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REVIEWS·MILTON AND HIS READERS1 A. S. P. WooDHOUSE One of the minor paradoxes in the literary history of our time is ·that the neglect and depreciation of Milton by the poets, their camp-follower& among the critics, _and at last the general reader, has been accompanied by twenty-five years of extraordinarily vigorous Miltonic scholarship. Shakespeare apart, whose vogue never fails, only the Metaphysicals have received a like co-operative effort of understanding, and there the prosperous voyage has been made with the stream, :instead of against it. Whatever the explan;:ttion, if we except such great and isolated names as Todd and Masson_, the past quarter-century has done more for the exploration of Milton's writings and background than all the years in which his position as a classic was unassailed. A larger body of scholarship, supplying many new data and not a few discordant theori~s, awaits appraisal and synthesis. This material, in so far as it bears on Paradise Lost, Mr. Rajan has mastered as no other English critic has done. The contrast between his first chapter, on Miltonic criticism, and a recent and r:tant result of Mr. Rajal)'s voluntary res~riction is to put first things first. For Paradise. Lost is a Christian poem, and.this is its basic pattern. Only after these facts have been securely apprehended can one see in their proper focus Milton's deviations from orthodoxy and the features of the pattern which these deviations permit or entail, or read cor- .reedy the secondary meanings which the poem may have_had for its author. This is praise which the critic would be perhaps unwilling to accept, since his claim is that these considerations are to be, not postponed, but abandoned : a fact which in no way lessens the value of hls book as a corrective or its service to those who cannot take so extreme a view as his. Among such the reviewer must be content to be reckoned. For he cannot forget the seriousness with which Milton held his beliefs, whether orthodox or heterodox, and the extreme improbability of his having regarded his deviations from orthodoxy as mere private opinions; nor the consistency of the poet's career, the way in which· all his experience and all his effort led on to Paradise Lost; nor yet the elements in his thought and personality which could not fail to issue in a degree of resistance to the ·discipline which he valued and which the epic e1nbodies-a resiStance which the Satanic school perceives, and wrongly interprets; nor, finally, the egocentric character of Milton's imagination, which Coleridge long ago divined, and the resulting tendency to write himself, and his conflicts, and his resolutions of conflict, into his poems, so that it is not for the reader alone that they "allay the perturbations of the mind and set the affe.ctions in right tune." · These things, it is true, are secondary in their effect. For the informed reader they complicate, no doubt, but also enrich the study of the pnalism within the British Commonwealth that of the AfTikander people is of singular interest. Here is a national group derived ·m~y from Dutch, French, and German stock, shaped by three centuries of struggle for survival in Mrica, and divided at times by profound issues of politics. .For Africa and the British Commonwealth the aims and condtJct·of this small community have a major significance, and for the political scientist they constitute rich case material in the study of nationality. Michael Roberts and A. E. G. Trollip in The South African Opposition, 1939-1945~ throw some interesting light upon the subject. They do not examine nationalism in its ·many cultural aspects, a subject which · in South Mrica demands study. They deal merely with the political .opposition to the government throughout the period of war and illustrate how Dr. Malan, the present Prime Minister of the Union, built qp his party in those critical *The South African Opposition, 1939-1945: An Essay in Contemporary History. By MICHAEL RoBERTS and A. E. G. TRoLLIP. London, Cape Town, New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green. 1947. Pp. xj 240. ($4.50) 8 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 202-205
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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