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john Milton was born on December 9, 1608, in London, as the second child of John and Sara (neé Jeffrey). The family lived on Bread Street in Cheapside, near St. Paul's Cathedral. John Milton Sr. worked as a scrivener, a legal secretary whose duties included preparation and notarization of documents , as well as real estate transactions and moneylending. Milton's father was also a composer ofchurch music, and Milton himself experienced a lifelong delight in music. The family's financial prosperity afforded Milton to be taught classical languages, first by private tutors at home, followed by entrance to St. Paul's School at age twelve, in 1620.

In 1625, Milton was admitted to Christ's College, Cambridge. While Milton was a hardworking student, he was also argumentative to the extentthat only a year later, in 1626, he got suspended after a dispute with his tutor, William Chappell. During his temporary return to London, Milton attended plays, and perhaps began his first forays into poetry. At his return to Cambridge, Milton was assigned a new tutor, Nathaniel Tovey. Life at Cambridge was still not easy on Milton; he felt he was disliked by many of his fellow students and he wasdissatisfied with the curriculum. It was at Cambridge that he composed "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" on December 25, 1629.
n 1632, Milton took his M.A. cum laude at Cambridge, after which he retired to the family homes in London and Horton, Buckinghamshire, for years of private study and literary composition.1 His poem, "On Shakespeare", was published in the same year in the SecondFolio. From this period hail also his "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso." Milton's Comus, a masque, was performed at Ludlow Castle in 1634, to be first published anonymously in 1637, music by the famed court composer Henry Lawes. In April 1637, Milton was nearing the end of his studies when his mother died and was buried at Horton. Only a few months later, in August, Milton's friend Edward King died aswell, by drowning. In November, upon his memory, Milton composed the beautiful elegy, Lycidas. It was published in a memorial volume at Cambridge in 1638.

As customary for young gentlemen of means, Milton set out for a tour of Europe in the spring of 1638. He met famed scholar Hugo Grotius in Paris, where he stayed briefly before continuing on to Italy. Milton arrived in Florence in the autumn,where he probably met with Galileo, who was then under house arrest by order of the Inquisition. In Rome, he was a guest of Cardinal Barberini, the Pope's nephew, and visited the Vatican Library. In Naples, Milton met Giovanni Batista, biographer of Torquato Tasso. Milton wrote Mansus in his honor. Upon reaching Geneva to visit with Calvinist theologian Giovanni Diodati, Milton found outabout the death of his childhood friend, Charles Diodati in London. Milton's tour of Europe was cut short with rumors of impending civil war in England, and he returned home in July 1639. Shortly after, Milton composed Epitaphium Damonis, a Latin poem to the memory of his dearest friend.

Milton settled down in London, where he began schooling his two nephews, later also taking in children of thebetter families. The Civil War was brewing — King Charles I invaded Scotland in 1639, and the Long Parliament was convened in 1640. Milton began writing pamphlets on political and religious matters; Of Reformation, Animadversions, and Of Prelatical Episcopacy were published in 1641, The Reason for Church Government in February, 1642.

In the spring of 1642, Milton married Mary Powell, 17 yearsold to his 34, but the relationship was an unhappy one, and Mary left him to visit the family home briefly thereafter, and did not return. Matters were not improved when the Powells declared for the King in the Civil War which broke out in August. This prompted Milton to write his so-called 'Divorce Tracts' speaking for divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. In 1643, Milton published the...
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