The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors

The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors

The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors

The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors

Synopsis

The 17th century was a time of significant cultural and political change. The era saw the rise of exploration and travel, the growth of the scientific method, and the spread of challenges to conventional religion. Many of these developments occurred in England and North America, and literature of the period reflects the intellectual and emotional fervor of the age. This reference chronicles the lives and works of more than 75 British and American writers of the 17th century.

Excerpt

This encyclopedia is dedicated to the notion that the product of authors in all disciplines of 17th-century culture in Britain, in its American colony, and on the Continent should be taken as a whole. Even in literature, the century is a piece. In science, in music, in painting, in theology, in architecture, and in landscape gardening, there is an acknowledged direct line that combines skepticism with a kind of euphoric hope so as to make one fearful that the world might be producing something like discernible progress.

No one could easily venture that by the late 17th century European culture of the world did not experience an unparalleled flowering of arts and sciences. Continuous and documented scientific discovery went to the development of the Royal Society from the influences of Gilbert and Galileo, Harvey and Newton, and led to England becoming the world's first industrialized nation-state. Renaissance music, taking its cue from Byrd, Douland, and Monteverdi, developed into the magnificent Baroque music of Purcell, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Handel, and Bach. Shadowy painting of the likes of the works of Caravaggio and Velázquez led to the achievements of Rubens, Van Dyck, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. Architecture from Inigo Jones and the various geniuses of ungeometric landscape gardening flourished beyond all expectations, especially in the gardens in the “town” of London, as did writers of essays, drama, romance, novel, and lyric. The world of art and science had outdone itself in a century.

That English Departments all over the world today make a break in their literature curriculum at the Restoration of the Stuart King Charles II in 1660 creates, I argue, an artificial divide, an unnecessary crack into which many fine literary figures such as Anne Bradstreet, Samuel Butler, John Lilburne, Thomas Hobbes, and John Bunyan normally fall and disappear. Literature in English in the 17th century follows two warring strains—Puritan to Whig and Cavalier to Restoration—with fence-sitters and double agents galore, as we shall see in this modest volume. English Departments in

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