ABOUT THIS BOOK
Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost tells the story of John Milton's life as England’s self-elected national poet and explains how the single greatest poem of the English language came to be written.
In early 1642 Milton—an obscure private schoolmaster—promised English readers a work of literature so great that “they should not willingly let it die.” Twenty-five years later, toward the end of 1667, the work he had pledged appeared in print: the epic poem Paradise Lost. In the interim, however, the poet had gone totally blind and had also become a controversial public figure—a man who had argued for the abolition of bishops, freedom of the press, the right to divorce, and the prerogative of a nation to depose and put to death an unsatisfactory ruler. These views had rendered him an outcast.
William Poole devotes particular attention to Milton’s personal situation: his reading and education, his ambitions and anxieties, and the way he presented himself to the world. Although always a poet first, Milton was also a theologian and civil servant, vocations that informed the composition of his masterpiece. At the emotional center of this narrative is the astounding fact that Milton lost his sight in 1652. How did a blind man compose this staggeringly complex, intensely visual work? Poole opens up the epic worlds and sweeping vistas of Milton’s masterpiece to modern readers, first by exploring Milton’s life and intellectual preoccupations and then by explaining the poem itself—its structure, content, and meaning.
The book displays such an extraordinary level of learning…Poole’s book may well become what he shows Paradise Lost soon became: a classic.
-- Neil Forsyth Times Literary Supplement
Smart and original…It offers a complex literary history by way of an extended biographical reading of a single poem; it demonstrates with astonishing exactitude how Milton’s life and—most impressively of all—his reading enabled this epic.
-- Marcus Nevitt The Spectator
Despite the abundance of Milton-derived literature already available, William Poole manages to deliver a spectacularly structured, tightly written, and captivating addition to literary studies.
-- Matthew Snider PopMatters
Poole offers an authoritative, and accessible, introduction to Milton’s life and an engaging examination of the process of composing Paradise Lost…Poole's book is required reading for seasoned Milton scholars and students serious about the study of Milton.
-- P. E. Phillips Choice
A readable and learned introduction to the creation and meaning of Paradise Lost.
-- Joseph Rosenblum Library Journal
In this deeply learned and lucidly written book, Poole provides a useful and compelling portrait of ‘Milton as a reader and scholar,’ demonstrates how Milton amassed the learning that went into the composition of his most famous poem, and, in the process, makes this most ambitious of early modern poets accessible to his modern readers.
-- Corey McEleney Journal of British Studies
William Poole proves to be a genial, learned, and intelligent guide to the origins, contexts, structures, themes, and significance of Milton’s great epic. Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost is a pleasure to read!
-- Stephen M. Fallon, University of Notre Dame
Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost is a compact jewel, quite unique in its synthesis, and it will be consulted for many years to come.
-- Nigel Smith, Princeton University
William Poole is one of the most original and interesting scholars of Milton and his time. This will surely become a key—even a classic—work in Milton studies.
-- Nicholas McDowell, University of Exeter
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface and Acknowledgments
Part One: Milton
1. The Undertaking
2. School and the Gils
3. An Anxious Young Man
5. Milton’s Syllabus
6. Securing a Reputation
7. Two Problematic Books
8. Systematic Theology
9. Drafts for Dramas
10. Two Competitors: Davenant and Cowley
11. Going Blind
12. The Undertaking, Revisited
13. Bibliographical Interlude: Publishing Paradise Lost
Part Two: Paradise Lost
15. Creating a Universe
16. Epic Disruption
17. Military Epic
18. Scientific Epic
19. Pastoral Tragedy
20. Contamination and Doubles
21. Justifying the Ways of God to Men
22. Becoming a Classic
Appendix: Milton’s Classroom Authors