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John Milton (1608-1674)

Carved wood bust of the polemicist and man of letters born in Bread Street, London in 1608. The son of a scrivener, he was educated at St Paul's School and Christ’s College, Cambridge from which he is thought to have been rusticated. Continuing his education at home, he commenced his literary career before travelling to France in 1638 and to Italy where he met Galileo. In 1639 Milton returned to England and became a schoolmaster in London. As a champion of freedom and self-determination he naturally sided with Parliament at the outbreak of the Civil War.  As a pamphleteer he attacked the episcopacy, argued that divorce should be allowed. Milton earned a living as a civil servant under the Protectorate. Tragically in 1652 Milton went blind. However in 1667 his masterpiece ‘Paradise Lost’ was published, chronicling the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It has been argued that the poem reflects his personal despair at the failure of the republican Revolution, yet affirms an ultimate optimism in human potential.

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