[Milton-L] Paradise Lost

Roy Flannagan Roy at gwm.sc.edu
Mon Nov 28 15:35:34 EST 2005

If you are talking about Paradise Lost only, I would agree that it might not reflect Milton's spelling habits, especially because we have the MS of Book 1 to show that the amanuensis does not seem to be following spelling commands issued through Milton's dictation (if the MS was taken down during dictation and not a fair copy of another MS).  But one can't say that Milton did not have spelling habits.  Read John Shawcross's learned essay at the beginning of the Riverside Milton for educated theories about how and why he spelled words the way he did.

Spelling during the 17th century in print and in manuscript was haphazard and unruly, certainly, but Milton was aware of the significance of the spelling of a word like "parlament," politically and etymologically (he was at least a part-time lexicographer), and it seems to me that spellings like "voutsaft" are admirably simple and common-sensical.  Leo Miller has an amusing essay on Milton's changes back from parliament to parlament while he was Latin secretary.

Sometimes spelling matters, though much of what we argue about is witchcraft or hogwash. 

There, I said it.

Roy Flannagan                                 

>>> cbcox at ilstu.edu 11/28/05 2:44 PM >>>

Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:
> This is useful information, but I still have some
> questions.
> If the paradigms were confused, then does this mean
> that Milton had a choice between using "eat" or "ate"
> for the past tense?

I have a hard time taking seriously construals of Milton based on "his"
spelling in PL, since I doubt the spelling is his to begin with.

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