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The Divorce Tracts of John Milton

Texts and Contexts

Edited by Sara J. van den Berg and W. Scott Howard

Publication Year: 2010

In a span of only 18 months—from August 1643 to March 1645—John Milton published five tracts on divorce: The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, a much enlarged edition of that tract, The Judgement of Martin Bucer, Tetrachordon, and Colasterion. The Divorce Tracts of John Milton: Texts and Contexts presents all five full-length pamphlets and documents in order to fully represent Milton’s views on divorce, liberty, gender, and social institutions.

Van den Berg and Howard also present Milton’s work in the context of his contemporaries by including four other publications that represent the first wave of engagement with Milton’s divorce tracts: the anonymously written An Answer to a Book, intituled, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644); William Prynne’s Twelve Considerable Serious Questions (1644); Herbert Palmer’s The Glasse of God’s Providence (1644); and Daniel Featley’s The Dippers Dipt (1645). The current volume is unique in that it is the first in the field to showcase Milton’s writings on divorce side by side with these related documents, and it provides the first modern transcription of An Answer.

Milton’s argument that divorce could be “to the good of both sexes” makes this often intimidating writer and his era accessible and compelling to contemporary readers. Indeed, his claim for divorce on the basis of mutual incompatibility established the groundwork for the justification of divorce in late twentieth century Anglo-American law. Milton’s rhetorical methods—from cogent advocacy to speculative commentary and poignant vignettes, from citation of authorities and carefully reasoned biblical exegesis to defensive vituperation—demonstrate the range of debate in seventeenth century pamphlet warfare.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

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A Note on the Texts

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pp. ix-xi

We have chosen to transcribe first editions of each text currently available through Early English Books, Early English Books Online (EEBO), http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home, and other specialized databases and library collections as noted below. ...

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Introduction: Milton's Divorce Tracts and the Temper of the Times

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pp. 1-35

Of all the controversial arguments Milton advanced in his poetry and prose, his justification of divorce was perhaps the most shocking to seventeenth century readers. The initial attacks (1644–45) came from eminent clergymen and one anonymous pamphleteer, and opposition...

Milton’s Tracts, 1643–45

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The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (first edition, 1643)

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pp. 39-92

Of all the controversial arguments Milton advanced in his poetry and prose, his justification of divorce was perhaps the most shocking to seventeenth century readers. The initial attacks (1644–45) came from eminent clergymen and one anonymous pamphleteer, and opposition...

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The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (second edition, 1644)

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pp. 93-193

If it were seriously asked, and it would be no untimely question, renowned Parliament, select Assembly, who of all teachers and masters that have ever taught hath drawn the most disciples after him, both in religion and in manners, it might be not untruly answered, ‘Custom.’ ...

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The Judgement of Martin Bucer (1644)

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pp. 195-238

Among all the Germans, I give the palm to Bucer for excellence in the Scriptures. Melancthon in human learning is wondrous fluent; but greater knowledge in the Scripture I attribute to Bucer, and speak it unfainedly. ...

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Tetrachordon (1645)

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pp. 239-360

That which I knew to be the part of a good magistrate, aiming at true liberty through the right information4 of religious and civil life, and that which I saw, and was partaker of, your vows and solemn covenants,5 Parliament of England, your actions also manifestly tending to exalt the...

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Colasterion (1645)

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pp. 361-389

After many rumours of confutations and convictions forthcoming against The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, and now and then a by-blow from the pulpit, feathered with a censure strict indeed, but how true, more beholden to the authority of that devout place which it borrowed...

Contemporary Pamphlets, 1644–45

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William Prynne, Twelve Considerable Serious Questions (1644)

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pp. 393-395

William Prynne (1600–69) was the son of a gentleman farmer who worked land owned by Oriel College Oxford, from which Prynne graduated. He then studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, and was admitted to the bar in 1628. Prynne, one of the most prolific pamphleteers in seventeenth...

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Herbert Palmer, The Glasse of Gods Providence (1644)

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pp. 397-399

Herbert Palmer (1601–47) was an ordained clergyman in the Church of England. As head of a parish in Canterbury, he was troubled by separatists and by the established clergy, and for a time was suspended. Subsequently named a “university preacher” in Cambridge, Palmer was...

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[Anonymous] An Answer to a Book, intitulated, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644)

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pp. 401-447

Milton’s first edition of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce appeared on August 1, 1643. An Answer to a Book, intituled, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce — the only contemporary, full-length tract to engage with Milton’s pamphlet and complete argument...

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Daniel Featley, The Dippers Dipt (1645)

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pp. 449-450

Daniel Featley (1578–1645), a theologian who helped prepare the Old Testament section of the King James Bible, held a variety of major religious appointments in the Church of England. He frequently argued the case for Protestantism in debates with Jesuit priests. ...

Appendix: A Legacy of Reform, 1643-1973

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pp. 451-452

Notes

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pp. 453-496

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 497-508

Index [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 509-513


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705286
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704401

Page Count: 524
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies
Series Editor Byline: Albert C. Labriola

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Divorce in literature.
  • Divorce -- England -- History -- 17th century -- Sources.
  • Marriage -- England -- History -- 17th century -- Sources.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Political and social views.
  • Divorce -- Early works to 1800.
  • Marriage in literature.
  • Marriage -- Early works to 1800.
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