Happy birthday to one of my favorite writers!
It’s the birthday of poet John Milton (books by this author), born in London (1608). He studied at Christ’s College at Cambridge University, where he was nicknamed “the lady of Christ’s” for his good looks and delicate mannerisms. He described his lifestyle as “aloof from vice, and approved by all the good.” After graduation, he lived for six years at his father’s country estate in a small village called Horton, where he spent his days reading Greek and Roman writers, learning foreign languages, and writing poetry. After these years of self-directed study and some traveling in France and Italy, he wrote: “I began thus far to assent […] to an inward prompting which now grew daily upon me, that by labour and intent study (which I take to be my portion in this life) joyn’d with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die.” In the meantime, he served as a civil servant; wrote inflammatory pamphlets about politics, divorce, and freedom of the press; and supported the cause of the Commonwealth during the English Civil War, which eventually got him arrested. He lost his eyesight, and he spent the end of his life blind, living in seclusion in the countryside, where he dictated his epic poem Paradise Lost to his assistants, line by line.
He said, “What in me is dark / Illumine, what is low raise and support, / That to the height of this great argument / I may assert eternal Providence, / And justify the ways of God to men.”