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: In 1796, William Hayley named John Milton the “greatest English author,” high praise considering Milton (1608-1674) lived during the Age of Shakespeare. Regardless of whether Milton is truly the greatest English author, few question his legacy as one of the greatest writers of the English language and one of the most important philosophers of modern Europe. Living during a tumultuous period that saw the English Civil War and the rise of Oliver Cromwell, Milton witnessed firsthand the political and religious conflicts that swept not just England but much of Europe during the 17th century. Not surprisingly, these became themes in much of his works, including the epic poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, which are considered not just his masterpieces but some of the greatest poems ever written.