[Milton-L] question about writer who justified Milton'sblindness

Judith Herz judith.herz at concordia.ca
Thu Feb 14 10:05:14 EST 2013


Has anybody mentioned Robert Graves's novel Wife to Mr. Milton as a possible answer to the initial question? I've never read it but ... just a thought. After all, she dies just when Milton's blindness seems to have become complete.
Judith

Judith Scherer Herz
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Judith.Herz at Concordia.ca


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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Salwa Khoddam [skhoddam at cox.net]
Sent: February 14, 2013 9:48 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] question about writer who justified Milton'sblindness

Yes, I think the allusion is a little far fetched. But one could see the parallels between Lancelot and Milton: 1)Both objects of ridicule  for being "first" as non-conformists (both riding in a "cart"--a custom for peasants only, how shameful) and 2) both wanting to rescue "ladies" from a type of bondage (a physical one for Guenevere and a social one for women in Milton's time). Just a thought.

Best,
Salwa

Salwa Khoddam PhD
Professor of English Emerita
Oklahoma City University
skhoddam at cox.net<mailto:skhoddam at cox.net>
----- Original Message -----
From: Brendan Prawdzik<mailto:brendanprawdzik at gmail.com>
To: John Milton Discussion List<mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2013 7:41 AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] question about writer who justified Milton'sblindness

Salwa,

Thank you.  Interesting and worth some thought.  However, I initially failed to see what this would have to do with Milton's writings on Divorce, which argue for divorce based on incompatibility for men.  But the ridicule based on Milton's "help meet" arguments makes the case more persuasive.  The reading might work better if (and it's a fairly big "if") the Censure author read Milton's Eve as liberated (however which way) from anti-feminist exegesis.

Best,

Brendan


On Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 9:00 PM, Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net<mailto:skhoddam at cox.net>> wrote:
Brendan,

"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."
What came to mind is an incident from Chretien de Troyes's Lancelot ou le Chavalier a la charette, which describes Lancelot riding in a cart to get to the castle in a hurry to liberate Guenevere. It was beneath his kightly status to do so, and he was despised by everyone for this action, even by Guenevere herself (for a while)-- though he almost lost his life to free her. Perhaps there's some allusion to this story in the passage about Milton??
Best,
Salwa


Salwa Khoddam PhD
Professor of English Emerita
Oklahoma City University
skhoddam at cox.net<mailto:skhoddam at cox.net>
----- Original Message -----
From: Brendan Prawdzik<mailto:brendanprawdzik at gmail.com>
To: John Milton Discussion List<mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 2:30 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] question about writer who justified Milton'sblindness

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!

Best,

Brendan



         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 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

i Parker, 568; PL, 7.26-27.
ii The Phillips quote is from French, Life Records. See 4.293-94.

          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 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 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 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 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

i 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 Poor Robin, An Almanack, no pagination. See French, Life Records, 4.351-52, and “Ridiculed.”
iii Picture of the Good Old Cause, broadside; Heydon, Idea of Law Charactered, fols. N4v-N5.
iv Censure of the Rota, 4.
v 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<mailto:cbartonphd1 at verizon.net> <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net<mailto: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<mailto:duran0 at purdue.edu>>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu<mailto: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<tel:%28765%29%20496-3957>
<duran0 at purdue.edu<mailto: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<mailto:lhong at elcamino.edu>>
Reply-To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu<mailto: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<mailto: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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