11. John Milton not only re-imagined his own language, he also wrote acclaimed literary works in other languages too
Unlike many of his peers, John Milton‘s genius was recognized within his own lifetime. In 17th century England, he was widely acknowledged as one of the country’s leading minds. As well as being a popular and acclaimed writer, he was also known for his proficiency in foreign languages. Not only could he speak in tongues other than his native English, he also wrote literary works of merit in then, too. What’s more, he continued to write in multiple languages long after he had gone blind.
Milton was born in London in 1608 to a relatively wealthy and certainly cultured family. His father was rich enough to pay for a decent private tutor for his son and so he learned Latin and Greek from an early age. As a young man, he attended the University of Cambridge, picking up Latin, and then, upon graduation he set off on something of a ‘gap year’. Between 1638 and 1639, Milton spent time in France and then in Italy. Upon returning to England, then, he had also become fluent in French and Italian. But already, his eyesight was fading.
During the 1640s, Milton really started making a name for himself as a writer. He wrote poetry in English, Latin, Greek and Italian. What’s more, he even invented new words and phrases – in fact, around 600 such words and terms in modern-day English can be attributed to Milton. In 1667, by that point almost totally blind, Milton produced his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. The epic poem cemented his status as the greatest English writer of his time. To this day, the work is credited with being one of the most important pieces of literature in the history of the English language. At the same time, his essays and poems in Latin and English, most notably 1644’s Areopagitica continue to be celebrated and influential to this day.