Monday, April 27, 2009

Milton, Paradise Lost and £10

On this day in 1667, John Milton sold the copyright to Paradise Lost for £10. He was blind and hard up and his political party was on the outs. The poem written in blank verse came to 80,275 words, with a vocabulary of 10,148 words arranged in 10,565 lines; do the math. Milton was 58.

He appears four times in A Book of Ages, appearing first at age 34 as the author of a cheerful little book titled "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce." He married three times. I like to tell these stories as well as the happier and funnier ones. They tell themselves, really. Irony requires very little ornament. Coups, pratfalls, lucky breaks and disappointments, and then a sublime masterpiece. That is life.

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