The experimental and diverse writings of John Milton's early career offer tantalizing evidence of a precocious and steadily ripening author. Traditionally scholars have looked to Poems 1645 for evidence of his development as a poet and its bearing upon his career as a prose writer for over two decades, but such an approach has sometimes obscured and more often ignored the unique accomplishment of Milton's early career by characterizing his juvenilia as self-conscious writing designed to chronicle artistic progression. Young Milton seeks to fill a scholarly void regarding Milton's early Latin and English writing (there has been no volume exclusively focused on his writing of the 1620s, 1630s, and the first years of the 1640s). For the most part the essays in this collection reject the idea of a linear development in favor of achievement of various kinds, unequal in merit, and not predicated upon maturation over time. Such maturity indeed may occur, but the early writing of Milton results from a wide variety of occasions-religious holidays; family celebrations; grammar school exercises and university requirements; the deaths of family members, ministers, university officials, and personal friends; aristocratic celebrations and commissions. This occasionality challenges the argument for the young author's uniform progress. The writings explored include Lycidas, one of the most celebrated elegies ever written in English, and The Passion, an unfinished poem declared by its author to involve a subject beyond his grasp.
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One of Miltons signal accomplishments is to have constructed a convincing account of his own development as a poet. ?ese essays point to the complex circumstances from which that account was extracted; they hint, tantalizingly, at paths not taken and rough places made plain. ?e result is to give us a messier, richer, and altogether more exciting picture of John Milton before he was Milton. ( Karen L Edwards, University of Exeter, Modern Language Review)Book Description:
Winner of the Irene Samuel Award 2014
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