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  • image P62

Richard Westall RA (1765 - 1836)

Milton dictating to his daughters



Museum number: P62

On display: Picture Room
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

The seventeenth-century poet John Milton was blind by the time he wrote his famous epic poem, and he composed Paradise Lost by committing 20-line segments to memory each night, dictating them each morning to family members or paid amanuenses. Here he is shown with his two daughters Mary and Deborah.

This watercolour was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1802 (cat. 418) and later in 1814 at Westall’s own exhibition, by which point it had been acquired by John Soane.

In her poetic account of the Museum, which Soane included in his own Description published in 1835, his friend the novelist Barbara Hofland noted the painting’s exceptional quality: ‘never had that excellent Artist a more happy conception of poetic dignity or filial tenderness, for all that the eye, the mind, or the heart requires in a subject of such touching interest.’

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