Milton: Literature and Life

Blair Worden

in John Milton

Published by British Academy

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264706
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734557 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Original Paperbacks

Milton: Literature and Life

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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In 1660, upon the Restoration of Charles to the English throne, John Milton went into hiding. His treatises Eikonoklastes and Defensio were condemned and burned. Milton faced the prospect of public execution, but escaped with a brief imprisonment. Three-quarters of a century later, the Milton once vilified for his political polemics was embraced by the public for his verses, which had risen high in England's favour. This chapter discusses Milton's purposes and priorities. The ideal of teaching is, according to Milton, through the ‘delight’ of poetry; for him poetry must function to deplore the general Relapses of Kingdoms and States from justice and God's true worship. Just as with poetry, he looked at prose to instruct the readers by affording them delight, and by calming the perturbation of mind that can impede their reception of truth. Milton believed that just as poetry can impart virtue through charm and smoothness of sounds, prose draws on eloquence to charm the multitude to love what is truly good. In his writings, he pursued the conception of liberty, the strife between good and evil, the principle of free choice, and the sinfulness of the popery. Milton tailored his Restoration poems as bulwarks against the wickedness of the court and nation. His poems served as sharp checks and sour instructions, in the absence of which, many people would have been lost if they were not speedily reclaimed. Some of Milton's works of enlightenment and corrections were Paradise Lost, The Reason of Church Government, and History of Britain.

Keywords: Restoration; John Milton; Eikonoklastes; Defensio; political polemics; delight of poetry; liberty; free choice; Restoration poems; Paradise Lost

Chapter.  9645 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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