[Milton-L] Milton's 'English' Skills

Erick Ramalho ramalhoerick at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Aug 13 10:15:50 EDT 2008

Dear Jeffery Hodges,
There have been three main theoretical viewpoints (none of which either fully proved or dismissed) as for Milton’s possible reading knowledge of Old English, which are supported 1) by those who claim that knowledge didn’t exist at all (e.g. W. F. Bolton’s stark observation in ‘A Further Echo of the Old English Genesis in Milton's Paradise Lost’. The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 25, No. 97 (Feb., 1974), pp. 58-61); 2) by those who argue that it not only existed, but also allowed Milton’s borrowing from Caedmon in writing PL; or 3) by those who assume that the Old English echoes we believe to hear in Miltonic poetry actually originate in secondary sources which are not in Old English, but more or less directly related to (sometimes translated from) Anglo-Saxon sources. For the latter as well a recent discussion on the topic you may like to refer to Hong Sehn’s paper ‘Milton and Old English’ at
 http://www.sisins.zju.edu.cn/sh/doc/Milton%20and%20Old%20English.doc. Although inconclusive, Sehn’s paper is quite useful in quoting former approaches to the topic. Curiously, in listing the languages Milton knew at different abilities, Professor J. K. Hale (Milton as Multilingual), after naming Latin, Greek, Italian…, considers that Milton might have been able to read in Old English, although not dismissing the possibility that he couldn’t. In other words, the matter stands inconclusive and sadly we are short of evidence for proving any of these points.
Hope this might be of any help.
Best of luck,
Erick Ramalho

--- On Wed, 13/8/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
Subject: [Milton-L] Milton's 'English' Skills
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 6:50 AM

Did Milton know Old English and/or Middle English? Can anyone supply a citation or an online source that I might be able to access?
How well might he have known these languages?
Jeffery Hodges_______________________________________________
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