THE EXPERIENCE OF DEFEAT: Milton and Some Contemporaries by Christopher Hill

THE EXPERIENCE OF DEFEAT: Milton and Some Contemporaries

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Picking up where he left off in Milton and the English Revolution, the retired Master of Balliol College, Oxford, takes another look at the intellectual and political reactions to defeat by those who thought the English Revolution would realize at least some part of God's plan for his kingdom on earth. The array of radical Protestant sects is staggering, and anyone who has trouble distinguishing between Ranters, Quakers, Muggletonians, Seekers, and the like will probably drop out early. Others will follow a series of capsule biographies of such figures as Quaker James Nayler, republican James Harrington, and ministers Henry Stubbe and Andrew Marvell. What these show is a pattern of disappointment with political affairs, a resignation to the persistence of evil in those affairs, and a withdrawal into less public religious worship. The ""winners"" were the secular Harringtonians: the gentry republicans who, more in touch with the pragmatics of worldly politics, exploited the new stability of the Restoration to their advantage. (In so doing, they abandoned the egalitarianism of Harrington himself, who was arrested and imprisoned in 1661 and did not publish after his release.) The odd man out is Milton--who, in Hill's reading, never gave up hope for the eventual victory of good over evil in this world, a hope expressed in Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. Milton's vision may have been a ""blank assertion,"" but Hill connects it to Blake in an alternative tradition within English literature to the triumph of the Harringtonians. Not for the casual reader or browser; there's no fluff here. This, rather, is another of Hill's politically-motivated scholarly expeditions into the nuances of the English Revolution, and another small gem for the connoisseur.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Viking