One of the many English literature authors I’ve studied over the years is John Milton. While he may not be one of the more outrageous personalities he is certainly one of the most thought provoking. He challenged societal norms and the political state with the written word that has stood the test of time and remains in academic calendars the world over.
Born into a fairly well off family in 1608, John Milton’s childhood and young adulthood included the advantage of a classical education, and once finished he continued a program of self study and composition. A trip abroad, commonly taken by young men of means, was cut short by rumours of an English civil war. Milton’s life would dramatically change over the years as he involved himself and his writing in the events of the time. A series of tragedies dragged him through deaths, separations, total blindness, and even imprisonment after the death of Cromwell, but the poet never gave in and continued to direct his talents, wisely or unwisely, toward what he saw as the betterment of his country.
Over the centuries many have painted him with the brush of misogyny. Whether true or whether he was simply a man of his time will probably never be known for certain. I think this uncertainty drew me to use him as a character in the Monstrum series.
I chose to give the Milton (JM) I used in Monstrum the benefit of the doubt. There must be some redeeming qualities in a man who wrote as he did with such beauty and truth. Perhaps his aims can be best summarised in his own words found in his Second Defence:
"I imagine myself to have set out upon my travels, and that I behold from on high tracts beyond the seas, and wide-extended regions; that I behold countenances strange and numberless, and all, in feelings of mind, my closest friends and neighbours ... from the columns of Hercules to the farthest borders of India, that throughout this vast expanse, I am bringing back, bringing home to every nation, liberty, so long driven out, so long an exile."
In Monstrum Book 1 JM is part of Harry’s mind. He’s an inner voice of advice, expression, and reason to be ignored if Harry sees fit to do so. If his misogynistic side is real he has no power through Harry and as part of a woman his penance might be paid. At the end of Book 1 and into Book 2 JM merges with the Karlonian Mathew character where he is allowed to exercise his writing talents to help write the Karlonian Prophesies the Parlata Kre .
The greatest challenge the real Milton met was blindness. As a writer I can’t imagine what it would be to lose my sight, yet today we have tools to help compensate for such a disability. In Milton’s day he had no such tools. He relied on family and friends to write out what he dictated or composed and memorized earlier. Despite society’s claim that his affliction was a punishment from God, Milton persevered and remained true to his beliefs unlike some other figures of his time. Whatever brush we paint him with, whether that be misogyny or dogged Puritanism, John Milton is to be admired for his work and steadfast integrity.
(An excellent biography written by Anna Beer entitled Milton: Poet Pamphleteer, and Patriot is available on Amazon.)