Re: [evforum] Various
- What a wonderful idea! A book I would recommend is Rebecca West's Black
Lamb and Grey Falcon. A magnificent introduction to the Balkans, Orthodoxy,
the suicide of the West, etc., etc.
>From: Bill McClain <wmcclain@...>_________________________________________________________________
>Subject: Re: [evforum] Various
>Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 12:51:41 -0600
>Frederick Wagner wrote:
> > 'Tis the season. Could we exchange gifts? My thought is to suggest to
> > list members a book that we have read and
> > reread and plan to read again and again.
>I had meant to offer this before: I've gotten much pleasure from the
>fiction of contemporary author John Crowley. In particular, this series
>may be of interest to EV forum readers: _AEgypt_, _Love & Sleep_, and
>_Daemonomania_. It is a dense fantasy on gnostic themes (as in
>renaissance hermeticism -- Crowley isn't much interested in politics).
>The transcendental does not seem to hold any interest for the author,
>and as a consequence his rich, multi-leveled gnostic universe seems
>claustrophobic after a time, particularly in _Daemonomania_, the latest
>book. But as a presentation of the energies in the human soul and the
>manifold ways they are expressed, it is an impressive work. Harold
>Bloom, another noted "gnostic", has been a big promoter of Crowley.
>Some specific treats are the presentation of Bruno's "Art of Memory",
>and powerful explications of alchemy and astrology.
>I have reviews and notes for his books at:
>By the way, I received email from the author regarding my latest review.
>I was more than a little chagrinned, and told him it was surprisingly
>uncomfortable for an amateur reviewer to hear from an author, but that I
>supposed it was even more so from his perspective. But no, he was very
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp.
- Dan Knaus's message was most reassuring to me, because I was beginning to
feel as though I were alone on this list.
But my wife reminded me that most list members are faculty and they are
recuperating over the holidays from fatigue, blisters or worse suffered
in the garden of Academe.
Rhydon Jackson wrote off list to say that his family celebrated Orthodox
Christmas yesterday. I had forgotten it was
laterbased on the old calender, I suppose.
Day before yesterday was the feast of the Epiphany in western Christianity
(the twelfth day of Christmas), and my wife undecorated the Christmas
tree. And yesterday, after thirty or more years of doing it wrong, I
finally got it right! I spread out a house-painter's canvas drop cloth and
laid the tree on it. So when I dragged the tree through the house all the
spruce needles and tinsel remained on the drop cloth, all the way out to
the curb for the trash pickup!
Barret Dolph, who is also Orthodox, needs a text on the philosophy of
science for bright prep schoolers. I hope when everyone gets back at it
they will make a few recommendations and let the list know too.
Dan Knauss is probably entirely right in his views on John Milton. His
posting on Milton started a train of recollection in my mind going back to
about 1960 or so. I took a semester of John Milton from a gray professor
who used gray language in a class that met at 7:30 A.M. There were fewer
than ten in the class so I couldn't very well sleep although I stayed out
late every night whenever possible. The class was about allegory and
metaphor and not about politics.
So now my curiosity is piqued! What was John Milton to Oliver Cromwell and
vice versa? What did Milton as "Latin secretary" really do for "the Lord
Protector?" Why did he go into hiding when Charles II came back in
1660? I have ordered books from the library on Cromwell and on Milton:
Sir Ernest Barker, C.S.Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, some young Cambridge Don,
some others. Why does a man risk a beating by walking into an Irish pub
and saying nice things about Oliver Cromwell? Did EV overstep himself when
he called Milton a "totalitarian national scripturalist?" Of course I will
read Stanley Fish's HOW MILTON WORKS too, since that seems to be the
Schwerpunkt! Is Fish a deft opportunist?
- Mr. Wagner--
You may find some good reading in the new edition of the Cambridge
Companion to Milton. Summarizing from John Shawcross' essay in the old
edition, here are some not-terribly-specific answers to some of your
With Charles I's capture and trial in 1648-9, Milton started his
antimonarchial writings. <The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates> earned him
an appointment as Secretary for Foreign Tongues to the Council of State
(15 Mar. 1649). This was a diplomatic post for communication between the
council and foreign governments. Sometimes it also involved composing
documents on subjects chosen by the Council; for example:
(1) <Eikonoklastes> (1649) to respond to the king's (mostly ghost
written) <Eikon Basilike>
(2) <Observations on the Articles of Peace> (1650) to attack the king and
the treaty he had made with the Irish
(3) <Defensio prima> (1650-51) gave the Council's position against the
monarchy. Along with <Eikonoklastes>, DP provoked a flurry of bannings,
burnings, and replies throughout Europe, leading Milton to write
<Defensio secunda> (1654). E and DP were banned and burned by Charles II
Milton's blindness started in the 1640s and was complete by 1652, so he
did less and less work even though he retained the same position until
late 1659 or later. At this point the restoration was on its way, and
Milton wrote several treatises that were probably meant to argue for the
retention some of the things he valued in the commonwealth. However,
there is no evidence that Milton had any influence in this capacity until
the 1688 settlement where many scholars have seen Milton behind the
After the Restoration, there were no reprisals against Milton, but he
went into hiding, no doubt because of his international reputation as a
defender of the commonwealth and of regicide. There was an order for his
arrest, but it was ignored or forgottten and later followed--perhaps by
mistake. His friends had him released with a small fine, which Milton
(probably) tried to avoid paying.
Milton's wife died in childbirth in 1652; his son died the next month.
Milton remarried in 1656, and again he lost a wife and daughter in early
1658. He was left with three young daughters, and married again in 1663.
This late period in his life was the time when his great poetic works
were written. I am attracted to the viewpoint that we should read
Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes as responding to
the Job-like questions of "what went wrong?" - "why did the revolution
fail?" and so on.
As for Fish -- he is clearly brilliant in terms of intelligence, but it's
very hard not to see him as the deftist of opportunists. After the mess
he made before being ejected from Duke (which included blacklisting
"conservative" profs.), I wonder if Father Oakes is unaware of Fish's
past or just extremely charitable--or seriously mistaken about his
character. Sir Frank Kermode also wrote an admiring review of <How Milton
Works> for the NYRB; it's probably online. On the whole, the Brits seem
to loathe Fish:
--Long, negative review by A.D. Nuttal in <The London Review of Books>
(www.lrb.co.uk - should be in the archives)
--Short, negative and hostile review entitled "Dead Wrong" by an anonymus
reviewer (Colin Burrow) in <The Economist>, June 16, 2001
(http://www.economist.com/books - see archives).
--Negative review by John Carey, <The Sunday Times> for either June 17 or
24. (http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/cgi-bin/BackIssue). A colleague
described it thus: "Carey presents a Fish whose anti-liberal, no-nonsense
stance poorly illuminates Milton though it does suggest the values behind
hegemonic America's arrogant and greedy attitude in world affairs."
Marquette University, Department of English
daniel.knauss@... - tiresias@...
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- Dan Knauss has been more than generous with his time and knowledge! I must
thank him on the list!
At 05:17 PM 1/8/2002, you wrote:
>You may find some good reading in the new edition of the Cambridge
>Companion to Milton. Summarizing from John Shawcross' essay in the old
>edition, here are some not-terribly-specific answers to some of your