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Early Modern Nationalism and Milton's England

Early Modern Nationalism and Milton's England

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 448
  • Book Info
    Early Modern Nationalism and Milton's England
    Book Description:

    Early Modern Nationalism and Milton's Englandfeatures fifteen essays by leading international scholars who illuminate the significance of the nation as a powerful imaginative construct in his writings.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8794-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
    David Loewenstein and Paul Stevens
  4. Introduction: Milton’s Nationalism: Challenges and Questions
    (pp. 3-22)

    Writing to a continental admirer, Peter Heimbach, in August 1666, Milton makes it clear that for much of his career he had been an English patriot, a man who had once proudly signed himself, when travelling abroad, ‘Joannes Miltonius, Anglus,’ and who had identified himself as ‘Englishman’ on the title pages of his LatinDefencesof the English people.¹ Yet despite its seductive attractions, patriotism, he reflects, had not rewarded him late in his career and in the cold political climate of Restoration England: ‘after having allured me by her lovely name, [patriotism] has almost expatriated me, as it were.’²...


    • 1 Milton’s Nationalism and the English Revolution: Strains and Contradictions
      (pp. 25-50)

      The political and religious upheavals of the English Revolution had a complex effect on Milton the nationalist writer: they generated new nationalist fervour, created enormous expectations for national renewal and reform, and yet generated acute anxieties and disappointments expressed in his controversial prose works. Nevertheless, if Milton agonized over the English nation and expressed deep ambivalence about it during the revolutionary decades (as we began to see in the introduction to this book), he was hardly the only godly contemporary to do so. In an impassioned speech delivered by Oliver Cromwell to Parliament in September 1654, the new Protector lamented...

    • 2 Milton and the Struggle for the Representation of the Nation: Reading Paradise Lost through Eikonoklastes
      (pp. 51-72)

      When Milton was commissioned by the Council of State in the spring or early summer of 1649 to compose a response to the supposedly posthumously published thoughts of the late king, he was able to participate ‘in the kind of controversy of which he had earlier dreamed.’¹ Milton quotes the opening sentence ofEikon Basilikein the first sentence of hisEikon Basilikein order to demolish the case made by the apologists of Charles:

      That which the King layes down heer as his first foundation, and as it were the head stone of his whole Structure, thatHe call’d...

    • 3 Victory’s Crest: Milton, the English Nation, and Cromwell
      (pp. 73-112)

      The subject of this essay is the ambivalence of Milton and several of his fellow republicans towards military conquest and particularly towards the figure of Oliver Cromwell. The war in Iraq might suggest a modern analogy: conquest looks very different to those delivering and those receiving the bombs. Even from the perspective of the victors, the praise of the conqueror Cromwell could be double-edged. Cromwell, ‘the Wars and Fortunes Son,’ with his sword held erect before him (‘Horatian Ode,’ 113–16), could appear to contemporaries as the patron of liberty, servant of the Commonwealth, or as its destroyer, bent on...


    • 4 Israel and English Protestant Nationalism: ‘Fast Sermons’ during the English Revolution
      (pp. 115-138)

      This essay examines the politicized sermons preached before Parliament at their monthly fasts in the 1640s, and the way in which the analogies they drew between England and biblical Israel contributed to the definition of English Protestant nationalism. These sermons were preoccupied with Israelite history, and this preoccupation needs to be seen within the context of not only the English Revolution but also the early modern habit of thinking about England’s experience and identity in terms of ancient Israel. In this essay, I offer an introduction to what is clearly a vast and complex subject.

      Almost forty years ago, William...

    • 5 Look Homeward Angel: Guardian Angels and Nationhood in Seventeenth-Century England
      (pp. 139-172)

      What do we understand by home? These images from Milton’s ‘Lycidas’ are rooted in a belief in the nature and offices of angels that expresses his sense of place and of belonging to a community. In this essay I will elaborate this doctrine, and suggest its implications for modern accounts of early modern nationalism and national identity.

      In these lines, written in his notebook in November 1637, Milton imagines a displaced kind of mourning. Whereas the procession of mourners in Bion’sLamentation for Adonispass by the youth’s body on a ‘glorious bed of State,’ Milton’s mourners are deprived of such...

    • 6 The Invisible Nation: Church, State, and Schism in Milton’s England
      (pp. 173-202)

      The nation is all around us. We see it everywhere: in our holidays, our cuisine, our neighbours, our sports, our laws, and our newspapers, all these forms reminding us daily of the existence of a national community. It is curious, therefore, how readily this visibility falters when we place some national forms under close scrutiny. A ‘national’ custom may in fact derive from regional or local sources. The typical neighbourhood of a nation usually owes more to class or ethnic ties than to national affiliation. A nation’s language may cross its borders, used by other nations, or be divided within...


    • 7 Milton and the Limitations of Englishness
      (pp. 205-216)

      Latterly, as a glance at the catalogue of any moderately well-stocked university library will disclose, ‘the rise of nationalism’ has replaced ‘the rising bourgeoisie’ as the permanently ascending category of English or British historiography. This essay does not resist the current orthodoxy that, in the early modern period, and at an accelerating rate through the seventeenth century, people living in England developed a clearer sense of what it meant to be English and what the concept of Englishness may have meant. In a literary context, that process is variously manifest, from the benign topographical poetry of Michael Drayton’sPoly-Olbion(1612,...

    • 8 The Anglo-Scoto-Dutch Triangle: Milton and Marvell to 1660
      (pp. 217-248)

      The execution of Charles I in January 1649 appalled his followers in the three kingdoms and alienated much continental opinion, but nowhere was its impact greater than among the royalist exiles – many of them Scots – who had gathered in The Hague around the Prince of Wales. When the battle-hardened earl of Montrose (a leading figure in the entourage) heard the news, he fainted clean away,¹ then wrote a poem promising revenge: ‘I’le sing thy Obsequies, with Trumpet sounds, /And write thy Epitaph withBloudandWounds.’² Montrose’s campaign may be said to have begun in May 1649 with the assassination,...

    • 9 Disappointed Nationalism: Milton in the Context of Seventeenth-Century Debates about the Nation-State
      (pp. 249-272)

      Milton’sSamson Agonistesis a poem for dark times – our own as well as Milton’s. Published in 1671, some ten years after the restoration of Charles II,Samson Agonistesrepresents Milton’s late meditation on what we might call the Stuart administration. It’s commonplace to say that the blind Milton, in internal exile, must have felt like Samson, ‘expos’d / To daily fraud, contempt, abuse and wrong, /... / In power of others, never in [his] own’ (ll. 75–8). Lately, it has been hard not to find Samson – in the words of the Chorus – ‘a mirror of our fickle state.’...

    • 10 How Milton’s Nationalism Works: Globalization and the Possibilities of Positive Nationalism
      (pp. 273-302)

      When Milton’s formidable contemporary and godly co-religionist Lucy Hutchinson looks back over her life, she counts it a blessing and signal act of providence that she was born an Englishwoman: ‘Whosoever considers England will find it no small favour of God to have bene made one of its natives, both upon spirituall and outward accounts.’¹ Her idealistic representation of England is Shakespearean in its biblical intensity. Like John of Gaunt’s England, hers is another Eden – ‘a paradice,’ she says, ‘a garden enclosed’ like the beloved of the Song of Solomon (281, 279).² The outward signs of God’s favour are evident...


    • 11 That Fatal Boadicea: Depicting Women in Milton’s History Of Britain, 1670
      (pp. 305-330)

      In the most memorable moment in Irvine Welsh’s novelTrainspotting,Mark Renton, ringleader of assorted Edinburgh addicts and outlaws, delivers a diatribe about his country’s colonial status:

      It’s nae good blamin it oan the English fir colonising us. Ah don’t hate the English. They’re just wankers. We are colonised by wankers. We can’t even pick a decent, vibrant, healthy culture to be colonised by. No. We’re ruled by effete arseholes. What does that make us? The lowest of the fuckin low, the scum of the earth. The most wretched, servile, miserable, pathetic trash that was ever shat intae creation. Ah...

    • 12 Consuming Nations: Milton and Luxury
      (pp. 331-355)

      The scene of luxury that John Evelyn witnessed just before the death of Charles II in 1685 evokes concerns dating back to the Restoration of 1660.² While Evelyn was a staunch royalist who had welcomed the return of the king as miraculous, he later reflected that Charles, a ‘prince of many Virtues, & many greate Imperfections,’ had ‘brought a politer way of living, which passed to Luxurie & intollerable expense.’³ Easy of access and virtue, the king presided over a court that was, in Evelyn’s view, increasingly extravagant in everything from revelling and feasting to mistresses to the little spaniels...

    • 13 Slavery, Resistance, and Nation in Milton and Locke
      (pp. 356-398)

      Those who want John Locke to be consistently liberal have sometimes found a condemnation of slavery in the ringing words that openTwo Treatises of Government:‘Slavery is so vile and miserable an Estate of Man, and so directly opposite to the generous Temper and Courage of our Nation; that ’tis hardly to be conceived, that anEnglishman,much less aGentleman,should plead for’t.’¹ The English gentleman in question is Robert Filmer, who defends royal absolutism by arguing that the state into which all are born is subjection to paternal-cum-monarchical power. Far from pleading for the institution of slavery, Filmer avoids...


    • 14 Milton: Nation and Reception
      (pp. 401-442)

      Blank verse is fundamental to John Milton’s English Christian poetics, but when his epic became a model for later poets its versification served the civil religion against which Milton had inveighed.ParadiseLost was increasingly harnessed for nationalist purposes, especially after the revolution of 1688/9. If Milton sought to recover ‘ancient liberty… to heroic poem from the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming’ (PL‚‘The Verse’), other forms of modern bondage soon reimposed themselves, especially when Milton’s verse found imitation and adaptation. The civil religion for which 8 was enlisted might be of the direct political kind proposed by John...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 443-446)
  11. Index
    (pp. 447-470)