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Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England$
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Blair Worden

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199230822

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199230822.001.0001

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Milton and the Civil Wars

Milton and the Civil Wars

(p.154) 7 Milton and the Civil Wars
Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England

Blair Worden

Oxford University Press

The prose that John Milton published before the regicide constituted two phases. There were the anti-episcopal or anti-prelatical tracts of 1641–2; and there were the pamphlets of 1643–5 which argued against divorce laws, against the licensing of the press, and for the reform of education. His political polemic likewise had two phases, but both of them came after the regicide. There were, as he observed in the Latin of his Defensio Secunda in 1654, ‘three species of liberty … namely ecclesiastical, domestic or private, and civil’. Milton's priorities were reflected in the pattern of his own writing. In the year in which the first civil war ended, 1646, when his ‘right hand’ returned from a period of poetic silence, it was for religious, not for political, liberty that his verse called. A longer period of poetic silence ended in 1652 with poems on the subject of liberty of conscience.

Keywords:   prose, John Milton, phases, polemic, regicide, civil war, liberty, poetic silence

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