Living Milton: Essays by Various Hands

Living Milton: Essays by Various Hands

Living Milton: Essays by Various Hands

Living Milton: Essays by Various Hands

Excerpt

The contributors to this collection, known admirers of Milton, were not invited to produce eulogies, much as I should have liked to issue the command: 'Onorate l'altissimo Poeta'. They have some other characteristics in common. All save one are university teachers (five at the ancient, four at the modern universities) and the exception is John Wain, who was in the business until a few years ago. Almost all of them are best known for their work in the criticism of later literature than Milton, one might almost say the literature of our own time. Half of them are well known as poets. Their average age is well under forty. They may be taken, without affectation, as representing something new in the history of Milton criticism in this country; they exhibit an increasing, though not absolute, independence of the great controversy which dominated Milton studies until recently. It is not that they have disposed of the charges brought against the poet by a generation of Miltonoclasts; perhaps, as Bernard Bergonzi suggests, this cannot be done. But however guarded their admiration, they have no evident disposition to acquiesce in that 'dislodgement' of the poet which was supposed to have been effected a generation back 'with surprisingly little fuss'. On the other hand, they show small interest in the methods of defence employed during the same period by Miltonolaters; and J. B. Broadbent, in the most technical of these essays, is clear that he must dispense with the brilliant assistance of Miss Rosemund Tuve, a leading exponent of defence by scholarship. I think it fair to say that all the contributors have found it possible to include Milton in a characteristically modern view of literature, to treat him as a living poet.

This is the sole explanation of certain coincidences of tone and opinion in these essays. They are not due to collusion or to . . .

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