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DAVID MASSON, M.A., LL.D.
PROFESSOR OF RHETORIC AND ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY
BY NATHAN HASKELL DOLE
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE
NEW YORK: 46 EAST 14TH STREET
BOSTON: 100 PURCHASE STREET
JOHN MILTON was born on Friday, December 9, 1608, in a house designated as "The Spread Eagle," in Bread Street, Cheapside, in the very heart of old London.
His father, also John Milton, belonged to a respectable yeoman family of the neighbourhood of Oxford. Having become a Protestant, he was disinherited by his father, Richard Milton, the second of the name known in the line of the poet's ancestry, and went to London, where he engaged in the lucrative business of a scrivener, which at that time seems to have combined the duties of an attorney and a law stationer.
In 1600, about a year after his admission to the Scrivener's Company, he was married to Sarah, daughter to Paul Jeffrey, or Jeffreys, formerly a merchant tailor of St. Swithin's Parish.
Six children were born to them. John Milton was third. Twobesides John-lived to maturity-Anne, several years older, and Christopher, seven years younger than John.
John Milton was carefully educated, his father, well known as a musical composer of ability, taking personally great pains with him and giving him the advantage of studying under private tutors and in St. Paul's School, where he was for some time a day scholar.
That he was a diligent student is proved by his own statement that from the twelfth year of his age he scarcely ever went from his lessons to bed before midnight, and by his paraphrases on Psalms cxiv and cxxxvi, composed in 1624, his last year at St. Paul's.
His school friendship with Charles Diodati, the son of an exiled Italian physician, probably turned his attention to Italian literature and was afterwards commemorated in beautiful verse.
Italian, French, and Hebrew, as well as Greek and Latin, were a part of his equipment when he entered Christ's College, Cambridge, as a
1 Details of Milton's literary life will be found in the Introductions to the various poems. iii