In 1935, Marjorie Hope Nicolson developed a line of argument that began from Milton’s supposed meeting with Galileo in 1638, reasoning that, having, perhaps, had first-hand experience of the astronomer’s telescope, Milton was then able to make Paradise Lost ‘the first modern cosmic poem in which a drama is played out against a background of inter-stellar space.’ This article reads Paradise Regained’s single reference to an ‘Aerie Microscope’ in similar (if converse) terms, suggesting that Milton’s being blind by the time of the microscope’s popularization in the mid-seventeenth century gave him a fundamentally different understanding of the microscope to that which Nicolson claims he had of the telescope. Where Nicolson believed that, to Milton, the telescope was an instrument that made the heavens appreciable to man, I argue for his entertaining a (theoretical) understanding of the microscope as enlarging base creatures into grotesque distortions. I therefore contrast the ‘Aerie Microscope’ with Paradise Lost’s treatment of telescopy and astronomy, reading the phrase in the contexts of early modern microscopy and Paradise Regained’s wider thematic concerns.


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pp. 865-888
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