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The Arms of the Family

The Arms of the Family: The Significance of John Milton's Relatives and Associates

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Arms of the Family
    Book Description:

    John T. Shawcross's groundbreaking new study of John Milton is an essential work of scholarship for those who seek a greater understanding of Milton, his family, and his social and political world. Shawcross uses extensive new archival research to scrutinize several misunderstood elements of Milton's life, including his first marriage and his relationship with his brother, brother-in-law and nephews. Shawcross examines Milton's numerous royalist connections, complicating the conventional view of Milton as eminent Puritan and raising questions about the role his connections played in his relatively mild punishment after the Restoration.

    Unique in its methodology,The Arms of the Familyis required reading not only for students of Milton but also for students of biography in general. Entire chapters dedicated to Milton's brother Christopher, his brother-in-law Thomas Agar, and his nephews Edward and John Phillips, illuminate the domestic forces that helped shape Milton's point of view. The final chapters reconsider Milton's political and sociological ideology in the light of these domestic forces and in the religious context of his three major poetic works:Paradise Lost,Paradise Regain'd, and Samson Agonistes.The Arms of the Familyis a seminal work by a preeminent Miltonist, marking a major advance in Milton studies and serving as a model for those engaged in family history, social history, and the early modern period.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5857-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Biography can be a detailed and fact-filled account of a person’s life that does not engage a world outside the person’s immediate activities and family. It can also be an expansive account placing that person in social, political, religious, and cultural worlds that may encounter fewer immediate family and associates, even those not directly involved in the subject’s life though important to it, depending upon that person’s significance in such worlds. When that person has produced creative work and nonfictional tracts as John Milton did, a “literary” biography is in order, stressing readings of that creative work and nonfictional expositions....

  5. Part 1. Expanding the Biography

    • [Part 1. Introduction]
      (pp. 11-12)

      The need for further investigation into John Milton’s biography is shown by the many hiatuses and puzzles that remain in his life despite the efforts of numerous scholars of the past to collect every fragment of information and restore it to its proper place in the full picture.¹ Some of these obscurities are minor, mere matters of fact; some bulk large. One is the explanation of the fascinating fact of Milton’s immunity from Royalist reprisal during the tangled period of the civil conflict.² That these hiatuses and puzzles do remain is, in one sense, not surprising. Indeed, the reconstruction of...

    • 1 Christopher Milton: Royalist and Brother
      (pp. 13-46)

      Not a great deal has been added to our knowledge of Christopher Milton since Masson first published hisLife of Milton,⁵ most material relating to his legal activities. Yet besides the immediate familial importance of Christopher and his children to John Milton, there is the unresolved question of the bearing of Royalist relations and friends upon Milton to warrant research into the life of the younger brother. I here attempt to draw together all known information of significance concerning Christopher, and to examine such published source material as parish registers, governmental records, and so forth, in an effort to achieve...

    • 2 Thomas Agar: Royalist and Brother-in-Law
      (pp. 47-72)

      One of the complications of John Milton’s biography, to repeat, is his being so eminent a “Puritan.”¹ The first blatant problem is that “Puritan” is basically a religious term, even if it does define some social and political position as against “Cavalier” and “Royalist.” These terms, too, the latter especially, do often bring in added meanings of a religious category, what comes to be called Anglicanism, in their wake, even if unjustifiably. “Puritan” does not equate with “Parliamentarian,” although the terms have been used interchangeably by some. Chapter 1 detailed Milton’s brother Christopher and his family’s life with comments concerning...

    • 3 Edward Phillips: Royalist(?) and Nephew
      (pp. 73-94)

      References to Milton’s nephews Edward and John Phillips in the preceding chapters have indicated the acceptance of Edward by his stepfather Thomas Agar, although some uncertainty about Edward’s mode of life and financial abilities has been inferred, and implied a favorable relationship with his uncle Christopher Milton, although he was not mentioned in testimony concerning John Milton’s will; but John has been viewed as estranged from both. The pattern of acceptance without much enthusiasm for Edward and of dislike and disapproval of John was set in motion by Anthony Wood inAthenice Oxonienses(Ed. 2, 1721) and developed by William...

    • 4 John Phillips: Nonroyalist and Nephew
      (pp. 95-134)

      The difficulty in dealing with John Phillips has been laid out in the previous chapter. As Rajan remarks in discussing Godwin, “John is the bad boy, while Edward allows legacy to be figured as filiation, continuation, and perfectibility. This binary is unsettled by two elements: John’s literary energy, and the almost accidental unraveling in the appendix of the narrativization of Edward. If the former salvages Milton’s literary legacy in contingent and unpredictable ways, the latter seems sadly to bring his political legacy to a dead end” (81–82). Godwin assumes John’s “unnatural animosity” toward his uncle, and, politically nonobjective as...

  6. Part 2. John Milton

    • [Part 2. Introduction]
      (pp. 135-136)

      It has often been observed that the British seventeenth century is a transition period between the Renaissance and the early modern period. And it has long been my view that what happens then is a vying between open patterns of life and an increasing closed pattern in the way people came to think. By “open” and “closed,” I mean a truly free situation that allowed at least consideration of ideas in all endeavors of life from all groups of people in life, or a situation that did not allow this. A “closed” pattern implies a delimitation of possibilities, a definite...

    • 5 Royalist Connections, but Parliamentarian
      (pp. 137-168)

      In this chapter, I first glance at the 1640s and 1650s in England, a time when Milton is solidifying his political and religious thinking. I then proceed to examine that side of his lifeand thinkingthat may be called “royalist” despite his republicanism and parliamentarianism. Previous chapters have disclosed the entwined familial and social interfacings of Milton and the Royalist world. The intertwining of the political and the religious requires consideration of his religious position (and its theological beliefs), which reaffirms his life’s earlyand continuedvocation and which comes to combat some accepted interpretations of his prose and...

    • 6 Protestant and Familial Literary Implications
      (pp. 169-193)

      Religion has played a significant part in the relationships of John Milton and his family and associates. It has played a major role in attitudes toward him through the interpretation and appreciation of his literary work. Many of those attitudes clearly arise from readers’ differences of opinion about religion—their own religion, a most notable case being William Empson’s rejection of Milton’s God. In his bookMilton’s God, Empson is most constrained by the figure of the Father, especially in Book III ofParadise Lost. But also assuredly a disbelief in what is conceived as Milton’s heterodox position is still...

  7. Afterword
    (pp. 194-200)

    InGenograms in Family Assessment(New York: W. W. Norton, 1985), Monica McGoldrick and Randy Gerson present the way to create and interpret a genogram format schematizing a family tree and the interrelationships of its members.*They indicate the importance of birth order and sibling position, patterns of repetition across generations, which patterns are not necessarily linear, and the closeness or conflicts among individual members. These interactions and relationships are highly reciprocal, patterned, and repetitive; a genogram is a family therapist’s version of a family tree.

    Families repeat themselves. What happens in one generation will often repeat itself in the...

    (pp. 201-203)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 204-260)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 261-287)
  11. Index
    (pp. 288-306)