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The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography

ISBN: 978-0-631-17665-7
812 pages
January 2001, Wiley-Blackwell
The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography (0631176659) cover image
Providing a close examination of Milton's wide-ranging prose and poetry at each stage of his life, Barbara Lewalski reveals a rather different Milton from that in earlier accounts.

  • Provides a close analysis of each of Milton's prose and poetry works.
  • Reveals how Milton was the first writer to self consciously construct himself as an 'author'.
  • Focuses on the development of Milton's ideas and his art.
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List of Plates.



List of Abbreviations.

1. 'The childhood shews the man" (1608-1625).

2. "To Cambridge . . . for seven years" (1625-1632).

3. "Studious Retirement": Hammersmith and Horton (1632-1638).

4. "I became desirous . . . of seeing foreign parts, especially Italy" (1638-1639).

5. "All mouths were opened against . . . the bishops" (1639-1642).

6. "Domestic or Personal Liberty" (1642-1645).

7. "Service . . . Between Private Walls" (1645-1649).

8. "The so-called Council of State . . . desired to employ my services" (1649- 1652).

9. "Tireless . . . for the sake of Liberty" (1652-1654).

10. "I . . . still bear up and steer/
Right onward" (1654-1658).

11 "The last words of our expiring libertie" (1658-1660).

12 "In darknes, and with dangers compast round" (1660-1665).

13. "Higher Argument": Completing and Publishing Paradise Lost (1665-1669).

14. "To try, and teach the erring Soul" (1669-1674).

Epilogue: "Something ... Written to Aftertimes.".



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Barbara Lewalski is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English Literature and of History and Literature, and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Harvard University. She has been named honored scholar by the Milton Society of America, and has served as President of that organization and of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. Her numerous publications include Milton's Brief Epic: The Genre, Meaning and Art of "Paradise Regained" (1966), Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth Century Religious Lyric (1979, winner of the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association), Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms (1985), Writing Women in Jacobean England (1993), and The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght (editor, 1996).
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  • Provides a close analysis of each of Milton's prose and poetry works.
  • Reveals how Milton was the first writer to self consciously construct himself as an 'author'.
  • Focuses on the development of Milton's ideas and his art.
See More
"Lewalski's is easily the best single-volume life of Milton to date, and it is hard to imagine its being significantly bettered. Every reader will benefit from its insight and compression, and it will be the biography to which I direct my students."
Times Higher Education Supplement <!--end-->

"Arguably the most readable of modern Milton biographies, it reshapes our understanding of Milton the man, the thinker, political and religious activist, husband, parent, friend is certain to be a classic among Milton studies" Reference Reviews

"The Life of John Milton . . . combines lucidity with its formidable erudition."
Terry Eagleton, The Observer Books of the Year, 2001

"A rigorous, up-to-date, yet surprisingly readable account of Milton's life and work… anyone concerned with the poet or the period will have to possess this book."
The Independent

"[Lewalski] has produced an outstanding biography, one that is reliable and readable. [...] It will be vaulable, not only to Milton specialists and students of English literature but to anyone who wants to learn about Milton's life and work."
Virginia Quarterly Review

"Lewalski's volume is immensely useful. In the process of discussing Milton's life and works, she gives the reader a believable figure facing major events and also the everyday business of moving through life. Such an appealing and readbale portrayal is welcome."
Renaissance Quarterly

"As a biography of Milton, Lewalski's Life is likely to remain the definitive work for decades to come." Church Times

"The Life of John Milton is the magnum opus of Barbara K Lewalski, one of the leading Miltonists of the past half-century. [...] As an introduction to Milton's life and work it is likely to remain unequalled for years to come - that rare thing, a work of reference to be read with profit and pleasure from cover to cover."

"Her achievements scarcely need endorsement. Unsurprising, she once more surefootedly picks her way through the polemical prose while writing richly about the major poetry." Milton Quarterly

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