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Mammon’s Music

Mammon’s Music: Literature and Economics in the Age of Milton

Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Mammon’s Music
    Book Description:

    The commercial revolution of the seventeenth century deeply changed English culture. In this ambitious book, Blair Hoxby explores what that economic transformation meant to the century's greatest poet, John Milton, and to the broader literary tradition in which he worked. Hoxby places Milton's work-as well as the writings of contemporary reformers like the Levellers, poets like John Dryden, and political economists like Sir William Petty-within the framework of England's economic history between 1601 and 1724. Literary history swerved in this period, Hoxby demonstrates, as a burgeoning economic discourse pressed authors to reimagine ideas about self, community, and empire. Hoxby shows that, contrary to commonly held views, Milton was a sophisticated economic thinker. Close readings of Milton's prose and verse reveal the importance of economic ideas in a wide range of his most famous writings, fromAreopagiticatoSamson Agonistes to Paradise Lost.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12963-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Conventions and Texts
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    In an age better known for its political, religious, and scientific revolutions, it may have been the commercial revolution of the seventeenth century that had the deepest effect on English culture and the literature it produced.¹ This book tells the story of what that revolution, spanning the decades from 1630 to1700, meant both to the century’s greatest poet and to the literary tradition in which he worked. I focus on texts produced from 1634 to the end of the Anglo-Dutch Wars in 1674, a period that coincides not only with the maturity of this study’s central figure, Milton, but with...


    • [PART ONE: Introduction]
      (pp. 15-24)

      The young Milton first betrayed his cautious interest in the new economic reasoning of the 1620s inA Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle(1634). Having written one aristocratic entertainment for the dowager countess of Derby, a patron of reformist Protestant writers and the mother-in-law of John Egerton, earl of Bridgewater, Milton undertook two years later to produce a masque to celebrate the installation of the earl as Lord President of the Council of the Marches of Wales.¹

      Court masques had reached an apogee of scenic complexity and expense under Charles I and Henrietta Maria. They usually staged the union of...

    • CHAPTER ONE The Trade of Truth Advanced
      (pp. 25-56)

      It is no accident of history that a monopoly grant to a select group of printers elicited what may be the greatest apology for human liberty in the English language, Milton’sAreopagitica(November 1644). While Milton’s editors and critics have ably set his pamphlet in the context of the other tracts on freedom of speech and liberty of conscience that arose from the church government and licensing controversy of the 1640s, they have paid limited attention to Milton’s knowledge of antimonopoly case law, to his use of contemporary arguments in favor of free trade, or to the expository burden of...


    • [PART TWO: Introduction]
      (pp. 57-61)

      When Dryden satirized Slingsby Bethel for his part in the Exclusion Crisis, he recalled the economic case that the old Commonwealthman had made for the Rump Parliament. ‘‘His business was, by Writing, to Persuade,’’ he wrote inAbsalom and Achitophel(1681), ‘‘That Kings were Useless, and a Clog to Trade’’ (lines 614–15). As critics have noticed, Dryden had taken every care inAnnus Mirabilis(1667) to suggest that Charles II was anything but useless and that London’s ambition of becoming the entrepôt of world trade would be realized only by showing ‘‘passive aptness’’ to Stuart rule (line 564).¹


    • CHAPTER TWO Republican Experiments, Royalist Responses
      (pp. 62-90)

      The trade depression that was just beginning when Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 made economic grievances central to the political struggle that culminated in the Restoration. As republicans aggressively promoted the Commonwealth’s record of trade and advanced a strong economic case against monarchy, Royalists, for their part, realized that taxes and trade grievances might be used to oust the Rump just as they had been used to undermine Charles I. In the midst of this struggle, Milton produced his only version of what a more perfect commonwealth might look like. I argue in this chapter that, in an innovative attempt...

    • CHAPTER THREE The King of Trade
      (pp. 91-124)

      If Royalists eventually succeeded in making an acceptance of old political and religious forms seem like a necessary precondition for the return of prosperity, they too paid a price. In order to make their case persuasive, Royalist polemicists and panegyrists alike were compelled to promise that a restored king would take a personal interest in trade and evince such traditionally civic virtues as care and industry. There were, of course, Royalists who were as nostalgic for an uncommercial past as Milton showed himself to be at the end ofThe Readie and Easie Wayand who tried to find their...


    • [PART THREE: Introduction]
      (pp. 125-128)

      For much of the century, the commercial realm had served as a suggestive alternative to more coercive modes of social and political organization. Writing in 1643, Richard Mather had distinguished between natural relations like those between a parent and child, violent relations like those between conquerors and captives, and voluntary relations, of which the most obvious example was the ‘‘covenant or agreement’’ between ‘‘Partners in Trade (2Chron.20.35, 36, 37).’’ Applying that model of voluntary covenanting to the relations between husbands and wives, princes and subjects, and ministers and their congregations, Mather contributed to the reformist ideal that was...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Royalist Topography and the Epic of Trade
      (pp. 129-149)

      One of the chief architects of England’s commercial policy after the Restoration was Sir George Downing, a graduate of Harvard who had served under the Protectorate.¹ Downing worked tirelessly to improve England’s systems of government financing, banking, and overseas trade on the model of Dutch practices. He expected his progress to be slow, however, in part because of the conviction of men like the earl of Clarendon that such economic reforms were suited to a ‘‘commonwealth, but not at all agreeable to a monarchy,’’ and he feared, in the meantime, that the United Provinces would be able to establish its...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Speculation in Paradise
      (pp. 150-177)

      By invoking the Muses’ ‘‘aid to my adventrous Song” (1.13), Milton announces that one subject of his epic will be Satan’s ‘‘bold adventure to discover wide /That dismal world, if any Clime perhaps /Might yield them easier habitation’’ (2.571–73).¹ David Quint has provided a striking account of the mytho-poetic function played by the association of Satan’s design with trade.² My object is to define the historical and ideological impetusbehindit so that I may ask what development in Milton’s politico-economic thought it implies. Setting himself a similar task, David Armitage argues that the poem evinces Milton’s opposition to...

    • CHAPTER SIX From Amboyna to Windsor Forest
      (pp. 178-200)

      I have thus far stressed the efforts of Royalist poets to secure a place for the Crown in England’s commercial future by asserting the complementary relationship between force and commerce in their program of trade. We have also seen that in representing Adam and Eve as natives defrauded of their territory and their lives by a merchant adventurer working in the name of empire,Paradise Lostsubmits that Restoration program to a withering analysis. Had we leisure to consider thePainterpoems that Andrew Marvell and others produced in response to Waller’sInstructions to a Painter‚ we would find that...


    • [PART FOUR: Introduction]
      (pp. 201-204)

      Genesis 2:15 says that God placed Adam in the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it, for ‘‘God,’’ says a gloss in the Geneva Bible, ‘‘would not haue man idle though as yet there was no neede to labour.’’ ‘‘Behold,’’ said the minister Joseph Hall in hisContemplationon the passage,

      that which was man’s store-house was also his work-house. . . . If happinesse had consisted in doing nothing, man had not been employed; All his delights could not have made him happy in an idle life. Man therefore is no sooner made, then he is set...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Idleness Had BeenWorse
      (pp. 205-232)

      Whereas the Book of Judges says only that Samson was bound ‘‘with fetters of brass’’ and ‘‘did grind in the prison house’’ (16:20)—a brief episode in a hectic twenty-year career as a Judge of Israel—Milton’sSamson Agonistes(1671) can brood on its hero’s captivity because it begins with him defeated. In the tragedy’s opening speech, Samson announces that his ‘‘task’’ is ‘‘servile toyl’’ enjoined ‘‘daily in the common Prison’’ (lines 5–6). ‘‘Eyeless inGazaat the Mill with slaves,’’ clothed in ‘‘slavish habit,’’ addressed by the Public Officer of the Philistines as a “Slave enrol’d,” he leads a...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 233-252)

    In Part One, we considered several sermons that, responding to the commercial language of Proverbs 23: and Matthew 13:45–46, enjoined men to buy the truth and sell it not. For the Milton of the 1640s, alive to the possibility of a universal reformation, these texts suggested that initiative and industry in one sphere—religious, political, or economic—might promote liberty and understanding in the others. For the John Bunyan of the late 1670s, the same texts measured the distance between men who lived as pilgrims on earth and citizens of heaven and men who lived solely for the world....

  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 253-254)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 255-310)
  13. Index
    (pp. 311-320)