A Complete Collection of the Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous Works of John Milton
by John Milton
John Milton (1608-1674), was an English poet and polemicist, and a civil servant in England under Oliver Cromwell. He is best known for his canonical epic poem Paradise Lost. He began to write poetry in English and Latin at Cambridge in 1625. From this early poetry one can see Milton’s critical view of Catholicism. His first published poem was a commendatory poem in the second published folio of Shakespeare’s work in 1632, titled “On Shakespeare.”
In 1638, after the death of his mother and Edward King, both of which greatly affected him, Milton traveled abroad to Paris and throughout Italy. When he returned to England, Milton published five anti-prelatical pamphlets that criticize the governance of the Church. With the dissolution of his first marriage in 1642, he began to write extensively on divorce, saying that the breakdown of a marriage should constitute grounds for divorce.
Milton’s career from 1641-74 fluctuated from a focus on poetry, political and religious criticisms, and histories. Milton’s political writings from 1649-55 are marked by his disbelief of the divine right of kings, his advocacy for a more republican government, and his controversial defense of regicide that made him infamous across Europe. He also wrote a formidable proposal for the reformation of the English education system, treatises on the importance of free press, and a treatise against the use of tithes. Milton became permanently blind in 1652; he began to dictate his writing.
Milton’s political writing in the 1650s controversially challenged monarchy as the best form of government. Instead, he advocated for a republic comprised of a “Grand or Supreme Council” of virtuous aristocrats. This political philosophy of “republican exclusivism” greatly influenced the United States’ founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson specifically used Milton’s ideas that criticized the governance of the church to argue for the separation of church and state in Virginia.
After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Milton went into hiding; his books were ordered to be burned and he was imprisoned in the Tower. Milton dictated Paradise Lost from around 1658-63. This epic poem presents the story of Genesis, with a shockingly humanized depiction of God, Satan, and Adam and Eve. Paradise Regained, somewhat a sequel to Paradise Lost, depicts Jesus’ wanderings in the desert. It was published in 1671, along with Samson Agonistes. Milton published History of Britain in 1671, written in the 1650s. His last published work, shortly before his death in 1674, was a reorganized version of Paradise Lost in twelve books.
Milton had a huge effect on poetic writing. “In life Milton was both praised and scorned; praised for his achievements in poetry and scorned for his writings on church and state.” In the eighteenth century, Milton’s work was “largely responsible for the shift from rhyme to blank verse, and also for many features of poetic diction and syntax.” Milton’s Paradise Lost permeated the arts, inspiring imitation and parody in written work. It also became the cornerstone for a focus on the “sublime,” as well as the inspiration for a focus on the picturesque in the visual art of the time.
Author: John Milton
Title: A Complete Collection Of The Historical, Political, And Miscellaneous Works Of John Milton: Correctly Printed From The Original Editions: With An Historical And Critical Account Of The Life And Writings Of The Author, Containing Several Original Papers Of His, Never Before Published
Published: London: Printed for A. Millar, 1738.
Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library
Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as Milton’s Prose works. 2.v. fol. and given by Thomas Jefferson to his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph. Later appears on Randolph's 1832 estate inventory as "'Milton's Works (damaged)' (2 vols., $2.00 value)." The only two-volume, folio edition of Milton's works was published in 1738. Both George Wythe's Library on LibraryThing and the Brown Bibliography include the 1738 edition and this was the edition purchased by the Wolf Law Library.
Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy
Bound in contemporary calf with matched period rebacking and engraved frontispiece.
View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.
- Gordon Campbell, “Milton, John (1608–1674),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed September 26, 2013. All biographical information is from this source unless otherwise noted.
- W.P. Trent, “John Milton," The Sewanee Review, 5, No. 1 (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1897), pp. 2-3.
- Pauline Lacy Smith, “John Milton as an Educator,” ‘’Peabody Journal of Education’’, 23, no. 3 (Taylor & Francis, Ltd., Nov. 1945), pp. 170-71.
- Trent, pp. 8-9.
- Smith, p. 173.
- W.H. Wilmer, “The Blindness of Milton,” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 32, no. 3 (University of Illinois Press, Jul. 1993,) p. 308.
- Nathan R. Perl-Rosenthal, “The ‘Divine Right of Republics’: Hebraic Republicanism and the Debate over Kingless Government in Revolutionary America,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 66, No. 3 (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Jul. 2009), p. 538.
- eNotes, s.v. "John Milton", accessed October 23, 2013, http://www.enotes.com/topics/john-milton/critical-essays/milton-john.
- Campbell, "Milton, John."
- LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on November 13, 2013, http://www.librarything.com/profile/GeorgeWythe
- Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433