[Milton-L] question about writer who justified Milton's blindness

Brendan Prawdzik brendanprawdzik at gmail.com
Wed Feb 13 15:30:53 EST 2013

Lyman Gin,

I don't know the answer about the later female author, though I sure am
interested to know!  Here's are two relevant paragraphs on this early
Restoration motif from my currently-being-reworked book project, with
notes.  Remember: still very crude!



         Samson, lamenting that he is “dark in light expos’d/ To daily
> fraud, contempt, abuse and wrong” (75-76), gives voice to the utter
> vulnerability experienced by Milton during the turbulent months surrounding
> the Restoration. Milton had remained in hiding, “like a soldier listening
> to strange noises in the dark,” as Charles II was welcomed by raucous
> crowds. He found himself fallen upon “evil tongues,” “in darkness, and with
> dangers compast round,” not only threatened by the prospects of execution
> and assassination, whether in hiding or as a prisoner in the Tower between
> October and December, but also repeatedly pilloried in the press, so
> commonly ridiculed for his blindness that “Blind Milton” became an enduring
> epitaph.i <#sdendnote1sym> Though of course Milton could not read these
> printed attacks himself, his friends and protectors likely furnished him
> news pertaining to his precarious situation. Edward Phillips, in his *Life
> of Milton*, notes that his uncle “prepared for the Press an answer” to
> one such attack which, as J. Milton French suggests, may have been written
> by Robert Dunkin shortly before the Restoration. “Whether by the disswasion
> of Friends,” writes Phillips, “as thinking him a Fellow not worth his
> notice, or for whatever cause I know not, this Answer was never publisht.”
> (However, as French notes, little is known about Milton’s reply or the
> specific attack to which he was responding, which may have been written any
> time between 1660 and 1674.)ii
> <#sdendnote2sym>

i <#sdendnote1anc> Parker, 568; *PL*, 7.26-27.
ii <#sdendnote2anc> The Phillips quote is from French, *Life Records*. See

>           Language of authorship and publication scattered throughout *Samson
> Agonistes* invites us to read Samson’s “shameful garrulity” (491) as a
> parodic exaggeration of Milton’s prolificacy as a polemicist during the
> turbulent 1640s and 50s and as the author of the self-consciously ambitious
> scriptural epic: “I Gods counsel have not kept,” Samson admits, “his holy
> secret/ Presumptuously have publish’d, impiously … ” (497-98). Milton
> himself had become an example, as opportunists identified his blindness as
> fit punishment for a foolishly bold and loose tongue.i <#sdendnote1sym>In ten of the annual issues of Poor Robin’s
> *Almanack* published between 1664 and 1677, “Blind Milton” could be found
> among entries for other cautionary figures like Tantalus and the Wandering
> Jew.ii <#sdendnote2sym> Satirists attributed his blindness to his most
> notorious writings, particularly the *Defenses* and *Eikonoklastes*. *The
> Picture of the Good Old Cause*, a broadside including “Several Examples
> of Gods Judgements on some Eminent Engagers against Kingly Government,”
> presents him among other regicides stricken by divine justice: “*Milton*that writ two Books against the King, and
> *Salmasius* his Defense of Kings, struck totally blind, he being not much
> above 40. yeares old.” John Heydon warns that Milton, “beginning to write
> an Answer” to Charles I’s *Eikon Basilike* “was at the second word, by
> the power of God strucken blind.”iii <#sdendnote3sym> The anonymous*Censure of the Rota upon Mr Miltons Book
> *, a satire detailing a fictitious meeting of James Harrington’s Rota
> club with members ridiculing Milton’s writings, derides him for authoring
> unpersuasive and seldom-read tracts, and notes that, meanwhile, “you have
> scribled your eyes out.”iv <#sdendnote4sym> Events had finally placed
> Milton upon the stage of print where he had exposed Hall as a fool two
> decades earlier. Though Milton was, to the surprise of many, spared
> execution, his humiliations reached a zenith on August 13, 1660, when the
> newly restored King issued a proclamation ordering all copies of the *First
> Defense* and *Eikonoklastes* rounded up and “publickly burned by the
> common Hangman.”v
> <#sdendnote5sym>

>  <#sdendnote5sym>i <#sdendnote1anc> For discussion of secrecy and
> publication in *SA*, see Haskin, 173-77. One anonymous pamphlet details,
> among suggestions for disposing the remains of regicide John Lord Hewson, a
> plan to take Hewson’s “one good eye … out of his Head, and bestow it upon
> blind *Milton*, that it may still be worn as an Ornament in a knaves
> countenance” (*London Prentices*, 6). The anonymous author of *Character
> of the Rump* writes that Milton “is [Parliament’s] Goos-quill Champion,
> who had need of *A Help meet* to establish any thing, for he has a
> Ramshead, and is good only at Batteries, an old Heretick both in Religion
> and Manners, that by his will would shake off his Governours as he doth his
> Wives, foure in a Fourtnight, the Sun-beams of his scandalous papers
> against the late Kings book, is the Parent that begot his late new
> Commonwealth, and, because he like a Parasite as he is, by flattering the
> then tyrannical power, hath run himself into the bryers, the man will be
> angry if the rest of the Nation will not bear him company, and suffer
> themselves to be decoyed into the same condition; he is so much an enemy to
> usual practices, that I believe when he is condemned to travel to *Tyburn*in a Cart, he will petition for the favour to be the first man that ever
> was driven thither in a *Wheel-barrow*” (2-3). The author here pokes fun
> at Milton’s writings on divorce as well as his recent *Readie and Easie
> Way*.
> ii <#sdendnote2anc> Poor Robin, *An Almanack*, no pagination. See French,
> *Life Records*, 4.351-52, and “Ridiculed.”
> iii <#sdendnote3anc> *Picture of the Good Old Cause*, broadside; Heydon, *Idea
> of Law Charactered*, fols. N4v-N5.
> iv <#sdendnote4anc> *Censure of the Rota*, 4.
> v <#sdendnote5anc> Charles II, *A Proclamation*, 2. See French, *Life
> Records*, 334, 338, and Knoppers (42-66) for an account of the gruesome
> theater of punishments following the restoration of the monarchy.
On Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 2:19 PM, cbartonphd1 at verizon.net <
cbartonphd1 at verizon.net> wrote:

> I don't have my library to hand, but I think you will find that it was
> Morus (Alexander More) who made those claims.  You are perhaps remembering
> Milton's excoriation of Morus' wife in response.
> Sent from my Virgin Mobile phone
> ----- Reply message -----
> From: "Duran, Angelica A" <duran0 at purdue.edu>
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Subject: [Milton-L] question about writer who justified Milton's blindness
> Date: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 2:49 pm
>  Dear LH,
>  If you are looking for a literary representation of that claim, I too
> would be interested in knowing it. If multiple epistolary claims will do,
> see the entries indexed as "Milton, John" subcategory "blind" in volume 5
> of French's *The Life Records of John Milton. *New Brunswic: Rutgers UP,
> 1958. It has some downright abusive comments that Milton's contemporary
> detractors had to say about his blindness as just desserts.
>  My best to you.
>  Adios,
> Angelica Duran
> Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature
> Director, Religious Studies
> Purdue University
> 500 Oval Drive - Heavilon Hall
> West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
> U.S.A.
> (765) 496-3957
> <duran0 at purdue.edu>
> <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/complit/directory/?personid=80>
> <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/religious-studies/>
>   From: <Hong>, Lyman Gin <lhong at elcamino.edu>
> Reply-To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:43 AM
> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Subject: [Milton-L] question about writer who justified Milton's blindness
>    Hello,****
> ** **
> I’m trying to track down a quotation, and am seeking people whose
> knowledge and memory are superior to mine.****
> ** **
> The question: I recall that there was a writer (female) who argued that
> Milton’s blindness was brought on by his wicked political views and
> positions on divorce.  Any help with the name or reference would be much
> appreciated.  LH****
> ** **
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Assistant Professor
Dept. Literature and Languages
Christian Brothers University

work: (901) 321-3367
cell: (510) 684-8211
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