[Milton-L] Milton and St. Peter's Basilica

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 4 19:31:38 EDT 2005


Carl Bellinger "presume[s] 'the usual supposition' Diane McColley refers to
is that JM stepped in to St. Peter's for a look and a listen," saying that,
"We have no evidence, but the usual supposition is a rational one, and
shouldn't require much justification; right? The telling thing would be if
he did not go in; since that would say
something quite startling about this author?"

Then he adds:

"p.s. Does anyone feel they know Milton well enough, and his habits as "a
man about town" so to speak, to say with some assurance that he would have
gone in there, or that he would not have?"

Carl, as Diane has cautiously responded, the key words in your question are
"we have no evidence": and it would say something more startling about this
lifelong-antipapist (about the only thing one can say with assurance that he
was consistently against) if he went *into* the Basilica, than if he
deliberately avoided it. On the other hand, you "expect" him as a man of
letters to have been able to overcome his prejudices long enough to want to
see one of the best recognized landmarks in the world---

so which did he do?

Let me ask the question another way: does the fact that I am a Milton
scholar, and have been to England, presuppose that I have seen the Milton
Cottage, or the Milton window at St. Margaret's, or visited Bartholomew
Close? And if I have never seen Milton's gravestone at Cripplegate, does
that imply that my devotion to Milton is less sincere than someone's who
has?

Of course not. We don't know, and in the absence of evidence to the
contrary, we can't know. Anyone who "knows Milton well enough" to make any
speculation about Milton knows better than to make speculations about
Milton. All we can do is present the evidence (or lack of it) as we know it,
and characterize it as such.

I am not saying this to be mean or cranky; rather, to make the point that we
can't know what Milton did in Rome beyond what he tells us, and we shouldn't
even then take what he says as gospel without corroboration. That is the
difference between scholarship and idle fantasy.

Did Milton actually meet and converse at any length with Galileo?

I don't know. Do you?

Best to all (and Happy Fourth to those who celebrate it),

Carol Barton




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