[Milton-L] ee/e

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Mon Feb 4 13:37:58 EST 2008

Thanks, John. And not to mislead anyone: as your venerable namesake has 
graciously told me in private, "the spellings of "me/mee," "be/bee," etc. 
(the "stressed" concept) began with Jonathan Richardson and has been 
repeated in the
twentieth century--all without real examination." (I hope he won't mind the 
unauthorized citation.) Not being an expert in orthography by any means, I 
hadn't known that--which is, I think, a further argument for reading the 
text in (or as close as possible) to the original. "Translation" of any kind 
tends to distort--willfully or otherwise. (I remember being excited as a 
graduate student by Patterson's very subjective translation of the letter in 
which Milton confides his intentions for the future, which was deliberately 
made to sound as if it were a percursor of lines in _Samson Agonistes_. Not 
being able to translate the letter myself, I was of course misled--until 
someone with better knowledge corrected me.) I can see providing an 
interlinear translation (as at least one edition of Chaucer does, using 
facing-page text) but I can't endorse provided students with no real concept 
of the look and feel of the original document--so that if they choose to do 
so, they can investigate such matters for themselves.

Best to all,

Carol Barton

----- Original Message ----- 
From: J. W. Creaser
To: Milton-L Group
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2008 10:40 AM
Subject: [Milton-L] ee/e

I'm sorry to refer to something I wrote long ago, but in 'Editorial Problems 
in Milton', part i, RES 34 (1983), 279-303, building on authoritative 
earlier essays by John Shawcross, I looked in detail at the supposed 
distinction between emphatic and unemphatic spellings in Paradise Lost and 
showed (I believe) that they are without basis. With a 50% chance of being 
'right' in any one instance, it is of course possible to produce apparently 
convincing examples, as Carol Barton does in the paragraph copied below. But 
look at the whole picture, and follow the poem through from Book I 
manuscript to print to to Errata to second edition to Errata, and the whole 
idea falls apart. I do agree, however, that it is very important to maintain 
distinctions such as 'beloved/belov'd, because these affect the rhythm of 
the verse.

John Creaser 

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