[Milton-L] A response to Carol Barton on puritan & other protestants

Alan Rudrum rudrum at shaw.ca
Fri Nov 16 00:07:11 EST 2007



Carol Barton wrote:
> As Dr. Lares points out, Michele, Hill was the "fair-haired boy" of 
> his era, but he often gets it wrong (or makes claims that are 
> disputable, anyway). For example: he says that Milton wrote DDD 
> because Mary walked out on him, which scholars of the divorce tracts 
> will tell you is not the case  SNIP But beware of labels: just as a 
> "democrat" or a "republican" or a "liberal" are nearly meaningless 
> terms today (because there are so many shades within those colors), so 
> the general description of what a Leveller or a Muggletonian was is 
> just that--a general description. Something that waddles like a duck 
> on webbed feet may be a platypus.
>
>

As I have walked six blocks in the streets of Vancouver today without 
being assaulted by the forces of law and order, I feel emboldened to 
make one of my rare appearances on this site. Certainly, Christopher 
Hill as a historian was rather like Bush and Blair as politicians: see 
the Downing Street Memo, and so forth.  ("Bush wanted to remove Saddam, 
through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and 
WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the 
policy.")  That is, he was wont to massage the evidence to fit his 
political biases; and his book on Milton and the Bible is a mess.    I 
understand that he was almost certainly a Soviet agent: the English at 
that period produced a quite colorful crop of traitors.   HOWEVER, when 
Hill says "that Milton wrote DDD because Mary walked out on him, which 
scholars of the divorce tracts will tell you is not the case," I have my 
doubts about the "scholars of the divorce tracts" rather than about 
Christopher Hill.    Milton wrote his life-story into his works just as 
surely as T.S.Eliot did his, though this is not to say that Mary's 
walking out on him was the only reason for the divorce tracts - the 
multifarious reasons have been well covered by the scholarship. 

I do not think it is the case that  "the general description of what a 
Leveller or a Muggletonian was is just that--a general description."  
The comparison with "democrat" or a "republican" or a "liberal" is very 
loose.

As to "scholars," they have been wrong so often, have they not?  See the 
beginning of Blair Worden's essay "Milton, Samson Agonistes and the 
Restoration" for a few examples, and (am I misremembering?)  was it not 
Blair Worden himself at an earlier time who wrote of Milton after the 
Restoration "retreating from politics into faith"?  As to Barbara 
Lewalski's occurrence in Worden's essay, my sense is that she may have 
changed her mind from the position there stated - I hope I am not 
misrepresenting her and that if I am she will forgive me.   I could 
forgive her a great deal for the wonderful paper she read at the IAUPE 
conference in Lund this year - a masterly template for teaching a year's 
course on Milton.

Even I have been wrong occasionally.  Teaching Samson Agonistes to a 
group of seniors recently, I noticed that in my little book on SA, 
published forty years ago, I used the word "barbaric" where "barbarous" 
would be correct.   And I believe that Jonathan Post may recall a more 
exciting error. 

-- 

Alan Rudrum


www.sfu.ca/~rudrum <http://www.sfu.ca/%7Erudrum>


www.gcr.alanrudrum.com


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