A STUDY OF THE BLINDNESS
THE POET JOHN MILTON
The great poet Milton, writer of “Paradise Lost” was blind much of his lifetime. The blindness is no doubt associated largely with the nature of his writings and with his philosophy of life.
There have been many considerations of the character of his blindness which moved Dr. William H. Wilmer of the Wilmer Ophthalmolgic Institute to make an analysis and publish writings concerning reasons for the loss of Milton's sight.
The father of John Milton lived to age 84 and had read without glasses all of his life. His mother, who died at age 65, was reported to have had weak eyes and used spectacles after she was 30 years old.
During his early boyhood, Milton, suffered with digestive disturbances and later in life had “gout”. His eyes were by nature 'weak' and he suffered with headaches. At age twelve and on, he abused his eyesight, reading late at night with the artificial light that was available in the early seventeenth century. He was said to have overused his eyes as long as he could see manuscript.
John Milton was born in 1608 and when he was 33 years old, problems with his left eye began and within ten years that eye was completely blind. The right eye also became affected and in 1654 that eye admitted only a tiny speck of light.
There have been many suggestions as to the reasons for Milton's loss of sight. Detachment of the retina has been left out because that comes on sudden, like a black curtain dropped before the eyes, and he had none of the symptoms. Except for his vision, indigestion and gout his health was generally good.
It is possible Milton suffered with nearsightedness as both his father and mother were nearsighted and he did not correct his vision errors at his mid age. Cataracts were put aside since there was no record of any symptoms.
Dr. Wilmer is inclined to believe Milton suffered nearsightedness complicated by glaucoma which occurs at all ages and increases with every decade of life after 35 or 40. The fact that he had gout would predispose toward glaucoma and the overuse of his eyes was a certain factor.
Wilmington News Journal, Friday, April 28, 1933, Daily Health News, by Dr. Morris Fishbein, Editor of the American Medical Association Health Magazine. Source.