John Milton at St. Paul's School: A Study of Ancient Rhetoric in English Renaissance Education

John Milton at St. Paul's School: A Study of Ancient Rhetoric in English Renaissance Education

John Milton at St. Paul's School: A Study of Ancient Rhetoric in English Renaissance Education

John Milton at St. Paul's School: A Study of Ancient Rhetoric in English Renaissance Education

Excerpt

This study of John Milton's education at St. Paul's School in London, which he attended until at the age of sixteen he matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge, was begun as the first step towards understanding the influence which classical and post-classical rhetoric undoubtedly had on Milton as a great writer of poetry and prose in Latin and in English. Although a number of more or less relevant problems are touched on, rhetoric in its broadest classical sense as an essential attribute of a free citizen in a civilized society remains the theme of the entire book.

When I first proposed to study the influence of ancient rhetoric on Milton's theory and practice of prose and poetry, I had just completed the manuscript, still unpublished, of The Teaching of Rhetoric in Greece and Rome. In this study I abandoned temporarily the main highway of rhetorical theory and philosophy which I had formerly followed in Rhetoric and Poetry in the Renaissance (1922), and endeavored to reconstruct the everyday activities of the less philosophical schoolmasters, as reported by Suetonius, Seneca the Elder, and Quintilian, and satirized by Lucian, Petronius, and Juvenal. Study of the manuals for theme writing, the Progymnasmata of the Greek schoolmasters Hermogenes and Aphthonius, told a revealing story to one who had been a lifelong teacher of rhetoric, author of textbooks, and editor of books of readings for Freshmen. Having also edited, for the Columbia edition, Milton's declamatory exercises which he composed at Cambridge, the Prolusiones Quaedam Oratoriae, I found that I possessed two bearings which enabled me to locate the port of entry through which ancient rhetoric passed into the alert mind of John Milton. This port of entry was the grammar school Milton attended as a boy.

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