Milton's Works

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This is a bibliography page, concerning a work to which reference is made elsewhere in this guide.

John Milton (1608–1674) is author of the greatest completed epic in the English language, Paradise Lost. He wrote many works in his life, in two different categories: poetry, and political and theological polemic, in a time of great turbulence (the 1640s and 1650s, the period of the British Civil Wars. These are all available on-line, thanks to the public spirited website, Thomas H. Luxon's The Milton Reading Room, maintained by Dartmouth College at

The general publishing history (incomplete) of Milton's poetic works includes the following.

  • His early poems were collected in Poems of Mr. John Milton both English and Latin, compos'd at several times (1645), with a 2nd edition (Poems, &c. Upon Several Occasions ), revised and enlarged, in 1673. They include
    • On the morning of Christ's Nativity (written 1629), also known as 'The Nativity Ode', showing its classical form;
    • Lycidas (first pub. 1638), an elegy for Edward King (1611/12–1637) after his death by drowning in the Irish Sea;
    • various translations of Psalms, and some sonnets and shorter poems, such as those On Shakespeare and On the University Carrier;
    • Comus (fully A Mask presented at Ludlow Castle 1634: on Michelmas night, before the right honorable John, Earl of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackley, Lord President of Wales, and one of His Majesty's most honorable privy council, performed 1634, first pub. 1637.) This masque 'of celebration' has Milton's 'high seriousness', and praises chastity and moderation);
    • L'Allegro ('The Happy Man' in Italian) and Il Penseroso ('The thoughtful [or melancholic] Man'), two pastoral poems.
  • Paradise Lost (begun about 1657; finished by 1655; published 1667; enlarged second edition 1674). This is the greatest finished epic in the English language. It tells the story of the Fall of Man, in 12 books (10 in the 1st edition), in which Satan causes mankind, in the shape of Adam and Eve, to sin.
  • Paradise Regained (1671), a sequel to, or reversal of, the Fall, deals with the Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness, in which Jesus defeats Satan, the great enemy of man, who had defeated Adam and Eve and caused the loss of Paradise
  • This was published in the same volume as Samson Agonistes (1671), a tragedy intended to be read, rather than staged. Milton was applying his knowledge of Greek tragedy to create a picture of Christian fortitude in the face of temporal upsets mirroring those of his own lifetime, in the person of the Jewish hero Samson, in the Mill at Gaza.
  • Various Sonnets, to the number of 23, including 'Cromwell, our chief of men', 'On His Blindness', 'On the Late Massacre in Piedmont' and 'I thought I saw my late espousèd saint'.

Milton's most important prose works include Of Prelatical Episcopacy (1641), Apology for Smectymnuus (1642), Of Education (1644), Areopagitica (1644), The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649), Eikonoklastes (1649), The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660), and a Latin treatise designed to achieve Protestant unity, the De Doctrina Christiana ['On Christian Doctrine), which was not published until 1825.