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John Milton (1608-1674) is best known as the author of the great epic Paradise Lost and of numerous sonnets and other works, from Comus and Lycidas to Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. Of all the major English poets, John Milton was by far the most deeply involved in the political and religious controversies of his time, writing a series of pamphlets on free speech, divorce and religious, political and social rights that forced a complete rethinking of the nature and practice not only of government, but of human freedom itself. Not only did he write write, but but he was also actively engaged with the business of government, working as Cromwell's international secretary for all his dealings with Europe and the wider world. Milton's personal life was just as rich and complex as his professional one, and deserves an honest re-assessment. For centuries, he has emerged from biographies either as a woman-hating domestic tyrant or as a saintly figure removed from the messy business of personal affections. Neither tyrant nor saint, he was a man who had intense and often troubled relationships with both men and women throughout his life. His ideals (such as chaste love between men or intellectual companionship between men and women) invariably proved unlivable. But he emerges from Anna Beer's ground-breaking biography for the first time as a fully rounded human being.
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'A beautifully clear account of a richly complex life ... It's the best narrative I've read of the life of our greatest poet.' -- Philip Pullman
'Beer ... gives Milton the anniversary present he deserves.' -- Andrew Motion, Guardian
'It succeeds magificently ... having finished it, one is immediately inspired to return to Milton's works.' -- Mail on Sunday
'Scholarly, serious and endlessly fascinating.' -- Diane Purkiss, Daily Telegraph
Anna Beer is a University Lecturer in English Literature based at Kellogg College, Oxford, in the Department for Continuing Education. She is the author of the acclaimed Bess: The Life of Lady Ralegh, Wife to Sir Walter, and of an earlier academic study of Sir Walter Ralegh's life and works, Sir Walter Ralegh and his Readers in the Seventeenth Century. Each work was the result of years of sustained investigative analysis of manuscript and early print sources. She lives in Oxford with her husband and three children.
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