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There is renewed interest in Milton, particularly his political life, this year, the 400th anniversary of his birth. This substantial biography, seamlessly written by the editors of the Oxford Milton, draws chiefly on documentary evidence and an easy familiarity with the 17th-century English scene. As a prodigy scholar, pamphleteer, government translator on the international stage and the blind (probably from glaucoma) bard of the Bible, Milton found himself astride a world of hardening views, as it spiraled in political and spiritual transition. He wrote on divorce, freedom of expression and the tenure of kings; his De Doctrina Christiana, not unearthed until the 1820s, is an essential work of systematic theology. The authors set Milton's imaginative life against this backdrop, stretching from Shakespeare, to whom Milton's father may have been loosely connected, to Dryden's ingenious staging of Paradise Lost in couplets. With nearly 100 pages of notes and bibliography, this is a no-nonsense contribution to our understanding of a genius who, in many ways, is hardly remote from our times. 25 b&w illus., maps. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.