From The Guardian:
Milton was brought up by his father “while yet a little child for the study of humane letters”. Not for him the rough and tumble of Shakespeare's Stratford or the London stage. A fun-averse bookworm at Cambridge, at 23 he was already telling the world that his writing was the will of heaven: “All is, if I have grace to use it so/ As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.”
We prefer to like our poets, and Milton was a bore and a prig. Even the youthfulness of the two early poems, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, has a ponderous religiosity. The play, Comus, is a pastoral-mythical tract about a son of Bacchus and Circe that is near unplayable today. Lycidas, supposedly an “honest shepherd”, is an elegy on a dead friend, a mix of pagan myths and Puritan Christianity. The least we owe it is, “Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new”, even if most people say fields for woods. Milton was instantly famous. He was lionised in Italy, where he wrote verses in Latin and Italian and was eulogised in return. He met Grotius and Galileo, scholars and philosophers, and returned with an even more exalted sense of his destiny. He wrote a tract on education that would have blown the curriculum authority's collective mind.