[Milton-L] text questions

John T. Shawcross jtshaw74 at earthlink.net
Sun Feb 3 14:38:38 EST 2008

Just throwing in a couple of comments (particularly since I've been  
mentioned): The question of "original" versus "modernized" texts for  
PL,  et al., surely depends upon the class and the intent or approach  
of the instructor. Some of the available texts are "original," some  
primarily but not completely modernized (retaining, for example,  
elisions for prosody and/or Milton's spelling of something like  
"sovran" ), and some fully modernized. The argument for "original"  
involves (looking at the second edition, 1674) the possible  
significance of:
1. prosody in "Heav'nly" (I, 6) or "th' Aonian Mount" (I, 15) or  
"seduc'd" (I, 3).
2. emphasis through capitalization in "Forbidden Tree"  (I, 2) or  
"Envy and Revenge" (I, 35).
3. spelling (again prosody): "adventrous" (I. 13) or pronunciation:  
"highth" (I, 24).
4. punctuation--subtle though it is: "till one greater Man / Restore  
us, and regain the blissful Seat" (I, 4-5), where the comma not only  
suggests pausation in reading but subtly imposes a separation of the  
first part and emphasis on it: the Son. Only then, after the emphasis  
on the Son--the Christ (and Ellwood missed  the point and therefore  
PR), is return to an Edenic/ Heavenly world remarked, perhaps  
implying that internal "Paradise . . . happier farr" (XII, 586-87).  
Or the series of colons in the passage of I, 84 ff., suggests a  
continuing interrelationship of the parts rather than only additional  
statements (and thus "yet" is not capitalized after "Arms?").

Of course, there are errors in the text and some of these details may  
not be what Milton might have written. What I meant (in reference to  
Peter's comment) is that the first edition alters  the manuscript (of  
Book I) significantly in such matters as spelling and punctuation in  
the direction of what a study of Milton's holographs would indicate  
he would have written, thus suggesting a corrector-agent  
(proofreader) knowing Milton's practices or following his direction.  
The same is particularly true of the second edition which makes many  
changes that move in the direction of what would seem to be Milton's  
practices. In a recent review of some editions of PL (in Milton  
Quarterly) which are very different in these textual matters, I tried  
to stress my opinion that all were excellent choices for a teaching  
text depending upon the level of the class and its interests and what  
the instructor thus aimed at.

I hope this is helpful: it all depends on the instructor and class,  
doesn't it?

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