MILTON, John, English poet: b. London, 9 Dec. 1608; d. London, 8 Nov. 1674. He was the son of John Milton (d. 1647), a prosperous and cultivated scrivener with marked leanings to Puritanism, and Sarah Jeffrey (d. 1637), of whom little is known. The pair had six chil dren, three of whom came to maturity. The eldest of these was Anne, mother of the infant girl upon whom Milton wrote his elegy, fairest flower, no sooner blown than blasted' ; of Edward Phillips, author of Poe tarum,' and of the hack-writer, John Phillips, both of whom Milton taught. She married for her second husband, Thomas Agar. John, the poet, was the second of the Milton's surviving children. The youngest was Christopher (1615 93), who became a loyalist and a Roman Cath olic, and was knighted and made a judge by James II.
Milton was born in Bread street, Cheapside; at the sign of the Spread Eagle, where his father conducted his business. The elder Mil ton was a talented organist and composer, who is said to have taught his son to play the organ and to have made his house the resort of the best musicians of the day. John was beautiful in childhood and soon showed literary and scholarly proclivities. He was at first taught at home by Thomas Young, afterward a noted Puritan clergyman, to whom he addressed his fourth Latin elegy. Then he attended Saint Paul's School under the two Alexander Gills, profiting from the classical acquirements of the elder. Here he formed the most memorable of his friendships, that with Charles Diodati, the son of an Italian Protestant who had settled in London as a physician. He spent between four and five years at this school, straining his eyes with study, learning five languages and reading much poetry, especially that of Spenser, whom he later acknowledged as a master, and Joshua Sylvester's (q.v.) uncouth translation of Du Bartas, which had a slightly deleterious influ ence upon his own early poetical compositions. Metrical paraphrases of Psalms ody and cxxxvi, preserved by Milton, furnish speci mens of his juvenile accomplishments.
On 9 April 1625 he matriculated as a pen sioner of Christ's College, Cambridge, his tutor being William Chappell, a religious contro versialist, afterward bishop of Cork. With this tutor Milton had some unexplained trouble, which apparently led to a short rustication and to his transfer to another tutor. The interlin cation in the manuscript of Aubrey's sketch of the poet to the effect that Chappell his most famous pupil may refer to some sort of personal encounter, or else may represent anti Puritan gossip.
It is abundantly clear from later references to Cambridge in his writings, that Milton, al though he was honored for his character and his scholarship, and was several times selected to represent his college as a public speaker, had no great respect for the university's methods and ideals. His beauty of person and his chaste
life gained him the nickname of °the and he seems to have formed no special friendships with such promising undergraduates of other colleges as Thomas Randolph, and Edmund Waller (q.v.), his seniors, or with John Cleve (q.v.), the satirist, and Henry More, the Platonist, junior members of his own college. This aloofness from his fellows and his ap parent inability to find inspiring personalities among his instructors probably increased his absorption in his studies and encouraged him to correspond in Latin with Diodati, then at Oxford, as well as to compose poetry, in both Latin and not incon siderable in quantity and extraordinarily good in quality. On the Morning of Christ's Na tivity' (1629) is the crowning performance of this period and, despite some youthful defects of fantastic extravagance, is one of the few really great odes in our literature. Less ex cellent but still memorable are the lines on Shakespeare (1630), the sonnet his Hav ing Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three' and An Epitaph on the Marchioness of Win chester.' Milton, whose brother Christopher had fol lowed him to Christ's, took his bachelor's de gree 26 March 1629 and his master's 3 July 1632. He tells us that the college authorities would have been glad if he could have con tinued to reside with them — probably as a Fellow. His design had been to take orders in the Church, but the High-Church reaction, which Archbishop Laud was fostering, was obnoxious to him, and he was unwilling to come under the control of that masterful prelate. Theo logical difficulties and objections to an elabo rate ritual do not seem to have weighed greatly with him at this time—certainly not to such a degree as the natural aversion of a proud and liberty-loving spirit to submit to the restraints imposed by an ecclesiastical organization domi nated by a zealot. No other profession ape daily attracting him — though there are hints that he thought of the law — he gave himself up to reading and study, with the hope that he might later compose something the world "would not willingly let As this meant that for several years he must be a charge upon his father, the latter surely deserved the thanks conveyed to him in the Latin poem entitled (Ad Patrem,' and he should be con sidered one of the most farseeing of parents.