The Genres of Milton's Commonplace Book

William Poole

in The Oxford Handbook of Milton

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697885
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 The Genres of Milton's Commonplace Book

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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John Milton's Commonplace Book (CPB) is, for serious Miltonists, an indispensable if slightly forbidding document. This article discusses some standard ideas in the period concerning the practice of commonplacing. It then determines what kind of commonplace book Milton maintained. Furthermore, the article attempts to discover some precise information about how Milton manoeuvered within this classification. It also aims to see how some of Milton's reading connects up to his own writing, and for this purpose, it performs a tiny case study of Milton's ongoing engagement with Lactantius, an engagement that takes its origin in some early entries to the CPB. The CPB is witness not only to the fatigue of reading, but to the evolution of Milton's interests, and to the large-scale, static presuppositions about intellectual organization that he had inherited from his education.

Keywords: Commonplace Book; John Milton; Lactantius; fatigue; intellectual organization; education; commonplacing

Article.  7833 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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