John Milton: Reading Machine

…leaving university, first for London, then for his father’s country house at Horton in Buckinghamshire, [John Milton] read, day and night, under his own direction, for six more years. It seems likely that Milton in his time read just about everything of importance written in English, Latin, Greek, and Italian. (Of course, he had the Bible by heart.)

Of course!

From page 1401 of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume 1, 5th edition.

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5 comments on “John Milton: Reading Machine

  1. deb says:

    “EVERYTHING OF IMPORTANCE” written by the 17th century.
    How do we know he wasn't just reading translations of the same works of importance (significant qualification) in all four languages?
    Any idea if Milton was any fun?

  2. Sylvia says:

    I don't know if he was any fun but I think if he were alive now he might be a blogger. “He began by publishing antiprelatical tracts, against government of the church by bishops. These are rough, knockabout, name-calling tracts in the style of the times, which take a popular position on a popular issue. … But in the meanwhile his personal circumstances had led to a second series of pamphlets that earned Milton a reputation as a radical.”
    He didn't seem to have a way with the ladies, though: “In May or June of 1642, he had married Mary Powell… The bride was just seventeen years old, half her husband's age. Within a few weeks she left him, to return to her parents' house; and from 1643 to 1645, Milton published a series of pamphlets arguing that divorce should be granted on grounds of incopatibility.”
    I can't really blame him. What could an intellectual giant have in common with an uneducated girl? She did eventually come back, though, had three girls, and then died. His next wife died in childbirth, and he married a third time, when he was poor and blind, so I guess he liked being married. Not enough details to find out if he knew how to have a good time, though!

  3. deb says:

    The well-read and intellectuals of 17th and 18th centuries would have been great bloggers. Consider Henry Clarke Wright, who according to W.C. McDaniel might have been the earliest blogger [he hasn't considered Milton!]
    But he says: Wright shared several traits with the prototypical blogger—his eccentric range of interests, his resolution “to write down what I see and hear and feel daily,” his use of journals to “let off” rants of “indignation,” his utopian conviction that writing might change the world, and (not least) his practice of spending the “greater part of the day writing in his room.” http://www.common-place.org/vol-05/no-04/mcdaniel/index.shtml
    Milton once said, according to book of quotations that “he wouldn't let his daughters learn foreign languages because one tongue is enough for a woman.” I think that's pretty funny. He had three wives and was probably drawing from his experience.

  4. Stefanie says:

    So much reading! Didn't he end up going blind?

  5. Sylvia says:

    Deb: Great quote!
    Stefanie: Yup, he went blind from eyestrain. Thanks to Thomas Edison we don't have to worry about that!

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