestic peace. His contemporaries John Donne and George Herbert never lost faith in the Anglican Church and never doubted that a true Church existed in spite of her superficial divisions and blemishes. However, Milton viewed the institutional Churches as having been corrupted. From 1638 onwards, Milton did not view the Anglican Church as any better than the Roman Catholic Church.
For a man as interested as Milton was in the Church, in personal religion and in marriage, he invokes the biblical marriage trope seldom. He does not attempt to separate the case of human marriage and divorce from its ideal exemplar, the divine marriage of Christ and his Church.
As; he grew increasingly disillusioned with the progress of the Reformation in England, he saw himself coming into the center of all activities political and religious.
After 1660, Milton retired to private life and concentrated on the composition of his epic. Paradise Lost (1667). After publishing Paradise Regained and Samson Agonists (1671) Milton died early in 1674 and on 12th November was buried in St. Giles” Cripplegate.