The Guardian: ‘England hath need of thee’: appeal to save Milton’s Paradise Lost cottage

Milton’s Garden:

Vanitas prints created from the flowers of Milton’s Cottage garden by John Phillips

Celebrating the 350th anniversary of the publication of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, artist John Phillips has produced a print series from the flowers grown in Milton’s Cottage garden.

Each print hints at or confronts loss, evoking Milton’s idea that in the moment of original sin, the petals themselves died. “From his slack hand the garland wreathed for Eve / Down dropped and all the faded roses shed.” (Paradise Lost, Book IX, lines 892-893).

Assembling individual images from dozens, occasionally hundreds, of separate photographs, Phillips has employed his extraordinary photographic technique to embrace the range of colours, light, dense detail and masked allusions that reference the 17th century Vanitas paintings created by Dutch and English masters from Milton’s time.

To accompany these prints, Phillips travelled to the Greek region of Arcadia to create a panorama of the vast opencast coal mine that occupies the site of the lost village of Anthochori (flower village). For Milton, Arcadia was a fabled land of abundance celebrated in his masque Arcades. For other 17th century writers and painters, including Poussin, Arcadia – and its loss – evoked a bygone Golden Age. Phillips image, Anthochori, reveals our brutality towards this legendary home of Pan and worldly Paradise Lost.

Phillips has additionally printed Sonnet 19 on blind emboss on black paper, as an accompaniment to the print Orb, which references Milton’s own descriptions of blindness and inner vision.

These prints are included in the Vanitas exhibition at Milton’s Cottage and are available for sale from Milton’s Cottage and londonprintstudio.  All proceeds from print sales will go towards Paradise Maintain’d – a new endowment fund to protect and preserve Milton’s Cottage in perpetuity.

For more information and images please contact Kelly O’Reilly:

T: 01494 872 313; E:

Notes to editors

  • About the artist

John Phillips is an artist and photographer. He studied at Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) and has a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Brighton. His Vanitas series recently featured in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Phillips has been instrumental in the Community Arts Movement. In his recent art practice, he has been working with photography. His poster design work is held in a number of collections, including V&A, International Institute of Social History and Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

  • About Milton’s Cottage

Milton’s Cottage is the only surviving residence of the visionary poet and parliamentarian John Milton.

Although he lived here for less than 2 years – after fleeing London during the Great Plague of 1665 – Milton’s Cottage was an important place in the writer’s life. It was here that he completed his epic masterpiece, Paradise Lost, and was inspired to write its sequel, Paradise Regain’d.

Today this Grade I listed timber frame cottage is open to the public as a museum. It holds one of the world’s most important collections of Miltonic first editions on public display. It is also home to a unique literary garden planted with trees, flowers and herbs referenced in Milton’s poetry. It is the only cottage garden in the Chilterns listed by English Heritage as a Grade II registered historic garden.

Milton’s Cottage is open from 30th March to 31st October 2018. Opening times are Wed – Saturday, 2-5pm (last entry 4.30pm) as well as bank holidays and the 4th Sunday of the calendar month (during the same hours). There is a free visitor car park next to the museum.

  • About Milton Cottage Trust CIO

Milton’s Cottage is overseen by Milton’s Cottage Trust (CIO), an independent charity established to preserve Milton’s Cottage, its garden and collection for future generations. The current Trustees are: Simon Avery (Chair); John Dugdale Bradley (Hon. Treasurer); Piers Hugo Brown; Timothy Butcher; David Hicks-Beach; Frederick Nolan; Jeremy Ryman; Timothy Simmons; Andrew Still (Secretary) and Karen Welch.