John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) was an English poet, author, polemicist and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. He is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost and for his treatise condemning censorship, Areopagitica.
He was both an accomplished, scholarly man of letters and polemical writer, and an official serving under Oliver Cromwell. His views may be described as broadly Protestant, if not always easy to locate in a more precise religious category. Milton was writing at a time of religious and political flux in England, and his poetry and prose reflect deep convictions, often reacting to contemporary circumstances. He wrote also in Latin and Italian, and had an international reputation during his lifetime.
After his death, Milton's personal reputation oscillated, a state of affairs that has largely continued through the centuries. He early became the subject of partisan biographies, such as that of John Toland from the nonconformist perspective, and a hostile account by Anthony à Wood. Samuel Johnson described him as "an acrimonious and surly republican"; but William Hayley's 1796 biography called him the "greatest English author", at a time when his reputation was particularly in play. He remains, however, generally regarded "as one of the preeminent writers in the English language and as a thinker of world importance."
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