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Paradise Lost? John Milton’s home needs financial rescue

The trust running the last surviving home of legendary poet John Milton is launching an appeal to raise £3.5 million to save the cottage in Buckinghamshire.

world Updated: Aug 17, 2017 21:07 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
John Milton,Paradise Lost,John Milton's house in UK
File photo of John Milton’s cottage, the only surviving home of the poet and parliamentarian in Buckinghamshire.(Courtesy: miltonscottage.org)

The cottage in the sylvan settings of Buckinghamshire where John Milton wrote his epic poem, Paradise Lost, is facing a financial crisis and the trust running it is launchingan appeal to raise £3.5 million to save the iconic poet’s abode and unique works.

The 16th century cottage in Chalfont St Giles, a museum since 1887, is where Milton (1608-1674) completed Paradise Lost aged 58, after fleeing the Great Plague in London, and where he was inspired to write its sequel, Paradise Regain’d.

After William Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon, it is the second oldest writer’s home museum in the world. The cottage houses a range of artefacts, including a first edition ofParadise Lost, the Milton chair, a lock of Milton’s hair and an original proclamation, issued by Charles II, banning the poet’s books.

August 20 marks 350 years since Milton’s publisher, Samuel Simmons, registered the copyright for the legendary poem with Stationers’ Hall in 1667. The fund-raising campaign is being launched by the trust managing the cottagealong with a promenade performance of the poem.

Simon Avery, chair of the Milton’s Cottage Trust, said: “We can think of no better way to celebrate the 350th anniversary of its publication than to launch an appeal to preserve, in perpetuity, the place whereParadise Lost was completed.

“This is a poem that changed the course of literary history and Milton’sviews on freedom of the press, divorce, education, religion and parliamentary democracy still resonate today.The income generated by the endowment will enable us to protect this unique literary landmark for future generations, as well as engage people with Milton’s legacy in new ways. ”

Announcing the campaign on Thursday, the trust said the last time a public appeal took place was around the cottage’s launch as a museum in 1887. The first donation at that time, of £20, came from Queen Victoria.

Paradise Lost is widely regarded as one of the most influential poems ever written. A retelling of the Book of Genesis, it depicts Satan’s war with Heaven, the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and their subsequent Fall from Paradise.

The trust recalledit was considered a bold and revolutionary work at a turbulent period of history, when religious dissent was considered heresy. In 1660, it became a treasonable offence to own Milton’s work and he was briefly imprisoned.

His fall from grace, failing physical health and the dramatic events that surrounded the completion of his great work – the Great Plague, the Great Fire – are reflected inParadise Lost. Due to late-onset blindness, he was forced to dictate the poem to others, which many say gives it its musical quality.

Milton is credited with inventing more English words than any other writer, including William Shakespeare. Paradise Lost, translated into 57 languages,was the origin of many words, including self-delusion, self-esteem, outer space and pandemonium.

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 18:49 IST