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By Anna Beer

John Milton used to be one of many world’s maximum poets, the popular writer of Paradise Lost. yet he used to be additionally deeply concerned with political and non secular controversies of his time, and authored a sequence of radical pamphlets on unfastened speech, divorce, and civil rights that proposed a rethinking of the character and perform of presidency.

In numerous biographies, Milton has been crudely sketched both as a blind, saintly artist or as a family tyrant. but as Anna Beer exhibits, he was once neither ogre nor paragon. by means of heavily analyzing all elements of Milton’s existence and its social old context, Beer succeeds in bringing an enigmatic pillar of English literature to lifestyles, 4 centuries after his birth.

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Example text

And the fact is that John Milton was superb at Latin. His talent opened up new worlds of knowledge, and offered a connection with a wide and diverse community. European Protestants, divided by their vernacular languages, could communicate about their cause in Latin (even as they rejected it as the language of religious observance). Mastery of the language also enabled John to write poetry. His early poems were invariably occasional – that is, composed for particular occasions; they were often Ovidian – that is, heavily influenced by the Roman erotic poet Ovid; and they were, at times, millenarian – that is, conscious of the imminence of the Apocalypse.

In his mid-thirties he was admitted to the Company of Scriveners (having served his apprenticeship), and shortly after he married Sara Jeffreys, thus cementing his ties with the mercantile City. 7 To be a scrivener involved fulfilling a variety of roles: acting as a notary, representing clients in court, conveying land for individuals, moneylending, and operating as an estate agent and investment broker. That Mr Milton was a successful scrivener is illustrated by his leasing of the substantial house in Bread Street.

Despite all his social, political and literary ambitions, despite those enraptured travels in Italy, Milton never moved far from Bread Street, in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral, and the house where he had grown up over his father’s business. But London offered a vibrant, if often dangerous, forum for Milton the writer. It was the seat of government, the eye of the religious storm, a melting pot of nationalities, and, above all, the primary producer and consumer of the new media: cheap print.

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