Milton Society of America
John Milton Chronology|
by Roy C. Flannagan, Ohio University.
Originally published in Professor
Flannagan's edition of Paradise
||December 9. Born into the
family of John Milton Sr., and his wife Sara, at the family home,
"The Spreadeagle," Bread St., London. The large house
is within several blocks of St. Paul's Cathedral and in a well-to-do
mercantile neighborhood. John Milton Sr. is a prosperous scrivener-legal
aide, real-estate agent, notary, preparer of documents, money-lender;
he is also active as a composer of liturgical music.
||November 24. Brother Christopher
||Portrait painted by Cornelius
Janssen (Leo Miller, Milton's Portraits 7-9). Milton
is tutored at home by Thomas Young, a Scottish Presbyterian who will
come to be identified with the Puritan movement. Young will
present Milton with a Hebrew Bible and will trade Latin and Greek
verses with him.
||Enters St. Paul's School, under
the high master Alexander Gill. After Milton's death, his brother
Christopher told John Aubrey "When he [John] went to Schoole,
when he was very young he studied very hard and sate-up very late,
commonly till 12 or one a clock at night, & his father ordered
the mayde to sitt-up for him, and in those years composed many Copies
of Verses: which might well become a riper age" (Darbishire 2,
10). After the age of twelve, the young Milton "rarely retired
to bed from my studies until midnight" (Columbia 8.119). His
best friend at St. Paul's is Charles Diodati, son of a prominent Protestant
Italian doctor. Charles will matriculate at Trinity College,
Oxford, February 7, 1623. Milton is also instituting a long-term
friendship with Alexander Gill the younger, an under-usher at St.
Paul's and about ten years older than Milton.
||February 12. Admitted to
Christ's College, Cambridge, under the tutor William Chappell.
||Dispute with Chappell causes him
to be sent home to London or "rusticated" temporarily.
While in London, Milton informs Charles Diodati that he is seeing
classical comedies and tragedies performed. When he returns
to Cambridge, he is put under the tutor Nathaniel Tovey.
||June 11. Lends his future
father-in-law, Richard Powell, £500.
||Expresses dissatisfaction with the curriculum at Cambridge in his first
Prolusion: Milton avows that possibly half his audience of fellow students
"bear[s] malice" toward him (French 1:150). Portrait
painted (?). Milton sees, and later derides, dramatic performances
December 25. "On
the Morning of Christ's Nativity" composed before dawn.
||Charles Diodati attends the University
of Geneva, Switzerland. Edward King, the subject of Milton's
"Lycidas," is given a fellowship at Christ's College.
||February. Christopher Milton
matriculates at Christ's College, under Milton's tutor Nathaniel Tovey.
||Milton's "On Shakespeare" published in the Second Folio
of Shakespeare's works.
July 3. Takes M. A. cum laude at Cambridge. He
has evidently been on much better terms with fellow students, since his
poems on the death of Hobson indicate convivial behavior (Parker I: 94)
and his last college exercise, the Oratorio pro Arte ("oration
on behalf of art"), discusses, among other things, the value of worthy
and congenial friendship.
Retires to family homes at Hammersmith, near London, and at Horton, in
Buckinghamshire, to study for five years, at his father's expense, occasionally
visiting London "for the purposes of learning something new in mathematics
or music, in which I then delighted" (Columbia 8.120).
Milton admitted to Inner Temple, London, to study law.
||September 29. Comus performed as part of the ceremonies honoring
the installation of Thomas Egerton, the Lord President of Wales, at Ludlow
Castle, on the border of England and Wales. Sir Henry Wotton, Provost
of Eton College, will be given a copy of the masque to read.
Trades Greek and Latin
verses with Alexander Gill the younger.
||Comus is published, anonymously at first, with the aid of the
court composer Henry Lawes, who has written the music.
April 3. Mother Sara dies and is buried at Horton.
September 2. Writes to Charles Diodati that he is finishing an intense
and "great period of my studies" (French 1:343).
is written (Edward King, Milton's fellow pupil at Christ's College,
in whose memory the poem was written, had drowned August 10).
||"Lycidas" is published
in the Cambridge memorial volume for Edward King, Justa Edwardo
King Naufrago ("In memory of Edward King, shipwrecked").
|Tours Western Europe, passing
quickly through France, then concentrating on Florence, Siena, Rome,
Venice, Milan, and Naples, and returning by way of Geneva. Milton
meets Hugo Grotius, the famous Dutch legal scholar and poet, possibly
in May, 1638, in Paris.
||Well received at meetings of the Academia Svogliati in Florence, where
he reads his own Latin verse. Presumably Milton goes to Vallombrosa,
a monastery near Florence. He also probably visits Galileo, then under
house arrest by the Inquisition in Florence. He attends an operatic performance
at the palace of Cardinal Francesco Barberini, nephew to the Pope, in Rome,
and visits the Vatican Library. He meets the biographer of Torquato
Tasso, Giovanni Batista, Marquis of Manso, in Naples. Milton will
write "Mansus" in his honor.
A planned trip to Greece
is canceled, apparently because of rumors of impending civil war in
England. Milton learns of Charles Diodati's death (Charles was buried
in London August 27), possibly while visiting Giovanni Diodati, theologian
and uncle of Charles, in Geneva.
|Settles in London, instituting a kind of private secondary school or
academy, at first with his nephews Edward and John Phillips, later with
aristocratic children as well.
Charles I invades Scotland
(1639). The Long Parliament is convened (1640).
||June 30. Repossesses Richard
Powell's lands in Wheatly for non-payment of debt.
||May. Of Reformation published.
June or July. Of Prelatical Episcopacy published.
||February. The Reason for Church Government published.
May (?). Marries Mary Powell. She leaves him about a month later,
to return to the Powell family household near Oxford, and does not return.
The Powell family declare on the side of the Royalists.
August. The Civil War begins.
brother Christopher begins service on the side of the Royalists while
in residence in the city of Reading (Parker 1: 231). Royalist army
maintains its headquarters in Oxford. Battle of Edgehill October 23.
||August 1. Doctrine and
Discipline of Divorce published.
||February 2. Second, augmented edition of Doctrine and Discipline
June 5. Of Education published.
July 2. Battle of Marston Moor (turning point in the War).
August 6. The Judgement of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce
November 23. Areopagitica
||March 4. Tetrachordon and Colasterion published.
Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin...1645 registered
Makes plans to marry the daughter of a Dr. Davis, "a very Handsome
and Witty Gentlewoman" (Darbishire 66). Mary Powell returns.
June 14. Battle
of Naseby (end of Charles I's hopes to achieve a military settlement).
||The entire Powell family, having been ejected from Oxford as Royalist
when the forces of King Charles were no longer in ascendancy there, moves
in with Milton.
January 2. Poems...1645 published.
July 29. Daughter
||January 1. Father-in-law Richard Powell dies.
March. John Milton, Sr. dies, leaving a "moderate estate"
(Darbishire 32-33) including the Bread St. house.
April 21. Writes to his Italian friend Carlo Dati, lamenting that he is
surrounded by uncongenial people (Yale 2: 762-73).
The Milton family, after
the Powell relatives have returned to Oxford, moves from the larger
house in the Barbican to a smaller one in High Holborn, near Lincoln's
Inn Fields, a quiet neighborhood.
||October 25. Daughter Mary
||January 30. Public execution of King Charles I: "Milton was probably
there" (Parker 1:345).
February 13. Tenure of Kings and Magistrates published.
March. Invited to become Secretary for the Foreign Tongues (a post
dealing with diplomatic correspondence, usually in Latin) by the Council
of State. Milton was appointed Secretary March 15, at £288 per year,
and ordered to answer Eikon Basilike, the book supposedly written
by Charles I on the eve of his execution, which depicts the King's image
(icon) as that of a martyr.
May 11. Salmasius's Defensio Regia ("defense of kingship")
May 16. Observations on the Articles of Peace published.
October 6. Eikonoklastes ("breaker of icons") published.
November 19. Given lodgings
for official work at Scotland Yard.
||Ordered by Council of State
to answer Salmasius.
||February 24. Defensio pro populo Anglicano ("defense
of the English people," to vindicate the actions of the English on
the Continent) published.
March 16. Son John born.
Milton family moves to
"a pretty Garden-house in Petty-France in Westminster ... opening
into St. James's Park" (Darbishire 71).
||February. Becomes totally blind towards the end of the month, most
likely as the result of glaucoma.
May 2. Daughter Deborah born.
May 5. Wife Mary dies, probably from complications following childbirth.
June 16 (?). Son John dies under somewhat mysterious circumstances
(may have been neglected by a nurse; see Parker, Milton 1: 412).
August. Pierre du
Moulin's regii Sanguinis Clamor ("the outcry of the King's
blood") published, in reply to Milton's Defensio.
Milton is ordered to reply to it by the Council of State.
||February 20. Writes a letter recommending that Andrew Marvell,
because of his abilities as translator and scholar, become his assistant.
September 3. Salmasius
||May 30. Defensio Secunda
||Allowed to use the services of an amanuesis to take dictation for him
in Secretaryship; translation duties limited. Milton resumes private scholarship,
preparing a Latin dictionary and Greek lexicon; possibly he works on De
Doctrina Christiana ("On Christia Doctrine"), his summary
of his own theological beliefs; possibly works on Paradise Lost.
Salary reduced from £288 to £150, but that becomes a pension
August 8. Defensio
Pro Se ("defence of himself") published.
||November 12. Marries Katherine
||October 19. Daughter Katherine
||February 3. Katherine Woodcock dies.
March 17. Daughter Katherine dies.
September 3. Oliver
||February 16 (?). A Treatise of Civil Power published.
March 3. Ready and Easy Way To Establish a Free Commonwealth
published in its first edition.
Goes into hiding at a friend's house in Bartholomew Close to escape possible
retaliation from Charles II's loyalists "where he liv'd till the Act
of Oblivion [the act pardoning most of those who had abjured Charles I]
came forth" (Darbishire 74).
June 16. Parliament looks into the possibility of having Milton arrested.
June 27. The hangman of London burns Defensio pro populo Anglicano
and Eikonoklastes publicly.
August. The Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings out of the Church
August (?). Takes a house in Holborn, near Red Lion Fields. Milton
moves from there shortly to a house in Jewin Street, in September, in fear
for his life (Darbishire 74-75).
October (?). Arrested and imprisoned.
December 15. Released
by order of Parliament. On December 17, Andrew Marvell protests in
Parliament that Milton's jail fees (£150) were excessive.
||May 30. Restoration of King Charles II.
Revised edition of the
Ready and Easy Way.
||Begins tutoring Thomas Ellwood, a young Quaker who would mention the
circumstances of the publication of Paradise Lost and Paradise
Regain'd in his own autobiography.
June (?). Sonnet
to Sir Henry Vane published. Vane executed June 14, after eloquently
defending the sovereignty of parliament.
Marries Elizabeth Minshull. Problems arise in the family before
and after the marriage. His daughter Mary is said to have wished him
dead rather than married, and several of his daughters are said to
have conspired to sell some of his books "to the dunghill women"
(Parker 1: 586).
The family moves from
Jewin Street to "a House in the artillery-walk [a miltiary
marching ground] leading to Bunhill Fields." "here
he finisht his noble Poem, and publisht it in the year 1666"
||Thomas Ellwood acts as agent,
securing a house for Milton in Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire,
to avoid a visitation of the plague in London. ("Milton's
Cottage," the only residence in which Milton lived that
has been preserved, is now open to the public.)
||The poet's father's house in Bread
Street is among those destroyed in the Great Fire of London, which
also burns most of the printing houses.
||Paradise Lost published,
in ten books. Milton's agreement with Samuel Simmons the printer is
the earliest author's contract preserved (Lindenbaum).
||Paradise Lost reissued
with a new title page, the arguments, and other preliminary matter.
||June. Accidence Commenced
||Milton's portrait painted in pastels, then engraved, by William Faithorne.
November (?). History
of Britain published, with the Faithorne engraving as frontispiece.
||Paradise Regain'd and Samson
Agonistes published together. The date of composition of
Samson Agonistes is still in dispute.
||May (?). Art of Logic
||May (?). Of True Religion published.
November (?). Poems,
&c. upon Several Occasions ...1675 published.
||May. Epistolae Familiares ("familiar letters"
or "letters to friends") and Prolusiones ("prolusions," college
July 6 (?). Second edition of Paradise Lost published, in
twelve books, with commendatory poems by "S.B." and Andrew Marvell.
November. Dies "in a fit of the gout, but with so little pain
or emotion that the time of his expiring was not perceived by those in
the room" (French 5: 96) at some time between November 8 and November
November 12. Buried near his father in the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate.
Darbishire, Helen, ed. The Early Lives of Milton.
London: Constable, 1932.
Copyright © 1993 by Macmillan Publishing Company,
a division of Macmillan, Inc.
Reprinted with the permission of the author.
French, J. Milton. The Life Records of John Milton.
5 vols. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1949-58. New York: Gordian P,
Lindenbaum, Peter. "The Poet in the Marketplace: Milton and Samuel
Simmons." Paper delivered at the Fourth International Milton Symposium,
University of British Columbia, Vancouver 4-10 August, 1991.
Miller, Leo. Milton's Portraits. Special issue of Milton
Parker, William Riley. Milton: A Biography. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon,
Patterson, Frank A., gen. ed. The Works of John Milton.
18 vols. New York: Columbia UP, 1931-38.
Wolfe, Don M., gen ed. Complete Prose Works of John Milton.
8 vols. in 10 Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1953-82.