Magazine
Latest Issue

Darkness visible: Milton visits Galileo during a trip to Italy. Line engraving after a painting by Annibale Gatti, c20th century Photo: Granger/Shutterstock

Prophetic strain: the roots of Milton’s radical zeal

Milton was a political as well as poetic revolutionary. How did the author of Paradise Lost find himself?

By Rhodri Lewis   March 2021

One of the challenges of writing about John Milton—the man, the poet, the political figure—is the paucity of materials from which to reconstruct the first three decades of his life. There are records of baptism and education and suchlike, but his biographers have for the most part been confined to what Milton himself wrote about his upbringing and early adulthood. In compiling his brief life of Milton around 1680, John Aubrey had the advantage of being able to interview Milton’s widow, brother, nephew and various contemporaries. But other than recording such memorable details as Milton having been known as “the lady of Christ’s” while at Cambridge (ostensibly on account of his fair complexion), even he could put little flesh on the bones.

On one thing Milton and all his biographers agree. From an early age he was determined to become a poet of the first rank. To this…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect