MILTON'S WORKS

A chronological list of Milton's printed works, with brief explanations.

Scroll down or jump to individual works via this alphabetical list:
 

Alphabetical List

Accidence Commenced Grammar (1669)

Animadversions (1641)

An Apology (1642)

Areopagitica:  A Speech of Mr John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing, to the Parliament of England (1644)

Art of Logic (1672)

A Brief History of Moscovia (1682)

Brief Notes upon a Late Sermon (1660)

Character of the Long Parliament (1681)

Colasterion (1645)

A Complete Collection of the Historical, Political and Miscellaneous Works…both English and Latin (1694-8)

Comus (1637)

Considerations Touching the Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings out of the Church (1659)

Defensio pro populo Anglicano (1651)

Defensio Pro Se (1655)

Defensio Secunda (1654)

De doctrina Christiana (1825)

The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643)

Of Education (1644)

Eikonoklastes (1649)

Epistolae Familiares and Prolusiones (1674)

History of Britain (1670)

The Judgement of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce (1644)

Letters of State (1694)

‘Lycidas’ (1638)

Observations upon the Articles of Peace with the Irish Rebels (1649)

Paradise Lost (1667)

Paradise Lost, 2nd edition (1674)

Paradise Regained…to which is added Samson Agonistes (1671)

Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin...1645 (1646)

Poems, &c. upon Several Occasions (1673)

Of Prelatical Episcopacy (1641)

Prolusiones (1674)

The Ready and Easy Way To Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660)

The Reason of Church Government Urged against Prelaty (1642)

Of Reformation Touching Church Discipline in England (1641)

Samson Agonistes (1671)

‘On Shakespeare’ (1632)

The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649)

Tetrachordon (1645)

A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes (1659)

Of True Religion (1673)

 


Chronological List

1632

'On Shakespeare'

Printed in the Second Folio of Shakespeare's works

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1637

Comus

Milton's masque was written and first performed in 1634, with music by Henry Lawes.  It was presented in honour of the inauguration of John Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater, as Lord President of Wales, and three of his children played the parts of the two brothers and the young lady who confront the tempter Comus.  It was published as A Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle.

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1638

Lycidas

Milton's elegy was written in memory of Edward King, a younger contemporary of Milton at Christ's College who had gone on to become a Fellow, and who drowned at sea in 1637. 'Lycidas' was a contribution to the Cambridge memorial volume, Justa Edwardo King Naufrago. The poem ends, famously, 'Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new'.

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1641

Of Reformation Touching Church Discipline in England

Of Prelatical Episcopacy

Animadversions

 

The first three of Milton's polemical works, published anonymously, joined in the long-running debate about episcopacy (the government of the church by bishops), to which Milton was violently opposed. Each subsequent work was a reply to another by the opposing side.

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1642

The Reason of Church Government Urged against Prelaty

An Apology

 

In The Reason of Church Government Milton moves beyond the presbyterian position of the earlier pamphlets (that is, that the national church should be governed not by bishops but by church elders) and towards support for toleration of independent congregations. This, the first anti-prelatical tract to be published under Milton's name and including some celebrated autobiographical passages, was followed by An Apology, the last of the five tracts, in which Milton answers the personal attacks included in A Modest Confutation, written in answer to his own Animadversions.

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1643

The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce

This tract (full title: 'The doctrine and discipline of divorce, restor'd to the good of both sexes from the bondage of canon law and other mistakes to Christian freedom, guided by the rule of charity') was a response to Milton's own experience of marriage breakdown. Divorce could only be granted by parliament; for ordinary people the only option was a judicial separation granted by the ecclesiastical courts, but this did not permit remarriage. In arguing that a man should be able to divorce his wife if the pair had lost all spiritual and emotional communion, Milton anticipates the position reached in English law only in 1977, that irretrievable breakdown is the ground for divorce. A revised version of the tract was published in 1644.

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1644

Of Education

The Judgement of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce

Areopagitica: A Speech of Mr John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing, to the Parliament of England

 

Milton had been teaching since his return to England in 1639 and was asked by the educational reformer Samuel Hartlib to write up his views on education. Including a huge range of languages and subjects, the Miltonic curriculum demands a Milton as teacher and as pupil to have any chance.

Milton's second divorce tract was met with an attempt to suppress these and other unregistered and unlicensed books, and this may have prompted Milton's composition of Areopagitica, his defence of the right to publish without censorship. Written in the form of a classical oration, it has become a landmark in the history of the defence of free speech.

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1645

Tetrachordon and Colasterion
 

Milton's third and fourth divorce tracts.

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1646

Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin...1645

Poems…1645 gathers much of Milton's early work, including 'On the morning of Christ's nativity', 'L'allegro' and 'Il penseroso', his various sonnets (including those in Italian), 'Lycidas', Comus, and poems in Latin and Greek. The book was probably published in January of 1646 (the new year used to be reckoned from 26 March, so this was still 1645 by the old way of reckoning).

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1649

The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

Observations upon the Articles of Peace with the Irish Rebels

Eikonoklastes

 

1649 was perhaps the most extraordinary year in English history, and it was one of Milton's busiest. Written during the trial of King Charles I in January 1649, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates was published a fortnight after his execution. It argues, as its title page announces, that 'it is lawful … for any who have the power, to call to account a Tyrant or wicked King and after due conviction, to depose, and put him to death'. Within four days of its publication, the House of Lords and the monarchy had both been abolished, and England had become in effect a republic. Milton was made Secretary for Foreign Tongues; his duties extended quickly from translating international diplomatic correspondence into the diplomatic language, Latin, to advising on foreign policy. Milton's attitude to the Irish, expressed in Observations, was reflected in the violent Irish policy of the Cromwellian regime.

Eikonoklastes ('breaker of images') was a reply, commissioned by the council of state, to the hugely popular Eikon Basilike ('image of the king'), which had been published within days of King Charles's execution

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1651

Defensio pro populo Anglicano ('defence of the English people')

Another officially commissioned work, the Defensio was a reply to the Defensio regia pro Carolo I ('the royal defence of Charles I) written by Claudius Salmasius and published on the continent. Milton put the delay in producing it down to his own poor health. One of the brothers who had performed in Comus wrote in his copy (in Latin) 'this book is most deserving of burning, its author of the gallows'.

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1654

Defensio Secunda

Milton's reply to an anonymous royalist tract published in 1652 in The Hague, which included violent attacks on Milton. Oliver Cromwell was now Lord Protector, and so Milton's republicanism is toned down somewhat. The work includes further autobiographical material.

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1655

Defensio Pro Se ('defence of himself')

Milton had wrongly accused Alexander More of being the author of the anonymous tract, and had attacked him in the Defensio Secunda. More replied, and Milton replied to his reply.

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1659

A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes

Considerations Touching the Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings out of the Church

 

The full title of A Treatise of Civil Power continues: 'shewing that it is not lawfull for any power on earth to compell in matters of religion'. Milton argues against the Erastian position (a centralised, state-controlled church). Relatedly, the Considerations takes the Independent line against tithes, compulsory taxes levied by local churches that were seen as benefiting both the national church and the landed families whose sons were its vicars and rectors.

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1660

The Ready and Easy Way To Establish a Free Commonwealth

Brief Notes upon a Late Sermon

 

At the eleventh hour, with the restoration of monarchy all but inevitable, the staunch republican Milton was still arguing against what the title page called 'the inconveniences and dangers of readmitting kingship in this nation'. A number of other shorter tracts dictated in these months were published posthumously, and in one case not until the twentieth century. Milton's position was not so much a democratic as a republican one - the country should be ruled by a grand council, an aristocracy of virtue.

Brief Notes, a reply to a royalist sermon preached in the last weeks before the Restoration, was Milton's last publication for some years. His political career was over, and his life was now in danger. He went into hiding after the Restoration was proclaimed in May, an arrest warrant was issued in June, and in August copies of his books were publicly burned. After a brief spell in prison, however, he seems to have been pardoned.

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1667

Paradise Lost (in ten books)

Milton's masterpiece tells of the fall of Satan and the rebel angels, and of that of Adam and Eve, in a complex narrative structure that looks back to the creation and the wars in heaven and forward to human history. Its beginnings go back to around 1640, but it was mostly written in the years 1658-63, straddling the Restoration. Concerned as it is with failed rebellions, proud leaders, and duty to God, the work tempts royalists to associate Satan with Cromwell, and republicans to see King Charles as the rebel angel. But it is not that simple. Above all it is an investigation of the theology of the fall and of human nature, and an epic poem to rival those of Homer and Virgil. It was reissued in 1668 with a new title page, arguments prefixed to each book, and the note on 'The Verse', where Milton argues that his blank verse, by doing without rhyme, is 'an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem from the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming'. Even in its versification, the work is built on political analogies.

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1669

Accidence Commenced Grammar
 

A Latin grammar book.

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1670

History of Britain
 

The History is concerned with ancient Britain, down to the Norman conquest.

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1671

Paradise Regained…to which is added Samson Agonistes

 

Paradise Regained is a shorter epic supplement to Paradise Lost, telling of Satan's temptation of Christ in the desert. Samson Agonistes is hard to date, and may go back to the 1640s or be one of Milton's last works. It is modelled closely on ancient Greek tragedy. With its tale of the old, blind soldier of God reduced to slavery but able in a last heroic gesture to bring the walls crashing down on his – and God's – enemies, it is hard not to read it as infused with Milton's own experiences.

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1672

Art of Logic (Artis logicae plenior institutio)
 

A derivative treatise in the Ramist tradition.

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1673

Of True Religion

 

Poems, &c. upon Several Occasions

Milton's first polemical tract since the Restoration enters the debates about religious toleration: non-conformists should be tolerated; Catholics should not.

Poems (1673) is a revised edition of Milton's minor poems, adding a number of poems and translations written after Poems…1645

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1674

Epistolae Familiares ('letters to friends') and Prolusiones (college exercises)

Second edition of Paradise Lost

 

The volume of familiar letters and prolusions, dating back to Milton's earliest years, shows his concern, in what was to be his last year, for his own posthumous reputation.

The revised edition of Paradise Lost divides the work into twelve books (matching Virgil's Aeneid) and adds a commendatory poem by Andrew Marvell.

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Selected Posthumously Published Works

1681

Character of the Long Parliament
 

A digressive section of the History of Britain omitted from the printed text.

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1682

A Brief History of Moscovia
 

 

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1694

Letters of State

Full title: Letters of state written by Mr. John Milton, to most of the sovereign princes and republicks of Europe, from the year 1649, till the year 1659; to which is added, an account of his life; together with several of his poems, and a catalogue of his works, never before printed. The first such edition had been printed on the continent in 1676

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1694-8

A Complete Collection of the Historical, Political and Miscellaneous Works…both English and Latin
 

 

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1825

De doctrina Christiana

A compilation of Milton's theological writings not given final shape. After an unsuccessful attempt to publish the manuscript shortly after Milton’s death, it was impounded by the government and was rediscovered, in a cupboard in Whitehall, in 1823.

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