John Milton was born in 1608 into a century of revolution — in politics, print, science and the arts. By the time he died, in 1674, Britain had experienced the governments of three different Stuart monarchs, the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, a few short-lived experiments in republican government – as well as Civil War.
Milton was at the centre of this this turbulent period. Having postponed his early poetic aspirations to support the Republican cause, he served in Cromwell’s government as the Secretary for Foreign Tongues. During this time he devoted himself to polemical, theological and historical prose – much of which remains relevant to readers today through its exploration of personal, religious and political freedom.
After the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, now blind, politically out of favour – and lucky to escape with his life – Milton returned to his first love, poetry. During this time he produced his greatest masterpieces, including the epic Paradise Lost. Begun while imprisoned in the Tower of London and completed at Milton’s Cottage, it was published in 1667 and immediately hailed, in the words of the poet John Dryden, as “one of the most sublime poems this age or nation has produced.”