The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution 0820703869, 9780820703862

Angelica Duran reveals the way in which Milton's works interacted with the revolutionary work of his contemporaries

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Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Title......Page 4
Copyright......Page 5
CONTENTS......Page 8
Introduction: Knowledge Regained......Page 14
ONE. Milton among Early Modern Scientists......Page 42
TWO. The Death of the Natural Philosopher and Pastoral Teacher......Page 60
THREE. Milton’s Angelic Vanguard, Uriel and Gabriel......Page 82
FOUR. Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers, Raphael and Michael......Page 104
FIVE. The Standard Academic Subjects and Their Function......Page 122
SIX. Subjects of Change in L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask......Page 140
SEVEN. Subjects for Change in Of Education......Page 162
EIGHT. The Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost......Page 188
NINE. Brave, New Students......Page 218
TEN. From Philomela to luscinia magarhynchos in A Mask......Page 232
ELEVEN. The Son’s Last Stages of Education......Page 258
TWELVE. Samson and Natural Religion......Page 278
APPENDIX A......Page 304
NOTES......Page 310
INDEX......Page 348
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The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies

General Editor: Albert C. Labriola Advisory Editor: Foster Provost Editorial Board: Judith H. Anderson Diana Treviño Benet Donald Cheney Ann Baynes Coiro Mary T. Crane Patrick Cullen A. C. Hamilton Margaret P. Hannay A. Kent Hieatt William B. Hunter Michael Lieb Thomas P. Roche Jr. Mary Beth Rose John T. Shawcross John M. Steadman Humphrey Tonkin Susanne Woods

he Age of Milton and the

Scientiic Revolution 

Angelica Duran

Duquesne University Press Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Copyright © 2007 Duquesne University Press All rights reserved Published in the United States of America by: DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY PRESS 600 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15282 No part of this book may be used or reproduced, in any manner or form whatsoever, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of short quotations in critical articles or reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Duran, Angelica. The age of Milton and the scientific revolution / Angelica Duran. p. cm — (Medieval & Renaissance literary studies) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978–0–8207–0386–2 (cloth : acid-free paper) ISBN-10: 0–8207–0386–9 (cloth : acid-free paper) 1. Milton, John, 1608–1674—Knowledge—Science. 2. Literature and science—England—History—17th century. 3. Learning and scholarship—England—History—17th century. 4. Milton, John, 1608–1674—Contemporaries. 5. Milton, John, 1608–1674—Influence. 6. England—Intellectual life—17th century. I. Title. PR3592.S3D87 2006 821'.4—dc22 2006030966

F ∞irst eBook edition, 2011 ISBN 978-0-8207-0531-6

Para Alicia Hernandez D., madre cariñosa, autora de fuerza, maestra exigente, amiga extrañada


List of Illustrations




Introduction: Knowledge Regained


Part I. Teachers: The Sinews of Ulysses ONE

Milton among Early Modern Scientists



The Death of the Natural Philosopher and Pastoral Teacher



Milton’s Angelic Vanguard, Uriel and Gabriel



Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers, Raphael and Michael


Part II. Academic Subjects: “The reforming of Education” The Standard Academic Subjects and Their Function


Subjects of Change in L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask



Subjects for Change in Of Education



The Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost






Part III. Students: “Poor striplings” NINE

Brave, New Students



From Philomela to luscinia magarhynchos in A Mask



The Son’s Last Stages of Education



Samson and Natural Religion


Appendix A







Figures 1. Reproduction of Galileo’s refracting telescope 2. Reproduction of Newton’s reflecting telescope 3. Thomas Digges’s English-Copernican cosmos (1576) 4. Title page to Milton’s Poems (1645) 5. Title page to Milton’s Poems &c. (1673) 6. Illustration depicting Tycho Brahe, Learned: Tico Brahe (1632) 7. “The Integrated Universe,” from Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi (1617) 8. “Man as Macrocosm,” from Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi (1617) 9. A series of illustrations from Galileo Galilei’s Sidereus Nuncius (1610) 10. Illustrations of motion from Isaac Newton, Opticks (1704) 11. Visually stagnant mathematical illustrations from Isaac Barrow (1674) 12. Frontispiece to Francis Bacon’s Instauratio Magna (1620) 13. Frontispiece to Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum (1627) 14. Frontispiece to John Evelyn’s An Essay on the First Book of T. Lucretius Carus De Rerum Natura (1656) ix

5 5 17 45 45 53 198 199 201 202 202 219 220




15. Frontispiece to John Hevelius’s The Celestial Machine, the First Part (1679) 16. Title page of book 6 of George Sandys’s Ovids Metamorphosis (1632) 17. Table 41 of John Ray’s English translation of The Ornithology of Francis Willughby (1678) 18. Portrait at Cawdor Castle presumed to be Lady Alice Egerton 19. “Jesus Atop the Pinnacle,” J. M. W. Turner (1835)

231 234 236 248 268

Table 1. Table of academic subjects in Of Education



I cannot separate the aesthetic pleasure of seeing a butterfly and the scientific pleasure of knowing what it is. — Vladimir Nabokov

The epigraph above has provided me with some of the muchneeded vision that has driven a project that valorizes the existence and coexistence of aesthetic and scientific pleasure. I am grateful to the many colleagues and mentors who provided me with the even greater needs demanded by such a project — encouragement and sustained practical aid. I extend my heartfelt thanks to J. Martin Evans, David Riggs, and Jennifer Summit, who oversaw my dissertation, part of which comprised the foundation of this book, and to Ann Astell, Richard DuRocher, Roy Flannagan, Charlie Ross, and the anonymous external reviewer of Duquesne University Press, who commented on early versions of various sections of this book. I would be remiss in a study of the development of institutions and committed individuals if I did not express my gratitude to the institutions where I have gladly learned and gladly taught, Stanford and Purdue Universities, their helpful teachers, students, and members of scientific, humanities, and intellectual gatherings. I extend my thanks also to Milton Quarterly, Essays in Arts and Sciences, and Blackwell Press for permission to include expanded versions of “The Last Stages of Education,” “The Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost,” “The Lady in A Mask: From Philomela to luscinia magarhynchos,” and “First and Last Fruits of Education: The Companion Poems, Epistola, and Educational Prose Works”; xi



and to the scholarly community whose suggestions helped me improve those articles and chapters. I am grateful to Al Labriola, Susan Wadsworth-Booth, and Kathy Meyer at Duquesne University Press for all their help in the last stages of publishing this study, and to the knowledgeable staffs at the Adler Planetarium, Folger Shakespeare Library, the Newberry Library, the Stanford Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, and the Stanford Special Collections for their kindness and speed with obtaining the lovely illustrations of this book. No less important than these professional supports are the personal ones. My children, Jacqueline and Paul, have been with me throughout the researching and writing of this book, cooperating by going to bed on time, showing pride and interest in my labors, demanding that I always commit my work to improving a humankind that includes such wonders as them, challenging my assumptions about what I know, and by simply providing me with joy. The final stages included Sean O’Connor, whose contributions are too many, too subtle, and too lovely to express. The support and happiness he gave me complemented that of my mother, Alicia Hernandez, to whom this book is dedicated, with deep love and deep hopes that it will do her honor. Y como siempre, se termina con Adios.


Art is not a mirror to hold up to reality; it is a hammer with which to shape it. — Bertolt Brecht

Two terms that have been used regularly to refer to seventeenth century English culture are “The Age of Milton” and the “The Scientific Revolution.” The first is often deployed to refer primarily to artistic literary practices and discourses; the second to “the disciplines of science.”1 We quickly encounter a problem, however, when using these convenient terms of reference as ones of distinction because the titular character of the first, John Milton (1608–1674), was a poet deeply engaged with the chief concerns of his scientifically minded contemporaries, whose works, theories, and practices came to define the second. The use of these two terms, however, is not artificial. We have immediate as well as protracted indications that some of Milton’s first readers sensed the conceptual and practical alliances, as well as the existence, of the coeval ages. The two poems that grace the front matter of the 1674 volume of Paradise Lost are particularly telling. The Latin “In Paradisum Amissam Summi Poetae JOHANNIS MILTONI” is written by “S.B. M.D,” Samuel Barrow, M.D. (1625–1682), physician to Charles II; the second English “On PARADISE LOST” by “A.M.,” Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), tutor, government employee, and, of course, famed poet. These encomia, 1



which helped “cause sales to increase substantially,” deliberately and successfully advertise as much of a disciplinary inclusiveness as they do a political one.2 Extratextually, cleric and supporter of the Royal Society John Beale (1603–1683?) responded to the first edition of Paradise Lost (1667) by soliciting John Evelyn (1620–1706) for an introduction to Milton, “so as to approach him about writing scientific poems” because he believed Milton’s clarion voice could defend “the Royal Society against ‘ye scurrilous balladry’” of others.3 While Beale was unsuccessful, another proponent of the Royal Society believed that Paradise Lost had already spoken for the group’s endeavors. In 1690, William Hog (b. 1652) published the first Latin rendition of Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes, and dedicated it to “D[octor] DANIEL COX,” to whom he addresses the opening epistle as “a most distinguished Professor of Medicine, and Fellow of both Royal Societies, my very kind Lord and Patron Maecenas” [Medicinae Professori clarissimo, Utriusque Regiæ Societatis Socio, Domino ac Mecænati meo Benignissimo].4 (Robert Utley’s full English translation of Hog’s preface is included here as appendix A.) The preface reflects the belief that Milton’s epic corresponds with the labors of the Royal Society, especially those that are “not lightly tinged, but deeply imbued with all liberal learning.” These examples indicate some basic presentational directions and concerns for the first readers of the epic, those who recognized its synthetic and progressive nature during a period when the arts and sciences were bifurcating. After the Age of Milton or the English Scientific Revolution, assessments of Milton as either Joseph Addison’s poet of “profound scientific learning” or Douglas Bush’s “last great Renaissance humanist” have found strident followings.5 Often, the arguments about Milton’s precise role in or outside of the development of modern science have doubled as arguments for the role of the liberal arts in alliance with or opposition to the liberal sciences. I hope to clarify that the growth of knowledge and activities associated with the English Scientific Revolution developed in a medium of dynamic exchange between various disciplines; and that the Age of Milton



and Scientific Revolution are not oppositional but rather complementary. This study does not aim to uncover hidden meanings or heterogeneously yoke together ideas that do not demand it. The reading I intend resists externally imposed, rather than textually imposed, limitations so that it can respect what texts written within their specific set of contexts actually say.6 Milton’s texts and certain strands of progressive natural philosophy of the seventeenth century that came to be known as modern science are parts of a larger culture of progressive education. Early modern literature and science should not be treated as pure or hermetic. However, neither should all areas of literature and of science be conflated: the seventeenth century did, in fact, give rise to the disciplinary divisions we have inherited. This study attends to the specific cultural affiliations within the domain of progressive education that promoted the acquisition of new knowledge won by firsthand observation and experiments, and that created the exciting, revolutionary belief that the world and knowledge did not decay from the superiority of ancient wisdom but rather could advance. Its main argument is that some literature of the English Scientific Revolution, specifically literature concerned with the development of knowledge, did more than reflect or praise the “Reall Philosophy” and “real” work done by early modern scientists but rather participated in a profoundly encompassing cultural project. Milton’s literature in particular was as much a part of the project that Francis Bacon (1561–1626) called the “advancement of learning” as were the optical lenses, air pumps, and intravenous syringes created by early modern scientists.

“These are the fruits . . . as were better unlearnt” There are, of course, as many obstacles as inroads to engaging simultaneously with the Age of Milton and the English Scientific Revolution. Some of the difficulty lies in the inchoate nature of both elements. To take optical lenses as a representative example: While the telescope was sufficiently refined by the early seventeenth



century to enable Galileo (1564–1642) to apply it to his breathtaking astronomical theories, even those who supported his work had difficulty replicating his refracting telescope and, consequently, validating his theories. Then, in the last decades of the seventeenth century, Isaac Newton (1642–1727) invented a new kind of reflecting telescope, distinct in design, materials, and, equally important, country of origin (see figs. 1 and 2). Letters between Newton and Robert Hooke (1635–1703), first curator of experiments for the Royal Society, speak clearly to the imperfect status of telescopes — one of the chief technological images associated with the Scientific Revolution — because of the difficulty of acquiring and replicating materials.7 We must be cautious not to stagnate the shifting elements associated with the Scientific Revolution. Such stagnation misrepresents one of the chief characteristics of the movement, its dynamic nature. We are challenged to hold multiple images at once in order to get a responsible picture of what is meant when we use the term “Scientific Revolution.” Poetry, Milton’s poetry, helps us to appreciate that moving picture. As we trace the uneven parallel developments of the models, images, and characterizations in Milton’s and early modern scientists’ texts and practices, the components I will consider are elastic and mobile. Equally important, Milton’s poetry is like the telescopes and other technologies so strongly associated with the Scientific Revolution: in conversation with the emergence of modern science but not, of course, science itself.8 Institutions from the Royal Society to today’s scientific businesses have advertised their scientific activities — so indistinct to laypersons — by means of the concrete technologies that emerge from them. Hence, the elision. But, the Scientific Revolution includes not only technological growth but also new objects for new studies, new attitudes toward those objects, and all the related activities individuals take to advertise and further develop those new objects and approaches. For example, the intravenous syringes that Christopher Wren (1632–1723) and Richard Lower (1631–1691) used for transfusions between dogs in the 1650s and 1660s are not only concrete technologies but also intellectual

Fig. 1. Reproduction of Galileo’s refracting telescope. Fig. 2. Reproduction of Newton’s reflecting telescope. Courtesy of Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Courtesy of Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago, Illinois. Chicago, Illinois.



responses to William Harvey’s (1578–1657) On the Motion of the Heart and Blood of the 1620s. They express the revolution in belief in the function of human will, reason, imagination, and material elements for earthly intervention. Transfusions in humans would have to wait until 1795 and safe transfusions until 1901 with Austrian Karl Landsteiner’s (1868–1943) discovery of blood types. But the new intellectual pathways Harvey constructed were immediate, as were their representation in literary works.9 Shortly after Isaac Newton’s death, Alexander Pope (1688–1744) penned perhaps the most succinct declaration of the immediate exhilaration with which artists responded to the discoveries Newton made through “playing,” as he called it, with mirrors, black cloth, paint, candles, glass, and sunlight: “Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night: / God said, let Newton be! and all was light.”10 Two centuries later, Albert Einstein (1879–1955) was still lauding the far-reaching reverberations of Newton as a synecdoche for the larger cultural movement: “Fortunate Newton, happy childhood of science! He who has time and tranquility by reading this book can live again the wonderful events which the great Newton experienced in his young days.”11 Pope’s astounding alteration of biblical fiat and Einstein’s canonization of his intellectual forefather attest to the force with which the English Scientific Revolution of Newton’s “young days” blazed onto the eighteenth century imagination and continued to ignite some of the most important scientific work of the twentieth century. They also tend to dim our recollection of the difficult birth and trying infancy that preceded its “happy childhood.” The traces of excellence achieved are easier to discern than halffulfilled promises; and, when those achievements are as powerful as Newton’s discoveries, the tendency to neglect their less-thancomely developments is often equally powerful. But, a disservice is done to our understanding of the forces that produce them when we treat the discoveries like a neglected child. Newton insisted that we look squarely at his predecessors when he conceded, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders



of giants.”12 His characterization of the monstrous and unwieldy nature of that history hints at the very cause of the difficulty of gazing at the awkward, early days of the English Scientific Revolution with a measure of appreciation. Their sheer messiness, harsh struggles, monstrous errors, and stunted hopes are more easily ignored and mocked than admired and esteemed. The call to gaze on some of the mutual work of the arts and sciences is now amplified, however, as we begin a century that promises equally revolutionary scientific developments, and at a period when scientific and literary studies have enabled us to discern modern science as but one part of a dynamic complex of human understanding.13 Another obstacle in aligning Milton and the English Scientific Revolution is that the historical process of the period tended toward bifurcating rather than uniting the arts and sciences, and by extension artists and scientists. Conceptions, descriptions, and interactions with the natural world were in a high state of flux in early modern England, as traditional frameworks for structuring the world came under new sets of pressures. Those pressures created fissures that divided the hitherto thoroughly interdependent rubrics of “natural philosophy” or “science” and “poesy” or “fictional literature.” The traces of the bifurcation are readily recognizable in the writings of some of the best minds of the period. In his incisive chapter on Johannes Kepler in Commerce with the Classics (2000), Anthony Grafton documents the radical nature of, for example, reading “Homer as a poet, not as a master of the sciences” as late as 1599.14 In 1585, Gabriel Harvey (1550?–1631) could write unabashedly that, “Others commend Chaucer and Lidgate for their witt, pleasant veine, varietie of poetical discourse, and all humanities. I specially note their Astronomie, philosophie, and other parts of profound or cunning art. Wherein few of their time were more exactly learned.”15 About 40 years later, in On the Motion of the Heart and Blood, the similarly surnamed but distinctly early modern William Harvey would argue passionately for the specialized reading of specialized materials, in contradistinction to what he called such “vulgar” modes of reading, thinking, and doing. Hand



in hand, readers were given the alternative of reading specialized Galilean and Newtonian treatises rather than compendious Manillian epics or Chaucerian poesy to guide them in understanding the relationship of human artifice and natural phenomena. William Harvey’s specialized mode eventually predominated over Gabriel Harvey’s holistic one, thus also helping to define the boundaries of what would come to be understood as fictional literature. But, of course, care must be taken with such a statement. “Predominated” does not mean “replaced.” John Beale’s desire to have Milton clothe the glories of science in poetry indicates a persistent drive for the synthetic. Even as late as 1678, in his English translation of the Latin Ornithology of Francis Willughby, naturalist John Ray (1627–1705) still felt compelled to argue for specialized writing and reading. Of course, some seventeenth century poets and dramatists actively contributed to the characterization of the split between the arts and sciences as antagonistic. In contrast to Pope’s retrospective enthusiasm about the “light” that Newton represents, poet and divine John Donne (1572–1631) famously laments that the “new philosophy calls all in doubt, / The element of fire is lost” in “Anatomy of the World . . . First Anniversary” (1611) (205–06). An entry in the diary of Robert Hooke speaks of one particularly vicious literary insult aimed at early modern English scientists. After viewing Thomas Shadwell’s (1642?–1692) Virtuoso (1676), Hooke writes, “Damned Doggs. Vindica me Deus: People almost pointed.”16 Of course, we should not forget that Hooke represented similarly antagonistic relationships between scientists and artists, most notably between himself and John Dryden. Milton’s amiable representations and relations with members of the scientific community stand in sharp contrast to such hostile characterizations. Subsequent misrepresentations have also assisted in the perpetuation of the opposition rather than solidarity of the arts and sciences in general. Easily available evidence indicating the complementary nature of literature and science has been largely ignored.



For example, Philip Sidney (1554–1586) is sometimes characterized as a derider of natural philosophy at the moment it stood on the brink of the English Scientific Revolution. Indeed, sounding much like Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) at the end of the Scientific Revolution in his satire of the Royal Society in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), Sidney writes in The Defence of Poetry (1595) that, “by the balance of experience it was found that the astronomer, looking at the stars, might fall in a ditch, that the inquiring philosopher might be blind in himself, and the mathematician might draw forth a straight line with a crooked heart.”17 We would do better to interpret Sidney — and Swift — as reviling only the poor practitioners of astronomy, much as Sidney also reviles the “Base men with servile wits” who dishonor the poetic discipline that he so clearly supports. We might also turn to Sidney’s scientific work. Famed experimentalist Robert Boyle (1627–1691) highly recommended Sidney’s English translation of the work of sixteenth century French apologist Philippe du Plessis Mornay, “Of the Study of the Book of Nature,” because of its refined explanation of the vacuum. The omission of this translation from recent Sidney collections disables today’s readers from appreciating the various perspectives from which he interpreted nature. The antagonistic story of the arts and sciences — with mischaracterizations of scientists’ responses to Milton — has only gained momentum since the English Scientific Revolution. Biographers are fond of incorrectly noting the absence of fictional literature in Isaac Newton’s library, a false claim that a glance at John Harrison’s Library of Isaac Newton (1978) would rectify. In a similar vein, some critics have regularly decontextualized Charles Darwin’s (1809–1882) assertion following his mention of “the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley” in his autobiography: “But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also lost almost any taste for pictures or music.”18 The statement is not his contemptuous assessment of literature but rather his vivid and sad illustration of the



loss of his poetic appreciation, so fondly remembered in his autobiography: “Formerly Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ had been my chief favourite, and in my excursions during the voyage of the ‘Beagle,’ when I could take only a single volume, I always chose Milton.” He dignifies the aesthetic and intellectual merits of poetry and the arts in saying that, “if I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week . . . the loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character.”19 Misrepresentations of Sidney and Darwin are particularly egregious because they penned works, The Defence of Poetry and Origin of Species (1859), that invite us to understand generic affiliations, literary and biological, even while they analyze unique characteristics. While the antagonistic tale of the arts and sciences has been a favorite, it offers only one side of the broad story of cultural, intellectual, and literary history. As the subsequent chapters demonstrate, there is no paucity of examples in Milton’s works that help us to recognize the English Scientific Revolution as a phenomenon that, from its beginnings, has belonged to and excited artists and scientists alike.20 Another obstacle — really more of a stumbling block — in discussing Milton and the emergence of modern science is vocabulary. The most contentious term may have already raised some anxiety: “scientific revolution.” With the term, I purposefully seek to emphasize knowledge — scientia in its original sense — as the basis of the human endeavors discussed herein. I also aim to naturalize scientific disciplines — “science” in its modern sense — to the primarily literary readership of this study. A few readers, particularly historians of science, may remain unconvinced by these etymological and rhetorical niceties.21 Indeed, Steven Shapin’s The Scientific Revolution (1996) opens by stating provocatively, “There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this book is about that.” Of course, after reviewing contestations against the use of the term, Shapin concedes with equal poise,



despite these legitimate doubts and uncertainties there remains a sense in which it is possible to write about the Scientific Revolution unapologetically and in good faith. The first is that many key figures in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries vigorously expressed their view that they were proposing some very new and very important changes in knowledge of natural reality and in the practices by which legitimate knowledge was to be assessed, and communicated. . . . [A] book about the Scientific Revolution can legitimately tell a story about those attempts, whether or not they succeeded, whether or not they were contested in the local culture, whether or not they were wholly coherent.22

In addition to providing a convincing defense of the term, his book renewed interest in the Scientific Revolution, which in turn prompted clarified definitions. Those definitions have appropriately acknowledged the many extensions of the Scientific Revolution outside of strictly scientific domains that contributed to its formation, establishment, and perpetuation. The last decade has indeed more clearly defined the period, locations, and categories of any book that includes “scientific revolution” in its title. In The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (1997), John Henry defines the Scientific Revolution as the “period in European history when, arguably, the conceptual, methodological and institutional foundations of modern science were first established. The precise period in question varies from historian to historian, but the main focus is usually held to be the seventeenth century, with varying periods of scene-setting in the sixteenth and consolidation in the eighteenth.” In Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution (1999), Lisa Jardine defines the term to indicate the primacy of the rational, material, and experimental over the emotional, immaterial, and traditional in scientific and nonscientific texts; and, in doing so, elegantly demonstrates the inconsistencies and symbiotic relationships between and within the rational and emotional, the material and the immaterial, and the experimental and the traditional at the moment of the separation of the arts and sciences.23



My use of “Scientific Revolution” and of education as a locus amoenis for some artists and scientists has found its greatest support in two works, Howard Margolis’s It Started with Copernicus: How Turning the World Inside Out Led to the Scientific Revolution (2002) and Stephen Jay Gould, The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox: Mending the Gap Between Science and the Humanities (2003). These works recentralized the educational and artistic components of the Scientific Revolution. With Margolis and Gould, I owe much of my focus on social interaction and education to C. P. Snow’s thesis in The Two Cultures (1959), which wrestles with the breakdown of communication between the two cultures of the sciences and the humanities in the early part of the twentieth century. Snow was interested in modifying large-scale, destructive social behaviors — the two world wars — and situating the British educational system as a promising site for intervention. Gould’s study is in particular alliance with Snow’s and my own because it focuses on English contributions to the Scientific Revolution.24 I regularly add “English” to “Scientific Revolution” to indicate the primary attention to England’s home-grown theories and findings. A focus on the English Scientific Revolution avoids rehearsing the important work already accomplished in demonstrating the international changes in scientific thought and activity. Instead, it offers an intimate perspective of the small band of English intellectuals who so thoroughly reshaped perceptions of reality. It also reminds us of the inclusive, altruistic, and pedagogical beginnings of what we now consider primarily scientific institutions like the Royal Society. As the “Invisible College” dating back to 1645, its regular members dedicated its labors “not only in advancing mathematical and experimental science, but also in reforming the universities and the notions and methods of education.”25 From its beginnings, modern science was part of the larger reformation of education. This study, then, limits place in order to expand its exploration of individual agents and texts. In Putting Science in Its Place: Geographies of Scientific Knowledge (2003), David Livingstone



notes that, following the precedence of Italian and Iberian science in the sixteenth century, England “by the late seventeenth century had emerged from relative obscurity to become a major player on the field of European science.”26 While Continental figures, discoveries, and literature certainly left their mark on England’s intellectual life and in Milton’s poetry — Galileo will not be ignored — the nationalistic enthusiasm of English intellectuals, at last establishing English precedence rather than belatedness, is integral to understanding the affect and effects of group agency in advancements of learning. In practical terms, Milton’s England provides us with enough to consider: the establishment of the Royal Society of London; the seminal optical lectures Isaac Barrow (1630–1677) delivered as the first holder of the Lucasian chair at Cambridge, currently held by quantum physicist Stephen Hawking (1942–); Robert Boyle’s experiments with his new pneumatic engine (the air pump); and more. Like the Foucauldian epistemic shift encapsulated in “Scientific Revolution,” my references to some individuals as “early modern English scientists” acknowledge participation in a historic development, at once its change and continuity. The most accurate phrasing would be “early modern English intellectuals working on and purposefully dedicating their energies to the establishment of what we know as modern science, its intellectual permutations, institutions, and its technologies.” However, repetition of such a long phrase would soon become cumbersome. Early modern English scientists themselves offered an array of terms of self-reference that emphasized their role in advancing learning by developing its scientific branches: naturalists, Baconians, experimentalists, servants of nature, and more. All of these terms have their merits, but they are insufficiently broad or precise. “Naturalist” is a misleading term for those who worked with imaginary, mathematical lines and is inapplicable to Boyle in his role of creating unnatural vacuums. “Baconians” is more inclusive but situates authority in Francis Bacon, which contradicts the authority that early modern English scientists worked so actively and vocally to place on nature. The



term disregards the impetus behind their work to topple Aristotelianism, which placed primary authority in a single, antecedent, authorial figure.27 Additionally, Bacon’s essays on advancing real philosophy are so complex and contradictory that the term confuses more than clarifies. “Experimentalists” is an equally unaccommodating term because many of the chief members of the movement, like Seth Ward (1617–1689) — bishop of Exeter and later Salisbury as well as mathematical lecturer at Cambridge and Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford — expressly rejected experiment as a necessary or practical component of their labors, and many others relied on thought experiments rather than actual experiments.28 All of these terms, of course, subordinate individuals’ endeavors in other arenas, just as the usual designation of “poet” for John Milton subordinates his roles as politician, landowner, and husband. “Early modern English scientists” is not without its difficulties. All said, I concede with Sir Thomas More (1478–1535) that “what you cannot make right you must make as little wrong as you can.” I hope to have given fair hearing to critical directions that do not parallel or intersect with my own. In the remaining chapters, for the sake of clarity, I will recognize divergences primarily in the endnotes.

“I shall detain you no longer in the demonstration” This study’s single-author focus purposefully seeks to complement some of the best literary criticism in recent years that has positioned literature of the Age of Milton as a partner to texts of the English Scientific Revolution by discussing a number of early modern authors. John Rogers’s The Matter of Revolution and Robert A. Erickson’s Language of the Heart, 1600–1750 are two particularly original and illuminating studies of the biological sciences in the writings of diverse seventeenth century writers.29 My study, on the other hand, focuses on the lifetime and life’s work of one particularly creative individual to gain an intimate sense of how the enormous changes in thought and education affect individual



lives. After all, that perspective most clearly reflects our own individual experiences of living in exciting, changing times; and that perspective might help us to recognize the humanity and compassion in what might otherwise seem like some cold, unwieldy enterprise. Milton’s life and life’s work powerfully illuminate the cooperation of the arts and sciences in the advancement of learning. His lifetime (1608–1674) corresponds to the bulk of the English Scientific Revolution. Also, Milton directly knew leading members of the Royal Society or knew early on of their work. Historical, local, and biographical affiliations, which I describe in chapter 1, should help in removing some of the disciplinary barriers that may make us reluctant to see the shared cultural imprints in Milton’s works and scientific work. Nevertheless, Milton’s texts are the most compelling indicators of scientific and artistic cooperation: they will comprise the primary focus of this study. As many contemporary scientists and historians of science have observed, few early modern intellectuals were capable of understanding the original theories and findings associated with the English Scientific Revolution, much less distill them into poetic lines.30 Equally accommodating and important is Milton’s poetic discourse. Despite its low initial sales, Milton’s poetry has reached a much larger readership in the last three centuries than have Ray’s Ornithology, Hooke’s Micrographia, Newton’s Principia, and other such texts. Amusingly yet tellingly, Milton’s poetry remains a large stimulus for the reading of those early scientific texts, as contemporary readers follow up on one of Milton’s elusive allusions. More importantly, Milton’s poetry positions centrally rather than tangentially the emotive components so vital to scientific development. His “simple, sensuous, and passionate” poetry captures important elements that propelled the English Scientific Revolution: William Harvey’s willingness to tackle his religious and physical repulsion to cadavers to understand the circulation of blood, Henry Oldenburg’s persistence in his recruitment of supporters for the Royal Society despite imprisonment, and Isaac Newton’s courting of blindness to contribute to the study of optics.31



This study clarifies the role of poetics in the history of science and vice versa. I am indebted to historians of science for providing sound starting points for explaining just how Milton’s poems work in conjunction with the English Scientific Revolution.32 For example, this study builds on Steven Shapin and Simon Shaffer’s seminal study Leviathan and the Air-Pump, with its attention to the manner in which the “literary reporting” in artistic texts helps to chronicle and advance scientific endeavors.33 One example of Milton’s literary reporting is his representation of a “Boundless” cosmos in Paradise Lost (7.168). Milton shapes a cosmos strikingly similar to the cosmic scheme in Thomas Digges’s (d. 1595) English translation of Copernicus’s On the Revolution (1576). In the explanatory illustration of his translation (see fig. 3), Digges introduces unfixed stars scattered throughout an infinite universe absent in previous versions of the heliocentric scheme. Milton’s cosmos, like Digges’s, thwarts earnest attempts at pictorial illustration because it is so expansive.34 It stands in sharp contrast to the manageable Ptolemaic world of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Elements from poetic and scientific texts and biographies, however, will not be used juridically or empirically, for example, only to show that Dante’s universe resembles a Ptolemaic system and Milton’s universe a Diggesian one. This study makes use of literary reporting to clarify the more subtle and commanding intersections of Milton’s texts and the English Scientific Revolution: their mutual reshapings and representations of the processes and agents that advance learning. Parallel developments will serve as starting points for critical integration, which, like the mathematical integration of calculus, enables us to locate the dynamic energy that propelled the epic achievements of the English Scientific Revolution. Deliberate integration does not contradict what Murray Krieger has defined as a “poem’s differentness from other discourse,” its “separate place.”35 Rather, poetry is a primary object of study because its distinct type of discourse enables contemporary readers,



Fig. 3. Thomas Digges’s English-Copernican cosmos, in Leonard Digges, A Prognostication Everlastinge (London, 1576), insert. Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

especially those not regularly engaged with scientific texts, figures, and ideas, to gain a wider appreciation of their presence in the larger domains of education and epistemology. Poetry is especially vital in reading pre-Enlightenment events and texts because it enables us to get behind the detachment of aesthetic and scientific discourses that Theodor Adorno marks at the end of the Scientific Revolution. It is able to “slough off a repressive, external-empirical mode of



experiencing the world” that contemporary readers regularly bring to texts.36 The point of departure for any contemporary literary investigation of Milton’s poetry and any aspect of science is Svendsen’s Milton and Science. My study addresses a set of questions distinct from Svendsen’s. The aims of Milton and Science are to produce a “comprehensive study of natural science in Milton” and to answer the “literary questions . . .: what is science in his work, how does science enter it, and what is its function there?”37 The aims of The Age of Milton and The Scientific Revolution are to discuss intimately, closely, the questions of how Milton’s poems and some sets of science work together, how they both enter new ways of construing the world, and what their shared functions to the advancement of human learning are. While there has been increasing disagreement with Svendsen’s assessment that Milton made “very little” of the new philosophy, he identified the chief textual sites in Paradise Lost in which Milton negotiates the “old science” with the new science.38 William Poole’s “Milton and Science: A Caveat,” the title of which reflects the author’s alignment with Svendsen’s overall assessment, provides an invaluable caution about the methodologies and texts that can be brought to bear on Milton’s works, especially for New Historical and cultural criticism.39 It is my hope that my discussions of the early texts that Poole cites as neglected by “the newer school of criticism . . . Fallon, Marjara, Edwards, Martin” and my methodologies may convince him and others about the validity of the newer school’s overall assessment of the mutually affirming relationship of some branches of early modern science and Milton’s revolutionary art.40 Outside of purely Milton studies, Adrian Johns’s The Nature of the Book has indeed articulated Milton’s important role in the English Scientific Revolution, redefined as an important sociological term that traverses disciplinary boundaries. Significantly, after an introductory chapter that explains that his book’s main focus will be on the role of the printing press in the establishment of scientific “Truth,” Johns opens with Milton:



“Behold now this vast City,” commanded John Milton in 1644. Wandering through the streets and alleys of wartime London, by turns sordid and splendid, dank and magnificent, Milton unearthed in their teeming garrets a providential “City of refuge.” There Londoners were hard at work, zealously seeking out wisdom. They were “reading,” he proclaimed, “trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement.” What more, he demanded, could be asked of a nation “prone to seek after Knowledge”? What more need be done to create “a Nation of Prophets”?41

Johns launched a major line of questioning surrounding the emergence of the scientific author and of authority to the study of modern science, with provocative gestures toward the parallel emergence of the literary author and the nation-state, which are so intimately tied to the writing of epic.42 This study contributes to these scholarly undertakings and to the belief that by joining literary studies to scientific scholarship we may grapple — if not elegantly, at least honestly — with the extent to which Milton’s poetic lines work in conjunction with mathematical lines and scientific texts to sketch out a responsible, moving image of the compatible role of the literary and the scientific. My study differs from the previously mentioned ones in two crucial respects. First, it surveys most of the seventeenth century.43 To date, book-length studies on Milton and any aspect of science have focused primarily on Milton’s Restoration epic, Paradise Lost. I attend to Paradise Lost as well as to Milton’s early poetry, personal writings, and two other mature poems, Paradise Regained (1674) and Samson Agonistes (1674). Including Milton’s writings from the first half of the century circumvents the danger of misrepresenting the new approaches and images represented in Milton’s epic as emerging fully formed; and paying attention to his final two poetic works enables us to enter into the exciting intellectual and practical ferment of the 1670s. Of course, I refer to Milton’s prose to clarify poetic representations. The chief prose work that will inform and, in some cases, govern the arguments of the ensuing chapters is the much-neglected Of Education. Just as I use passages



from Of Education as subheadings in this chapter, I do so to entitle each part of the book because education was and is the central framework for the arts and sciences. Milton’s short educational tract explodes as a key site to investigate because it coalesces the chief elements and images to be found throughout Milton’s poetry and within the texts of his scientifically minded peers. The imprint of early modern education is embedded fundamentally in every poetic line and scientific tract that this study will scrutinize. The didacticism of early modern poetry is well rehearsed. The same is true for early modern scientific texts. However, analysis of their educational heritage and didactic roles has been conducted separately, implicitly fostering disciplinary division rather than unity. Because the calculus to measure the cultural fluxions of early modern England is as complex as the mathematical calculus to measure natural fluxions, I integrate the models that poetic and scientific pedagogy offer. Bacon placed the unified and social nature of profitable learning at the forefront of the educational program he outlined in The Advancement of Learning (1605), The Great Instauration (1620), and New Atlantis (1627). He posited that knowledge grows more responsibly through varied forms of human communication and that its aim should be the benefit of humankind and the contingent glory of God: “this excellent liquor of knowledge, whether it descend from divine inspiration, or spring from human sense, would soon perish and vanish to oblivion, if it were not preserved in books, traditions, conferences, and places appointed, as universities, colleges, and schools.”44 In researching the biographies and texts of early modern intellectuals, it became increasingly apparent that many of Bacon’s intellectual descendants heeded his argument for a workable — if at times uneasy — “conjunction of labors.”45 Education and its institutions were the natural points of intersection for artists and scientists if simply because, as youths, they were for the most part trained at the same elite English educational institutions and, as adults, they considered educational institutions to be the ideal sites for the remarkable increase of knowledge they



hoped would lead to the glory of God and the benefit of mankind. Despite their protestations, leading English artists and scientists of the seventeenth century remained at, returned to, and established new educational centers in unprecedented numbers. Their publications and practices evince the extent to which the content, methods, and social circles of their education as students, teachers, and members provided the framework for their reformed learning and experiences. It would be negligent of a study of the English Scientific Revolution and literature to ignore the private tutors, petty schools, grammar schools, colleges, and universities that comprised the domain of learning from which most of these revolutionary figures and their texts emerged and returned. Finally, the Age of Milton, education, and the English Scientific Revolution are joined because in isolation and in combination they comprise domains in which spiritual, religious, and physical beliefs were negotiated. This study acknowledges what leading artists, scientists, and their readers from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries have articulated repeatedly: religion is one of the chief epistemological models, and dismissing rather than appropriately categorizing religion in discussions of science forestalls a full and continuous account of human understanding. As Steven Shapin affirms, “In speaking about the purposes of changing natural knowledge in the seventeenth century, it is obligatory to treat its uses in supporting and extending broadly religious aims.”46 Thomas Browne’s (1605–1682) conciliatory view in Religio Medici (1642) is endemic rather than idiosyncratic: “There are two Books from whence I collect my Divinity; besides that written one of GOD, another of His servant Nature, that universal and publick Manuscript, that lies expans’d unto the Eyes of all.”47 While for the sake of brevity and clarity this study does not focus on religion, the inclusion of Milton and early modern English education, perforce, implies and acknowledges a strong religious force. Whatever our own belief systems, early modern intellectuals insistently refused to close the system to religious elements. While early modern scientists balked at Aristotle’s model of an animated world



and medieval constructs, they insisted on the lively negotiation between “the book of God’s Word” and “the book of God’s Works.”48

It “is to be thus order’d” This study is organized around the primary components that define educational experience: teachers, academic subjects, and students. The first chapter in each part charts historical and biographical developments specific to each component. Subsequent chapters in each part clarify where and how Milton’s works engage with and animate key images, ideas, and sets of concerns related to the agents and processes under consideration in ways consistent with those of the English Scientific Revolution. Part 1, “Teachers: The Sinews of Ulysses,” attends to the ideological transformation of the most accountable figures in Milton’s and early modern English scientists’ enterprises: teachers. The section’s first chapter, “Milton among Early Modern Scientists,” looks anew at documents that establish the extent of Milton’s personal relationships with the educators and early modern English scientists who were to redefine the fundamental aims of educational institutions and convert natural philosophy to modern science. His biographical associations at St. Paul’s School, Cambridge, then within specific London intellectual circles in his adulthood inform our understanding of the intimate relationship of their works in reconfiguring the image of the contemplative, isolated natural philosopher and pastoral teacher into a collaborative vanguard of social, active, militant teachers. In chapter 2, “The Death of the Natural Philosopher and Pastoral Teacher,” I attend to key Miltonic figures and how they comprise some of the social and poetic fashioning of early modern English scientists. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 trace the displacement of the classical, artistic figure of teaching and natural philosophy, Orpheus, for the still classical and lone but now robust figures of Hercules and Ulysses; and subsequently the displacement of those figures for a new model army of Judeo-Christian, scientifically minded intellectuals. Milton chronicles and challenges



specific qualities in the fashioning of scientific selves, in works including Il Penseroso (1631?), A Mask (1634), Lycidas (1637), Of Education, and Paradise Lost. The third and fourth chapters detail how the four archangels Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael blaze onto the learning environment of Paradise Lost endued with scientific qualities to help them in a collaborative effort of knowledge reconnaissance and combat. Part 2, “Academic Subjects: ‘The reforming of Education,’” delineates the tenacity with which Milton and like-minded early modern scientists clung to, then altered, the established studia generalia. Unlike the almost complete refashioning of the teacherscientist, dilation rather than deletion governed the changes in curricular subjects in England for most of the seventeenth century. The information explosion caused by the ongoing recovery of ancient and classical texts, explorations of the known world, and new observations of the cosmos and its microscopic elements created great pressures within a closed system of time and human capacity, pressures that face educators today in making decisions about textbook selection, degree requirements, classroom syllabi, and more. Discussions that ignore the emotional, social, and practical elements embedded in the curricular developments of early modern England fail to tell us much about how and why English intellectuals went about making curricular changes and by extension understanding and shaping the world around them. As chapter 5, “The Standard Academic Subjects and Their Function” argues, that tenacity was a response to the large-scale challenges to the viability of the traditional boundaries of academic subjects, and by extension the activities to which intellectuals would devote their energies.49 Amid the questionings and fluctuations of the period, what is certain is that applied and scientific subjects gained preeminence and that all academic subjects underwent scientific reevaluation. In chapter 6, “Subjects of Change in L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask,” I examine Milton’s poetic representations of the buoyant as well as anxious hopes surrounding the management and application of the explosion of knowledge of the period.



In chapter 7, “Subjects for Change in Of Education,” I look at Milton’s prose prescription as a complement to his poetic representations of academic subjects to show the extent to which Milton joined other English intellectuals in updating inherited approaches into modern and scientific ones. With the final chapter of part 2, “The Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost,” we turn to Milton’s tour de force vision of the cosmos, in which Milton stakes a simultaneously humanistic and scientific claim on the stars. The immediate beneficiaries of all educational programs are students. Part 3, “Students: ‘Poor striplings,’” looks at Milton’s sensitive portrayal of the hopes, difficulties, and successes students faced during a historical period that made the always daunting educational journey even more disorienting. Chapter 9, “Brave, New Students,” focuses on what Milton, early modern English scientists, and their teachers had to say about changes in the student population during the period. Their assessments illuminate Milton’s poetic representation of students who successfully make the transition from one level of education to another: the Lady in A Mask, Jesus in Paradise Regained, and Samson in Samson Agonistes, the subjects of the last three chapters. Milton positions these students in environments that reflect the disorienting intellectual environment of seventeenth century England: the dark woods of the masque, the wilderness of the brief epic, and the enemy’s camp of the tragedy. In the three works, Milton invests his students with distinct scientific approaches and dramatizes the benefits of new approaches to learning in aiding individual students to find their paths within a world shaken by the various expansions, revolutions, and reforms of the period.

“If . . . this age have spirit and capacity anough to apprehend” My alignment of the Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution is part heuristic. I use the configurations of the past to discover new dimensions of the present state of the arts and sciences. As history tells us, the English Scientific Revolution did not fulfill the promise



of the glorious advancement of learning that Bacon and his immediate descendents envisioned: it yielded but few immediate human gains and strengthened atheism rather than theopathy. By the early eighteenth century, satires and self-interest increased the antagonism between the arts and sciences; the Royal Society engaged in decidedly unuseful pursuits, especially when investigating Charles II’s increasingly derisive, tongue-in-cheek queries; and much of the spirit of egalitarianism that marked the English Scientific Revolution was quashed by financial, political, and commercial pressures. J. R. Ravetz summarizes the rather bleak view of modern science that followed the English Scientific Revolution: “it had lost the prophetic zeal of its earliest proponents, and indeed in England, at least, experimental philosophy came to be regarded as a gentleman’s eccentricity.”50 As history tells us, the marriage of passion and reason, recovery and discovery that marked the English Scientific Revolution concluded with a divorce of the arts and science, with little productive issue to show for it. Milton’s poetry tells a different story. It too records hopes and disappointments, but it also offers us fertile possibilities. In his visionary Advancement of Learning, Bacon characterizes the best learning as neither courtesan nor bondswoman but rather “a spouse for generation, fruit, and comfort.”51 Milton encapsulates the sustained fervor but ultimate elusiveness of such a marriage in his age in Sonnet XXIII, “Methought I saw” (1658?). The sonnet begins with a vision of the “late espoused Saint” (1). The “Saint” has been interpreted to point biographically to one of Milton’s first two wives or within literary tradition to the donna angelicata of Dante and Petrarch. The elusive figure of collective yearning also points to the English Scientific Revolution. Milton likens the saint to Alcestis, the wife of Admetus whom Hercules brought back from the dead (2). We can align “Joves great Son” with early modern English scientists because they used Hercules for self-representation, most famously in Abraham Cowley’s “To the Royal Society” (1667).52 In such a reading, the female figure represents nature, truth, or knowledge, the objects of desire that early modern English



scientists, like their literary counterparts, undertook to see clearly. Milton/Admetus delights in early modern scientists/Hercules for returning Truth/Alcestis cleansed of the “spot of child-bed taint,” Eve’s curse in childbearing in the mythic birth of fallen knowledge; the mark of her son Cain, the first cultivator of land; and every other visible and invisible mark that human knowledge and its technologies have produced to compensate for what is lacking in the postlapsarian world (Sonnet XXIII, 5). Milton portrays the Alcestis figure in “Full sight,” a wish-fulfillment of a beautiful, unified body of knowledge rather than the piecemeal and dismembered body of Truth represented vividly in Areopagitica (1644) — published the same year as Of Education — and throughout early modern scientific texts (8). However, even with the cooperation of the scientist and artist, she stands “vail’d” and out of reach, hauntingly elusive and beautiful, as emblematized by the illustration of this book’s jacket, Louis-Ernest Barrias’s “Nature Unveiling Herself Before Science” (10).53 The final couplet captures the frustration of those who cannot proceed past the threshold of preparation and imagination to the full realization of their labors: when the narrator moves to “embrace” the elusive figure of knowledge, “she fled, and day brought back my night” (13, 14). The title of this introductory chapter, “Knowledge Regained,” then, is not an assessment of the success of the Age of Milton or the English Scientific Revolution in regaining knowledge. Rather, it points us to, if and when we bravely engage with Milton’s poetry and its “vail’d” extensions, specifically the English Scientific Revolution. As Milton’s poetry tells, the English Scientific Revolution continues to fulfill its promise to advance learning. His poetry gives us intellectual and passionate contact with the enduring, desirable knowledge that English intellectuals pursued. By regaining a sufficiently accurate understanding of the complex foundations of our current endeavors, we may be able to better integrate and direct their courses. Modern science did not emerge from a single quarter or conform to a single aim. Modern misperceptions about the complex intel-



lectual, emotional, and spiritual shift that occurred in the coeval Age of Milton and English Scientific Revolution are dangerous because they create an unconstructive mythos for us, its intellectual successors, who must now grapple with the global effects of our inheritance. As Barry Gower advises, “We should not . . . think that science is some all-devouring monster growing by force of its own inner logic. We can control and shape the way in which scientific knowledge changes; we do so control and shape it, though we are seldom aware of what we are doing.”54 As artists and scientists continue to seek to bridge the precarious gap between what C. P. Snow called “the two cultures,” they have a practical model in the successes and obstacles of their formative stages. We may responsibly appropriate Tobin Siebers’s assessment of the relationship of literary criticism and life to the relationship of literature and science: “Literary criticism best evolves by installing itself in the space between literature and life not to hold them apart, but to bridge the gap.”55 With a bridge between the arts and sciences, we may learn to disencumber ourselves from antagonisms, defeats, and patterns of reversals not by looking in hindsight but by applying with insight. We can look to the visionary paths Milton’s literature not only offered to early modern English citizens but also still offers to us: paths on which artists and scientists, artisans and elite, women and men can walk “hand in hand” (Paradise Lost 12.648).


Milton among Early Modern Scientists John Milton famously denounces individual teachers as well as the horde of dreadful pedagogues who are the bane of his education, of his beloved nation, and of humankind in general. He pillories the men “who pollute all learning, divine and human, by their frivolous subtleties and barren disputations” as “grievous Wolves,” “unbending tutors,” “babblers,” “false Doctors,” “hirelings,” “driveling monks,” and more.1 For the most part, he leaves the despised pedagogues unnamed, as if to “Nameless in dark oblivion let them dwell,” just as his epic narrator leaves the despised rebel angels in Paradise Lost (6.380).2 Infamous exceptions, of course, are the “unpracticed ignoramus,” “crackbrained, moneygrabbing Frenchman” Claude Saumaise (Salmasius) (1588–1653), scholar-in-residence at the University of Leyden, and the “noxious and infamous” Alexander More (1616–1670), Swedish professor of Greek (YP 4:1.324, 527; 4:2.751). Similar invectives embellish the writings of chief figures of the English Scientific Revolution. In the preface to On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies (1600), William Gilbert (1540–1603) inveighs against the “incompetent and shallow philosophers” who are so mired in Aristotelianism that they will be baffled by his findings.3 In the front matter of Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal-Society 31


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge (1667), Abraham Cowley’s (1618–1667) panegyric “To the Royal Society” blames the miserable state of “Philosophy” or “Science” on “oh, the Guardians and the Tutors . . . (Some negligent, and some ambitious men)” (1.1, 12, 14–15). Even the mild-mannered Robert Boyle censures the “Peripateticke Infidells” and “jarring & litigious Ergoteers” whose practices impede learning.4 Many biographers, historians of science, and literary critics have extended these condemnations onto the teaching profession of England’s early modern period in general. However, such a totalizing assessment is undermined by a number of compelling facts. Milton and early modern English scientists penned numerous effusive panegyrics to their admirable teachers, Milton was a teacher in the 1640s, and many of the chief English scientists of the period taught at universities and founded institutions of learning in or surrounding London. In this chapter, I will argue that neither Milton nor his scientifically minded contemporaries held pedagogy in contempt, but rather that the condemnations of poor practitioners reveal their fervor for a profession in which they placed their great hopes. Concurrently, it gathers evidence that clarifies the extent to which early modern English scientists were a part of Milton’s life and work. As stated in the introduction, I do not use biography and history as a validation of the science to be found in Milton’s poetry. Instead, this chapter focuses on reviewing and resituating some of the many personal associations Milton had with leaders of the English Scientific Revolution as part of the larger premise that Milton’s detailed and faithful representations of the advancement of learning derive from his participation in an active intellectual community that included leading scientists. This chapter’s focus, then, is instrumental in demonstrating that the Scientific Revolution was part of a larger culture of educational reform.5 In Milton’s poetry and coeval scientific texts, the educational ideal depends most heavily upon teachers. Teachers are given the heroic task of instructing pupils on the fine and broad points of all

Milton among Early Modern Scientists


the traditional topics, diligently attending to the specific needs of each unique student, basing instruction on extensive life experiences, displaying innovative thought and physical athleticism, and willingly deferring to other specialized teachers for effective, collaborative instruction. At first glance, these demanding and diverse characteristics appear rather idealistic. But the model was founded on firsthand youthful educational experiences and mature observations of the changing face of early modern English educators. In Milton’s works, we have a veritable chronicle of that transformation, one that enables us to see how select pedagogical qualities that had been in demand since antiquity were filtered and then combined with new skills demanded by the English Scientific Revolution in order to produce a pedagogical model that remains powerful in educational settings and popular culture today.6 Because, as has been noted, “the humanist movement was in essence an educational program designed to produce morally informed men and women,” the status of teachers had already been significantly elevated in the sixteenth century.7 We can trace the development in seventeenth century England of the concept of and respect for scientists as one outgrowth of that humanistic elevation. The regularity with which Milton and his scientifically minded peers reconfigure the image of the contemplative, isolated natural philosopher and the pastoral teacher into a collaborative vanguard of social, active, militant teachers calls our attention to the advancement of learning as an enterprise that drew the energies and imagination of both artists and scientists. In their coeval and co-terminal texts, artists and scientists provide us with some of the most rigorous critical affirmations of the sheer intensity and ingenuity with which English intellectuals transformed the ideologies and practices of the leaders of their new enterprise. The few figures selected for discussion are as varied as the features of the English Scientific Revolution. William Poole rightly notes that “the new science was fraught with factionalism and far from a monolithic project.”8 For example, some early modern scientists were staunch supporters of the Royal Society and welcomed


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

royal support; some members of the Royal Society strove to redirect that group from the inside despite their deep reservations about not only royal support but also daily practices; and still others worked independently. Poole importantly alerts readers to the factions within the Royal Society with whom Milton was at odds. I, on the other hand, direct our attention to those inside and outside of the Royal Society who are in correspondence with Milton in the powerful epistemological controversy.

New Hopes and Dirty Hands The late 1620s and early 1630s marked such significant events as the publication of Bacon’s New Atlantis, the arrival of Prussian educational reformer Samuel Hartlib (1600?–1662) to London, and the publication of William Harvey’s On the Motion of the Heart and Blood. In those same years, Milton praised the “universal learning” promised by such events in his college exercise Prolusion 7: Knowledge Makes Men Happier (1625–1632). He refers specifically to the study of natural philosophy, the precursor to science: from “the nature of the whole firmament and of its stars” to “the delicate structure of the human body and the art of keeping it in health” (YP 1:295). He represents the most accountable agent in that universal learning, the reformed natural philosopher, or new scientist: when universal learning has once completed its cycle, the spirit of man, no longer confined within this dark prison-house, will reach out far and wide, till it fills the whole world and the space far beyond with the expansion of its divine greatness. . . . He will indeed seem to be one whose rule and dominion the stars obey, to whose command earth and sea hearken, and whom winds and tempests serve; to whom, lastly, Mother Nature herself has surrendered, as if indeed some god had abdicated the throne of the world and entrusted its rights, laws, and administration to him as governor. (YP 1:296)

Milton’s youthful enthusiasm echoes both the spirit and words of the Father of the House of Salomon in Bacon’s New Atlantis: “The

Milton among Early Modern Scientists


End of our Foundation is the knowledge of Causes, and secret motion of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible.”9 While that enthusiasm would be moderated in Milton’s and early modern scientists’ mature works, it indeed served to propel those very works. Milton’s figure does not boast, Prospero-like, of a natural philosopher’s or magician’s art on the dramatic stage or on some remote island but instead seeks to rule rationally on the world stage. This mundane and proficient governor discards the Faustian art associated with occult natural philosophy for rational “rights, laws, and administration,” the very laws that were soon to be discovered and named for some of the chief English scientists of the period, such as Boyle’s laws of gas, Hooke’s laws of physics, and Newton’s laws of motion. Milton’s selection of the term “governor” aligns with the characterizations of rational leaders and rulers in the emerging sciences. Notably, in Starry Messenger (1610), Galileo calls “God, their Maker and Governor” and, in New Atlantis, Bacon’s “governour” describes at length the innovative experimental work on the Island of Bensalem.10 In this early college work, Milton sketches an emerging model that would be more fully articulated as the English Scientific Revolution grew in strength and numbers. First secretary of the Royal Society, Henry Oldenburg (1615?–1677) would later define the organization as comprised of “Fellows” who first “examine Nature itself and with great effort penetrating into her very sanctuary,” then transmit their observations to those “mathematicians, physicists, mechanisians, physicians, astronomers, opticians, etc.” who could “promote this noble purpose (so truly worthy of humanity) by a combination of resources equal to the enterprise for the advancement of learning and the benefit of humankind.”11 Oldenburg, like Milton, fixes on rationally minded investigators of nature for wide-scale changes effected through a logical approach to nature that would replace the mysticism surrounding natural philosophy, and he expresses the passion that forms the bases for that approach in his use of highly sexualized language. Writing in the 1660s, Oldenburg,


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

however, characterizes a group rather than an individual, as would Milton in his later works. Additionally, Oldenburg and early modern English scientists regularly situate these individual and group models within educational domains. In On the Loadstone, as in so many other new scientific texts of the period, readers are figured as “studious” individuals and “the student.”12 Such characterizations epitomize the approach of many landmark publications like Isaac Barrow’s English translation of Euclid’s Elements (1660), which, as Mordechai Feingold correctly notes, “provides a clear indication of his dedication to the education of youth.”13 Barrow’s vernacular Elements is best understood as part of the wave of seventeenth century publications on educational reform to be contrasted not with artistic or linguistic texts but rather with private chronicles of information circulated in manuscripts by natural philosophers of previous generations. The prevalent ideology and reality of the socially vulnerable humanist schoolmaster and secluded natural philosopher were decidedly insufficient to fulfill the grand vision of an advancement of learning. The construction of the new model army of teacherscientists, however, was as bewildering as it was exigent; and it came only through “wandring steps and slow” (PL 12.648). In his historical study of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn explains that one of the few structural patterns to be deciphered amid the varied array of unique characteristics specific to any given revolution is the contingency of the displacement or rejection of one model on the availability of viable alternatives. His seminal study spurred other historians of science to verify the “destructive-constructive paradigm changes” Kuhn defined, especially in relation to the English Scientific Revolution.14 J. R. Ravetz defines one of the novelties of the English Scientific Revolution to be “the invocation of material power as the means to the divinely sanctioned end. Previously the highest good had generally been portrayed (for the élite) as something inward or contemplative, the cultivation of wisdom or even of religious experience. . . . Now the path is seen as something external and activist, even when

Milton among Early Modern Scientists


(as with Bacon and possibly Descartes) the spiritual component is essential.”15 Ravetz views Bacon and Descartes as individuals who relocated and prioritized the long-standing distinction between the man of action and the man of contemplation to the man of science and the man of natural philosophy.16 The novelty of a widespread “external and activist” engagement with the physical world and new technologies is best illustrated by the disengagement of the conservative Continental man of natural philosophy, Cesare Cremonini (1550–1631). Cremonini achieved renown for his refusal to look into Galileo’s telescope and see the lunar mountains, a refusal based on his firm support of the Aristotelian dictum of the perfect circularity of stellar objects. Upon being questioned about his teaching of natural philosophy, he responded, “I cannot nor do I wish to retract my expositions of Aristotle, since I understand them to be as I interpret them, and because I am being paid to expound Aristotle insofar as I understand him.”17 While Cremonini provides the most striking example of the dismissal of the burgeoning scientific method that included direct observation, his attitude was widespread. As John Gascoigne reminds us, “The universities had been founded to preserve and refine society’s store of knowledge, and the idea of ‘research’ — of adding to rather than simply conserving what was known — only slowly took root in the universities, some of whose members felt [it was] no more their business to add to the existing body of knowledge than a librarian feels obligation to write new books.”18 Early modern English writers represented the new, “external and activist” approach in the form of physically fit and what I have labeled “dirty-handed” scientists and teachers. James Jacobs refers to this new representation in describing how the “new idea of science” was practiced: it was “less about contemplation and demonstration of old truths than the discovery of new ones, even if it meant manual operations, going directly to nature, and getting one’s hands dirty in the bargain.” Steven Shapin identifies the hands-on image as a primary foundation to the self-construction and advertisement of new scientists, in contradistinction to their


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

predecessors: “In the wake of these practical accomplishments came an increasing interest among bookish people in activity that got their hands dirty with something other than ink stains.”19 This dirty-handed model quickly took hold, as evinced by the endurance of the beloved story of Bacon’s death from a chill as a result of stopping along the road to stuff a chicken with ice to test the effects of refrigeration. In the late seventeenth century, Robert Boyle perpetuated the dirty-handed model, asserting, “though condition does (God be praised) enable me to make experiments by others’ hands; yet I have not been so nice, as to decline dissecting dogs, wolves, fishes, and even rats and mice, with my own hands.”20 The bulk of part 1 is dedicated to demonstrating this representational development in Milton’s works. It is important, however, first to establish Milton’s likely acquaintance with new scientific representations and practices. In The Matter of Revolution, John Rogers explores strong “cultural affiliations” in early modern England and names Milton as the dominant figure in that exploration.21 His historicist approach cogently reveals the powerful forces that scientific culture exerted on the public and literary imagination, and certainly Milton was altogether positioned to absorb the scientific cultural presence in London. This chapter corroborates the importance of cultural forces through experiential criticism, which studies how an author’s personal experiences and relationships work with collective or cultural experiences to leave “a telling impression on his creative imagination.”22

Academic Heads and Student Bodies in Milton’s Life During his youth, Milton was instructed by a number of influential tutors and masters whose lives, knowledge, and abilities greatly influenced the intellectual development of chief figures in both the arts and sciences. During his lifetime, Milton witnessed the practices of the growing number of scholars who would transform natural philosophy into science and fundamentally redefine pedagogy. At Cambridge, Milton was situated at one of the two chief centers

Milton among Early Modern Scientists


of English inquiry. Vast evidence indicates that Cambridge was a co-equal center of scientific inquiry and discovery in England with Oxford.23 Even before Isaac Newton’s arrival at Cambridge in 1661, Milton’s alma mater could boast a strong list of teachers and students on the cutting edge of the natural and mathematical studies: William Harvey (A.B. 1597, M.D. 1602), John Bainbridge (B.A. 1603, M.A. 1607, M.D. 1614), Walter Foster (B.A. 1617, M.A. 1621), Samuel Foster (B.A. 1619, M.A. 1623), and John Ray (B.A. 1644, M.A. 1651).24 The number and fame of even this short list are remarkable given that the entering Cambridge class averaged only 300 men per year during the seventeenth century and that only 38 students entered Christ’s College with Milton.25 Given the small class sizes at Cambridge, the influence that fledgling scientists would have exerted at Cambridge cannot be overstated. The same Cambridge tutors who taught Milton also directed the early inquiries and experimentations of Cambridge’s more scientifically inclined students. The small numbers prescribe that any one tutor could deeply influence a large number of students.26 University tutors played a daily and dominant role in the lives of their students: some spent a large amount of time with their students, and their living quarters were quite close, if not adjacent, to each other. When Milton entered, only 13 tutors resided at Christ’s College, Cambridge, including Joseph Mede (1586–1638).27 Milton’s exposure to Mede is of particular importance because of the enduring influence of Mede’s pedagogical practice and scientific insight on the entire “intellectual milieu of Christ’s.”28 In “The Author’s Life” in Mede’s posthumously published Works (1677), John Worthington records the pedagogical practice of this beloved teacher as follows: After he had by daily Lectures well grounded his Pupills in Humanity, Logick and Philosophy, and by frequent converse understood to what particular Studies their Parts might be most profitably applied, he gave them his Advice accordingly. And when they were able to go alone, he chose rather to set every one his daily Task, than constantly to confine himself and them to precise hours for Lectures.29


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Mede’s conscientious approach counters the decreased interaction between instructors and students during the period.30 Student reports corroborate that Mede approached the task of advancing learning in the diverse topics of the arts, logic, and natural and moral philosophy with uncommon vigor. We can responsibly infer that such intimate relationships would lead to even stronger influence than usual between tutor and pupils. Mede’s influence on Milton’s pedagogical theories and practices has long been recognized in Milton studies. But there has been little appreciation of Mede’s influence on Milton’s scientific imagination. In addition to primarily religious works like his influential Clavis Apocalyptica (1627), Mede penned works on natural philosophy such as History of Nature and Equality of Natural Motions. But, as Charles Webster explains, even Clavis Apocalyptica is considered a seminal work in “the Great Instauration” since it provided the model for experimentation that Puritan natural scientists would adopt.31 In 1651, Samuel Hartlib translated Mede’s Clavis, even though it had already been translated and published in 1643. John Drury’s preface to Hartlib’s translation indicates some of the scientific impetus for Hartlib’s republication. Drury defines Mede’s “universal rules” as decoding by analogy, relying on the form of Scripture, and analyzing physical objects “for the public good.”32 Drury finds Mede’s rules as applicable to the exegesis of God’s World as to God’s Word. Mede and Drury’s elision of religious and scientific rules should not be regarded as a vestige of imprecise categorizations in humanist reading habits but rather as a conscious reconfiguration of complementary elements in epistemological inquiry.33 It is not surprising that Isaac Newton similarly elides these categories in his Principia and Opticks, since, as biographer Frank E. Manuel notes, Newton “freely admitted that he had been influenced by mid-seventeenth-century Puritan expositor Joseph Mede.”34 Milton’s acquaintance with scientific developments and leaders continued well after he left Cambridge. During a period of “studious retirement” at his father’s home in Hammersmith, Milton

Milton among Early Modern Scientists


recounts that he “sometimes exchang[ed] the country for the city, either to purchase books or to become acquainted with some new discovery in mathematics or music, in which I then took the keenest pleasure” (YP 4:1.613–14). Milton specifies acquiring “new” work rather than simply “learning Music and Mathematics,” as cited in second-person accounts.35 The fact that Milton would cite his youthful interest in 1654, in his maturity and when his government was in power, demonstrates his continued interest in affiliating himself with “new” mathematics, an interest that I argue in chapter 8 converted about a decade thereafter into an at once humanistic and scientific vision of the cosmos. Milton also recounts that, in Italy, he visited Galileo and toured some of the chief academies that spearheaded the Scientific Revolution on the Continent when England still lagged behind. He formed a close friendship with Carlo Dati (1619–1676), who “was already astonishing his elders by his scientific learning and his eloquence.”36 His relationships with the London intellectual milieu that included Robert Boyle were less tender but more sustained.37 Milton tutored Boyle’s nephew Richard Jones (1641–1712) alongside his own nephews, Edward Phillips (1630–1696?) and John Phillips (1631– 1706). Jones was the son of Boyle’s only sister, Lady Katherine Ranelagh (1614–1691), a prominent figure within the English intellectual circles of London. Jones’s home in Pall Mall included Katherine Ranelagh and his uncle Robert Boyle, and it also served as one of the chief meeting places for the “Invisible College,” the precursor to the Royal Society.38 Boyle’s Pall Mall home has been cited as one of the likely temporary locations of his conspicuous, approximately 40-foot pneumatic machine, or vacuum. As Barbara Lewalski notes, “Jones had only to walk across St. James’s Park from his home in Pall Mall to be at Milton’s garden gate.”39 The very proximity of this neighboring associate would have ensured Milton’s acquaintance with the bustle of scientific activity. Jones’s regular presence in Milton’s home bears out the likelihood of Milton’s knowledge about some of the newest scientific developments, not simply through informal conversation but also in conjunction


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

with sizeable scientific studies in Milton’s curriculum, detailed in part 2. Less compelling as evidence of the nature of the relationship between Milton and Boyle than provocative as to the undocumented extent and extensions of that relationship is Edward Phillips’s listing of “The Honourable Rob. Boyle, Esq.” as one of the “Learned and Ingeneous Persons (most of them now living) Eminent in, or Contributory to any of those Arts, Sciences, or Faculties contained in this following Work” in his dictionary, New World of Words (1678).40 The causes, more than the effects, of Jones’s tutelage in Milton’s home indicate a significant association between Milton and London scientists (YP 3:505, 511, 512). Katherine Ranelagh shared her brother’s views on the need for universal learning and believed that the only way to lay “the foundation of the Kingdom of Christ was by timely and good instruction.”41 Her selection of Milton as a teacher for her son as well as for another family member, Richard Barry, second Earl of Barrimore, speaks greatly to her belief in Milton’s ability to prepare students for the emerging world that her brother was so actively helping to construct. It is likely that Boyle shared his sister’s confidence in Milton since he was very involved in his nephew’s life. Indeed, Boyle’s influence explains Jones’s post as assistant to Hartlib’s son-in-law alchemist, Frederick Clodius (fl. 1650–1670) in the late 1650s, and the appearance of the name of “Mr. Richard Jones” in the “List of those who were invited to become members of the Philosophers’ Society [the Royal Society].”42 Ranelagh’s and Boyle’s selection of teachers favorable toward scientific interests is certainly borne out by their selection of Jones’s next tutor after Milton, Henry Oldenburg. Charles Webster records that “Henry Oldenburg visited England in 1653 as the diplomatic representative of Bremen. He quickly joined the circle of Lady Ranelagh, Boyle, Hartlib, Drury, and Milton.”43 Webster draws our attention to the existence of one “circle” whose variety helps to define scientific activity as part of the large movement of educational reform. Oldenburg’s tutorship of Jones earned him the respect of the influential Ranelagh-Boyle family. He became the first secretary

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of the Royal Society in 1663 in large measure because of his own talents and inclinations as well as Boyle’s endorsement. Prior to his position in the Royal Society, Oldenburg had begun establishing a network of correspondents who would later contribute to the Society. A few of the letters between Milton and Oldenburg survive in Oldenburg’s collected correspondence, situated between letters to Adam Boreel (1602–1665), who introduced Oldenburg to experimentalists when he immigrated to London; physician Thomas Sherley (1638–1678), with whom Oldenburg shared his excitement about a new group of “certain philosophers and seekers into nature who are trying to bring natural science to a greater certainty and usefulness than in the past”; their mutual pupil Jones; and their mutual benefactress Ranelagh.44 The Yale editors assert that Oldenburg was “a very good friend of Milton” (YP 7:490). At the very least, we can assess that Milton was not a complete outsider or antagonist, or Oldenburg would not have repeatedly and amiably attempted to solicit an exchange of letters. We can gather, however, that Milton did not participate, especially after the Restoration when the Royal Society was under the sponsorship of the crown. But, we cannot determine that the cause is Milton’s antagonism toward scientific activity. Milton’s position within the overlapping circles of Londonbased intellectuals extends beyond his tutelage of Jones. Milton’s relationship with Samuel Hartlib is well known. Hartlib was a particularly active member of the Boyle circle who made recommendations for educational reform to the Cromwellian government and later for the establishment of the Royal Society.45 In 1644, Milton addresses Of Education to “Mr. Hartlib” and, within it, records their “private friendship” (RM 980). As late as 1658, Hartlib knew enough about Milton to make mention in a letter to Boyle of the quotidian fact that Milton had “obtained a copy of the Heptaplomeres by Jean Bodine.” Barbara Lewalski determines that, “Despite casual connections and gestures of respect on both sides, Milton was not part of the Hartlib Circle”; and other critics have cited the ambiguous tone in Of Education and the differences between


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Milton’s philosophy and Comenius’s, which Hartlib promoted, as evidence of a cool relationship.46 We should be careful about using differing opinions as proof of the nature of Milton and Hartlib’s relationship. Hartlib promoted the writings of intellectuals with vastly differing opinions. Similarly, as John Shawcross’s Arms of the Family (2004) reminds us, Milton befriended Roman Catholics and Quakers, parliamentarians and royalists. We have insufficient biographical evidence, but print evidence — in 1644 with the publication of Of Education as a pamphlet, then in 1673 with its republication in his Poems &c. — indicates that Milton wrote himself into the print-based Hartlib circle. Milton’s addition of “Of Education. To Master Samuel Hartlib. Written above twenty Years since” in his Poems &c. (1673) signals Milton’s would-be affiliation with the Royal Society and its educational programs, with which Hartlib had become so strongly associated.47 In that edition, the tract remains addressed to “Mr. Hartlib” despite Hartlib’s death over a decade earlier (1662) and despite Milton’s comfort with revision of previously published works. The prominence of Hartlib’s name in the 1673 title page, even greater than the earlier inclusion of “Mr. HENRY LAWES Gentleman of the KINGS Chappel, and one of his MAIESTIES Private Musick” on the title page of the 1645 Poems, indicates Milton’s willingness to cross would-be boundaries in the name of the greater good (see figs. 4 and 5). We have other fragmentary but powerful evidence that key members of the Hartlib and Boyle circles cared about Milton’s doings. During the Restoration, a letter from John Beale to Boyle of October 17, 1663, refers to Milton’s Eikonoklastes.48 Referring to Milton’s A Brief History of Moscovia (1682), Hartlib noted in a July 1648 diary entry, “Milton is not only writing a Univ. History of Engl. but also an Epitome of all Purchas volumes. Haack.” George Parks accurately links Milton’s project and Hartlib’s interest in it to the larger interests of “the Hartlib circle of scientists and educators” (YP 8:459). Referring to a letter about Purchas by Benjamin Worsley, Parks writes, “The letter goes on to recommend the collection of information about climate as a part of natural science,

Fig. 4. Title page to Milton’s Poems (London, 1645). Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Fig. 5. Title page to Milton’s Poems &c. (London, 1673). Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

and in the words we recognize the idiom of the new scientific movement we now call Baconian” (YP 8:460). Parks cites a passage in Bacon’s Advancement of Learning about the “Mixed History,” or “History of Cosmography” that will aid in “further proficience and augmentation of the sciences” that Milton put to practice in Muscovia. He notes, “If it cannot be said that Milton’s note on Russia rises to the heights imagined by Bacon, it is nonetheless clear that they derive from the scientific thought that Bacon reflects and that was most cogently named by Hakluyt ‘the search and discovery of the world’” (YP 8:470). I quote rather than simply cite Parks because his careful wording, importantly and consistently, aligns scientists and science with educators and education. Reading Moscovia alongside new natural histories, we can see readily why it was of interest to early modern scientists. Worsley’s knowledge of Milton’s history textbook is suggestive. Might we reasonably assume he gained such knowledge either secondarily through Richard Jones or firsthand from Samuel Hartlib or Robert Boyle? Worsley was a friend of both Hartlib and Boyle.49 Samuel Hartlib’s letter to Boyle of February 2, 1657/58, reflects a strong enough and sustained relationship between Boyle and Milton for Hartlib to write, in relation to some confidential news about the likelihood of the maintenance of Worsley’s position of surveyorgeneral of Ireland, “I shall not be wanting to obtain that secret, which hath been imparted to Mr. Milton. It may be the publick gentleman, that sent it unto him, will let me have a copy, in case the other should not come off readily with the communication of it. But if yours would ask it from Mr. Milton, I am confident he would not deny it.”50 Publishers are one last consideration in evaluating the relationship between Milton’s texts and scientific ones. Biographer David Masson calls attention to the significant designation of the publisher on the title page to Milton’s Art of Logic (1672), “Spencer Hickman, Societatis Regalis Typographi” [printer to the Royal Society], commenting that “there must have been some demand for such a book at the time to induce the printer for the Royal Society

Milton among Early Modern Scientists


to be at the expense of publishing this of Milton’s.”51 Hickman had also published Milton’s History of Britain (1671) the year before, but in that text he did not include the designation of “Printer to the Royal Society.” Adrian Johns’s The Nature of the Book amply elaborates Masson’s pithy comment, “Printers imply authors,” and demonstrates the need to recognize the communities centered on printers and publishing houses.52 Three other publishers of Milton’s works corroborate the existence of the mutual intellectual and publishing relationships of Milton and members of the Royal Society. The 1677 republication of Milton’s History of England comes from John Martyn, who, shortly after the Royal Society “became a corporate licenser” in 1661 “had been given exclusive rights to [Royal] Society publications.”53 The publishing house of Martyn and Allestry is most famous for its publication of Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society and Hooke’s Micrographia. Within a four-year period, William Dugard printed William Harvey’s Exercitationes de generatione animalium (1651), Francis Glisson’s Anatomia hepatis (1654), and Milton’s Pro Populi Anglicano Defensio (1654). Finally, we find John Starkey publishing not only Milton’s Accedence Commenc’t Grammar and Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes but also a number of works penned or “Englished” by fellows of the Royal Society.” The last particularly enlightening textual clue in Milton’s later writings that indicates Milton’s interest in the scientific corps of the advancement of learning comes not in the public domain but rather in a very personal and touching epistle. In a letter to Athenian politician and scholar Leonard Philaras (1600?–1673), Milton movingly expresses his hope for a cure for his blindness. In the beginning of this letter of 1654, written shortly after his complete blindness, Milton refers to Philaras’s offer to invite Paris physician Thévenot to offer treatment for his blindness: “since you tell me that I should not give up all hope of regaining my sight, that you have a friend and intimate in the Paris physician Thévenot (especially outstanding as an oculist), whom you will consult about my


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

eyes if only I send you the means by which he can diagnose the causes and symptoms of the disease, I shall do what you urge, that I may not seem to refuse aid whencesoever offered, perhaps divinely” (YP 4:2.868). The term “oculist” from this late epistle is as important as the term “governor” from the early Prolusion. “Oculist” was introduced in the seventeenth century to refer to “physicians and surgeons who treat diseases and affections of the eye.” Milton’s use of the term indicates his knowledge of the new discipline and practices, acknowledges growing specialization in the medical field, and indicates esteem, as would be appropriate in the context of Milton’s solicitation. The likely venues for Milton’s primary or secondary acquaintance with other London-based scientists are many, since the English Scientific Revolution was part of the larger enterprise of education reform in seventeenth century England. I review only the most substantial traces to establish that Milton was familiar with the synonymous founders and teachers of emerging modern science, and by extension their practices, concerns, and theories. Boyle, Oldenburg, and Hartlib led the unwieldy and at time factional enterprise in England through their scientific works, labors in educational reform, and daily occupations. Their artistic colleague Milton, as we shall see, also promoted the formation of and respect for leaders of the advancement of learning, but with poetic rather than with scientific texts.


The Death of the Natural Philosopher and Pastoral Teacher Il Penseroso and A Mask are unique among Milton’s works because they represent comfortable images of traditional natural philosophers and pastoral teachers. We attend to these two early works first because they best elucidate the characteristics of the old ideals rather than the growing pressures on those ideals. Later in the chapter, we look at Milton’s more typical representations of natural philosophers and teachers that highlight the insufficiency of the old models and that offer some changes for the creation of new model teachers. Milton’s Elegy IV (1627) and Lycidas evoke, elegize, and eventually abandon the inherited models in Il Penseroso and A Mask. While those elegies articulate the anxious hesitancy and urgency about creating a new model sufficient for the ambitious goals of English intellectuals, it is not until the mid-1640s, in Of Education, that Milton offers a prototype of a new model teacher that strikingly resembles the models that early modern English scientists offered by the second half of the century. In his dreamy college poem, Il Penseroso, the young Milton offers images of the natural philosopher within an environment expunged of any threat of punishment. “[I]n some high lonely tow’r,” the remote and untroubled Renaissance astronomer can 49


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution out-watch the Bear, With thrice great Hermes, or unsphere The spirit of Plato to unfold What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold The immortal mind that hath forsook Her mansion in this fleshly nook.


Milton surrounds the natural philosopher in safety and represents him as willingly isolating himself in the “tow’r” traditionally associated with education, or what biographer John Worthington refers to as Joseph Mede’s “more solitary way of Knowledge.”1 Milton intensifies the isolation and constructs a sense of security when he represents the philosopher’s body as a “mansion” enclosed within that tower. Unlike the rebellious, social Galileo, Milton’s philosopher willingly removes himself from society and the material world through his intellect, to the “vast Regions” beyond the visible heavens. In his solitary and remote environment, Milton’s natural philosopher possesses power over similarly remote entities, the constellations (“the Bear”), philosophy (“the spirit of Plato”), and ideas (“the immortal mind”). His engagement is not social and activist but rather individual and intellectual. The focus is on the mind, not the hands. In the 1640s, the young Robert Boyle conjures a similar image of the natural philosopher in his musings about his future vocation. In a document labeled “Scaping into his Study, out of a Crowde of extraordinarily vaine Company of both Sexes,” Boyle invokes an abstract beloved: “Come deare Philosophy; come quickly & releeve Yur Distress’t Client.”2 The youthful Boyle is attracted to the practice of natural philosophy in part because it implies solitude. Similarly, the would-be natural philosopher of Il Penseroso invokes the “Goddes, sage and holy . . . divinest Melancholy” (11–12). The imagined beloved is perfectly suited for the intellectual narrator: he later describes Melancholy with “looks commercing with the skies, / Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes” (39–40). Boyle’s and Milton’s early pieces are representative of many texts of the first half of the seventeenth century that speak to the pervasiveness of the model of the isolated natural philosopher.

The Death of the Natural Philosopher


Hand in hand with isolation surrounding the natural philosopher and teacher are characterizations of sedentary habits. Early biographers regularly link the two characteristics. For example, Mede’s seventeenth century biography consistently situates him in a secluded university environment and asserts, “He allow’d himself little or no Exercise but walking.”3 The physical activity, experimentation, and social-mindedness that characterized the new ideology and practices of English scientific teachers by the midseventeenth century stood in sharp contrast to the isolated, contemplative, and text-based ideology and practices that had dominated those of Continental natural philosophy in the preceding century. The circle of leading Continental natural philosophers that included Isaac Casaubon (1559–1614) and Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637) exemplifies the traditional model that early modern English scientists slowly abandoned. While this circle of Continental natural philosophers made many important discoveries in natural philosophy, its members did not actively seek practical applications for their discoveries. They generally worked in solitude, minimized engagement with the objects of study, and transmitted their findings mostly through manuscript and only to a small circle of scholars.4 Peiresc regularly fainted and needed to cloister himself to rest. This “martyr of learning” died an early and painful death due to “difficulty of the urinary passages.” Although it has been hypothesized recently that Peiresc died of cancer, his friends immediately attributed the deterioration of his intestines and his death to his sedentary habits.5 At the end of Il Penseroso, the fictional philosopher demonstrates the sedentary habits traditionally associated with the figure of the Renaissance natural philosopher. The narrator imagines a retirement spent in sedentary solitude and in the study of astronomy and botany. He may at last my weary age Find out the peacefull hermitage, The Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell, Where I may sit and rightly spell, Of every Star that Heav’n doth shew,


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution Of every Herb that sips the dew; Till old experience do attain To something like Prophetic strain.


The potentially social aspect of “experience” is mitigated by the narrator’s desire to actively remove himself from society. The image of the natural philosopher sitting in his “Mossy Cell” and writing about rather than among herbs heightens the sense of removal from the objects of study as well. Contact with society might occur only secondarily through the medium of print in the “Prophetic strain,” which the natural philosopher might “rightly spell” or write down. Finally, the other simultaneous meanings of “spell” — to contemplate and to form magical incantations — reinforce the traditional, occult characterization of natural philosophers. In Il Penseroso, Milton represents a sage, remote figure very similar to famed sixteenth century Danish natural philosopher, Tycho Brahe (1540–1601), whose Uraniburg castle, observatory, and laboratory on a secluded island exemplified the occult tradition. Even the “Hairy Gown” of Milton’s pensive figure resembles illustrations of Brahe (see fig. 6). The figure of the natural philosopher in Il Penseroso can be idealized precisely because he stands — or, better said, sits — outside of society. Passive representations of natural philosophers assuaged the anxiety that progressive practitioners evoked as they sought to bring their seemingly mysterious skills and “spells” into society. In Witch-Hunting, Magic, and the New Philosophy, Brian Easlea argues that, as natural philosophy evolved into science, early modern scientists engaged more actively in society, thereby increasing apprehensions.6 Galileo had long worked on his astronomical discoveries and theories, and penned his findings in the exclusive language of diplomacy and the academy, Latin. He provoked the sharp penalties of the Inquisition in the early seventeenth century primarily after he advertised his findings through such popular vernacular works as the incendiary open “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina” (1615). While Galileo’s experience is the most famous, it is neither unique nor limited to Roman Catholic countries.

Fig. 6. Illustration depicting Tycho Brahe, Learned: Tico Brahe, frontmatter (Danzig, Germany, 1632). Courtesy of Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago, Illinois.


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Popular English literature offers numerous instances that indicate English anxieties about increased scientific activities and technologies in society. Shakespeare represents the immense fears that laypersons had about natural philosophers in Romeo and Juliet (1595/96). Friar Lawrence’s “sleeping potion,” concocted from weeds, flowers, and the “poison / Of a poor apothecary,” transmutes “accident” to tragedy (5.3.244, 289–90). Shakespeare would comfort his English audience by having them imagine those accidents happening in fair Verona. Early modern English scientists and their supporters slowly displaced the model of the isolated, sedentary natural philosopher with that of an active, social group working toward decidedly reassuring goals: the glory of God and benefit of humankind. In a letter to Continental astronomer John Hevelius (1611–1687), Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford John Wallis (1616–1703) represents Hevelius as a solitary figure. Wallis commends Hevelius because, “for the improvement of natural knowledge . . . and indefatigably embarking on astronomy for the public good, you think it sweet to watch at night, and to endure many labors . . . by more new observations and vigils.” In the 1664 letter, Wallis characterizes Hevelius’s work as a necessary, somewhat lamentable task rather than an ideal devoutly to be wished, as characterized in Il Penseroso. Hevelius’s solitary work in Danzig, communicated through letters, stands in sharp contrast to the exciting activity, collaboration, and experimentation of “the most illustrious Royal Society of London” that Wallis describes at length in his letter.7 Wallis depicts a thriving community in which members “meet” and “carry out experiments together.”8 His attempt to ameliorate the undesirability of Hevelius’s solitary practice of astronomy stands in sharp contrast to the craving of Il Penseroso. Il Penseroso records only the predominant inherited model rather than offering any alternative model. In A Mask, however, Milton introduces two conflicting models of the natural philosopher available by the mid-seventeenth century. Neither model adopts the characteristics of physical strength that recur more regularly

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in the second half of the seventeenth century. Yet, one adopts a social quality. In A Mask, Thyrsis personifies the traditional good, natural philosopher and teacher who, like the narrator of Il Penseroso, prefers to remain outside of society except for occasional excursions, and Comus personifies the emerging “riotous” forms of natural philosophy seeking to enter society (92, stage directions). Milton created the role of “The attendant Spirit, afterwards in the habit of Thyrsis” for Henry Lawes (1596–1662), the music tutor for the Earl of Bridgewater’s three children, Lady Alice Egerton (1619–1689), Lord John Brackley (1623–1686), and Thomas Egerton (1625–1648). Because the masque form minimizes the barrier between the world of fiction and reality, the presence of the teacher and his pupils on stage highlights the drama’s educational aspect. Additionally, because masque characters are types, Milton’s characters strongly illuminate the qualities associated with teachers and natural philosophers. Thyrsis’s characterization as a natural philosopher is established in the masque’s opening. To help the children, the Attendant Spirit takes off the “sky robes spun out of Iris Wooff” (83) and takes on the role of the shepherd Thyrsis with pastoral robes that link him to Orpheus: the Weeds and likenes of a Swain, That to the service of this house belongs, Who with his soft Pipe, and smooth-dittied Song, Well knows to still the wilde winds when they roar, And hush the waving Woods.


Milton associates Thyrsis with Orpheus in his prime — Lawes would have been 38 years old at the masque’s original production — and, in doing so, Milton introduces Thyrsis as at once teacher and natural philosopher. While Orpheus is associated with musicians and poets, he is also associated with natural philosophy and teachers, for example through the genealogy of his mother, the muse Calliope.9 In The Metamorphoses, Ovid represents Orpheus as “the Thracian Poet [who] with his songs / Beasts, Trees, and Stones attracts in


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

following Throngs”; and, in his commentary, George Sandys (1578–1644) describes Orpheus as “the life of philosophy.”10 For Bacon also, Orpheus was a paradigm for universal philosophy and a symbol for natural philosophers and teachers. Thyrsis’s characterization as an occult natural philosopher and pastoral teacher is most evident in A Mask when he provides the brothers with “Haemony” to protect them “’Gainst all Enchantments” and when he explains how he acquired the “med’cinal” root (638, 640, 636). He describes isolated pastoral moments in which he would sing to a “Shepherd Lad” who was “well skill’d / In every vertuous plant and healing herb” and who gave him “a small unsightly root . . . of divine effect” (619, 620–21, 629–30). In the short passage, the natural product is encased in unthreatening adjectives: “vertuous,” “small,” “divine.” Thyrsis’s pastoral-pedagogical role is represented as similarly unthreatening. Rather than exchange song for song, song is exchanged for natural product, thereby reducing the product to the level of song. The haemony — which is such a conspicuous prop in staged versions of A Mask — encapsulates the limitations of natural philosophy. John Rogers rightly infers that the representation of the haemony is “an avowal of Milton’s ultimate concession to the possible limitations of autonomous human virtue.” On the other hand, as A. S. P. Woodhouse and Douglas Bush note, the haemony’s virtue possesses a “severe limitation”: it has the power to “protect the Brothers against the enchantments of Comus,” but can “do nothing to reverse the spell and rescue” the Lady.11 That is, it possesses a set of deflective powers but no reparatory ones. Hence, it epitomizes the need for natural and human elements and actions to be reconfigured for ultimate human benefit so that it is not simply passive, responsive to its evils, but rather active, so that it might indeed reverse evils and produce good. Why this reduction of the positive characteristics of the Orpheusfigure of Thyrsis? While Bacon’s Orphic model provided a new theoretical ideal that paved the way for the English Scientific Revolution, it did not provide a working model that sufficiently

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addressed the practicalities of the shift that would occur in the generation to follow.12 Indeed, in his panegyric poem “To the Royal Society,” Abraham Cowley characterizes Bacon as a prophetic rather than practical symbol: Bacon, like Moses led us forth at last, The barren Wilderness be past Did on the very Border stand . . . Saw it himself, and shew’d us it, But Life did never to one Man allow.

(5.5–7, 10–11)

Although Bacon promoted a “universal” new learning, he maintained the relative isolation that many sixteenth century natural philosophers embraced. In his succinct paradigm in The New Atlantis, “universal” philosophy occurs primarily within the unthreatening limitations of Salomon’s House on the secluded island. While most of Bacon’s fictional natural philosophers remain in the House, a few of his rationally guided explorers, the twelve “Merchants of Light,” leave their confines to “sail into foreign countries” for short periods of time. After collecting data and specimens, they return to their ideal learning environment to experiment and to teach only “novices and apprentices.”13 Milton’s Orphic Thyrsis acts similarly. He does not encroach on society except when by “extremity compell’d” (643). The Attendant Spirit usually resides in “Regions milde of calm and serene Ayr” and only “on occasion” leaves his ethereal “mansion” (4, 91, 2). For the sake of the imperiled Lady and her brothers, he is “dispatcht for their defense” (42). The theatrical presentation and the display of wealth dictated by the celebration of the Earl of Bridgewater’s appointment as president of Wales also invests the natural philosopher-teacher in comfort and safety. While the astronomer of Il Penseroso is represented in a metaphorical “mansion,” ThyrsisLawes occupies the very real castle in Ludlow. The Orphic teachernatural philosopher in A Mask remains, like the astronomer in Il Penseroso and Bacon’s Merchants of Light, untroubling to society and untroubled by the vicissitudes of quotidian life.


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Unlike Thyrsis, who uses his natural products parsimoniously and prefers isolation, Comus refuses to contain himself and his dangerous products. Comus’s “stately Palace,” or what Thyrsis designates as “the necromancers hall,” does not maintain the barriers between private and public (658, stage directions; 649). Comus seeks to include equally the aristocracy, like Lady Alice, and the “rabble” that may chance to pass his way (658, stage directions). Additionally, he regularly ventures outside that palace and outside his mother “Circes Iland . . . Roaving the Celtick and Iberian fields,” refusing the comforting barrier between England and Continental Europe (50, 60). In those excursions, he enacts the threat of alchemy by “Offring to every weary Travailer, / His orient liquor in a Crystal Glasse” (64–65). The dissemination is too wide for comfort. Additionally, his “Potion” is neither virtuous nor healing (68). The liquor transforms “human count’nance . . . into som brutish form” (68, 70). Comus’s paternal lineage to Bacchus reinforces Comus’s association with dangerous natural philosophy and pedagogy (46). In Ovid’s story, Bacchus is the first to turn grapes to wine and to teach his skill throughout Asia, the uneasy features of which Milton highlights in describing Bacchus as “that first from out the purple Grape, / Crush’t the sweet poyson of mis-used Wine” (46–47).14 Milton then specifies a fearsome instance of the misuse of such transformative power, describing “the Tuscan Mariners transform’d / Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed, / On Circes Iland fell” (48–50). Comus revels in his associations with injurious “Art,” “charms,” and “dazling Spells” (149, 150, 154). While Thyrsis and Comus are thus antithetical, their opposition is not vehement. After his “task is smoothly don,” Thyrsis does not pursue Comus but instead returns “Quickly to the green earths end” (1012, 1014). Moreover, while Comus’s association with Bacchus hints at a direct confrontation with the Orphic Thyrsis, since it was the Bacchanalian orgies that moved the Thracian women to tear Orpheus to pieces, the anticipated combat never occurs. Significantly, Thyrsis and Comus never share the stage. At the beginning of the masque, Thyrsis withdraws when he hears the

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“tread” of Comus and his crew; and, near the end, Comus “scape[s]” before “the attendant Spirit comes in” (91, 814, stage directions). In the celebratory world of the masque, and at this yet early stage of the English Scientific Revolution, Milton diffuses the potential conflict. Also, the masque does not ascribe the great power of the “governor” of Milton’s Prolusion VII to either Thyrsis or Comus. Although Comus is “a Son / Much like his Father,” he does not possess Bacchus’s power over nature and women (56–57). The impotent Comus fails to move the Lady to passion as Bacchus moved the Thracian women. The Lady never tastes Comus’s “cordial Julep” (672). At the end of the masque, the Bacchic figure remains dramatically and metaphorically intact and impotent. Thyrsis similarly fails to display the power that his mythological association promises. He is not after all the one who frees the Lady. Milton does not offer a definitive resolution in A Mask. That resolution is left to his other works and to the directions in pedagogy and science available after the Interregnum. These two works provide paradigmatic figures that stand in sharp contrast to Milton’s other representations of teachers and natural philosophers. In an even earlier work, Milton’s Latin poem Elegy IV to his one-time tutor, Thomas Young (1587?–1655), the uncomfortable realities facing teachers intrude vividly. The poem’s secondary title describes Thomas Young as “His Tutor, performing the Duties of a Pastor among the English Merchants Resident in Hamburg.” The elegy characterizes Young as both Christian pastor and mythological figure by recalling moments in which teacher and pupil visited “Aonia’s retreats” and “holy lawns” (29–30). But those idyllic moments are past. Like Virgil’s shepherds, Young has been driven out of his homeland. Milton describes Young as living in the threatening environment of Hamburg amid the “horrid noise of war: you live alone, poor, in an unfamiliar land, and in your need are seeking in a foreign home the sustenance which the Penates of your homeland denied you” (83–86). This representation and others reflect the very real pressures on pedagogy and the deep sense of the powerlessness that teachers


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

experienced during the period. Barbara Lewalski writes that the sympathies Milton expresses in the elegy “were probably reinforced a few months later by the brouhaha over a lectureship in history founded by Fulke Greville, Lord Brook. By order of Bishop Laud and by royal injunction the lectureship was cancelled after the incumbent, Dr. Isaac Dorislaus of Leden, delivered in December, 1627, his first two lectures on Tacitus, the classical historian often seen as a rallying point for republicanism and resistance to tyranny.”15 Many teachers, even those at the lower levels and in private employment, were ousted, felt compelled to leave England’s educational institutions, or suppressed their voices because their teachings did not conform to the leanings of the state. The precarious professional career of renowned naturalist John Ray indicates that teachers in all fields were subject to censorious treatment. As Elisabeth Leedham-Green notes, “botany at last was almost certainly privately taught in the university in the 1650s by John Ray who, when the Act of Uniformity obliged him to swear the oath, set off on his travels.”16 The isolation desired by the fictional philosopher of Il Penseroso was the exile into which men like Ray, Galileo, and, as Milton would have it, Young were forced. In Lycidas, Milton moves beyond the depiction of teachers as passive pastors subject to the vicissitudes of their powerless positions. The pastoral poem elegizes the passing of old pedagogical ideals in favor of a new model of pedagogy. In the beginning of the elegy, Milton demonstrates the inadequacies of the traditional pastor, and, at the end, he positions a new, albeit imprecise, pedagogical model within a recognizably English environment. That model is still indeterminate, analogous to the equally indeterminate one developing within England’s scientific community. The opening of the poem recalls the dead Lycidas and the mourning narrator as good, traditional pastors-in-training. Together they “Fed the same flock,” “drove afield,” and played “th’Oaten Flute” (24, 27, 33). As youths, they sang under the eye and for the ear of “old Damaetas [who] lov’d to hear our song” and whom critics have aligned with Joseph Mede.17 The alignment is sensitive to the

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many educational features of the poem, its composition for Cambridge’s Justa Edovardo King being the most conspicuous. The narrator seeks to solace his grief by associating Lycidas and himself with Orpheus, the old symbol of the singer, teacher, and natural philosopher. However, he finds himself unable to depict Orpheus as the tamer of nature in his prime, like Bacon’s ideal natural philosopher or Thyrsis in A Mask. Rather, the singer depicts Orpheus in defeat and death, his “goary visage” floating “Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore” (62, 63). While Bacon employed the image of Orpheus to symbolize the power that select individuals could have over nature through perfected natural philosophy, he did so by suppressing Orpheus’s failure to bring back Eurydice from Hades and to stop the Thracian women from dismembering him. Milton’s singer, on the other hand, brings Orpheus’s failures to the forefront. He asks, Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep Clos’d o’re the head of your lov’d Lycidas? For neither were ye playing on the steep, Where your old Bards, the famous Druids, ly, Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high, Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard stream: Ay me, I fondly dream! Had ye bin there — for what could that have don? What could the Muse her self that Orpheus bore, The Muse her self, for her inchanting son Whom Universal nature did lament, When by the rout that made the hideous roar, His goary visage down the stream was sent[?]


In What Is Pastoral? Paul Alpers observes that pastoral questions “arise from the internal workings of usages and conventions whose ‘strength relative to world’ is indeed at issue in the poem.”18 In this pastoral poem, the questions reflect on the singer’s strength relative not to some representative of an unresponsive social world — fighting factions, a master, or beloved — but rather to the natural world, represented significantly by the waters of the Irish Sea in


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

which Edward King died and the stream on which Orpheus’s head floated. The questions call attention to the struggles that form the basis for scientific exploration, the desire for constructive growth in the face of a destructive nature. As Milton moves closer to a viable model for his times and country, he represents the Baconian ideal for pedagogy and science, Orpheus, as insufficient relative to nature, specifically the contemporary English River Dee and Mona so strongly highlighted in the pastoral questions. The fictional embodiments of the natural scene do not answer him. Even weaker is Lycidas, who could neither harness the power of nature as Orpheus did for a time nor invoke watery pagan protectors as Milton’s Thyrsis once did. As the consigning sigh, “Ay me,” signals, the singer will not carry through with the naive fiction of pagan gods nor selectively remember only the positive aspects of the Orpheus story. We can see the difficulty of accommodating classical figures for poetic models in Sandys’s 1632 translation of Metamorphoses. Sandys could call Orpheus the “life of philosophy” only by actively expunging parts of his representation. Where Ovid writes of Orpheus’s unproductive activities — “It was his lead that taught the folk of Thrace / The love for tender boys, to pluck the buds, / Of springtime, with manhood still to come” — Sandys includes the marginal note, “Not rendering the Latin fully; on purpose omitted.”19 Whereas Lycidas registers an appropriately elegiac sense of loss for the traditional pastor and natural philosopher, it also represents reconciliation with that loss. In place of the insufficient figure of the Orpheus pastor-teacher stands the blue-mantled singer of this new English pastoral. Milton names the figure simply the “Swain,” etymologically linked to England rather than to Greece or Rome, as is Lycidas-King. The “uncouth Swain” who ends the poem is an improvement of Thyrsis, who also appeared in the “likeness of a Swain” (A Mask 83; Lycidas 186). Although Lycidas and the uncouth Swain were trained “together both” in the old forms of teaching, the living singer does not return to the old landscape or to a distant “green earth’s end” as did the Attendant Spirit (A Mask 1014;

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Lycidas 25). This swain instead rises at the end of the poem and sets himself “To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new” (193). Lycidas, then, takes us only to what J. Martin Evans defines as the “Miltonic Moment . . . the narrative juncture at which the climactic sequence of events is just about to happen.”20 This pastoral poem of conversion does not provide a detailed description of the new pastures or the human agent within them. It does, however, capture the transitional status of the new figure: he is uncouth, or unknown. Milton ends with a new figure that stands strangely alone yet seeks a collective community with whom he may sing his new song. The death of the Orpheus figure and the ambivalent ending in Lycidas parallels the removal of past symbols of natural philosophy by early modern English scientists who also sought to sing a new song, with all its biblical resonances, and who at once recognized that natural philosophy had provided them with the basis for their new work and sought to reshape its discourses, idioms, and symbols as they embarked on their own radical work.21 Early modern English scientists well understood the importance of symbolic and discursive representation for the success of their enterprise. Representing vigorous yet recognizable leaders for their work was essential to propelling intellectuals to unite and advance. By the mid-seventeenth century, texts commonly associated with the English Scientific Revolution begin to offer the model of intellectual warriors as advertisement for a reluctant public and as a model for its ambivalent participants. In “To the Royal Society,” Abraham Cowley celebrates that “Bacon at last, a mighty Man arose” to start the long-awaited “Rebellion” (2.17, 19). Then, he invokes the impressive “Hercules” as a model for the “great Champions” comprised of the members of the Royal Society whom he addresses in the poem (9.3, 6.1). Intellectual leaders in other countries did so as well. In a 1663 epistle, Eccard Leichneer (1612–1690), physician, theologian, and professor of medicine at Erfurth, Germany, describes the Royal Society as “the advance guard of the republic of scholarship and philosophy.”22


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

After Lycidas, Milton rejects Orpheus to represent teachers, scientists, or artists. He begins to figure teachers in particular as champions, most clearly in Of Education. In the forward-looking tract, he makes his way along a new path that will be “so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect, and melodious sounds on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming” (RM 981). Similarly, in Paradise Lost, Orpheus lingers only as a reminder of a superseded figure of the teacher, natural philosopher, and singer. In the invocation to book 3, Milton contrasts the song he sings in his successful journey through “the Stygian Pool” to the unsuccessful notes that came from the “Orphean Lyre,” used in the attempt to extricate Eurydice from Hades (14, 17). In the invocation to book 7, Milton asks the muse of astronomy, Urania, for a “fit audience” distinct from “Bacchus and his revellers, the Race / Of that wilde Rout that tore the Thracian bard / In Rhodope” (31, 33–35). Orpheus is as insufficient for the emerging science of the English Scientific Revolution as he is for the new poetry of the Age of Milton. Milton’s rejection of past models for present work is so strong in Paradise Lost that he characterizes even the much-admired “Tuscan artist” Galileo as insufficient as Orpheus, who transformed “the Tuscan Mariners” (PL 1.288; Lycidas 48).23 Milton first alludes to Galileo in order to bypass him in hell, in a simile describing Satan’s shield: the broad circumference Hung on his shoulders like the Moon, whose Orb Through Optic Glass the Tuscan Artist views At Ev’ning from the top of Fesole, Or in Valdarno, to descry new Lands, Rivers or Mountains in her spotty Globe.


The Galileo figure still sits at his telescope, but gone is the calm that the pleasant environs and the octosyllabic verse of Il Penseroso seemed to provide. The triple enjambment in this passage increases the sense of disorientation. The perspective quickly shifts from the shield to the heavenly moon to an observation site in one region

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(Fesole) or another (Valdarno) to a series of locales back on the moon, amid which sits the astronomer. We may be fooled to believe that it is just the locales that are unstable. But, even the natural philosopher’s station behind the “Optic Glass” is unstable as the shield to which it is compared moves with Satan from the “Stygian flood” to the “Beach / Of that inflamed Sea” of hell on which Satan lights (1.239, 299–300). Milton encapsulates the inadequacies of even the best models of past natural philosophy to advance learning in alluding to the figure on the slippery shores rather than on certain and settled foundations, then by abandoning the figure entirely. Even Satan lays aside the shield with the old figure of the astronomer. In a later simile, Milton employs the image of Galileo again on the border and as an insufficient model for pedagogy and science. The simile describes Raphael on the brink of heaven and of his pedagogical mission to Earth: As when by night the Glass Of Galileo, less assur’d, observes Imagined Lands and Regions in the Moon: Or Pilot from amidst the Cyclades Delos or Samos first appeering kenns A cloudy spot.


The astronomer and telescope are placed again in an intense site of existence and knowledge, on the margin of heaven and the universe. The ambiguously placed descriptor “less assur’d” could modify the glass or Galileo, making both the natural philosopher and his tool wary. The potential displacement of agency from the natural philosopher to the glass itself exhibits the insecurity surrounding all aspects of the antedated discipline. Gone is the confidence of Il Penseroso in which the wise astronomer would “unfold / What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold / The immortal mind.” Before Raphael leaves for his teaching task, that is, while he remains remote and inactive, he is associated with the natural philosopher. Milton clarifies the difference between Galileo and Raphael: while Galileo remains at his telescope, Raphael speeds


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

with “steddie wing” to act for the benefit of the human world and the mortal mind (5.268). Of Education provides a pre-Restoration glimpse of the new model intellectual army Milton firmly constructs in Paradise Lost. The tract’s model is still tentative as evident by its delayed introduction, similar to the delayed introduction of the swain in Lycidas. In the main body of the tract, Milton employs the passive voice where the teacher would stand, as when he writes, “the main skill and groundwork will be, to temper them such lectures and explanations,” “in course might be read to them out of some not tedious writer the institution of Physick,” and “now lastely will be the time to read with them those organic arts” (RM 982, 983, 984). It is in the concluding paragraph that he at last reveals the figure of the teacher, writing that his pedagogical proposal “is not a bow for every man to shoot in that counts himself a teacher; but will require sinews almost equall to those which Homer gave Ulysses” (RM 986). Milton could hardly have chosen a more elusive figure than Ulysses.24 But the specific allusion emphasizes two characteristics especially relevant to the reformation of the teacher during the period. First, the specific moment in The Odyssey is one in which this usually lone figure is reinscribed into his community and in which the past and the future stand in the balance. In book 21 of The Odyssey, the disguised Ulysses successfully strings his old, wellworn bow after the insufficient suitors have failed to do so. The ensuing action contingent on the stringing of the bow — the slaughter of the suitors — renews the old, purified power structure with Ulysses as its chief. At the same time, it makes room for a new power structure with his son Telemachos as its chief. Milton’s reference thereby succinctly outlines a model that incorporates its purified antecedent yet moves toward innovation. The transitional model of Ulysses is as applicable to the purifying religious movement that Milton supported as it is to the purifying intellectual movement of the English Scientific Revolution: the two are part of the same cultural movement and this poet’s hopes. Eventually, Milton would abandon this useful Ulysses figure, just as he did the

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Orpheus figure; and, even at this juncture, Milton invokes Ulysses at a moment close to his displacement. Second, Ulysses also conjoins physical athleticism, intellectual capaciousness, and active engagement in society, the very characterizations of the practices and representations of new scientists. Michael Lieb explores the “genuine significance” of the figure of Ulysses, and notes, “Milton made a point of emphasizing his physical prowess as an adjunct to his imposing intellect.”25 Like Cowley’s mighty Hercules, Milton’s Ulysses stands as a robust model, distinct from his decidedly unwarlike predecessor Orpheus. We may not sufficiently appreciate the revolutionary nature of the physically and intellectually robust figure in toppling traditional pedagogical ideologies, or by John Locke’s (1632–1704) promotion of “A Sound Mind in a sound Body” within the same century in his Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693).26 Sedentary practices certainly continued well past the English Scientific Revolution, but the monolithic ideology underwent significant change.27 Another model was offered, one of scholars whose bodies reflect the strength of their intellect. Even early modern English scientists who did not engage vigorously with the objects of study recognized the need for active practitioners: sailors to drop balls into the ocean to determine salinity, lens crafters to shape heavy and unwieldy glass, and laborers to turn cranks and work crude machines. Others expressly sought to strengthen their own constitutions to carry out their scientific practice. Some, like Isaac Newton, even viewed their physical fitness as a sign of God’s favor on their intellectual work, as much as a Protestant merchant might view wealth as a similar sign. Newton’s early biographer and great-niece, Catherine Conduit (1679–1740), describes Newton as “blessed with a very happy and vigorous constitution,” and many contemporaries depict the daily walks he took until his death at the age of 85 as elements of his intellectual strength.28 Gilbert Burnet indicates some of the rationale behind the discursive drive to integrate the sound mind and body for the dirtyhanded practice of science in describing his friend Robert Boyle:


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

“He had also a feeble Body, which needed to be look’d to more, because his Mind went faster than that his Body could keep pace with it.”29 Boyle’s bodily weakness did in fact hamper his scientific practice. In another description, John Evelyn directly joins physical fitness with the ability to carry out the physical demands of intellectual labor, asserting that Boyle, “had for almost Forty years, laboured under such a feebleness of Body, and such lowness of Strength and Spirits, that it will apear a surprizing thing to imagine, how it was possible for him to Read, to Meditate, to try Experiments, and to write as he did.”30 Evelyn evinces the high degree to which early modern English scientists succeeded in promoting the integration of physical and intellectual characteristics. We may best appreciate the unique qualities of the new model scientist by standing him next to the emerging model of the English author. In The Second Defense of the English People (1654), Milton defends his role as political writer and those like himself, “especially devoted to the liberal arts, with greater strength of mind than of body.” While he prides himself as a “very defender of the defender,” he characterizes himself as a complement to “any stout trooper” who accomplishes “noble deeds” (YP 4:1.553, 554).31 Milton does not regularly use the soldier or athlete as the model for his professions. Professional teachers and new scientists, on the other hand, do. Milton’s symbol of the internally and externally forceful figure of the Ulyssean teacher highlights the direction of the ideology that early modern English scientists promoted near the middle of the seventeenth century and that had established a firm position by the time of Milton’s mature works. I do not mean to suggest that all scientists during the English Scientific Revolution were, for example, emblems of healthy living: we need only look to the chronic illnesses of Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke.32 I do mean to emphasize the emergence of an alternative representation of scientists and teachers that was militaristic, athletic, and social. While the Renaissance ideology of the sedentary, physically inactive scientist

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persists even today, another ideology of teachers and scientists arose alongside it during the English Scientific Revolution, the innovative experiential practices of which dictate a discourse of physical, social, and intellectual activity.


Milton’s Angelic Vanguard, Uriel, and Gabriel During the nearly quarter of a century between Of Education and Paradise Lost, the innovative pedagogical practices and discursive representations of English scholars had become better established, and the tentative shift in natural philosophy had developed into the English Scientific Revolution. With Paradise Lost, the archetypal figures of pastoral teacher and natural philosopher stand thoroughly distanced from the dynamic governors of nature of Restoration England, a new model intellectual army working for the common good. Paradise Lost overgoes symbolic, classical figures and instead advances a vanguard of Judeo-Christian instructors comprised of the angels Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. The four archangels blaze onto the learning environment of Paradise Lost endued with qualities to help them in a collaborative effort of knowledge reconnaissance and combat. One of the strongest characteristics of Milton’s “argument / Not less but more Heroic” (PL 9.14) is collaboration, inscribed in so many of the interdependent cultural movements of the period, from late humanism to politics, as for example David Norbrook clarifies in his discussions of republicanism.1 My emphasis in chapters 3 and 4 is on how Milton’s poetic construction of the archangels’ characteristics and activities concern emerging modern 71


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science. This chapter focuses on the first two and most critically neglected archangels, Uriel and Gabriel, and both chapters strive to clarify how Milton’s poetic inscription of the Scientific Revolution in the archangels does not stand outside of but rather in direct relation to other cultural movements of the period, especially that of educational reform.

Uriel, “Interpreter through highest Heav’n” Perhaps it is only within the context of the English Scientific Revolution that we can fruitfully approach Uriel, whose role has been overlooked even though the poem signals it as exceedingly significant by his position as the first good angel we meet in the narrative. As I hope to clarify, Uriel’s encounter with the disguised Satan and his later engagement with Gabriel lays the foundation for the remaining books’ representations of good teachers and, by extension, the manner in which English intellectuals in the second half of the seventeenth century within the bifurcating fields of the arts and sciences marshaled together to replace the inherited image of the lonely scholar with that of an intellectual vanguard to fight the invisible wars of God. Milton depicts Uriel in the complementary roles of warrior, teacher, and early modern scientist in three relatively short scenes. We first see Uriel in book 3, as Satan leaves Chaos in search of Paradise. Milton immediately associates Uriel with one of the chief new scientific figures, Saint John the Divine. He makes the overt link with the ascribed author of the Book of Revelation when he describes Uriel as the “glorious Angel. . . . The same whom John saw also in the Sun,” with its clear echo of Revelation 19:17: “I saw an angel standing in the sun” (622–23). Milton makes other numerous links as when, for example, both the narrator and Satan refer to Uriel as “one of the seav’n / Who in Gods presence, neerest to his Throne / Stand ready at command,” merging the biblical descriptions of both John and the angels he sees: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace”

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


and “And I saw the seven angels which stood before God” (PL 3.648–50; Rev. 1:4, 8:2). The only two references to classical mythology in the passage of the encounter of Uriel and Satan are associated, significantly, not with the sharp-sighted archangel but rather with those with erroneous perspectives. It is Satan’s survey of the created world that makes it seem “Like those Hesperian Gardens fam’d of old” (568), and the sun like the philosopher’s stone, “Imagind rather oft then elsewhere seen” when philosophers vainly try to “binde / Volatil Hermes, and call up unbound / In various shapes of old Proteus” (602, 599, 602). Neither the narrator nor Uriel figure Uriel as Apollo, Helios, or Sol. While Milton makes ample use of classical mythology in the epic, he withholds explicit representational alliances to mythological figures in this moment, which sets up expectations for such alliances.2 Milton’s careful use of pagan figures parallels that of early modern English scientists, who actively expunged them as primary models in their scientific, political, and religious writings, preferring instead to emphasize biblical ones. Respectfully distancing themselves from the ultimate teacher and transformer of the natural world (Christ), Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, and others repeatedly invoked the Old Testament Daniel and New Testament Saint John the Divine.3 The titles of Samuel Hartlib’s English translation of Mede’s Clavis Apocalyptica, A Prophetical Key: By which the Great Mysteries in the Revelation of St. John and the Prophet Daniel are Opened and Isaac Newton’s posthumously published Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John, accurately reflect the pervasive use of these two figures by educational reformers.4 Newton employs the two biblical figures to emphasize the importance of scientifically minded agents in improving spiritual and earthly Truth. These prophetical books are particularly military in nature and, as interpreted by seventeenth century English scholars, emphatic about the importance of informed interpretation to foster and recognize Christ’s Second Coming, a great event that so many of England’s intellectuals hoped their endeavors would accelerate.


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Bacon ensured Daniel’s popularity among early modern English scientists by quoting a passage from the Book of Daniel on the packed title page of The Great Instauration (1620): “Multi pertransibunt & augebitur scientia” [Many will pass through and science will increase] (12:4). Bacon’s followers appropriated the quotation, touting Bacon as a prophet of that new “science,” or knowledge. Daniel is a likely model for Bacon to have used because “God gave [him] knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom” (Dan. 1:17). Additionally, the Book of Daniel contains numerous praises for teachers, like the one quoted in Milton’s On Christian Doctrine: “Dan. xii. 3: Teachers shall shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who justify many, like the stars for ever and ever” (YP 6:569). This passage is particularly relevant to Uriel, who shines brightly on the sun. Later in the epic, in the scene of Gabriel and the golden scales, Milton invokes Daniel to represent the earthly benefits of interpretive acumen combined with wisdom. Here, he invokes John to validate a hands-on approach whose use and practice would lead to swift and correct interpretations. Early modern English scientists, many of whom strove to be “servants of nature,” focused on Saint John the Divine because he identified himself as a good “servant,” whose role was to disseminate the correct method for interpreting God’s difficult material signs, especially those that would signal the Second Coming.5 In the preface to A Prophetical Key, Drury similarly associates Mede with the complementary figure of Saint John the Divine by calling Mede an “interpreter” who resembles Saint John.6 In another case, Gilbert Burnet ends Boyle’s funeral sermon envisioning Boyle among the angels, “where he is singing that Song which was his great Entertainment here, as it is now endless Joy there: Great and marvellous are thy Works, O Lord God Almighty; and just and true are thy Ways, O King of Saints.”7 Gilbert quotes John the Divine and makes it the experimentalist’s song (Rev. 15:3). Early modern scientists’ regular use of Saint John as a model for their exigent work provides us with a key to understanding Uriel’s scientific associations, and the function of those associations

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


within the larger framework of the advancement of learning. Milton’s designation of Uriel as an “Interpreter” is strange enough within its narrative context to have caused editors as early as Patrick Hume, in his Annotations on Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (1695), down to recent editions by Roy Flannagan, Alastair Fowler, and John Leonard to offer explanations. While the prophetic nature of Revelation is often conceived of as referring only to the future, careful readers have long recognized a contingent “present” in prophecy, something connoted more clearly by the near synonym “interpreter.” An equivalent understanding imbues new scientific discourse with an exigency for its enlarged educational program. From the time of Bacon’s New Atlantis, the more temporally immediate term “interpreter” replaced “prophet” to emphasize the immediate and pedagogical nature of the study of the material world. In his fiction, Bacon calls the prototypical new scientists who refine and advertise “discoveries by experiment” in the House of Salomon “Interpreters of Nature.”8 The scene in which Uriel is introduced contains a short homage to the ongoing discoveries by interpreters of nature and endorses a new, divine model for future interpretation based on the dirtyhanded methods that early modern English scientists advocated for their endeavors. We first see Uriel within constellations that move Thir Starry dance in numbers that compute Days, months, and years, towards his all-chearing Lamp Turn swift various motions, or are turnd By his Magnetic beam. (3.579–83)

The first explanation for the secondary cause of motion is based on the Aristotelian theory of attraction, the second on the Keplerian mechanistic theory of the sun’s magnetic force, and the third an innovative alternative based on an approach that combines Galileo’s observational and William Gilbert’s magnetic theories. The narrator compares the “Fiend” Satan to “a spot like which perhaps / Astronomer in the Sun’s lucent Orbe / Through his glaz’d Optic


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Tube yet never saw,” referring to the imperfections of the sun that Galileo had witnessed nearly 50 years prior and suggesting more precise future viewings, spots “yet never” seen, from advanced optic tubes (3.588–90). This passage, which affirms the advancement of learning up until Milton’s time, prefaces a passage that some scholars have wielded as proof of Milton’s antiscientific sentiment. Soon thereafter, Milton condemns what “Philosophers in vain so long have sought” (3.602). Careful reading shows that Milton condemns not so much the pursuit of the alchemical philosopher’s stone as the vanity of their occult conjuring of mythical forces and their limited view. Rather than appreciate the dynamic and appropriately deific nature of the objects of study, “they bind / Volatil Hermes, and call up unbound / In various shapes old Proteus from the Sea, / Draind through Limbec to his Native form” (3.602–5). The passage occurs directly after an 11-line scene (3.591–601) describing Satan and the narrator’s wondrous, unbounded vista of the sun. The scene introduces afresh to the readers the perhaps neglected natural objects of daily life. The narrative moves readers to respond not like these kinds of philosophers or Satan, who meet the “matter new . . . Undazl’d” (3.613–14). As Karen Edwards’s Milton and the Natural World so convincingly maintains, early modern English scientists insisted on seeing things afresh and communicating the dazzling intricacies of God’s world. In his preface to On the Loadstone, a work that reconfigures the philosopher’s stone as both attainable and desirable when pursued correctly, William Gilbert bristles at satanic perspectives of magnetic stones. He inveighs against the “foolish corruptors of good arts, learned idiots, grammatists, sophists, wranglers, and perverse little folk” because they do not appreciate the boundless beauty of nature and the joy of discovery through open-minded observation and experiment. The epic narrator plainly aligns his method with Gilbert’s, which allows us to see in natural elements “not all parts like” (3.593). Milton grants “Th’ Arch-chimic Sun” the freedom to possess a variety and beauty as great as the earth’s “Metal or Stone . . . Gold, part Silver cleer; / If stone, Carbuncle

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


most or Chrysolite, / Rubie or Topaz, to the Twelve that shon / In Aarons Brest-plate, and a stone besides / Imagind rather oft then elsewhere seen” (3.609, 592, 595–99). In the final pithy two lines of the catalog, Milton subsumes the natural elements to work within religious and military frameworks in Aaron’s breastplate, and within a scientific one through the still undiscovered but potential philosopher’s stone. Such a variety of options and beautiful stones point not to authorial indecision but to authoritative force: the images are to be recognized for their encyclopedic and synthetic qualities, neither mocking past theories nor newfangled speculations.9 In a work that brings us closer in verbal echo and visual emphasis to Uriel’s scene, as well as to the historical moment of Paradise Lost, Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1667) articulates the same prescript for sharp-sightedness. In outlining the benefits of both the new technology of the microscope and of open publication of scientific findings, Hooke acknowledges that in addition to the limitations of the senses, “many things, which come within their reach, are not received in a right manner.” Hooke argues that “all the succeeding works” have been “lyable to the same imperfection, being, at best, either vain, or uncertain” because “we often let many things slip away from us, which deserve to be retain’d; and of those which we treasure up, a great part is either frivolous or false; and if good, and substantial, either in tact of time obliterated, or at best so overwhelmed and buried under more frotby [sic] notions, that when there is need of them, they are in vain sought for.”10 Uriel represents the same desire to move beyond vain searches by viewing and appreciating the objects of study firsthand and with the correct aims always at the fore. Representing the intellectual vigor needed for such a vision, Uriel stands as a militaristic sentry, “fixt in cogitation deep” on the wondrous sun while facing the newly created world (629). The narrator confirms Uriel’s high military status by designating him as “one of the seven / Who . . . stand ready at command.” This relatively light military characterization is augmented in Uriel’s last


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

scene — really a cameo appearance. In book 6, we learn in Raphael’s account of the war in heaven that Uriel was his close comradein-arms: “On each wing / Uriel and Raphael his vaunting foe, / Though huge . . . Vanquish’d Adramelec, and Asmadai” (6.362–64, 365). These associations with the apocalypse, natural variety, and the military certainly have to do with a larger millenarian view of the period, appreciation of nature, and the civil wars; and each has to do with the English Scientific Revolution, a movement reflective of the fervent, intimate human desire to comprehend the world. The poetic scene harnesses that desire by representing the military veteran and servant of God’s natural world, Uriel, teaching science. Many other careful readers have expressly and implicitly interpreted Raphael’s and Michael’s visits as “formal scenes of education.”11 Perhaps the closest acknowledgments of Uriel’s part of the archangelic teaching vanguard are the many passing references to Adam’s “cherubic” curiosity, which imply that Uriel acts as a teacher to Satan when he is disguised as “a stripling Cherube” (3.636). When the disguised Satan approaches the sun with an “Unspeakable desire to see, and know” the newly created world, Uriel immediately assumes a pedagogical role and instructs him on emerging scientific method (3.662). Satan falsely tells Uriel that he seeks to see God’s “wondrous works, but chiefly Man” about whom he has heard the “Brightest Seraph tell” (3.664, 667). Uriel assumes the cherub has left an “Empyreal Mansion” — which the narrator of Il Penseroso so acutely desires — because he is unsatisfied with hearsay or secondary sources. Uriel’s praise for the cherub’s desire “To witness with thine eyes what some perhaps / Contented with report hear onely in heav’n” rejects a natural philosophy that relies on received theory rather than firsthand engagement with the objects of their purported study (3.699, 700–701). Uriel’s assertion that the cherub’s “desire which tends to know / The works of God, thereby to glorifie / The great Work-Maister . . . merits praise” stands in sharp contrast to Cremonini’s stringent Aristotelianism

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


described earlier (3.694–97). Correlatively, Uriel’s assertion and subsequent instructions implicitly justify the Royal Society’s motto, “Nullius in verba” [not by words alone].12 Although Uriel is “the sharpest sighted Spirit of all in Heav’n,” he nonetheless encourages the pupil to follow an observational and experimental method in order to formulate his own valid interpretations rather than rely on his pedagogical authority (3.691). Uriel prefaces the instruction with the Baconian proviso that Satan understand the limitations of the “created mind,” which cannot “comprehend . . . the wisdom infinite / That brought them forth” (3.705–7). The rest of Uriel’s speech expounds empirical forms of observation to be applied specifically to the “material” world (709). First, Uriel clarifies heavenly hearsay by providing a short history of the creation of the world that he “saw” and “heard,” that is, what he observed firsthand (3.708, 710). Uriel then moves methodically from near to far, first describing the “Starrs / Numberless,” then “that Globe,” down to “Paradise,” and finally, “Adams abode, those loftie shades his Bowre” (3.718–19, 722, 733, 734). He intersperses his directions with definitions of terms, as when he describes “the neighbouring Moon / (So call that opposite fair Starr)” (3.726–27). Throughout, Uriel provides his pupil with the visual proofs of his instruction. That is, he places authority in nature and the pupil’s observations rather than on himself. For example, after he calls Satan’s attention to the created stars — “as thou seest” (3.719) — he directs Satan to “Look downward” toward the earth, and directs him to gaze on “That spot to which I point” (3.722, 733). Finally, Uriel dispatches the novice to learn through experience, sending off Satan saying, “Thy way thou canst not miss, me mine requires” (3.736). The quick conclusion to the interchange recalls one between hurried teacher and thankful pupil or between general and soldier: “Thus said, he turnd, and Satan bowing low, / As to superior Spirits is wont in Heaven, / Where honour due and reverence none neglects” (3.736–38). Uriel’s method has become so pervasive in our own times that we may not recognize its radical nature. It is far different from the


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

fixed catechetical model and closed system represented in other literary works, like those between Evangelist and Christian in Pilgrims Progress (1678).13 Uriel’s scene is a fictionalized version of the comprehensive, objective method that Milton proposed 30 years before for “all these proceedings in nature & mathematics” in Of Education and that Isaac Newton would detail about 30 years later for specialized research in Opticks (RM 983). For the study of geography, Milton’s pupils would read “in any modern Author, the use of the Globes, and all the maps first with the old names; and then with the new” (RM 982). Milton recommends two sets of ancient and modern resources to aid in learning the discipline’s definitions or vocabulary. Later in the program students would gain firsthand knowledge by riding out “to all the quarters of the land: learning and observing all places of strength, all commodities of building and of soil, for towns and tillage, harbours and Ports for trade” (RM 986). Similarly, in Opticks, Newton offers “definitions and axioms” based on observation and leading to experiments. The next step would be to join those definitions to new “axioms,” which, after Bacon, had the restrictive sense of a generalization from experience; and indeed, Opticks ends with future queries that Newton hopes his successors will endeavor to answer through experiment and interpretation. Through Uriel’s imagery and discourse, Milton provides an artistic image of the rational model of experientia litterati — observation, experimentation, and collaboration — that defined the English Scientific Revolution.14 The collaborative aspect of the advancement of learning appears most clearly in book 4 of Paradise Lost. When Uriel adduces that the disguised cherub is “one of the banisht crew,” he descends from the sun to earth in the hopes of benefiting humankind (4.573). It is critical to note that Uriel can discern only that the disguised cherub is one of the rebel angels, not that he is Satan. Milton positions us in the middle of the longtime Aristotelian question of the reliability of the senses — a complex problem Milton addresses again with the blind Samson (see chapter 12). It is only through the sequential collaborative efforts of Uriel, Gabriel, and Gabriel’s

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


students Ithuriel and Zephon that the intruder is correctly determined to be Satan. In Uriel’s consequent action, Milton sharply diverges from resignation to insufficient sensory input. Instead, he represents the hope and heroism to be found in coordinating observation in open collaboration. As David Norbrook notes, “in Paradise Lost, the question of the epic hero is notoriously problematic.”15 Many of Milton’s readers have offered candidates for the epic’s hero, including Adam, Eve, Satan, the Father, the Son, Michael, and Abdiel. But, rather than offering one candidate, Norbrook offers the political trend of republicanism to explain the dispersal of heroism. We may add the parallel trend of the English Scientific Revolution. Milton’s “Heroic Song” sings of the founding of a modern sensibility carried out by military figures as epic as those previously “Heroic deem’d” through “Battels feign’d” (9.25, 29, 31). Rather than seeking one hero for the poem, we can reconsider the many candidates as constituent parts of the robust body needed for all arenas in a new age. We can also add Uriel and the archangels as candidates for the corporate epic hero. Each of the archangels possesses both conventional characteristics of epic heroes and discrete scientific ones. In this scene, Milton uses the epic convention of the hero’s deception to position Uriel as a hero.16 Significantly, the heroic Uriel does not choose to take on the responsibilities of the enterprise entirely on himself and, for example, seek out Satan. Rather, he distributes the task to his fellow teacher, Gabriel. As has been often noted, Uriel’s descent, “swift as a shooting Starr,” echoes that of Minerva’s in The Iliad (4.556).17 Milton’s departure from that pagan model aids us in perceiving what is new. Whereas Minerva descends to act alone, Uriel descends to convey information to Gabriel and pass on the task to him; and whereas Minerva possesses knowledge of fated truth, Uriel and Gabriel are insouciant participants in an unfolding of history. Additionally, this starry messenger is reformed as an educational figure. Uriel’s descent makes a backward glance to the starry messenger and pedagogical figure in A Mask, the Attendant Spirit, who describes his descent as follows:


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

“Swift as the Sparkle of a glancing Star, / I shoot from Heav’n” (80–81). This backward glance participates in the scene’s larger construction of Uriel and Gabriel as two essential components of a collaborative educational effort of which the new scientific enterprise was a very conspicuous part. While scholars had regularly established small networks for communication for a long time, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the English Scientific Revolution was the increased extent and regularity of collaboration facilitated by the rise of print, safer travel, and the combined personal desires for such joint efforts. Indeed, the very establishment and international membership of the Royal Society attest to the cultural change. As in any well-functioning army and modern scientific research effort, Milton’s archangels possess knowledge of one another’s activities and coordinated efforts. Uriel arrives on earth and tells Gabriel that, since “to thee thy course by Lot hath giv’n / Charge and strict watch that his happie Place / No evil thing approach or enter in,” it is his “care” to search out the “Alien from Heav’n” (4.561–63, 575, 571). Uriel’s distribution of the responsibility is similar to what can be gathered from Henry Oldenburg’s correspondence in his role as secretary of the Royal Society. Oldenburg distributed specialized tasks based on the personal genius, geographical location, and skills of the members of the “Commonwealth of Learning,” from having sailors collect foreign specimens to having midwives preserve birth fluids. His correspondence creates a vision of a relatively egalitarian “Society of Fellows” sharing the labor of reconstructing, piece by piece, an accurate vision of the world.18 An oftentimes ignored benefit of large-scale collaboration is the emotional support it provides for what often seem to be daunting tasks; yet it is one that Uriel and Gabriel’s collaboration emphasizes. Physician Timothy Clarke (d. 1672) describes the Royal Society as a collaborative community whose “hearts are filled with the same joy when anyone benefits mankind by adorning knowledge, whether with discoveries of his own or of others.”19 Then as now, the ideal for the vanguard of science is not personal fame

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


but rather the general advancement of learning. Similarly, in thanking Oldenburg for the invitation to join the Royal Society, Hevelius describes “a renewed courage brought to me by your long and distinguished address, but also a very great ardor growing in my breast at least to attempt something, and bring it forward, by which I may in the near future plainly show your famous society and the whole learned world that in all my study and theorizing I have ‘relied on the word of no one.’”20 Milton captures the emotive drive and rewards of group efforts that recognize valuable achievements of discovery and clarify the boundaries of responsibilities. With an embedded compliment to Uriel, Gabriel acknowledges that Uriel observed Satan’s entrance into the garden while he had not. Gabriel welcomes the “discoveries . . . of others”: “Uriel, no wonder if thy perfet sight, / Amid the Suns bright circle where thou sitst, / See farr and wide” (4.577–79). He then voices the “courage” he feels in doing his part: if Satan remains within the garden, he says, “I shall know” (4.588). Uriel’s departure emphasizes yet once more the specifically scientific context in which readers should position him. In describing Uriel’s flight, Milton refers to not simply natural elements but specifically the Ptolemaic and post-Copernican systems that human intellect ascribes to them: “whither the bright Orb, / Incredible how swift, had thither rowl’d / Diurnal, or this less volubil Earth / By shorter flight to th’East” (4.592–95). Later, in the descents of the “Divine instructer” Raphael and “Heav’nly instructer” Michael, Milton will similarly inscribe and avoid choosing between debated cosmographical theories (5.546, 11.871).21 Here, at least, while new danger lurks on earth, Uriel returns confident in the anticipated success of what Gabriel “So promis’d” (4.589). The readers are left with renewed interest in the wonder of an environment that produces such natural beauty as that described in Uriel’s departure, “Arraying with reflected Purple and Gold / The Clouds that on his Western Throne attend” (4.596–97). Through his primacy, Uriel prepares us to read the other archangels’ actions and messages; and through his engagement with the


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

distorted embodiment of evil — Satan disguised as a cherub — he clarifies the rationale for the vigilance and urgency that characterized new scientific self-advertisement. Three overlapping consequences result from acknowledging the scientific discourse introduced by Uriel. First, as a whole, Uriel’s construction supports academic societies like the Royal Society, which sought to benefit humankind by active and unified engagement with one another and with the natural world. Second, Uriel’s interaction with Gabriel informs Raphael and Michael’s pedagogical roles as continuations of a collaborative and methodological instruction.22 Finally, the prominence of scientific method endorses the new approaches to the natural world that Milton’s fellow intellectuals believed might more quickly lead humankind to “repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright” (RM 980). We are reminded that the newfangled work of the Royal Society and other experimentalists elicited as much dread and ridicule from some contemporaries as it did hope and delight in others. Milton’s deep and abiding inclusion of new scientific developments in such respectable characters as the archangel Uriel tacitly promotes the Royal Society’s own self-construction of collaborative heroism; and the military characterization of these angelic transmitters of knowledge confirms the great importance of science to not only its leaders but also its potential beneficiaries.23

Gabriel and His “armed Saints” A reformed view of the four archangels as participants in a collaborative advancement of learning can lead us to remedy the critical neglect of Gabriel as well. Milton signals Gabriel’s importance by representing him as the only angel to be named in both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. While Uriel joins his military experience to the teaching of scientific method, Gabriel joins military experience to the physical exercise that Milton advocates in Of Education and that early modern English scientists used to represent their applied labors.

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


In both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Gabriel is the attentive military teacher whose intellectual acumen is represented through military might. Such a characterization is well-suited to Gabriel for advertising a revolutionary advancement of learning because, biblically, he is the angel who announces the beginnings of a whole new way of knowing and being in the First Coming.24 The representation of Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary in Paradise Regained emphasizes the revolutionary nature of his biblical role. God addresses him: Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold, Thou and all Angels conversant on Earth With man or mens affairs, how I begin To verifie that solemn message late, On which I sent thee to the Virgin pure In Galilee, that she should bear a Son Great in Renown, and call’d the Son of God.

(PR 1.130–36)

Gabriel is commonly associated with the “sound of the trumpet” that would announce the expected revolution of the Second Coming just as his first “Hail” announced the First Coming (Matt. 24:31; Luke 1:28; 1 and 2 Thess.). Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians that interpret the Old Testament prophecy of the Second Coming have been, historically, particularly encouraging to citizens embarking on new teachings because Christian Thessalonians encountered sharp opposition to their new teachings. Paul encourages them to persevere in teaching their new belief by depicting them militaristically, resurrecting the figure of Aaron and his breastplate: “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8). The scene in Paradise Regained in which we view Gabriel is similarly encouraging, militaristic, and pedagogical. Gabriel and the rest of the angels watch as the Father will “exercise him in the Wilderness,” where “he shall first lay down the rudiments / Of his great warfare” (1.157, 158–59). “Exercise” and “rudiments” evoke military as well as educational training. Just as the angels cheer


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

the “Sole Victor” with his “right hand / Grasping ten thousand Thunders” over the rebel angels in Paradise Lost, the angels of Paradise Regained cheer in anticipation of the “Victory and Triumph to the Son of God / Now entring his great duel, not of arms, / But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles” (PL 6.880, 835–36; PR 1.173–75). In Gabriel’s representation in Paradise Lost, those combined military and educational characteristics are equally strong. Like Uriel before him, Gabriel is represented guiding students. We first encounter Gabriel sitting as a military instructor, near sunset watching over the physical education of young angels: Betwixt these rockie Pillars Gabriel sat Chief of th’ Angelic Guards, awaiting night; About him exercis’d Heroic Games Th’ unarmed Youth of Heav’n, but nigh at hand Celestial Armourie, Shields, Helmes, and Speares, Hung high.


The second view of Gabriel’s school is similar: at sunset, “from thir Ivory Port the Cherubim / Forth issuing at th’ accustomd hour stood armd / To thir night watches in warlike Parade” (4.778–80). These two scenes poetically replicate the militaristic “Exercise” prescribed in Of Education. The tract allots specific times for “daily” military training, “about an hour and a halfe ere they eat at noon should be allow’d them for exercise and due rest afterwards,” then “under vigilant eyes till about two hours before supper, they are by a sudden alarum or watch word, to be call’d out to their military motions.” Students are to march “first on foot, then as their age permits, on horse back, to all the art of cavalry” and finally learn “the rudiments of their Souldiership in all the skill of embattailling, marching, encamping, fortifying, besieging and battering.” Militaristic training would supply the country with “perfect Commanders in the service of their country.” It would complete their education to become “good men or good governours” with all the very real intellectual and physical demands such roles entail

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


(RM 985). In the tract, the standing army of intelligentsia would repel external threat; in the epic, Gabriel and his band do. Milton’s prescriptions in the tract and representation of Gabriel’s school differ greatly from those of other educational theorists. In his court-oriented prescription for the “bringing up of children” and “youth” in The Scholemaster (1570), Roger Ascham (1515–1568) includes such genteel — though by no means effortless — physical exercises as hunting, fencing, and target shooting.25 Ascham stresses the courtly nature of such exercises over their usefulness. In Positions (1581), Richard Mulcaster (1530?–1611) recommends the more recreational forms of physical exercise of wrestling, swimming, and football for young children. Milton, on the other hand, prescribes decidedly useful military physical exercise for children and young adults — “between twelve, and one and twenty” — for his program of “universal learning” (RM 981). Additionally, he joins physical exercise with music, fitting music into its daily program during the “interim” when students are “unsweating themselves,” a conjunction he embodies in the figure of the trumpeter and military leader Gabriel (RM 985). Gabriel discharges his duties in the very experience-based manner prescribed in Of Education. The tract also calls for teachers to give students “a reall tincture of naturall knowledge, as they shall never forget” by bringing in practitioners to share their “helpfull experiences” (RM 983). “The warriour Angel” Gabriel is able to do so because he possesses the specialized skills of war needed to educate the cherubim in useful physical disciplines (4.946). Like Uriel, he too fought in the war in heaven, which Raphael recalls in physical terms. Raphael recounts that the Father designates Gabriel as second in command: “thou in Military prowess next / Gabriel, lead forth to Battel these my Sons / Invincible, lead forth my armed Saints” (6.46–48). After the war, Gabriel’s charge is to keep “strict watch” over Paradise while training elder cherubim (4.562). Upon hearing that the enemy Satan has infiltrated the fortification of Paradise, Gabriel takes the opportunity to provide his well-trained students with a firsthand experience of reconnaissance and possibly


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

combat, just as Uriel encouraged the disguised cherub. Gabriel directs his “next in power” Uzziel, “half these draw off, and coast the South / With strictest watch” while he leads one of the vanguards of “radiant Files” through the north (4.782, 783–84, 797). Gabriel’s role as warrior-scientist is clearest in the scene of the golden scales, during which Gabriel refuses to fight.26 After finding Satan at Eve’s ear, Ithuriel takes Satan to Gabriel. As Gabriel and Satan are set to fight, Th’ Eternal to prevent such horrid fray Hung forth in Heav’n his golden Scales, yet seen Betwixt Astrea and the Scorpion signe, Wherein all things created first he weighd, The pendulous round Earth with ballanc’t Aire In counterpoise, now ponders all events, Battels and Realms.


This reconfiguration of the story of Daniel’s interpretation of the writing on the wall for King Belshazzar is embedded with new scientific concerns and interpretations (Dan. 5). Biblically, Daniel reads the writing on the wall that King Belshazzar’s enchanters, astrologers, and wise men cannot, resulting in benefits to the people and the region. Similarly, Gabriel correctly interprets the physical sign, and his correct interpretation results in the immediate maintenance of the created world. In addition to presenting the divine sanction and accuracy of a beleaguered scholar, Daniel’s story represents the figure of the intellectual winning through interpretive prowess rather than physical arms. Gabriel’s quick interpretation of the sign and response do so as well. The biblical story of the writing on the wall also encourages members of intellectual enterprises to make public their interpretations in the face of social constraints. The writing appeared while “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords” (Dan. 5:1). Equally important to the role of the English Scientific Revolution as inscribed in Gabriel’s role as interpreter are Milton’s changes to the biblical story. In Daniel, the sign is that of writing and its location

Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


is within a building, “upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace” (5:5). Distinctly, in Paradise Lost, the “celestial Sign” is “golden Scales” and the location is “in Heav’n . . . Betwixt Astrea and the Scorpion signe.” Repositioning God’s sign from a humanmade edifice to the natural world comprises the shifted concerns to understanding nature within its divine and natural contexts for the development of constructive human understanding. Milton’s tour de force verbal poetics in this scene also argues for the complementary nature of artistic and scientific knowledge in an unfallen world. Milton puns on (1) “Scales,” which refers to a hand-built balance as well a serpent’s scales, foreshadowing Satan’s later misuse of natural elements in his disguise; (2) “ponders,” which signifies to weigh physically and to consider divinely; and (3) “pendulous,” reminiscent of the first view of this “pendant world” (2.1051). These serious puns culminate an unrelenting series of lessons on interpretation in book 4 that insist on the difficult but exigent need to unite res and verba, and the artistic and natural. Just as student-cherubs Ithuriel and Zephon intuitively recognize Satan’s earthly disguise as a “Toad,” teacher Gabriel’s interpretation of God’s celestial signs leads him to beneficial and certain knowledge, as emphasized in Gabriel’s final words to Satan: “I know thy strength, and thou knowst mine” (4.800, 1006; emphasis mine). Fit readers are asked to consider, interpret, and know the homologies and differences of words, natural elements, material products, and willed actions.27 Milton encapsulates an image of willed interaction with nature as unified and productive in his representation of Gabriel’s students, his “armed saints,” at the end of the scene. Upon Satan’s posturing threats, “th’Angelic Squadron bright / Turnd fierie red, sharpning in mooned hornes / This Phalanx, and began to hemm him round / With ported Spears” (4.977–80). First, the simile conjoins rather than divides the spiritual and terrestrial, two of the elements that comprise the human world, therefore imagining the unified workings of both in an ideal world. Second, the terrestrial is represented as most powerful within its cultivated form, pithily


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

harnessed in the image of the spear, at once cultivated crops and crafted tools. The angels are not compared to, for example, uncontrolled elements of nature like tempests or oak trees but rather as cultivated plants, thereby implying the mutual benefits and productivity of human-terrestrial interaction. It thereby characterizes continued developments of the sciences of agriculture quite powerfully as part of the regaining of an earthly paradise where food is plentiful. Three other glimpses of Gabriel are brief but meaningful. In a passage that takes up a substantial portion of the description of Raphael’s descent, Milton refers to Gabriel’s school as Raphael descends to talk with Adam, just as he later refers to Raphael as Michael descends: Strait knew him all the Bands Of Angels under watch; and to his state, And to his message high in honour rise; For on som message high they guessd him bound. Thir glittering Tents he passd.


The passage reinforces Gabriel’s image as warrior and enhances the collaboration established in Uriel’s transmission of information of enemy activity. In book 9, the narrator mentions Uriel and Gabriel in describing Satan’s covert return to Paradise after a one-week journey through the cosmos. Milton creates a wonderfully frightening vision of the embodiment of evil sneaking back to earth: When Satan who late fled before the threats Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improv’d In mediated fraud and malice, bent On mans destruction, maugre what might hap Of heavier on himself, fearless return’d. By Night he fled, and at Midnight return’d From compassing the Earth, cautious of day, Since Uriel Regent of the Sun descri’d His entrance, and forewarnd the Cherubim That kept thir watch.


Milton’s Angelic Vanguard


The description is argument. Satan avoids entering the world during the day, as he did upon his first arrival, because of Uriel, Gabriel, and the cherubim’s collaborative work, recalled here as causes for Satan’s past expulsion and present caution. Uriel and Gabriel minimize the availability of opportunities for Satan to enter the world during the day, or, said another way, the figures of good knowledge limit the power of destructive knowledge. On the one hand, such a representation argues for the benefits that good knowledge can provide. On the other hand, it stresses the demand for vigilance. Satan, and all the evil he represents, has “improv’d,” changed. Good knowledge cannot be stagnant because bad knowledge changes, improves. Even the best knowledge of the past is insufficient for the present or future. Moreover, the passage acknowledges the need for divine revelation for the limitation and ultimate elimination of evil. This message is made exceedingly forceful because of its placement directly after one of the epic’s four invocations and right before the Fall, when humans will need the sort of help that good science promises. The unified vision of Uriel and Gabriel working against Satan is crucial to Milton’s construction of teachers. It models the availability of fluid and collaborative rather than fixed and monolithic pedagogical styles, and it argues for the need for a constant and vigilant advancement of good learning. The robust pedagogical characterization and its participation in the advancement of learning in a fallen world are encapsulated in the last glimpse we get of Gabriel. We see him with his angelic guard one last time in book 10, when they return to heaven after the Fall: “Up into Heav’n from Paradise in haste / Th’ Angelic Guards ascended, mute and sad / For Man . . . Much wondring how the suttle Fiend had stoln / Entrance unseen” (10.17–21). Uriel’s characterization as ad hoc guest lecturer and Gabriel’s as daily military trainer are as distinct but as complementary and vital as are Raphael’s and Michael’s characterizations, to which we now turn.


Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers, Raphael and Michael Uriel and Gabriel characterize teaching as a continual and militant activity, offer a sense of the human world as a teaching site at large, and comfortably integrate new scientific discourse and activity into their own. The “Divine instructer,” Raphael, and the “Heav’nly instructer,” Michael, nuance the pedagogical project only outlined with Uriel and Gabriel (5.546, 11.871). Despite readers’ long-standing recognition of Raphael and Michael’s pedagogical characteristics, scholarship has not yet registered those characteristics in accord with one of the period’s most influential movements in educational reform, the English Scientific Revolution. That neglect is symptomatic of the seamlessness with which the scientific project participates in the epic’s long-recognized didactic project. I appreciate but do not rehearse the valuable scholarship that clarifies these last two archangels’ pedagogical, political, or religious alliances. Instead, I focus primarily on characteristics that nuance our appreciation of Milton’s role in the representational development of the scientific branch of the advancement of learning. Raphael and Michael are not figured primarily as repositories of past knowledge nor do they prioritize it. Raphael starts by telling of things past, the war in heaven and Creation; he ends by guiding Adam on how to conjecture profitably about the cosmos, about the 93


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

here and now as well as the future. Michael starts from the immediate past and present, the Fall and the expulsion; he ends by telling about future history. Milton immediately identifies Raphael and Michael as warriors upon their descents to earth. Milton outfits his archangels in particularly militaristic clothes. Raphael descends as A Seraph wingd; six wings he wore, to shade His lineaments Divine; the pair that clad Each shoulder broad, came mantling o’er his brest With regal Ornament; the middle pair Girt like a Starrie Zone his waste, and round Skirted his loines and thighes with downie Gold And colours dipt in Heav’n; the third his feet Shadowd from either heele with featherd maile Skie-tinctur’d grain. Like Maia’s son he stood, And shook his Plumes, that Heav’nly fragrance filld The circuit wide.


After the Fall, Michael descends, Not in his shape Celestial, but as Man Clad to meet Man; over his lucid Armes A militarie Vest of purple flowd Livelier than Melibœan, or the graine Of Sarra, worn by Kings and Hero’s old In time of Truce; Iris had dipt the wooff; His starrie Helme unbuckl’d shew’d him prime In Manhood where Youth ended; by his side As in a glistering Zodiac hung the Sword, Satans dire dread, and in his hand the Spear.


In Raphael’s “featherd maile,” Milton adds military details to the prophetic, multiwinged angels of Ezekiel and Isaiah whom Raphael resembles; and, of course, Michael’s “military Vest,” “Helme,” “Sword,” and “Spear” leave no doubt as to his militaristic nature. Their attire both unifies and distinguishes these angels not only from other starry messengers but also from each other.1 On earth, only Uriel, Gabriel and his school, Raphael, and Michael and his band wear military attire: Adam, Eve, God, and Satan do not.

Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers


Milton thereby links the archangels and signals their collaborative roles. Collaboration, of course, does not imply replication, and their attire equally signals their distinctions. Raphael’s and Michael’s descriptions, unlike those of Gabriel and Uriel, explicitly relate the archangels to classical mythology — “Maia’s son” and “glistering Zodiac.” More specifically, Raphael’s attire expresses his defensive role as sentry and Michael’s his offensive role as crusader. Those roles are expressed in the very color they wear. Whatever the indeterminate colors of Raphael’s attire are — “colours dipt in Heav’n” and “Skie-tinctur’d grain” — they are celestial rather than terrestrial. Michael’s vest, however, is a decided “purple,” more specifically a purple associated with Meliboea and Sarra. These sites are not simply earthly but specifically commercial and martial; the bitter battles near those sites were fought to secure mastery of the seaways, trade, and economic power. In addition, Raphael’s wings form a shieldlike mantle whereas Michael is without wings, emphasizing Raphael’s heavenly role and Michael’s terrestrial one. In the one part of his attire that does refer to the heavens, the belt, Michael’s “Zodiac” replaces Raphael’s innocuous “Starrie Zone.” The pagan zodiac figures the specifically postlapsarian relation between the earth and the other heavenly bodies. Finally, whereas Raphael wears no offensive weapons, Michael bears a sword and spear. The specific qualities in just these initial moments encapsulate the profound relationship between the two figures and the various disciplines they represent.

The “Divine instructer” Raphael Milton consistently represents Raphael as sentry both in his military and pedagogical roles. As with Gabriel, Raphael’s specific military experience provides him with the “real tincture of knowledge” recommended in Of Education that enables him to execute God’s command. Raphael explains to Adam that he did not view human creation because he was on patrol: “Farr on excursion toward the Gates of Hell; / Squar’d in full Legion (such command we had) /


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

To see none thence issu’d forth a spie, / Or enemie” (8.231–34). The Father commands Raphael to guard the gates of hell during the days of Creation in order to maintain the separation of destructive and creative processes, just as later in his dispatch of Raphael to earth, God commands Raphael to teach Adam to maintain the division of destructive and creative knowledge. In relating the history of the angelic war and the creation of the material world, Raphael teaches Adam what he knows: to be vigilant and to repel external elements in order to protect inward perfection. He tells Adam, “That thou art happie, owe to God; / That thou continu’st such, owe to thy self, / That is, to thy obedience; therein stand. / This was the caution giv’n thee; be advis’d” (5.520–23). As “Divine Hystorian,” Raphael shapes his story of the quasi-spiritual, quasi-material war in heaven and Creation to teach Adam to act as his own moral sentry (8.6–7). He ends his story of the angelic war with the didactic message: “let it profit thee to have heard / By terrible Example the reward / Of disobedience; firm they might have stood, / Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress” (6.909–12). Raphael hopes that Adam will use this experientia literata, or collective examples, of obedience and disobedience to benefit himself and all humankind. Milton describes Raphael’s role as teacher of spiritual and natural history in terms that associate the archangel with the emerging sciences. Before his cautionary tale, Raphael tries to clarify angelic digestion by saying that it is no harder than, “if by fire / Of sooty coal the Empiric Alchimist / Can turn, or holds it possible to turn / Metals of drossiest Ore to perfect Gold / As from the Mine” (5.439–43). Milton aligns Raphael specifically with tools and elements used for chemical refinement, “Empiric” alchemy, or chemistry, rather than magical alchemy. We find a similarly appropriate and meaningful alignment of scientific agent and tools, for example, in John Evelyn’s description of Robert Boyle’s body, which he describes as “a Chrystal or Venice-Glasse.”2 In his funeral oration, Evelyn could assume that his audience would align “a Chrystal or Venice-Glasse” with praiseworthy chemistry rather than

Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers


suspicious alchemy. For his epic, Milton is more careful with his wording. “Empiric” recognizes the etymological association of Raphael’s name with medicine and of contemporary developments in the practice of medicine.3 At the very least, Raphael’s alchemical alignment validates the positive potential of scientific tools. Aligning these tools of scientific trade with a divinely authorized and positive character reinforces the great increase in esteem from natural philosophers who practiced the very dubious art of alchemy to new scientists like Robert Boyle who practiced the science of chemistry.4 The new scientific affinities of Raphael’s pedagogy accrue through the course of books 7 and 8. The subjects of Raphael’s discussion after he has fulfilled his express mission are decidedly scientific: “how and wherefore this world was first created” in book 7 and “concerning celestial motions” in book 8 (7 and 8 argument). Raphael twice invokes “Urania,” the Muse of Astronomy, and Adam identifies Raphael no longer as “Divine / Hystorian” but, rather, “Divine interpreter,” the new scientific resonances of which have already been discussed (7.1, 31, 72). The mathematical nature of the astronomical section places the discussions squarely in a new scientific rather than solely natural philosophical context, as I discuss in chapter 8. Raphael proceeds to tell a natural history after the angelic social history. Indeed, Raphael’s disposition of material more closely corresponds to a new scientific “interpreter” than to the well-noted epithet for Mercury, “interpres divum,” which it also echoes and which has been amply noted. In book 4 of the Aeneid, Mercury reprimands Aeneas for constructing a settlement in Dido’s Carthage; that is, he comments on human and political action. Raphael, on the other hand, interprets spiritual and natural history. These authorial realignments cogently parallel the realignments that the self-named “Sons of Urania” — Royal Society members — sought for their endeavors. Mercury’s associations with scholars, astrologers, and messengers are all converted into the JudeoChristian figure of the archangel Raphael, paralleling the same type of discursive conversion in new scientific texts.


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Significantly, Raphael’s narrative ordering of material, with the expansive natural history of book 7 followed by the focused natural science of book 8, corresponds to the trajectory of study that the Royal Society recommended based on Bacon’s Advancement of Learning, with which Milton was very familiar.5 Karen Edwards explains the emerging scientific vocabulary and pedagogical form of Raphael’s discussion, the manner in which Paradise Lost “attempts, more courageously to renovate the old learning by accommodating it to the new” and in which “Raphael’s account of Creation in book VII of Paradise Lost provides a sustained lesson for Adam and Eve in how to read ‘creeping things.’” Her analysis of Milton’s scientific revisions reinforces those we have already noted: “if we think of the new philosophy as generating both new speculations and new admissions of ignorance, then we can see Raphael’s traditional encomium has indeed been touched by the new knowing.”6 The narrative ordering leads us back to the dialectic nature of teaching that Raphael establishes. Milton frames Raphael’s lessons as highly responsive to Adam’s needs and interests. For example, while Raphael tells of the rebellion to fulfill God’s command, he ends the tale by figuring it as done “At thy [Adam’s] request” (6.895). Through such encouragement, Raphael elicits the passion for learning that will contribute to its advancement, the kind of encouragement that members of the Royal Society articulated in their letters and that biographers of Cambridge tutor Joseph Mede record of his pedagogical practice. Through Raphael, Milton portrays more fully the teacher he outlines in Of Education. The tract envisions a teacher who would leave students “enflam’d with the study of learning, and the admiration of vertue” through “mild and effectuall perswasions, and what with the intimation of some fear, if need be but chiefly by his own example” (RM 982). Milton describes Adam as “fill’d / With deep admiration” and, in a simile invoking the trope of thirst at a fons sapientiae, “as one whose drouth / Yet scarce allay’d still eyes the current streame, / Whose liquid murmur heard new excites” (7.52–53, 66–68). Adam’s interest in learning is so keen that he then determines the next topic,

Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers


the creation of “this Heav’n which we behold / Distant so high” (7.86–87). Then, just as importantly, he is moved not simply to be a recipient of knowledge but a contributor. After Raphael’s story of Creation, he is encouraged to tell “My Storie” (8.205). In both instances, Milton captures the hesitancy yet ultimate attempts so common among younger scholars to contribute to the educational process, whatever the topic. Part of the effectiveness of this interaction can be traced to its imitative quality of the best teaching that occurs in institutions of learning. We can turn to Edward Phillips’s account of Milton’s homeschool for the most pertinent example. After describing the impressive curriculum of Milton’s homeschool, Phillips praises the very sort of teacher-student interaction recorded about Joseph Mede’s inspiring teaching practices and represented in the archangel Raphael’s fictional ones: “Now persons so far Manuducted into the highest paths of Literature both Divine and Human, had they received his documents with the same Acuteness of Wit and Apprehension, the same Industry, Alacrity, and Thirst after Knowledge, as the Instructer was indued with, what Prodigies of Wit and Learning might they have proved!”7 Phillips uses the same conventional image of the thirst for knowledge on the part of his teacher that Milton uses to describe that of student Adam in the passage quoted above. Phillips’s discursive similarities remind us of the metaphor’s enduring ability to represent biographic, human interactions. It also sends us back to the young Milton’s Elegy IV, “To Thomas Young,” and that poem’s similar use: “He led the way for me, when I first crossed Aonia’s retreats and the holy lawns of the formed mountain, when I drank from the Pierian spring” [Primus ego Aonios illo praeente recessus / Lustrabam, & bidifid sacra vireta jugi, / Pieriosqu latices] (29–31). It is conventional because it is so expressive of the nature of learning at its best. The poetic effectiveness of Adam and Raphael’s interaction is enhanced by the imitative quality of the beginning of Adam’s story. A novice, Adam takes Raphael’s discourse as example, as do careful students. Raphael prefaces both his stories by expressing


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

concern about the appropriate disposition: “Sad task and hard, for how shall I relate / To human sense th’ invisible exploits / Of warring Spirits” and “to recount Almightie works / What words or tongue of Seraph can suffice / Or heart of man suffice to comprehend?” (5.564–66, 7.112–14). And he begins the narrative on the war in heaven with “As”: “As yet this world was not” (5.577). Adam begins his story with the preface, “For Man to tell how human Life began / Is hard; for who himself beginning knew?” (8.251–52). Just as he imitates the question format of both of Raphael’s prefaces, he also uses his teacher’s word “hard” from the first preface and “as” to mark the beginning of his narrative: “As new wak’t from soundest sleep” (8.253).8 As with Uriel and Gabriel, Raphael’s lessons move students to imitate rather than simply replicate, not to simply repeat the same set of knowledge learned from their teachers but to enlarge that set.9 (Ithuriel and Zephon find Satan, whose whereabouts Gabriel did not know.) Adam tells his firsthand account of his and Eve’s creation, which Raphael is “Pleas’d” to hear because he could not witness it (8.249). Students bring valuable knowledge and participate in the advancement of learning. We will see a similarly nuanced but distinct version of this dialectical pedagogical style with Michael, whose role as the only postlapsarian teacher earns our greatest interest.

A “Heav’nly instructer” for a Fallen World Unlike the other archangels discussed so far, Michael enters book 11 as expulsor and comforter, the culminating teacher for the very postlapsarian environment that Raphael had hoped Adam would guard against, and that Milton and his new scientific counterparts sought to understand. Because by the time this last teacher enters the narrative, humankind has already fallen, Michael best approximates the teachers in Of Education, reconstructive agents who, through education, “repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him,

Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers


imitate him, to be like him” (RM 980). Like the “hunters, fowlers, fishermen, shepherds, gardeners, apothecaries” in Of Education, the dirty-handed experimentalists of Milton’s England, and the other archangels, Michael applies his specific experience to his pedagogy. Milton constructs Michael as a teacher whose uneven military experience of trial and error imitates the uneven processes of intellectual experimentation and development that fallen humankind undergoes.10 As with Raphael, Michael is characterized in the terms also appropriated in new scientific discourse. Michael is decidedly the most militant of the four archangelic teachers: he arrives in Paradise not only in military vestiture but also flanked by “flaming Warriours” (11.102): th’ Archangelic Power prepar’d For swift descent, with him the Cohort bright Of watchful Cherubim; four faces each Had, like a double Janus, all thir shape Spangl’d with eyes more numerous then those Of Argus, and more wakeful than to drouze, Charm’d with Arcadian Pipe, the Pastoral Reed Of Hermes, or his opiate Rod.


Milton surrounds Michael with cherubim who form “a double Janus,” in sharp contrast to the narrator of Il Penseroso, desirous of some “high lonely tow’r.” Those cherubim represent the collaborative nature promoted by forward-looking scientific communities, which Milton invokes in conflating Janus, a symbol for astronomy, and the four Judeo-Christian cherubim who descend with rings “full of eyes” in the prophetic book of Ezekiel (1:18). That conflation secures the at once fearsome and positive valences of this integrated figure of teaching, science, religion, and the military. In Michael’s descent, Milton jarringly signals evolution along with tradition, just as he did with his selection of the bow-stringing scene of The Odyssey to represent the new model teacher in Of Education. With “eyes more numerous” and “more wakeful,”


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Michael and his crew overgo both Mercury and potentially his son Pan, symbolized in the “Arcadian Pipe,” as well as Orpheus, who lulled the Colchian dragon so that the Argonauts could capture the golden fleece. Milton surrounds his teacher and his “Cohort” — or band of warriors — with “more” and “more” than those pagan models, and even more than Raphael, who in his descent was likened to Mercury, “Maia’s son.” Pastoral moments, even those like Raphael and Adam’s, are relegated in favor of the militantly reparative work required by the Fall. In executing his revelatory and enlightening charge, Michael repeats and fulfills a version of the command that he was ordered to perform in the war in heaven: he expels the disobedient and stands as a threat against the enemy. Citing editor Thomas Newton, Alastair Fowler provides two explanations for the choice of Michael as expulsor: “‘as Michael was the principal Angel employ’d in driving the rebel Angels out of Heaven, so he was the most proper to expel our first parents too out of Paradise’ (Newton). There is also the consideration that Michael is the apocalyptic angel; for the visions shown to Adam are essentially apocalyptic visions of history.”11 Fowler’s reiteration of “apocalyptic” registers Michael’s most popular characterization as the victorious angel of the revolutionary period described in Revelation. Adam views the heav’nly Bands Down from a Skie of Jaspar lighted now In Paradise, and on a Hill made alt, A glorious Apparition, had not doubt And carnal fear that day dimm’d Adams eye. Not that more glorious, when the Angels met Jacob in Mahanaim, where he saw The field Pavilion’d with his Guardians bright; Nor that which on the flaming Mount apeerd In Dothan, cover’d with a Camp of Fire, Against the Syrian King, who to surprize One man, Assassin-like levied Warr, Warr Unproclam’d.


Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers


For the visible and invisible wars of God that will plague the human world, Milton fills the passage with biblical and military meaning. “Made alt” is a specifically military phrase. Eden is likened to “Mahanaim,” which means armies or camps, invoking the moment that Jacob witnessed another angelic descent in Genesis 32:1–2, and to “Dothan,” referring to yet another band of angelic warriors from 2 Kings 6. These biblical passages emphasize that Michael appears not alone but accompanied. In reading books 11 and 12 of Paradise Lost, we must not let our imaginations fail to appreciate what his pupil Adam so earnestly appreciates: his preparation for coping with the intellectual and physical changes that await him is delivered by an angel dressed in military garb, escorted by a strong band of fiery warriors. The urgency of the invisible wars of God brought on by the Fall is signaled by the two weapons Michael carries in books 11 and 12, his sword and a spear. Uriel wears a “golden tiar” (3.625). While we may assume that “the warlike” and “warrior” Gabriel wears military garb and wields a weapon, interestingly, the narration does not expressly describe Gabriel’s armor or arms during his tour of duty on earth even while it clearly puts a “spear” in Ithuriel’s hands, “ported spears” in those of the “angelic squadron,” and “What seemd both spear and shield” in the hands of Satan during their confrontation (4.902, 576, 946, 810, 981, 990). Raphael carries no weapon. The express absence of weapons from the other archangels highlights Michael’s. Michael’s spear, even further emphasized by its location at the very end of his description, is linked within the economy of the poem primarily with Satan. Satan’s trademark spear is introduced, significantly, after the description of his telescopelike shield: “His spear, to equal which the tallest Pine / Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the Mast / Of some great Ammiral, were but a wand” (1.292–94).12 “[T]h’ uplifted Spear / Of thir great Sultan” is the first visual image the “bad Angels” view upon their awakening in hell and therefore the strongest metonym for Satan (1.347–48, 344).


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

During the challenge between the spying Satan and Gabriel, Satan enlarges and “in his graspe / What seemd both Spear and Shield” appears (4.989–90). The most spectacular moment of Satan’s spear is at the beginning of the angelic war when Abdiel strikes the first blow. Satan, “ten paces huge / He back recoild; the tenth on bended knee / His massie Spear upstaid” (6.193–95). Abdiel is the unflaggingly successful “Servant of God” who, when surrounded by the rebel angels, recites his “testimonie of Truth,” returns to the applause of the good angels and the approbation of God, and, in this passage, causes by force the very “Knee-tribute” against which Satan had rebelled (6.29, 33; 5.782). Significantly, after the war, Michael, not Abdiel, possesses Satan’s spear. Michael possesses the battle prize, paralleling the possession of Achilles’s shield not by Ajax but by Ulysses — Milton’s pedagogical figure in Of Education. Michael is not wholly successful in the war in heaven. Although the Father commands him to drive the rebel angels “out from God and bliss, / Into thir place of punishment,” ultimately Michael is frustrated (6.52–53). After the third day, God sends the Son to vanquish the rebels. When the Son enters “in Celestial Panoplie all armd,” Michael observes, interprets, then joins in the reconfigured collaborative effort (6.761). The “Vicegerent” Son is the realized form of the “governor” Milton imagined for “universal learning” in his college composition, Prolusion VII (PL 10.57). For he controls the natural elements of God’s “Bow and Thunder” and moves with a “whirlwind sound” (6.713). But this robust teacher will not emerge on earth until the “great Deliverance” of the Second Coming (12.600). Michael is a better model for the postlapsarian time of limited knowledge than either the unflaggingly successful Abdiel or the unapproachably powerful Son. Michael’s experience of trial and failure enables him to “dismiss them not disconsolate,” as the Father commands (11.113), for he figures inward hope amid external failure. As much as the spear signals Michael’s partial failure, his sword signals hope. Traditionally, paintings depict the archangel Michael with a sword. In Michael’s

Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers


sword, Milton selects a symbol with a literary history as ambiguous as that of Ulysses. Biblically, the sword has many associations in its over 400 appearances, and, artistically, the Christian sword is rendered extensively throughout early modern English literature and art, as in depictions of Saint George. The most pertinent biblical reference to the sword in the context of Paradise Lost is that of the Expulsion: “a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). It is the weapon that stands between the paradisal world that humankind lost and the fallen world that seventeenth century intellectuals on various fronts sought to understand and repair. “[T]he sword / Of Michael from the Armorie of God,” while itself mediating good and bad, mediates between the spiritual “keen” and the physical “solid,” just as early modern intellectuals sought to do in strengthening physical knowledge and mediating it with spiritual knowledge (6.320–21, 322, 323). Milton’s admixture of a sensible and insensible world has been amply noted in terms of Raphael’s attempts to “relate / To human sense th’invisible exploits / Of warring Spirits” (5.564–66). They are equally present in Michael’s lesson. In the poem, Mammon recalls “the Sword of Michael” with great fear (2.294); Raphael describes “the Sword of Michael” felling “Squadrons at once” (6.250, 251); Michael identifies his strength with his sword when he warns Satan to fly to hell “Ere this avenging Sword begin thy doome” (6.278–79); and it is Michael’s “griding sword” from which “Satan first knew pain” (6.329, 327). In the Expulsion, Michael’s sword epitomizes the postlapsarian pedagogical project to discriminate, in the case of Adam and Eve, between the “Spirits foule” of fallen humankind from the unpure “Paradise” and to demarcate the physical locales of the garden of Eden from the rest of the earth (11.124, 123). In the final passage in which Michael is described, Milton indeed gives prominence to the sword rather than to Michael. Milton describes the Expulsion as follows:


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution High in Front advanc’t, The brandisht Sword of God before them blaz’d Fierce as a Comet; which with torrid heat, And vapour as the Libyan Air adust, Began to parch that temperate Clime; whereat In either hand the hastning Angel caught Our lingring Parents, and to th’ Eastern Gate Led them direct, and down the Cliff as fast To the subjected Plain; then disappear’d.


Milton employs the passive voice, excising the wielder of the sword just as he paradoxically excises the important teacher in Of Education in all but its concluding paragraph, as discussed in chapter 2. With Michael’s hands occupied holding Adam and Eve’s hands, the sword takes on its own agency; and, ultimately, Michael disappears. When the couple look back, they do not see the teacher but rather “that flaming Brand, the Gate / With dreadful Faces throng’d and fierie Armes” (12.643–44). Michael has fulfilled his mission and leaves God’s sword, the cherubim, and their weapons at the border of paradise. Michael relinquishes his high position and authority as a teacher to the students he has helped to fashion and the weapon he has wielded, just as he relinquished his leadership in the war in heaven so that the overall enterprise could succeed under the leadership of the Son. Indeed, if Miltonic teachers are successful, they will render themselves obsolete to pupils, now better prepared to shape their experience and the ever-changing world around them.13 In terms of the development of modern science, the loss of Michael’s agency dramatically represents the Royal Society’s motto, which I have repeated throughout, Nullius in verba. The visible “New Heav’ns, new Earth” and the invisible “paradise within” will burst forth not because the teacher says, that is, “Aristotle says” or “Michael says” (12.549, 587). The data, the experiments, and the students will bear witness for themselves. Many readers have focused on the first part of Michael’s mission, the Expulsion. In turn, they have projected the stern nature of Michael’s project onto Michael. Upon seeing Michael and his band descending, Adam infers that he is not “sociably mild, / As

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Raphael, that I should much confide” (11.234–35). And, indeed, he is not. Milton, however, seems at pains to represent Michael’s fulfillment of the second half of his mission, to “dismiss them not disconsolate,” with care, providing a model for teaching new and difficult lessons, that is providing an encouraging model for those engaged in an advancement of learning that seeks to repair, recover, and discover. Milton represents the difficulty of such lessons and the necessity of balancing objective and subjective approaches to gain full knowledge in Michael’s lesson. The seeming breakneck speed of Michael’s lessons corresponds to the plain style associated with puritan and scientific discourse. In Milton and the Preaching Arts, Jameela Lares shows the correspondence between the rise of the plain style in conjunction with heightened religious passion during the period; and many studies have shown the similar correspondence in the development of modern science.14 We are reminded that the practices in science writing had not yet developed to evacuate passion but instead to express its function in their endeavors. For example, Isaac Barrow employs passionate discourse in his inaugural oration as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics: While I was a private person not otherwise obliged, being enamoured only with the Loveliness of the Thing, I showed such hearty Desires and Endeavours to have these Sciences in the highest Degree recommended to you; it cannot now be doubted by Reason of my Publick Office, and more solemn Engagement, I will more diligently apply myself to their Promotion according to my slender Ability, since what was then an Inclination now becomes a Duty.15

Books 11 and 12 compress the passion and reason that drive Michael’s similar and difficult lessons. Michael announces the Expulsion abruptly and without rhetorical ornamentation: “Adam, Heav’ns high behest no Preface needs” (11.251). The tone of his short declaration is ambivalent, ranging from sternness to compassion. Michael’s next words strongly suggest that we interpret the tone as compassionate. In response to Eve’s lamentation, “the Angel interrupted milde” (11.286). His very interruption of her lament signals


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

his compassion for her response, as does his mildness. The subsequent descriptions of his pedagogical style in book 11 are similarly compassionate: “Michael with regard benigne,” “Michael thus, hee also mov’d, replied,” (11.334, 452). In book 12, descriptions of Michael’s emotions decrease, and the caring nature of his pedagogical style is constructed primarily by the structure of his pedagogical presentation. First, his care for his pupil dictates his change from visual to verbal presentation: “I perceave / Thy mortal sight to faile. . . . Henceforth what is to com I will relate” (12.8–11). The care of that accommodating presentational shift stands in sharp contrast to the intentionally unkind visions with which Satan attempts to overwhelm Jesus in Paradise Regained, an issue I will return to in chapter 11. Second, Michael builds in moments of reflection of the new lessons Adam learns: “the Archangel paused. . . . If Adam aught perhaps might interpose” and “th’ Archangel Michael, then paus’d” (12.2–4, 466). Teacher Michael’s structured pauses complement student Adam’s freedom to interject variously to comment and question. Michael’s pedagogical project encapsulates and affirms the benefits of collaborative, dialectic teaching styles available to all parties, including the teacher. Milton’s students documented their belief that Milton’s teaching style was caring and that it benefited his knowledge as much as theirs. Quaker Thomas Elwood famously implied that his question to Milton — “Thou hast said much of Paradise lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise found?” — initiated Milton’s composition of Paradise Regained.16 Edward Phillips records a similar sense of his contribution to advancing his teacher’s learning. After listing “the many Authors both of the Latin and Greek” that Milton and his students read in Milton’s homeschool, Phillips records that, “Thus by his own teaching he in some measure increased his own knowledge.”17 How are the benefits to the teacher represented with Michael? Primarily in depicting him as heroic in the pedagogical endeavor. At the beginning of book 12, the narrator describes Michael, “As one who in his journey bates

Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers


at Noone, / Though bent on speed” (12.1–2). Like the Ulyssean teacher in Of Education and the epic narrator throughout Paradise Lost, Michael is represented as a hero who must be at least equal to the fallen knowledge that has come into the world with Satan, who is often depicted on a difficult, long journey. Milton’s various literary representations of teachers capture the major concerns, permutations, anxieties, and hopes girded to the vanguard of early modern intellectuals who historically changed the face of early modern English education and those who helped found modern science. By the end of the seventeenth century — after the Commonwealth, after the Restoration of the monarchy, at the end of the English Scientific Revolution — traditional institutions had transformed, innovative campaigns unraveled, and knowledge risen to dizzying heights. What remains unwavering amid the enormous change, as is reflected throughout Milton’s work, is the relentless advancement that the vanguard of learning made in English education, the English psyche, and the minds of individual pupils. Milton’s poetry participated in early modern English scientists’ successful struggle against the archetypal figures of the pastoral teacher and of the pensive and passive natural philosopher. By contextualizing the works of one of the most influential authors of English literature in terms of one of the most influential movements in intellectual history, we may regain an understanding of the artistic and scientific shifts toward modernity. That understanding, in turn, may aid us in evaluating the mutual endeavors of the arts and sciences in the present day, especially those based at educational institutions. The new model intellectual army that Milton and early modern English scientists represent demands the unification of the material and immaterial, the imaginative and the ordinary, the arts and the sciences for positive work within the mundane world. For struggles as varied as the historical one of Milton’s civil wars, or the epic’s against “Sin and Death,” careful interpretation of Milton’s didactic poetry within the context of progressive educational reform can enable us to


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appreciate the basic prescripts of collaboration and urgency that enabled great improvements to be made in seventeenth-century England, prescripts that may be beneficial for us to consider in our ivory towers and our increasingly scientific global communities (PL 12.431).


The Standard Academic Subjects and Their Function Unlike the almost complete representational refashioning of the teacher-scientist, dilation rather than deletion governed the changes in curricular subjects in England for most of the seventeenth century. Curricular dilation was responsive to the ongoing recovery of ancient and classical texts, explorations of the known world, and new observations of the cosmos and its microscopic elements through new observations and technologies. Such an information explosion created great pressures within a closed system of time and human capacity, pressures that educators today face in making decisions about textbook selection, degree requirements, classroom syllabi, and more. Discussions that ignore the emotional, social, and practical elements that shaped curricular developments in early modern England fail to tell us much about how and why English intellectuals went about making curricular changes and, by extension, understanding, working within, and representing the world around them. More specifically, they fail to help us understand the human forces that helped shape Milton’s powerful poetic lines and why his readers — his contemporaries and thereafter — have responded to them as they have. Areopagitica clearly indicates that Milton appreciated the anxiety that scholars felt about the possibility that their endeavors would 113


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

prove fruitless in the important but at times repellent work of “gathering up [the virgin Truth] limb by limb . . . into an immortall feature of lovelines and perfection” (YP 2:549). One response to the textual and conceptual explosion of the period was to gaze at only one limited feature of Truth, that is, to categorize, specialize, and limit. In Areopagitica and elsewhere, Milton and others seek to reconcile the frustrations and fears spurred by the copious increase in books, discoveries, and knowledge with heartfelt hopes for a collaborative, Baconian project that would join virtually every field of learning for the “good of men and mankind.”1 This chapter seeks to give a coherent account of some of the features of curricular changes in seventeenth century England and Milton’s role in them. The small but important modifications that we find in his texts reflect the historical moment in which humanism was converting through scientific revolution into modernity. Scientific subjects greatly increased in prestige during Milton’s lifetime. By 1690, John Locke could recommend omitting Latin as a curricular component.2 Of course, few of Locke’s contemporaries would go that far. Indeed, for most of the century, even progressive reformists rallied around the timeworn curricular subjects. Nonetheless, Locke’s recommendation strongly indicates the subordination of the trivium to the quadrivium that occurred during Milton’s lifetime.3 As can be expected, early modern English scientists placed more emphasis on the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music than humanists had. But they did not champion scientific specialization for academic training. They embraced the trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic and the three philosophies of metaphysics, natural philosophy, and moral philosophy along with the quadrivium. Moreover, contrary to recommending reducing curricular subjects in order to dedicate more time and energy to mathematical and scientific subjects, many sought to legitimize additional subjects formerly studied through private instruction or travel abroad, and to subsume subjects like engineering into familiar disciplines. With the belief that universal knowledge was needed for responsible specialized study, progressive

Standard Academic Subjects


intellectuals of seventeenth century England demanded deep- and broad-based curricular training, still ready to say with Francis Bacon, “I have taken all knowledge to be my province.”4 In 1663, famed astronomer John Hevelius, who at the time was also senator of Danzig and temporary magistrate, wrote in support of the newly created Royal Society of London, “I have never desired anything more than that the arts and science should be cultivated and advance from day to day. And so I heartily rejoice, and think it splendid for literature, that nowadays kings and princes take an interest in literary matters.”5 He praises the “King of England, a prince worthy of every high praise” for assembling those who directly investigate nature and those who can imagine and express how the results of those investigations can be brought to bear on the polity of which the king of England and the senator of Danzig were so keenly aware.6 While Hevelius did not publish a grammar book, as Milton did not publish a botanical textbook, he commended the advancement of every branch of knowledge, not just those with which he was primarily concerned. The most important differences in the inclusive study of early modern science from the antecedent holistic one of the Renaissance were its emphasis on the authority of and applicability to nature, and on controlled observation, including those made with emerging technologies. As Marie Boas Hall comments of Isaac Barrow’s translation of Euclid’s Elements, Barrow and others “saw nothing ‘unscientific’ about an interest or competence in essentially linguistic matters, and in editing Greek scientific texts they saw themselves aiding both science and humanism.”7 Such was the interpretation of one of Barrow’s earliest biographers. John Tillotson describes Barrow’s hope of finding answers to long-standing questions specifically in scientific studies: “While he read Scaliger on Eusibius he perceived the dependence of Chronology on Astronomy, which put him on the study of Ptolomy’s Almagest, and finding that Book and all Astronomy to depend on Geometry, he applied himself to Euclide’s Elements, not satisfied till he had laid firm foundations.”8 Barrow’s translation of Elements sought to confirm the


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

physical facts that formed the basis of Joseph Justus Scaliger’s (1540–1609) attempt to topple the dogmatic separation of sacred and secular history. J. R. Ravetz describes the emerging belief that humans “could solve problems of ethics and even theology by” discovering “truth through the study of the natural world” as “perhaps the strongest novelty” of modern science.9 Of course, English literary authors also viewed all human arts and sciences as the matter of their purview. With great confidence in English poets, George Puttenham prescribes, in The Arte of English Poesie (1589), “the subject or matter of Poesie” to be the laud honour and glory of the immortall gods . . . the worthy gests of noble Princes: the memoriall and registry of all great fortunes, the praise of vertue and reproofe of vice, the instruction of morall doctrines, the revealing of sciences naturall and other profitable Arts, the redresse of boistrous and sturdie courages by perswasion, the consolation and repose of temperate myndes, finally the common solace of mankind in all his travails and cares of this transitorie life.10

Like Puttenham, Milton determines that the good poet must learn about then convey both human acts and human interactions with nature. In Ad Patrem, he celebrates poems that “sang of the achievements of heroes worthy of emulation, and sang of chaos and the broad foundations of the world, and of gods who crawled about eating acorns, and the lightning-bolt not yet extracted from its cave underneath Mount Aetna” (44–49). The epics to which he refers include Virgil’s, Homer’s, Manilius’s and Lucretius’s with their varying emphases on human, metaphysical, and natural elements. Literary critics have noted that Milton and other seventeenth century poets also placed increased emphasis on the quadrivium. Samuel Johnson comments about Of Education that, “The purpose of Milton, as it seems, was to teach something more solid than the common literature of schools, by reading those authors that treat of physical subjects; such as the Georgic, and astronomical treatises of the ancients.”11 William Melczer notes Milton’s tendency

Standard Academic Subjects


toward “more solid” things not just in the expansion of scientific subjects but also in his instrumental approach to the trivium: “Milton seems at this point to evidence a distinct Baconian naturalistic bent: more of a utilitarian approach than we are usually willing to acknowledge.”12 Both Johnson and Melczer couch their assessments with “seems.” Commentators of Milton’s Of Education sense such a shift, so easy to discern yet so difficult to describe, from the Renaissance’s relatively synonymous “seven liberal arts” and “seven liberal sciences” to a divided curriculum, in which even the artistic categories bear a scientific stamp. We can also look to Milton’s poetry for a similar shift. In Ad Patrem, Milton recommends Greek, Latin, French, and Italian for interacting in human society and in the natural world: “to learn whatever is in the sky, on earth, beneath the sky, whatever is covered by water and the turbulent marbled sea. Parting the clouds, naked science comes to be seen” (86–90). Editor Roy Flannagan provides this important definition of Milton’s original “scientia nube,” translated as “naked science”: “something like ‘Knowledge’ or ‘Universal Knowledge.’ The Latin word could signify ‘experience’ or ‘knowledge.’ The picture of an erotic relationship with a naked goddess probably demonstrates Milton’s passion for learning in general” (RM 227 n. 15). The note makes explicit what is gorgeously implicit: that Milton’s anticipated poetry addresses both human and natural elements. I detail the poetic culmination of such a unified approach and intense appreciation in the last chapter of part 2, “The Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost.” However, before we turn to what Marjorie Hope Nicolson claims as “the first modern cosmic poem,” Paradise Lost, we first turn to one of the largest bases of that poetic synthesis that shaped and paralleled the development of natural philosophy to science, and of sixteenth century lyric poetry to early seventeenth century metaphysical poetry: the educational curriculum.13


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

The Standard Curriculum and Its Discontents Academic subjects were firmly established through state mandate and academic practice. While the interpretations of what those subjects meant in practice are quite diverse, their consistency and persistence as categories are quite remarkable. The formidable lower-division trivium, the upper-division quadrivium, and the three philosophies had established themselves in England in the medieval period and were subsequently ratified by Henry VIII, reaffirmed by Queen Elizabeth I, and revitalized in Milton’s time. Lisa Jardine describes a version of the humanist course preceding Milton’s era as follows: “By the thirteenth century the arts course embraced grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic or logic (the trivium); arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music (the quadrivium); natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysics.”14 Four centuries later, the “Directions for a Student in the University” of Cambridge tutor Richard Holdsworth (1590–1649) and “The Constant Method of Teaching in St. Pauls Schoole London” of St. Paul’s High Master Thomas Gale (1635–1702) detail a similar course: the quadrivium, trivium, and philosophies supplemented by other subtopics that were either elective or compulsory based on the practice of particular tutors or schoolmasters in the petty schools, grammar schools, and colleges. Students could then go on to study theology, law, medicine, or, less commonly, music. The first two were the strongest faculties in medieval and early Renaissance universities. As historian Christopher Hill notes, except for “radical critics,” English intellectuals were committed to the retention of the seven liberal arts or sciences.15 Curricular criticism was usually directed toward curricular methods, not subjects. Barbara Lewalski carefully defines Milton’s complaints about education as follows: “From his university academic exercise (the Prolusions), to his antiprelatical tracts of 1641–42, to his demand for a disestablished church in 1659, he denounced the Aristotelian-scholastic university curriculum as a ‘Lernian bog’ of fallacies, apparently finding reformist efforts to expand humanistic and scientific studies in the universities woefully

Standard Academic Subjects


inadequate.”16 Milton sought passion, precision, and expansion. He voiced discontent with the dry treatment of the curriculum and its limitations, not with the subjects themselves. In light of the displeasure voiced by many early modern English educators and students about the deficiencies of the educational system, we must look carefully as to why they sought to maintain the curriculum. The texts, correspondence, and metaphors of English intellectuals concerned with educational reform point to a curriculum that was seen as, at once, comforting refuge and weaponry. The function of curricular compartmentalization to organize vast amounts of related information, and thereby to provide comfort to educated readers in the medieval and early Renaissance period, has been elegantly and thoroughly described elsewhere.17 That curricular function may have become stronger in the seventeenth century because of its information explosion. A stable and whole curriculum provided a sense of orientation to seventeenth century scholars, and orientation was what so many educators sought for themselves and their students. In “Directions for a Student,” Holdsworth depicts the curriculum as comprised of orienting landmarks for students who “linger & loiter like — o wanderers in a mistie wildernes, that know they have some whither to go, but neither know whether nor how far, nor to what purpose.”18 A stable curriculum helped teachers and students to avoid finding themselves in the same “wild woods forlorn,” as did fallen Adam and Eve directly after the Fall (PL 9.910). In A Philosophical Survey of Education, Henry Wotton (1568–1639) cautions that, if the curriculum “should fail us, all our Anchorage were loose, and we should but wander in a wild Sea.” The more radical John Locke uses the metaphor to evince the reluctance on the part of educators to change the curriculum for students because “They are Travellers newly arrived in a strange Country, of which they know nothing.” While conceding that these changes might leave some with a sense of apprehension, Henry Oldenburg argues, “learning does not unsettle the mind, but steadies it.”19 By the end of the seventeenth century, curricular changes were sufficiently


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settled to provide Isaac Newton with a sense of stability in face of the vast expanse of learning and knowledge that faced intellectuals. Reflecting on his life’s work in his maturity, he wrote, “to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”20 For an advancement of knowledge, the curriculum needed to provide more than refuge and solace. For Isaac Barrow and other early modern English scientists who saw themselves fighting the invisible wars of God, curricular subjects represented the magazine of weapons to be wielded for mental well-being, personal salvation, and the fate of the universe at large in the form of the Second Coming. When we recognize and sympathize with the intense “struggles of men and women trying to make their world a better place” during the seventeenth century, as Christopher Hill and other scholars have helped us to do, we can begin to understand the important role that academic subjects played in providing a sense of comfort and strength.21 The large-scale tenacity with which scholars attempted to contain knowledge in established curricular rubrics found many expressions. The changes in two standard educational tools of the period in particular, tabulae and commonplace books, demonstrate how deeply early modern English scientists sought to construct curricular changes as dilation rather than replacement. In a serendipitous marriage of etymology and significance, tabulae refers both to a “flat piece of ground” and to useful visual-written forms students used to clarify distinctions and aid memorization. Educators and students used tabulae regularly as learning tools, as did Milton in his Accedence Commenc’t Grammar (1669). Tables derive much of their strength from the presentation of knowledge as apprehensible or at least manageable. Early modern English scientists adopted traditional tabulae to document their revolutionary findings. John Wilkins’s universal language tables and John Ray’s

Standard Academic Subjects


botanical tables, among others, make clear that they were deeply invested in creating a sense of continuity and clarity for their groundbreaking work in the solid arts (universal language) and solid sciences (botany).22 Significantly, Ray published a compendium of proverbs in table form to show that these linguistic materials could be classified by the same principles used to arrange organisms such as plants, birds, fishes, and fossils.23 Another educational tool, the commonplace book, evinces just how greatly seventeenth century scholars sought to incorporate new discoveries into standard educational topics.24 Commonplace books originated in the Renaissance as a means of selecting, organizing, classifying, and remembering key precepts within the ever increasing range of recovered books. Students usually gathered passages or matters to be especially remembered and to be used when composing arguments, then organized those commonplaces under three general indices: moral, economic, and political. In De Copia (1534), Erasmus Desiderius (d. 1536) prescribed that commonplace books have these standard subheadings, the use of which reinforced categorizations of the studia humanitatis. Students copied passages into their commonplace books under those subheadings with entries individualized to meet scholars’ needs and reflect their unique and extensive readings. In the next century, English theologian and educational reformer John Brinsley (1600–1665) counseled mastery of standardized, printed commonplace books as a more comfortable recourse. Ann Moss depicts Brinsley as “ever stressing the virtues of ‘ease, certainty and delight’ in the successful learning process,” reflecting “a tendency at this period to direct younger students towards the controlled management of resources, rather than the unbridled luxuriance of copious display.”25 Brinsley’s was apparently the more popular approach even among older students, as printed commonplace books became very popular very quickly. Michael Hobart and Zachary Schiffman affirm that the copious humanistic “curriculum was inculcated by means of commonplace notebooks.”26 The transference of the commonplace book, then, for use


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with the scientia rerum is another strong indicator of the use of humanistic elements in the establishment of modern science.27 Milton’s own commonplace book evinces at once the attempt to control knowledge and the futility of that endeavor during a century of unprecedented topical expansions. His commonplace book is divided into the usual subheadings: “Index Ethicus,” “Index Economicus,” and “Index Politicus.” We can readily recognize the limitations of the model by tracing his entries about kings. Milton refers to King Alfred’s cultivation of the English language in three distinct sections “Of the Knowledge of Literature,” “Of Poetry,” and “Laws.” In addition to replicating entries, Milton cross-references sections. In the political index, an entry refers to another section in that index: “Subject. See King. See of Idolatry, and Sedition.” His cross-referencing also traverses indices: in the political index on “Of Military Discipline,” he writes, “How harmful avarice is in war. See Avarice,” which is in the ethical index. Many seventeenth century intellectuals encountered similar limitations with this study tool. Naturalist John Ray modified the traditional subheadings for the sake of clarity. In Observations Topographical, Moral, & Physiological (1673), he maintains the tripartite structure but not the subjects. Others were less daring than Ray. Topic headings in commonplace books and other traditional rubrics persisted even when their usefulness was greatly reduced. For example, seventeenth century university fellows still wrote of the postbaccalaureate topics as “the medieval four: theology, medicine, law, and music,” just as today, for example, we continue to use botanical classification systems that no longer harmonize with scientific principles.28 The first and predominant field of theology was undergoing major transformation, the study of the middle two had been appropriated by the Inns of Court and medical centers like the College of Physicians and Gresham College, the last was practically nonexistent, and the burgeoning professional specializations demanded by the middle classes were ignored. Finally, the anxiety surrounding the viability of standard educational topics is evident in the tendency to name and rename them,

Standard Academic Subjects


order and reorder them, discuss and debate them. Psychologists, sociologists, and historians have repeatedly demonstrated that the number and connotative differences of names that a culture provides for any idea, person, or thing indicate concerns and anxieties about it. Seventeenth century teachers and students betray their deep concern about educational topics by renaming the trivium and quadrivium as categories of structure and expression, as the arts and the sciences, as directive and objective knowledge, or, in combined form, as the seven liberal arts and the seven liberal sciences. These verbal permutations often seem less about definition and more about the anxiety of maintaining a large topical fixity within an increasingly fluctuating course.29 In addition to the emotional and cognitive reasons for maintenance of the curriculum were social ones. Early modern English scientists deployed the artistic curriculum to shelter expanding scientific study. Promoting their enterprise to the larger nonscientific community, they worked rigorously to display their learnedness in nonscientific topics such as theology to counter the popular fear and ridicule that scientific growth provoked. The bogeyman of Galileo’s treatment appears throughout experimentalists’ correspondence. In Amsterdam, Benedicte Spinoza (1632–1677) responded to Boyle’s speculations about the decomposition and composition of niter by asserting that he had “written a whole pamphlet on this subject and also on the improvement of the understanding. I have been engaged in copying it out and improving it. Yet sometimes I set the work aside as I have no definite plan for its publication. I am naturally afraid lest the theologians of our age take offence and attack me.”30 England and the Royal Society were not immune to the persecutions we might associate primarily with the Continent. First Secretary of the Royal Society Henry Oldenburg’s imprisonment in England in the 1660s for the vague charges of “dangerous desseins and practices” only increased the sense of threat against English scientists and their supporters.31 Henry Oldenburg well understood the value of shared knowledge in artistic topics to promote new scientific learning even


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

before his imprisonment. His mastery of all the traditional Renaissance topics is evident in the prodigious volumes of his letters, penned in English, Latin, German, French, Italian, and Dutch. As a spokesperson for his at times beleaguered colleagues, Oldenburg regularly expressed the Royal Society’s official ideology in decidedly nonthreatening and humanistic form: “It aimes at the improvement of all useful Sciences and Arts, not by meer speculations, but by exact and faithful Observations and Experiments.” These inclusive improvements were to be for the “promoting of the knowledge of natural things, and useful Arts by Experiments. To the glory of God, and the good of mankind.”32 As Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers note, “It is not even necessary to ask if the founders of modern science drew any real inspiration from theological arguments. Whether or not they were sincere, the important point is that those arguments made the speculations of modern science socially credible and acceptable, over a period of time varying from country to country.”33 This form of self-presentation succeeded. In England, Thomas Dent — the rector of Stalbridge in Dorset where the Boyle family lived, and later canon of Westminster — described his perception of the unity of Boyle’s theological knowledge, language skills, and scientific work. Denton recalled that Boyle often told me, The main scope & design of his studies lay in reading & understanding the scriptures, which he had in the originalls so perfect that he never failed of repeating the Hebrew & Greek with great readinesse, & suitable to the occasion or subject of discourse[.] I have known him severall mornings (when I had the honour to wait upon him) entertain persons of severall nations viz — french — and spaniards — Germans & English & that in different dialects.34

Dent found ease in Boyle’s newfangled technological science of chemistry — the child of objectionable alchemy, no less — because of the security he felt in the theological and linguistic knowledge he shared with Boyle. Similarly, John Ray earned credibility for his revolutionary botanical and biological findings in part because of his mastery of the standard subjects acquired at Braintree School

Standard Academic Subjects


and Cambridge University. As biographer Charles E. Raven notes, Ray’s mastery of Latin “gave a world-wide currency to his work.”35 Famed natural historian Gilbert White (1720–1793) retrospectively specifies Ray’s mastery of expressive topics as an integral component to Ray’s success in advancing his branch of science. White observes that, “Foreign systematics are . . . much too vague in their specific differences. . . . But our countryman, the excellent Mr Ray, is the only describer who conveys some precise idea in every term or word, maintaining his superiority over his followers and imitators in spite of the advantage of fresh discoveries and modern information.”36 As much as the language arts acted as unifying commonplaces with members outside of the scientific community, they also served as virulent testing grounds for its members. In his complaint to Henry Oldenburg against an unnamed antagonist, physician Robert Wittie (1613–1684) writes, “He answeres not my Arguments save only in denying my Conclusions without regard had to the Premisses only Magisterally asserting what before he had said to which I had made a reply.”37 Wittie derides his foe’s faulty rhetoric and logic. In a letter to Oldenburg, physician Timothy Clarke represents language as a weapon: “men of any age . . . can always draw readily on a great arsenal of words, and who are eager and apt for dispute, assail any who dares to deny the opinions of ancients . . . consequently being well stored with abundance of abstract arguments, declare war, not disdaining unseemly brawls and altercations.”38 As the remainder of his lengthy letter shows, he subscribes to the common assumption that shortcomings in expression indicate general intellectual deficiencies. Early modern scholars in all fields demanded strong language skills as weapons for the promotion of their enterprise and gave little mercy to those who did not master those skills. Images of intellectual weaponry translated into practical social advancement for a few exceptional cases of the gentry and lower classes. It is no surprise that they were required regularly to wield their knowledge to carve a space into socially prescribed arenas of


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power, previously based on landholdings and lineage but increasingly on financial wealth and education. The son of a blacksmith, John Ray was often called to challenge the association of low intellectual abilities to low social class. With measured indignation toward John Aubrey (1626–1697), Ray defends his early schooling while demonstrating some of its benefits in his use of Latin. He writes, “I do not pretend to have been of the first magnitude for wit or docility, yet I think I may without arrogance say that in our paltry country school here at Braintree ego meis me minoribus condiscipulis ingenio pareluxi.” In turn, Ray criticizes another opponent, affirming, “He is so ignorant that he cannot even write Latin without solecisms.”39 While his armory of intellectual weaponry came predominantly from the quadrivial curriculum, Ray used Latin as a measure of intellectual proficiency, much as did Milton — the son of a scrivener, musical composer, and moderate land-owner.40 Milton mockingly asked of royalist supporter Claudius Salmasius, “When was Latin ever spoken like that?” (YP 4:1.310). Milton’s intellectual weaponry was primarily from his artistic curriculum, as when in Areopagitica he cockily remarks, “I abound with other like examples, which to set heer would be superfluous” (YP 2:489). But, he proved himself sufficient in the studium generale. While Ben Jonson charged his contemporary William Shakespeare with “little Latin and less Greek,” it was not until the twentieth century that scholars would level “little science” on Milton. In Of Education, Milton regularly uses the images of commonplaces and weaponry in his support of the retention and value of the whole curriculum in describing the “right path of a vertuous and noble Education” (RM 981). He recommends that, before bedtime, the younger students visit “the easie grounds of Religion” (RM 983). The “next step” would be to study agriculture and cartography, thereby providing students the content that would govern the form of their study. He would see them “entring into the Greek tongue”; “past the principles of Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Geography”; “proceed leisurely” through natural

Standard Academic Subjects


history; and dive into “the grounds of law and legal justice” (RM 982). Milton concludes the section on the curriculum by vividly acknowledging the combative world into which students trained in secure commonplaces will enter: “it is so suppos’d they must proceed by the steddy pace of learning onward, as at convenient times for memories sake to retire back into the middle ward, and sometimes into the release of what they have been taught, untill they have confirm’d and solidly united the whole body of their perfected knowledge, like the last embattelling of a Roman legion” (RM 984). In Milton’s imagery, the traditional linguistic arts are not depicted so much as the open palm of rhetoric or closed fist of logic but rather as a hand grasping a shield or weapon, especially when associated with their educational use. In an epistle to Benedette Buommattei (1581–1647), Milton represents Buommattei as a militaristic instructor and grammar as his weapon of choice. He praises Buommattei for his Della lingua toscana, libri due (1638) because he, “with a learned censorship of ears and a light-armed guard of good Authors, undertakes to overcome and drive out Barbarism, that filthy civil enemy of character which attacks the spirits of men” (YP 1:329). In Areopagitica, Milton represents all topics as weapons, as when he proposes learning a lesson from “Julian the Apostate . . . the sutlest enemy to our faith” who forbade Christians from studying heathen learning of any kind because he would have them “wound us with our own weapons, and with our owne arts and sciences . . . overcome us” (2:508). Significantly, the weapon for social justice is curricular knowledge rather than, for example, Mr. Great-Heart’s sword of righteousness in The Pilgrim’s Progress, part 2. Language studies offered one final service to the emergence of modern science, which moves us closer to an appreciation of the function of language studies to the English Scientific Revolution. The artistic topics of English seventeenth century schools provided intellectuals with the elements to construct what historian of science Jerome Bruner calls the “narrative construal of reality.”41 The story of Isaac Newton’s famous falling apple elucidates the role of


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

narratives in ascribing significance to scientific meaning. William Stukely’s earliest rendition of the story describes an after-dinner tea at which sat, “under the shade of some apple trees, only he and myself. Amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in the contemplative mood.”42 Shortly thereafter, Newton’s niece Catherine Conduit, François Marie Voltaire (1694–1778), Henry Pemberton (1694–1771), and others recounted the story until it became one of the most well-known stories about the founding of modern science. The strength and endurance of the story derive from its ability to make the revolutionary and complex theory of gravity comprehensible. The narrative encompasses at once the discovery of Newton’s gravitational theory and the religious narrative of the paradisal apple from the tree of knowledge.43 The correspondence between the early acquisition of narrative forms and mature scientific systems may be difficult to appreciate today because of the depth to which narratives have become embedded in modern science and learning processes. Jerome Bruner employs one anecdote that elucidates just how deeply JudeoChristian commonplaces of the English Scientific Revolution inhere in even purportedly secular modern science. He describes Niels Bohr’s discovery of the theory of complementarity in physics, which is the principle that you cannot specify both the static position and the velocity of a particle simultaneously and therefore you cannot include both in the same set of equations, an idea analogous to Saint Augustine’s necessary exclusion in morality and ethics. Bruner writes, The general idea had first struck him as a moral dilemma. His son had stolen a trinket from the local notions shop, but some days later, stricken with guilt, he had confessed the theft to his father. As Bohr put it, although he was greatly touched by this moral act of contrition, he was also mindful of his son’s wrongdoing: “But I was struck by the fact that I could not think of my son at the same moment both in the light of love and in the light of justice.” This led him to

Standard Academic Subjects


think that certain states of mind were like the two aspects of one of those trick Gestalt figure-ground pictures where you can see either the duck or the rabbit, the vase or the profiles, but not both at the same time. And then some days later, as if the idea were blossoming, it occurred to him that you could not consider the position of a particle as stationary in a particular position at the same time as moving with a velocity in no particular position at all. The mathematics was easy to fix.44

The sequential and focused narrative is complete with dialogue, character representation of Bohr as the God of mercy and the God of justice, and the imitation of literary and historical models that lead the protagonist through a sinuous path of life experiences. In Bohr’s case, that path led to a scientific discovery that has had a large number of practical implications in physics, computers (multitasking), philosophy, and a variety of other fields. Such homologies are as readily available to contemporary intellectuals as they were to early modern ones. Of course, the careful balance required for both general scholarship and productive specialization is an uneasy one.


Subjects of Change in L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask In the companion poems L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, Milton represents students who are called to activate and improve academic subjects for their maturation and aid. The youthful narrators of the companion poems L’Allegro and Il Penseroso portray the ideal vision in Of Education that educational topics can be “charming” tools to repair the ruins of our first parents and that poetry can moderate individuals’ experiences for such reparation (RM 981). The curricular distinctions that differentiate Renaissance humanism from the English Scientific Revolution, however, are not at the fore of the companion poems. Instead, the narrators evince a delight toward all learning that is as characteristic of Renaissance humanism as it is of the English Scientific Revolution that emerged from it. Yet, significant to the focus of the latter movement is the representation of the arts and sciences as complementary but separate vocations. The presence of the innovative English Scientific Revolution is much stronger in Milton’s innovative A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle. While there are numerous references and internal arguments about academic subjects at large in the work, we will look to Milton’s representation of language studies within the context of progressive educational reform. 131


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Companion Subjects in the Companion Poems From their very opening lines, L’Allegro and Il Penseroso express the comfort and beauty of learning and of moderating passions through curricular divisions. Inviting beloveds to “come” to them in octosyllabic couplets, the youthful and charmingly self-referential narrators of L’Allegro and Il Penseroso announce their literary descent from Christopher Marlowe’s famous seduction poem “Come Live with Me.” L’Allegro invites personified Mirth to “com thou Goddes fair and free, / In Heav’n ycleap’d Ephrosyne / And by men, heart-easing Mirth,” while Il Penseroso prefers the very “Goddes, sage and holy . . . divinest Melancholy” that L’Allegro rejects (L’Allegro 1, 11–13; Il Penseroso 1). He beckons, “come pensive Nun, devout and pure, / Sober stedfast, and demure” (Il Penseroso 31–32). The differences in Milton’s mock seduction poems from the seduction poem genre highlight the educational modality of L’Allegro and Il Penseroso. Marlowe’s and Milton’s poems utilize poetic invitation but with very distinct means and ends. J. Martin Evans notes the “intense presentness . . . created by the poet’s favorite mode of address, the dramatic monologue.”1 While Marlowe’s monologue constructs a presentness of erotic desire and the pleasures of the court — both in the sense of the social sphere of the wealthy narrator and of romantic pursuit — Milton’s poems construct a presentness of intellectual pursuit and its moderated passions. Marlowe’s poem is short, implying the narrator’s passionate impatience for his beloved’s consent. Also, its images are very accessible: valleys, groves, hills, and fields. These settings and others, like the “beds of Roses,” comprise the secluded natural environment in which Marlowe’s narrator offers his beloved gifts that ornament her eminently present body: the woolen “gown,” the “Fair lined slippers” for her feet, the “belt of straw and ivy buds” for her waist (9, 13, 15, 17). He takes nature into his hands to make items for an intimate, erotic relationship. L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, on the other hand, saunter for 152 and 176 lines, respectively, and allude to myths, urbane experiences,

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and books associated with higher learning. Correlatively, the companion poems are much more populated and are set in both natural and artificial settings. Milton’s narrators woo the beloveds for what they will bring as dowries, dowries that significantly are not material or physical. Mirth is instructed not to come empty-handed but instead to bring “Jest and youthful Jollity, / Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles, / Nods, and Becks, and Wreathed Smiles” as well as “sweet Liberty” (27–29, 37). We can extend Herbert Phelan’s account of the persona of the poems as being “disembodied” onto the beloved and her dowried companions.2 Personified Mirth certainly lacks the present sensuality of Marlowe’s beloved. While Milton titillates readers by having the narrator suggestively ask Mirth and her companions to “admit me to of thy crue / To live with her, and live with thee, / In unreproved pleasures free,” he comically envisions quite moderated pleasures: “To hear the Lark begin his flight,” “Som time walking not unseen / By Hedge-row Elms, on Hillocks green,” and “Som time the up-land Hamlets will invite” (38–40, 41, 57–58, 91). Il Penseroso woos the “sage and holy” Melancholy in similar fashion (11). She is to bring “calm Peace, and Quiet, Spare Fast” as well as “The Cherub Contemplation” (46–47, 55). Hardly the company for an exciting tryst. While the narrator cites his attraction to Melancholy’s “holy passion,” he teases her, suggesting that he seeks her only “less Philomel will daign a Song,” and goes so far as to shift his address from Melancholy to Philomel: “Thee Chauntress oft the Woods among, / I woo to hear thy eeven Song” (41, 56, 63–64). What does Il Penseroso ask from the potentially rebuffed beloved? Their nighttime activities would include having “Gorgeous Tragedy / In Scepter’d Pall com sweeping by” or, in the day, walking the university’s “studious Cloysters pale,” or hearing church “Organ” and “Quire” (97–98, 156, 160, 161). The narrators end by specifying that the beloveds, not the narrators, are to give: “These delights, if though canst give, / Mirth with thee, I mean to live” and “These pleasures Melancholy give, / And I with thee will choose to live (L’Allegro, 151–52; Il Penseroso, 176–77).


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Milton’s companion poems actively and playfully refer to yet disengage from erotic relationships, reminding us of experimentalist Robert Boyle’s youthful hope of “Scaping into his Study, out of a Crowde of extraordinarily vaine Company of both Sexes.” The contrast to Marlowe’s poem is again illuminating. Marlowe’s narrator envisions an immediate, secluded companionship, where “we will sit upon the rocks”; Milton’s L’Allegro imagines only his leisurely viewing and, at one point, keeps his eyes off the beloved for ten lines before finally relegating her entirely (“Come Live with Me,” 5–6; emphasis mine): “Streit mine eye hath caught new pleasures / While the Lantskip round it measures” (69–70). His lone eye is so distanced from the beloved that it allows him to imagine when he sees “Towers, and Battlements” that “perhaps som beauty lies” therein (76, 78–79). Il Penseroso goes even further. He imagines no beauty in “som high lonely Towr” but rather himself, alone, viewing the stars through a telescope, “Where I may oft outwatch the Bear, / With thrice great Hermes, or unsphear / The spirit of Plato” (86, 87–89). Furthermore, while Marlowe’s narrator and beloved view others, there is no indication that the sequestered couple will be seen. L’Allegro, on the other hand, indicates that their activities will neither demand nor receive privacy, as they “Som time walking not unseen / By Hedge-row Elms, on Hillocks green” (57–58). The effect of the narrators’ desires from the personified passions, Mirth and Melancholy, produces a sense of what J. Martin Evans calls the “Miltonic moment,” a transition from one stage to another — in this case, the moment from educational preparation to application. The narrators review the academic subjects, mentally organizing and safely applying them to the worlds of memory and futurity, the very same processes that graduating students experience when seeking to apply what they have learned. The sexual undertones indicate the passion and productivity with which they wish to imbue those applied endeavors, which stand in contradistinction to typical medieval and Renaissance characterizations of education. In medieval representations, “Mother

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Grammar” leads young, male students to a firm understanding of the language arts, especially logic, through which they will communicate within the society in which they live. The representation connotes a hierarchical relationship in which students feel deep honor and respect similar to that connoted in the again maternal term for one’s formal institution of learning, alma mater. Milton constructs distinct female personifications. Instead of a maternal figure associated primarily with the language arts to be used primarily within the human world, Milton constructs eroticized figures — potentially productive partners — associated with attitudes that can be applied to all studies in the human and natural worlds. The image of the mother emphasizes the past, while potentially productive partners emphasize the present and future. That small but important modification reflects the historical moment in which humanism was converting through scientific revolution into modernity. Correspondingly, whereas the focus of Mother Grammar is on the organic arts and primarily social interaction, the passions Mirth and Melancholy apply to learning in both the human and natural worlds. Historian of science and education John Gascoigne aids us in comprehending the powerful educational argument of Milton’s modification of Mother Grammar to the passions: “The universities had been founded to preserve and refine society’s store of knowledge, and the idea of ‘research’ — of adding to rather than simply conserving what was known — only slowly took root in the universities.” Greg Zacharias notes such a passionate force for productive rather than simply preservative work in his definition of the “unreproved pleasures free” of L’Allegro (40): “L’Allegro realizes his control over his imagination and, using his disciplined ability to control and release the focus of his mind, forces it from the narrow range of eye to page and projects it past the vines of his window, past the lark on his ledge and allows it to explode out of the cell and run freely in the open air.” Zacharias defines the pleasures of Il Penseroso to be less erotic but no less committed to future interactions with nature: “if feeling excites the pensive man’s sympathetic


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

imagination and enables him to project it into his studies, then the knowledge he gains during his flights of study would help him enter into closer sympathy with nature and study.” The narrators seek Mirth and Melancholy to provide sufficiently emotional, informed, and comfortable ways of mediating the sensory experiences in which they intend to engage, which is precisely the function of education that Milton maintains in Of Education, as we shall explore in the next chapter.3 Both narrators unabashedly and repeatedly filter their world visions through the curriculum in which they have been so obviously instructed. They seize on imagined scenes of recognizable sites for their curricular forays. Significant to the reality of the curricular bifurcation of the arts and sciences, L’Allegro primarily calls upon the arts and Il Penseroso primarily the sciences. Greg Zacharias notes in passing the key feature of L’Allegro’s artistic imagination at lines 81–88, when he “places inside the picaresque cottage the typical pair from pastoral literature, Corydon and Thyrsis.”4 Through his learned pastoralism, L’Allegro imagines a typical cottage within an English landscape filled with characters derived from classical and European literature, rather than a rural setting of bad odors, weather concerns, and all those other elements that preoccupy laborers and tradesmen. Moreover, his pastoralism focuses eminently on the ways in which imaginative fictions address human fears and concerns about the imperfect world in which they live. He imagines that, rather than resting “On a Sunshine Holyday,” the populace of “The up-land Hamlets” will tell stories of the lurking dangers of “Faery Mab,” “Friars Lanthorn,” “Goblin,” and “Lubber Fend” (102, 104, 105, 110). As with his view of the tower, the cottage, and the hamlet, he fills and filters the court through poetry, with “a mask,” other “such sights as youthfull Poets dream,” and the plays of Jonson and Shakespeare (127, 128). All these desired gifts that Mirth will provide contribute to the poem’s final vision of the narrator’s anticipated great mature poetry, so great that it will make “Orpheus self . . . heave his head” (145). The narrator makes a commonplace but still challenging gesture

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toward overgoing this resting, outdated figure of unified poetry and natural philosophy. The narrator seeks to sing new songs, such that “would have won the ear / Of Pluto, to have quite set free / His half regain’d Eurydice” (148–50). This pithy allusion is highly ambivalent about the content of the narrator’s imagined poetry, since the story was interpreted to have philosophical, moral, allegorical, social, and historical meaning, most popularly expressed in George Sandys’s commentary in Ovids Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz’d, and Represented in Figures. L’Allegro thereby validates the expansive purview of poetry to include all disciplinary content. Alone, then, L’Allegro registers the humanistic tradition rather than progressive curricular reform. But L’Allegro is, should be, and has been read in conjunction with its companion poem, Il Penseroso. It is through reading L’Allegro along with and prior to Il Penseroso that we dialectically find the curriculum interacting in the same way it was interacting historically during the early years of the English Scientific Revolution. Like L’Allegro, Il Penseroso includes direct and extended tributes to poetry. However, the longer Il Penseroso adds significantly placed passages that extol natural studies. Il Penseroso says that he too would gladly view traveling theatrical dramas. He pleads, “But, O sad Virgin, that thy power / Might raise Musaeus from his bower, / Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing,” and he outlines some of the stories that “great Bards” tell (96–101, 102–03, 115). There is no implication that Il Penseroso desires to compete with these literary greats. Before and after these most prominent tributes to poetry are two extended passages that reflect Il Penseroso’s decidedly quadrivial bent. When he envisions the sequestered tower, he does not, like L’Allegro, subsume it into literary pastoralism but rather pictures it as a site for the study of nature, where he may “out-watch the Bear,” With thrice great Hermes, or unsphear The spirit of Plato to unfold What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold The immortal mind that hath forsook


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution Her mansion in this fleshly nook: And of those Dæmons that are found In fire, air, flood, or under ground.

(85, 87–94)

These physical observations and the contemplation of the philosophies he has learned in his youth would form the basis for the advanced astronomy and botany of his “weary age” (167). While L’Allegro concludes with a vision of the great poetry that all the described processes of experience and intellectualization will produce, Il Penseroso concludes with a vision of some form of natural study and writing. Both poems speak to and from youthful yearnings for future rather than past or present practice and fulfillment; yet while the first ends with the holistic poetry, the latter concludes with astronomical study. Reflective of the unified advancement of learning, however, the companion poems stress the complementary rather than antagonistic nature of the bifurcating arts and sciences. Both poems integrate sensual experience and contemplation. Zacharias’s comments that the cycle of both poems appreciates the artistic and scientific emphases as different aspects of the same project: “Milton demonstrates throughout his works the important circular relation and charm of mutual dependence of nature to feelings to imagination to contemplation of ideas (ideals) to morality and full humanness to art to God and back to nature.”5 These and other simultaneously complementary and distinct aspects have given rise to questions about the nature of the poems’ relationship to each other: are they insufficiently defined, sharply contrasted, or dialectic? Not surprisingly, these are the same questions about the relationship between the arts and sciences. Casey Finch and Peter Bowen’s answers regarding the relationship between L’Allegro and Il Penseroso echo those that literary critics and historians of science have given for the relationship between the arts and sciences: “At every level, the poems refuse a sentimental representation of perfect union, and attempt instead to establish between themselves a dynamic relation that can never be closed. . . . Together, then, the poems can be read as Milton’s attempt as he

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begins his poetic career to express experience, from the sensuousness our first parents enjoyed in Eden to the arduous task of trying to recover that undivided Paradise which he, and we, take up daily.”6 That is, the poems represent the very educational goals that Milton defines in Of Education. They enact the curricular function of poetry to train “writers and composers in every excellent matter” (RM 984). Milton depicts both the knowledge and the emotional drive that prepare and motivate students to use their curriculum to shape a world that they would not want simply to endure but one in which they would “mean” and “choose to live” (L’Allegro, 152; Il Penseroso, 176). These deceptively simple poems mirror the complex relationship of individuals and their educations, and of the arts and sciences in a still unified advancement of learning. The poems also evince the manner in which a recognizable curriculum could be integrated into the early modern worldview that characterized the English Scientific Revolution. Indeed, they are express, poetic syntheses of some of Milton’s most impassioned, though less charming, college exercises, his Prolusions.7 Georgia Christopher writes, “the mental moves and acts of perception . . . [of] Milton’s companion poems present a strong and unified subject, which we can locate at the midpoint in the evolution of the modern subject.”8 The unified modern subject was a response in part to the disintegration of a holistic worldview, expressed in the curriculum by the “seven liberal arts” into the differentiated or specialized worldviews of bifurcated arts and sciences. The companion poems do not only imaginatively transform the imperfect real world into the golden world of words, they also press the poems’ subjects, and by extension their readers, toward useful and productive activity, to re-create the world through artistic and scientific labors. Christopher appropriately limits the modernity of the companion poems. Indeed, we should recognize the narrators’ immobility and lack of presence as reflective of the limitations of their historical moment at the early seventeenth century and of their focus on the early stages of the curriculum. That


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

immobility, however, is less anxious than it is hopeful and open minded.

The Snares of Dialectic, the Bridge of Hypothesis In contrast to L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, where Milton playfully constructs narrators at ease and alone reflecting on academic subjects, in A Mask he situates three lost children in wild woods in which they are called to use their educational weaponry. The genre and occasion of the family piece highlight the social, communicative nature of the advancement of learning. The nature of dramatic performance spoken largely by educated children calls attention to the language studies performed in the piece. In the masque, Milton provides us with two companion scenes of dialectical disputations — the first between the two brothers, the second between the Lady and Comus — that give us a sense of the heated debates in the seventeenth century surrounding the study of dialectics, logic, and scientific hypothesis. A Mask provides different models of logic that allow us to understand the intellectual achievements available to and created by Milton in the first half of the seventeenth century. In Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, Galileo used dialectical disputation for communicating new information and stimulating even further advancements rather than for “handing on or teaching already processed knowledge,” as Milton’s Art of Logic defines as the primary function of logic within education. Milton begins his Art of Logic defining the slippery term: “Logic is the art of reasoning well. And in the same sense it is often called Dialectic” (YP 7:217). Reflective of the common use of educational dialectic, Milton’s textbook is interested in only “the precepts of the arts” and only “when it signifies a teaching (doctrina), about which we are especially concerned here, it is the orderly assemblage of precepts and examples” (YP 7:212). The dialectic method that early modern English scientists adopted is startlingly distinct from the oftentimes

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magisterial glosses on authoritative Aristotelian texts. It is akin to the kind of logic Milton defines as the future application of logic that lies outside of the focus of his educational textbook: “knowledge, when the art, which is a kind of permanent possession (habitus) of the mind, is laid hold of and as it were possessed by means of these precepts” (YP 7:212). Milton refers to a kind of logic that a possessed mind acquires and uses for undefined, imaginative ends. That is precisely the methodological state of the narrators of the companion poems. It is also the state in which Milton and his scientifically minded contemporaries found themselves as they sought glorious, beneficial but relatively undefined aims. In Greek philosophy, “dialectic” signified investigation by dialogue and instruction by question and answer. Because the process of reasoning is more fundamental than its oral expression, the term “dialectic” came to denote primarily the art of internalized inference. Introduced in early modern English grammar schools and used in the first years of university, the practice of dialectical disputation came to emphasize expressive rather than internal ordering. Lisa Jardine notes, “Its mastery became the requirement for academic advancement. At the end of the sixteenth century, Trinity College held that ‘No one shall be admitted as scholar in any college unless he has reached fourteen, nor shall anyone be accepted into any college unless he has been instructed and prepared for the learning of dialectic.’”9 Milton, like many other scholars of his day, railed against the educational practice of dialectic disputations. In Prolusion III: An Attack on the Scholastic Philosophy, Milton expresses intense antipathy toward “petty disputations” and their “dull feeble subject-matter.” Rather than providing guidance, “these empty quibbles” leave students feeling as if they were forcing their “way through rough and rocky wastes, desolate wildernesses, and precipitous mountain gorges” (YP 1:243). He describes the discord that dialectical disputation causes between opponents who should be confederates and the immobility that it produces in its auditors:


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution For these quick-change philosophasters of ours argue back and forth, one bolstering up his thesis on every side, another labouring hard to cause its downfall, while what one would think firmly established by irrefragable arguments is forthwith shattered by an opponent with the greatest ease. Between them all the student hesitates, as at a cross-roads, in doubt whither to turn or what direction to choose, and unable to make any decision. (YP 1:245)

The fixed theses and arguments are an “unseemly battle of words” rather than what Milton calls for in Art of Logic, the proper arrangement of precepts for prescribing “something useful” (YP 1:245, 7:214). In Of Education, Milton’s program of “the most rationall and most profitable way of learning languages” seeks to avoid leaving students amid dialectical “shallows” where they are “on sudden transported under another climat to be tost and turmoild with their unballasted wits in fadomles and unquiet deeps of controversie,” an educational version of the chaotic “Illimitable Ocean” of Paradise Lost, where Satan “swims or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flyes” (YP 2:892; PL 2.891, 950). One critic notes how Milton was “disgusted by the interminable debates which supplied him with the starting-point of his epic but seemed fit occupation only for fiends in hell.”10 Significantly, that assessment of Milton’s response to dialectical disputation occurs in Raven’s biography of naturalist John Ray. Scholars in every field shared frustration over the dialectic disputations practiced in all topics of study in the educational settings of their youth. As adults, they worked to transform the linguistic and methodological tool into a learning process. Michael Lieb demonstrates the difference between traditional humanist dialectic as it operated in educational institutions and the version of dialectic affected by print culture and utilized in Milton’s works. Lieb argues that Areopagitica illustrates that “the need for argumentation, or the active engaging in disputes to ascertain the truth of an issue, lies at the heart of Milton’s pleas for liberty of publication” and, more generally, that “since Truth is by its very nature controversial, man must not remain content with

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received knowledge and accepted maxims.”11 While medieval and humanist dialectic rested on the belief that certainty is either unattainable or trivial, Milton reintegrates Truth as a central goal in his collapsed trivium, as did others in their formulation of scientific hypothesis. The goal of dialectic becomes Truth rather than victory over the opponent. Correlatively, knowledge derives from what Milton called the “four helpers” in Art of Logic: “sense, observation, induction, and experience” (YP 7:213). Milton goes on to clarify: since the precepts of the art [of logic] are general formulations, they can be gathered only from singular instances, and singular instances can be gathered only from sensation. And sensation is useless without observation, which commits to memory the isolated singular instances; observation is useless without induction, which from as many singulars as possible sets up a general rule by an induction; and induction useless without experience, which judges the common agreement and, so to speak, consent of all the singular instances. (YP 7:213)

Milton, like Bacon in his Novum Organon, recuperates the four helpers specified in Aristotle’s Organon that had been lost in Aristotelian controversy. That reclamation leads us to the parallel transformation in the language art of logic and the practice of early modern science. Logic and hypothesis were in a great state of flux in early modern England. In the language arts, hypothesis was the discrete proposition or principle stated as a basis for reasoning or argument without any necessary reference to its correspondence with fact. In logic, it was defined more specifically as the supposition that formed the antecedent (protasis) of a conjunctive or conditional proposition, as in the simple logical sequence “If A is B, C is D.” In science, hypothesis refers to “a provisional supposition from which to draw conclusions that shall be in accordance with known facts, and which serves as a starting-point for further investigation by which it may be proved or disproved and the true theory arrived


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

at” (OED 3). Isaac Barrow used hypothesis logically in his translation of Euclid’s Elements. He asserted of a geometrical proposition “Which being supposed, the outward angle AEF will be greater than the inward angle DFE, to which it was equal by Hypothesis.”12 Hypothesis used here simply minimizes steps in which agreement by the audience is assumed. In Optical Lectures, Barrow offers a hypothesis of what would later become known as Newton’s Third Law (every action has an equal and opposite reaction): This hypothesis is confirmed by experiment; and also agrees with reason. . . . Indeed, if it is true that everything that is affected or struck reacts with positive force against what offers force to it, it seems clear that the resistance is directed towards where the force came from; and consequently its effect absolutely speaking, is detected on there. This seems to me so true that I should not hesitate to extend this hypothesis to impacts of any kind from any direction.13

Here, scientific hypothesis is authenticated not by the disputants’ oratorical skills or audience assent but by the success or failure of the test. Scientific hypothesis is a fungible prediction upon which experiment is predicated. If the scientific hypothesis is contradicted by experimentation, scientists can eliminate at least one direction in the ongoing path of discovery of whatever discrete truth is being sought. If the scientific hypothesis is supported, then scientists can continue along that trajectory of discovery. In either case, the ultimate outcome is a victory for the advancement of knowledge not for the hubris-laden interlocutor.14 The relocation of authority in relation to hypothesis had many extensions in the advancement of learning. Rather than two relatively equal human opponents, the natural world assumed a position, as Henry Oldenburg articulates in a letter to first Governor of Connecticut John Winthrop (1606–1676): “you, who know so well the uselessness of ye notional and disputacious School philosophy, will make it a good part of yr business, to recommend this reall Experimental way of acquiring knowledge, by conversing with, and searching into the works of God themselves.”15 Even the human

L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask


agents in such “conversing” are distinct. Rather than useless disputations between two academicians, Oldenburg represents useful conversation between open-minded men of action — like Winthrop and his New England colonists — and the natural world.

Masking Change These questions of validity and authority are dramatized in A Mask first in the brothers’ disputation. After the first three spectacular and quick-paced scenes of A Mask — the festive dance of Comus’s followers, the soliloquy and solo performance of the Lady, and the Lady’s dialogue with Comus — the pace of the drama slows to showcase the young Egerton brothers’ dialectical acumen. After the brothers reach the place where they left their sister, they use a readily identifiable form of dialectical disputation. The implied question: does virtue have power over physical dangers? The masque transforms a traditional proposition — what Milton had called “fooleries forced upon” students — into a provocative, dramatic quandary (YP 1:242). The Elder Brother first establishes that his sister has been instructed in virtue, asserting that “I do not think my sister so to seek, / Or so unprincipl’d in vertues book” (366–67). Caught up in verbal display rather than the dramatic dilemma, he presents a witty play on the dual meanings of virtue as an operative power and personification: “Vertue could see to do what vertue would / By her own radiant light” (373–74). Then, he ends with a fanciful explanation for her absence: “Wisdoms self / Oft seeks to sweet retired Solitude, / Where with her best nurse Contemplation / She plumes her feathers” (375–78). The Second Brother enters the gentlemanly dialectical fray by ceding one principle: “Tis most true / That musing meditation most affects / The Pensive secrecy of desert cell” (386–88). He grants that the cause of her absence is virtuous, that their sister did not leave because of bad motives. But, then, taking up the metaphor of the “bright day” on which the Elder Brother ended his first foray, the Second Brother retorts,


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution You may as well spred out the unsun’d heaps Of Misers treasure by an out-laws den, And tell me it is safe, as bid me hope Danger will wink on Opportunity.


He makes an ornamental analogy between “unsun’d” treasures and another kind of virtue that requires the sun, the Lady’s chastity, “her blossoms” and “her fruit” (396). The Elder Brother cedes part of the Second Brother’s premises, referring specifically to the hypothetical nature of premises: “I do not, brother, / Inferr as if I thought my sisters state / Secure without all doubt, or controversie” (407–09). He then counters by shifting the metaphor from vegetative natural products to a natural agent behind such natural products, the “bright day” to her “hidden strength” to draw out the decisive naming of chastity, on which he can fix his argument (382, 415). Befuddled by his Elder Brother’s disputational acumen, the Second Brother walks directly into the trap of asking the Elder Brother to define terms: “What hidden strength, / Unless the strength of Heav’n, if you mean that?” (416–17). As a good dialectician, the Elder Brother incorporates the Second Brother’s offer of a definition — “I mean that too” — in his definition of “chastity” (418, 421). Then, after offering his own extended attestation to its strengths, he offers to compel his opponent into agreement through “testimony,” which Art of Logic defines as an argument “which argues not by its own nature but by a force derived from some artificial argument” (YP 7:318): “Do ye beleeve me yet, or shall I call / Antiquity from the old Schools of Greece / To testifie the arms of Chastity?” (438–40). Milton ends the dialectical disputation with the brothers’ subsequent long final argument by essentially following Socrates’s well-known argument for the soul’s immortality in Phaedo, which gained prominence in academic dialectical disputations because of Lactantius’s attention to its argument in Divine Institutes.16 Milton explicitly and implicitly looks backward to the Ancients in this scene. Like academic dialectical disputations, the brothers’ does not call for present action. They are not, for example, disputing whether

L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask


it is better to stay where they are or go forth in search of their sister. Part of the humor of the scene is that their disputation delays that urgent search. In this scene, Milton gives a best case scenario of dialectical disputation in which both parties emerge victorious because, relying on correct logical principles, they come to a satisfactory conclusion. The Elder Brother concludes, “So dear to Heav’n is Saintly chastity, / That when a soul is found sincerely so, / A thousand liveried Angels lacky her” (453–55). The Second Brother’s response marks the end of the disputation and Milton’s tongue-in-cheek praise of fruitless, humanistic dialectic: “How charming is divine Philosophy! / Not harsh, and crabbed as dull fools suppose, / But musical as is Apollo’s lute” (476–78). While extolling the divine philosophy that has found its expression in their congenial disputation, the Second Brother candidly acknowledges that the profit to be gained in dialectic is intellectual and intangible. And that is at the very heart of the frustration about dialectical disputation even at its best and most “charming,” its divorce from usefulness and truth. The dialectical disputation provides the brothers with a sense of calm about their sister’s unknown situation and showcases the Egerton boys’ education. But within the drama, it provides no tangible aid to the endangered Lady. Additionally, the validity of the disputation’s outcome is ultimately demonstrated to be false through the brothers’ subsequent actions. They rush “apace” as soon as Thyrsis directs them (657). Ultimately, their actions support the belief, contrary to the resolution they reached through dialectic, that virtue alone will not protect their sister. The drama of human threat calls attention to the urgent need for more than what dialectical disputation can provide. With the brothers, Milton renders traditional dialectical disputation as comedic. In the later disputation between Comus and the Lady in his castle, Milton modifies the dialectical disputation to avoid the traps of academic logic in an imperfect world in which opponents are not kindred and in which the stakes are much higher. The textual history of the temptation scene (660–814) in A Mask from its first performance in 1634 to its publication in 1645


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

in The Poems of Mr. John Milton is significant in terms of the evolution of dialectical disputation, and demonstrates Milton’s ambivalence toward and interest in its practical value. J. Martin Evans summarizes the extant versions of A Mask: “most of the substantive variants that Milton introduced into the masque during the course of its evolution from Trinity 1 to Trinity 4 are located in the temptation scene.” Trinity 1 conforms to the traditional form of a dialectical disputation with answers and rebuttals. In this manuscript, “the argument of the speech” forms “a wide arc, from the initial attempt to reconcile his victim to her predicament to the more theoretical and eloquent defense of unbridled hedonism and then back to the immediate situation with the offer of the cup.” In Trinity 2, the emotive drama of the scene increases, “the first set of revisions (Trinity 2) breaks up this formal pattern of assertion and denial.”17 That is, in the revision, Milton fragments those qualities by which dialectic disputations were identified. One of the most obvious remnants of the dialectical focus is the Lady’s syllogism: I would not taste thy treasonous offer; none But such as are good men can give good things, And that which is not good, is not delicious To a wel-govern’d and wise appetite.


The similarly well-educated Comus calls attention to her schoolgirl syllogism in his response, “O foolishnes of men! that lend their ears / To those budge doctors of the Stoick Furr, / And fetch their precepts from the Cynick Tub” (706–08). The formal dialectical pattern falls by the wayside in A Mask’s 1645 form in exchange for a prototype of a useful version of dialectic disputation, scientific hypothesis. We must be cautious not to overstate, however: it is by no means a formalized modern scientific method. Rather, it is an emerging method that emphasizes human action, and it is one that challenges but does not ultimately override the traditional stage strategy of the deus ex machina to emphasize human agency.

L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask


Milton represents the early shift from dialectical disputation to scientific hypothesis dramatically in the Lady and Comus’s disputation. The Lady enters the disputation with Comus using the usual dialectic methods of rebuttal, definition of terms, and so forth. At first, she refutes the oppositional terms of debate that Comus offers, total abstinence or total sexual excess. As Evans notes, she derives her terms of moderation from the recognizable topoi of “the Aristotelian conception of virtue as a mean between two opposing extremes.”18 Her argument and actions are inconsistent thereafter. For example, she refuses to drink of the cup offered and expounds “the sage / And serious doctrine of Virginity” (786–87), total abstinence, rather than temperate chastity. Poetry, like early scientific hypothesis, offers Milton an alternative which dialectic does not: the ability to change your mind, to use whatever method works best in any given situation because what is at the fore is correct action rather than methodological correctness or verbal victory. The Lady’s “doctrine of Virginity” makes very limited recourse to the set arguments of dialectical disputations, the kinds which Milton details in Art of Logic. Unlike the textbook, the dramatic genre allows for the messy components in the advancement of learning. Finally, the Lady’s conclusions and actions, that is her refusal to drink from Comus’s cup, are correct and identical, unlike the disparity between the brothers’. The Lady’s final argument for and enactment of chastity double as an argument for a new hypothetical method. The Lady responds to Comus’s first offer to drink from “this cordial Julep” using an only slightly modified version of the basic syllogistic form of “A is B, C is A, therefore C is B” (672). She identifies the parts of his argument — “false rules pranckt in reasons garb” (759) — in order to dismiss them. She begins to divest herself of the garb of dialectic disputation as she assumes the self-evident “Sun-clad power of Chastity” (782). Her “Sun-clad” takes up her brother’s earlier reference to “bright day” and “Apollo’s lute,” and highlights her different use, her possession of the habitus that Milton had defined in Art of Logic. She observes that Comus, at once master dialectician


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

and master rhetorician, has limited power because he disputes with only outdated “deer Wit, and gay Rhetorick,” which produce no direct, tangible effects (790). Her speech culminates in a vision of “the uncontrouled worth / Of this pure cause” to effect material and immaterial change: the toppling of Comus’s castle (793–94). The young and physically defenseless Lady envisions expressing the power of truth so that it would effect a momentous physical change. That envisioned aim emphasizes the practical nature of the entire disputation: this is not a schoolboy academic test but a lady’s dramatized struggle.19 The deliberate value of disputation is as a step toward action even though, in this midcentury masque, such an extreme experiment is forestalled. This disputation dramatizes Milton’s redefinition of rhetoric as an extension of logic, correspondent with reason. The Lady demonstrates her knowledge of the trivium and of the beginning moves toward the highest level of study that Milton prescribes in Of Education in using those lower disciplines in the service of “that act of reason which in Ethics is call’d Proairesis: that they may with some judgement contemplat upon morall good and evill” (RM 983). But, in the masque Milton truncates that dramatic experiment. Comus only begins to attempt to argue his way past the “cold shuddring dew” in which the Lady’s argument has left him when the brothers rush in and Comus escapes (802). The action, therefore, does not fully represent the extent to which proairesis can operate as a learning tool or as a precursor of action. Moreover, the power of Comus’s dialectic or the Lady’s scientific hypothesis is never represented as useful for constructive action. Both seek destruction, either of the Lady’s virtue or Comus’s castle. The urgency of the Lady and Comus’s disputation in this natural world nonetheless dramatizes the developments and urgency of dialectical disputation for practical use. The truncation and destructive ends of the serious dialectical disputation of the 1630s masque manifest the intellectual and physical dangers that faced many early modern intellectuals as they looked for reliable methods to advance learning. While a whole

L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask


league of metaphysical poets used dialectical syllogisms playfully in their ubiquitous carpe diem poems, earnest intellectuals adopted syllogisms in order to reason about human problems for the purpose of treating medical conditions, increasing food production, navigating treacherous seas, and, in Milton’s case, producing a very unique masque. In L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask, Milton poetically engages with carpe diem poems and dialectic disputations to forge new aims and processes. He does not, however, represent either humanistic processes or scientific hypothesis as singularly useful methods with the power to effect positive action.


Subjects for Change in Of Education Milton’s most effective curricular arguments reside in his poetry, but his most precise description resides in his educational prose tract Of Education. Milton penned Of Education roughly 12 years after leaving Cambridge and while he was in his short tenure as private teacher (1640–1646) in what his pupil and nephew Edward Phillips lovingly called a “House of Muses.” While Milton’s educational recommendations in Of Education are reflective of his relatively consistent educational aims, they do not reflect Milton’s practice. At no time did Milton’s homeschool house the 150 faculty and students recommended in Of Education. Estimates of the maximum number of students Edward Phillips referred to when he commented, “the accession of scholars was not great,” are from two to eight; and Milton quickly disbanded the school when his father died, leaving him a sufficient inheritance for his living. Indeed, Phillips distinguishes Milton’s homeschool from the “Academical Institution, according to the Model laid down in his Sheet of Education.” He writes, “the Progress” of realizing the model “was afterward diverted by a Series of Alterations in the Affairs of the State.”1 Of Education should be recognized for what it is, a description not of Milton’s own homeschool practices or of a universal and enduring curriculum but rather an outline for a national 153


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

school system, of which “this nation hath extreame need” and “for the want whereof this nation perishes” (RM 980). The tract describes an educational program designed for a select group of students — those who will be the country’s leaders — for specific historical moments. The tract was first published in the middle of England’s civil wars (1642–1648) and at a time when the English Scientific Revolution had not advanced learning to the degree that would eventually move specialization into the educational domain. It was part of a spate of Milton’s works dealing with ecclesiastical and political issues debated nationally: The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644), The Judgment of Martin Bucer (1644), Areopagitica (1644), Tetrachordon (1645), and Colasterion (1645). Milton republished the tract and gave it the pride of place as the last text in his 1673 Poems, &c, Upon Several Occasions. At that time, the Royal Society had completed its first decade and many of its founders, most notably Robert Boyle, and its newer members, including Isaac Newton, were reevaluating the position of theology in relation to their scientific work. Milton’s other prose publications of that period are essentially educational textbooks: Accedence Commenc’t Grammar (1669), History of Britain (1670), A Fuller Course in the Art of Logic (1672), Of True Religion (1673), and A Brief History of Moscovia (1682).2 In both printings, Milton’s tract stands as a would-be guide to simultaneously advancing and coordinating the arts and sciences, seeking harmony rather than discord in difference, whether political, intellectual, or otherwise. The stable rubrics of academic subjects cannot reflect the enormous variety in early modern English schools. As biographer Charles Raven notes, Isaac Barrow’s 1654 oration, a panegyric to his Cambridge education, indicates that, “a wider range of subjects than is usually recognized was being studied. Latin was of course the language of all educated men. . . . Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish . . . Mathematics with Geometry and Algebra, Optics and Mechanics; Natural Philosophy with Anatomy and Botany; Chemistry; Moral Philosophy; these are hardly less in evidence.”3 Giving us some indication of the texts used for such

Subjects for Change in Of Education


an array of subjects in Some Account of the Life of Dr. Isaac Barrow, Abraham Hill characterizes Barrow as a typical scholar of Cambridge in the mid-seventeenth century, busily applying “himself to the reading and considering the Writings of the Lord Verulam, Monsieur Des Cartes, Galileo and the other great Wits of the last Age.”4 As John Gascoigne notes, even at the end of the century, “Though history was not formally a part of the curriculum Newton was prescribed a few historical works. . . . [Some of those works] are prescribed by Mede and . . . by Blithe who also recommended a long list of historical works indicating that it was a subject with a recognised place in the undergraduate curriculum even though it was not required by the statutes of the university.”5 The very flexibility with texts and methods used to teach the set academic subjects was frustrating for many teachers seeking stability and direction. Elisabeth Leedham-Green clarifies the disjunction between curricular descriptions and practice with one very vocal expression of curricular discontent: John Hall, disappointed of advancement at St John’s, published in 1649 his Humble motion to Parliament concerning the advancement of learning and reformation of the universities, comparing them unfavourably with their continental counterparts and deploring, among other things, the absence of provision for teaching chemistry, anatomy, botany, mathematics and history. . . . As with the edicts of the previous century, many of these critics, knowingly or unknowingly, were to some extent calling for a statutory recognition of changes already in effect.6

Leedham-Green reads Hall’s emotionally charged call for curricular change as a sign of the existent changes in curricular practices. Her observations also presuppose the persistence of the standard rubrics of the curriculum. Milton added his voice to the calls for change with Of Education. Evidently, he was heard. A few years prior to publishing his forward call for educational reformation, John Hall unsuccessfully sought introduction through Samuel Hartlib to Milton, whom he designated as “the author of that excellent discourse of Education


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

you were pleased to impart.”7 Hall’s and Milton’s tactics for educational reformation are as divergent as their religio-political stances, if we can judge from Hall’s Answer to a Book Entituled, An Humble Remonstrance (1641) and Milton’s Defence of the Humble Remonstrance, against the Frivolous and false Exceptions of Smectymnuus (1641).8 In Of Education, Milton is more circumspect than Hall, so circumspect, in fact, that his participation in the advancement of learning has not yet been fully realized. A pithy example: Milton radically modifies the quadrivium when he lists “Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Geography.” The substitution of the mundane “Geography” for the nearly divine “music” as the last element of the quadrivium is as shocking as his oft-mentioned substitution in A Mask of the last element, “charity,” in his revision of the Christian triad of 1 Corinthians 13 to “Faith . . . Hope . . . [and] Chastity” (RM 983; Mask 213, 215). The subtlety of Milton’s tract has thwarted his efforts to provide the “goodly prospect” of the curriculum he proposes for a “charming” acquisition of the arsenal of knowledge (RM 981).9 Table 1 offers such a prospect of the meaningful curriculum in Of Education. In the table, I have added headings, numberings, and numerical and alphabetical notations that define the subjects’ chronological placement. So, for example, all items listed “IA” would be taught simultaneously. My division of the curriculum into separate levels responds to such sequential indicators as “First,” “and while doing this,” “Next,” “and having thus past,” “now lastly will be the time,” “By this time,” and “subsequent.” The materials listed under “Their Exercise” in Of Education are listed at the end of the table rather than incorporated into the divisions of the levels to reflect Milton’s own listing at the end of the tract. As the table makes clear, unity of the arts and sciences is reflected both diurnally and programmatically. Milton’s tract does not, for example, divide the day, dedicating half the day for the artistic topics and half the day for scientific topics. The exceptions are specific times for theology, exercise, and music. The table thus corroborates biographer Mordechai Feingold’s assessment of Isaac

Table 1. Table of academic subjects in Of Education Categories of Study First level Language IAi “some good [Latin] Grammar”


Recommended Text

“either that now being us’d or any better . . . some easy and delightful book of Education . . . Greeks . . . Cebes, Plutarch, and other Socratic discources . . . Quintilian, and some select pieces elsewhere”

“their speech”

Mathematics IAi “rules of Arithmetick” IB “elements of Geometry” Theology IAi “easie grounds of Religion, and the story of Scripture”

Second level Language IIAi Latin “language” IIBi IIBii


“ordinary [Latin] prose” reading

“Greek tongue . . . Grammar” Greek reading

[Bible,] “lectures and explanations”

“the Authors of Agriculture, Cato, Varro, and Columella”

geography and cartography: “any modern Author, the use of the Globes, and all the maps first with the old names; and then with the new . . . or . . . any compendious method of naturall Philosophy”

“the Historicall Physiology of Aristotle and Theophrastus . . . Vitruvius, to Senecas naturall

Table 1. (cont.) Categories of Study


Greek listening


“Poets . . . hard”

Recommended Text questions, to Mela, Celsus, Pliny, or Solinus” “read to them some not tedious writer the institution of Physick” In Greek, “Orpheus, Hesiod, Theocritus, Aratus, Nicander, Oppian, Dionysius, and in Latin Lucretius, Manilius, and the rurall part of Virgil”

Mathematics and natural philosophy IIC Latin and Greek “the Historicall Physiology of “principles of ArithAristotle and Theophrastus . . . metick, Geometry, Vitruvius, to Senecas naturall Astronomy, and questions, to Mela, Celsus, Pliny, Geography with a or Solinus general compact of Physicks” IID “instrumentall science of Trigonometry” IID “naturall Philosophy” “Physick . . . helpfull experiences of Hunters, fowlers, IIE “Fortification, ArchiFishermen, Shepherds, Gardeners, tecture, Enginry, Apothecaries . . . Architects, or navigation” Engineers, Mariners, Anatomists”

Third level Language IIIA “Italian tongue” IIIB drama


“Hebrew Tongue” “Chaldey, and the Syrian Dialect”

“some choice comedies, Greek, Latin, or Italian: Those tragedies also that treat of houshold matters, as Trachiniae, Alcestis and the like” “Scriptures . . . in their own original”

Table 1. (cont.) Categories of Study IIIE

Reading and speech, Greek & Roman


“Logic” “Rhetorick”




Writing and composing

Recommended Text “choise Histories, heroic poems, and Attic tragedies of statliest and regal argument, with all the famous Political orations offer themselves . . . Demosthenes or Cicero, Euripides, or Sophocles” “heads and Topics” “the rule of Plato, Aristotle, Phalerus, Cicero, Hermogenes, Longinus” “Aristotles poetics, in Horace, and the Italian Commentaries of Castelvetro, Tasso, Mazzoni, and others”

Fourth level “Reason . . . [and] vertue” IVA “Ethics . . . Proairesis” “morall works of Plato, Xenophon, Cicero, Plutarch, Laertius, and those Locrian remnants . . . determinat sentence of David or Solomon, or the Evangels and Apostolic Scriptures” IVB “Economics” “the study of Politics” IVCi “grounds of law, and “Moses . . . Grecian Law-givers, legal justice” Licurgus, Solon, Zaleucus, Charondas, and thence to all the Romane Edicts and Tables with their Justinian; and so down to the Saxon and common laws of England, and the Statutes” IVCii “Church History ancient and modern”


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Table 1. (cont.) Categories of Study First to post-graduate levels: “Their Exercise” Physical exercise IAi “exact use of their weapon” IAii English “locks and gripes of wrastling” II–IVC Roman “military motions”


Field study


Music I–IV

“musick heard, or learnt”

Recommended Text

“first on foot . . . marching, encamping, fortifying, besieging and battering, with all the helps of ancient and modern stratagems, Tactiks and warlike maxims . . . on horseback, to all the art of cavalry” “ride out in companies . . . to all quarters of the land . . . Sometimes taking seas as farre as to our Navy” “other countries . . . to enlarge experience, and make wise observation”

“Organist . . . in lofty fugues, or the whole Symphony . . . some choise composer; some times the Lute, or soft organ stop waiting on elegant voices either Religious, martial, or civil ditties”

Barrow’s educational experience at Cambridge in the 1640s: “Most important was the gradual disappearance of the medieval division of the disciplines between the B.A. and M.A. curriculum. By the turn of the seventeenth century, the entire arts and sciences curriculum had collapsed into the four years of undergraduate study, thereby transforming the M.A. sequel into a course of independent study aimed at expanding and elaborating the foundations of knowledge previously acquired.”10

Subjects for Change in Of Education


The table helps us organize the elements of the conversion of the recognizable holistic Renaissance education into an Enlightened one. The humanizing aspect of the curriculum is reflected in Milton’s regular use of personal, professional, and book names. Embedded in Milton’s selection of terms is a profound understanding of all studies as the hard-won and hard-kept labors of ancient and contemporary individuals. Milton’s references to David and Solomon emphasize humans not theories. His use of professional names for guest speakers — “hunters, fowlers” — and “the evangels and apostolic scriptures” directs attention to persons and their actions. Milton takes that humanizing effect one step further by referring to the craftsmen’s “helpful experiences” rather than simply their professional titles. Of course, with Milton, books carry a particularly human value, as he expresses in Areopagitica: “Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them” (YP 2:492). As William Riley Parker notes, the reading list includes “old and modern authors.”11 This is true for all disciplines. For example, the tract proposes that students “learn in any modern Author the use of the Globes, and all the maps first with the old names; and then with the new: or they might be then capable to read any compendious method of naturall Philosophy.” Referring to authors that Edward Phillips mentions in the description of Milton’s homeschool reading list, Parker posits of some of Milton’s “modern” choices, that “we can leave in well-earned oblivion such worthies as Giovanni Villani [1276?–1348], Quintus Calaber [4th century A.D.], and Christianus Urstisius [b. 1544].” Here, Parker tacitly agrees with the “test of time” for reading lists and, I think correctly, surmises that, “If Milton were choosing textbooks for his same curriculum in 1962, it is certain that the names would be very different, though we would probably get some equally ingenious selections.”12 Milton does not go as far as does Locke in recommending specific contemporary scientific authors like Boyle, but he does recommend


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“any modern Author” for cartography and geography. Additionally, he ascribes authority to a larger section of society in recommending the helpful experiences of hunters, fowlers, fishermen, and other guest lecturers for “proceedings in nature.” We are reminded that Bacon promoted such a practice in The Advancement of Learning in words strikingly similar to Milton’s: “Alexander made such a liberal assignation to Aristotle of treasure for the allowance of hunters, fowlers, fishers, and the like, that he might compile an history of nature.”13 Such engagements would broaden students’ understanding about the value of rustic life beyond the equally important but otherwise limited view to be gained by reading only pastoral poems — as with the narrators of L’Allegro and Il Penseroso. The table confirms William Melczer’s characterization of Milton’s curriculum in “Looking Back without Anger” as “less monolithic and more variegated” than the humanistic norm.14 As the table shows, “the Historicall Physiology of Aristotle and Theophrastus . . . Vitruvius, to Senecas naturall questions, to Mela, Celsus, Pliny, or Solinus” are listed in IIC under both the trivium and quadrivium because they contribute specifically to language and “natural philosophy” (RM 982). Such duplication corroborates what Barbara Lewalski notes of the curriculum in Of Education: “Milton’s students conjoin scientific and literary texts.”15 Lewalski’s listing of “scientific” prior to “literary” here and her use of multiple terms for scientia rerum and studia humanitatis elsewhere imply the coordination of studies, which the table makes explicit. Table 1 confirms Melczer’s assessment that, “the increasing confidence in direct observation and the necessary interaction between that observation and some of the mathematical sciences . . . become further accentuated.”16 This pithy statement is key to so many intellectual movements instigated in academia, from firsthand reading of the Bible to firsthand observation of the natural world. In this discussion, however, it would be nearly impossible to treat the arts and sciences of Milton’s curriculum separately, so I will simply highlight some of the most relevant advancements that the arts and sciences make in tandem in Milton’s progressive proposal.

Subjects for Change in Of Education


Melczer’s observation that “the trivium is split, appearing at the beginning and at the end of the series” carries great implications as to the value of grammar.17 Grammar is to be taught early on primarily for content. Milton writes, “Language is but the Instrument convaying to us things usefull to be known,” which is why students would learn the “languages of those people who have at any time been most industrious after wisdom” (RM 980). William Brennan goes further than Melczer and categorizes Milton’s early instrumental and utilitarian teaching of language as specifically aiding scientific growth. He emphasizes the link that Milton’s friend Carlo Dati made between his language studies and “his achievements in natural sciences.” Dati believed that it was only because he so carefully integrated the two that he was able to understand “the true meaning of those marvels of nature by which the greatness of God is portrayed.”18 For Milton’s first and second forms, readings for acquisition of Latin and Greek stressed “sensible things” in the apprehensible, material world. The scientific-tending nature of Milton’s reading list also becomes clear when contrasted to the list for grammar study at St. Paul’s and Cambridge that Harris Fletcher provides.19 There is some express overlap: Aristotle, Demosthenes, Pliny, Quintilian, Theophrastus. But Milton omits some of the standard authors. Homer and Ovid are the most startling examples. This is not to say that Milton discouraged such readings: he is scant in offering specific texts, making assumptions about what is typically read and preferring to leave teachers flexibility to address specific student talents and interests. It is to say that he greatly subordinates those to scientific and technical ones in his public presentation of reading materials for the elite leaders of the country he envisions shaping. Edward Phillips’s account of Milton’s homeschool curriculum of the 1640s evinces a similar appreciation of the sciences in Milton’s practice. Phillips specifies the texts Milton used: Of the Latin, the four Grand Authors, De Re Rustica, Cato, Varro, Columella and Palladius; Cornelius Celsus, and Ancient Physician of the Romans; a great part of Pliny’s Natural History; Vitruvius his


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution Architecture; Frontinus his Strategems; with the two Egregious Poets, Lucretius and Manilius. Of the Greek; Hesiod, a Poet of equal with Homer; Aratus his Phaenomena, and Diosemeia; Dionysius Afer de situ Orbis; Oppian’s Cynegeticks & Halieuticks; Quintus Calaber his Poem of the Trojan War continued from Homer; Apollonius Rhodius his Argonauticks; and in Prose, Plutarch’s Placita Philosophorum and Pepi Paidwv; Geminus’s Astronomy; Xenophon’s Cyri Institutio, and Anabasis; AElian’s Tacticks; and Polyaenus his Warlike Strategems.20

What Tilottama Rajan notes of Milton’s curriculum for his nephews is true of the tract as well: “his focus on language was functional not formal. . . . Thus the boys used Latin to learn arithmetic.”21 Milton’s inclusion of books about the physical world provides sufficient “preparatory grounds,” in contrast to what Milton calls the usual “preposterous exaction” of “forcing the empty wits of children to compose Theams, verses, and Orations . . . not matters to be wrung from poor striplings, like blood out of the nose.” A great amount of time would be spent on grammar during the first levels with the express purpose of providing “the most rationall and most profitable way of learning languages” that would lead to “praxis” rather than “odious” scribblings (RM 981). Why so much attention to grammar, and how does that attention relate to the English Scientific Revolution? In practical terms, grammar was generally understood during the seventeenth century to be the study of a language, its internal structuring, and its inflectional forms. Some of the most virulent political and intellectual agendas were played out in the mere definition of grammar. In The Advancement of Learning, Bacon resituated the art of grammar and called it “the science of Grammar.”22 In The English Grammar (1640), Ben Jonson modified the traditional definitions of grammar that emphasized writing and instead described it as “the true and well speaking a Language” in which “writing is but an Accident.”23 In Accedence Commenc’t Grammar, Milton is only slightly less radical than Jonson. He defines Latin grammar as “the Art of right understanding, speaking or writing Latin” (YP 8:87).

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For Milton, then, grammar included the characteristics most educators attributed to all three topics of the trivium. There is much at stake in these trivial discussions. These writers seek to move grammar within specific arenas to promote their overall ends: Bacon moves his readers toward thinking of language as knowledge rather than as artifice, as something that could expand “the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of things possible”; Jonson toward a refined appreciation for performative language, which he etched out for his profession as a dramatic author; and Milton toward a valid and internal understanding that would lead to a universally informed performance of free will.24 In Milton’s case, conflating all three traditional language categories into the first maintains the value of each while creating a space for other expressive categories not previously included in language studies. In Milton’s hands, rhetoric is no longer the last step of language studies nor is its difference from the other categories emphasized. Instead, we have a new ideological and curricular space for such expressive and experimental verbal categories as poetry — especially important to the emergence of the literary authorship — and universal language studies — especially important to the emergence of science. Furthermore, we have the expressive, and by extension social, characteristic of rhetoric integrated into the primary levels of language studies. Milton similarly positions the second level of language studies, logic or dialectic, within the expressive and social domain. Milton’s characterization of the trivium as fully expressive thereby provides for the values of usefulness, social applicability, and collaboration that were also at the heart of scientific development. The belief that grammatical structures both reflected and maintained social structures undoubtedly lay behind the monarchy’s interest in authorizing a grammar book. In the preface to William Lily’s An Introduction of the Eyght Partes of Speech, and the Construction of the Same, Henry VIII ordered that “this englysshe introduction here ensuing, and the latyne grammar annexed to the same, and none other” were to be used in all English schools.


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Although statutes well through the end of the seventeenth century continued to authorize only Lily’s grammar, Milton’s tract recommends that his students “begin with the chief and necessary rules of some good Grammar, either that being now us’d, or any better” (RM 982). Milton’s suggestion of a possible substitution for Lily’s grammar might be seen as defiance toward the monarchy and conservative humanistic ideologies (YP 8:56). Again, we must be careful: Milton does not reject Lily wholesale but instead appreciates the value of revision. While divergent from Lily’s method, Milton’s own grammar book, Accedence Commenc’t Grammar, utilizes 60 percent of the examples from Lily’s. Milton’s grammar book does not imitate Lily’s grammar in terms of Renaissance idea of imitatio but rather advances it in terms of Baconian ideas of advancement, especially with method.25 Milton risked early political censure for the same reason that such courtiers and authors as Bacon and Jonson dedicated their time and energies to the basic grammar-school subject: he agreed with the monarchy that grammatical structures influenced intellectual structures and subsequent personal action. Milton chastises those who regularly divorce linguistic, material, and spiritual structures: “though a linguist should pride himselfe to have all the Tongues that Babel cleft the world into, yet, if he have not studied the solid things in them as well as the words and lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteem’d a learned man, as any yeoman or tradesman completely wise in his mother dialect only” (RM 980). In referring to the multiplication of languages at the Tower of Babel, Milton registers the last biblical moment of a universal language (Gen. 11:1–9) which so many English writers, including early modern scientists, repeatedly referred to in their discussions of universal language and grammar. For example, Robert Boyle encouraged Samuel Hartlib in his undertaking of a system of universal language and its script, writing, “If the design of the Real Character take effect, it will in good part make amends to mankind for what their pride lost them at the tower of Babel”; and John Wilkins justified the importance of a universal language to the advancement of

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learning, stating that he believed that “the Babelistic multiplicity of languages was a great hindrance to the promotion of arts and sciences, men now wasting much time merely learning words instead of addressing themselves directly to the study of things.”26 Milton does not go as far as these men do. He does, however, endorse the practical approach and context that English intellectuals would fashion in the last decades of the century. Indeed, Milton’s republication of the tract in 1673 follows one of the watershed texts within the period’s development of practical approaches to language, John Wilkins’s Essay Towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language (1668). Table 1 also clarifies Melczer’s second observation, that the quadrivium “is considerably expanded.” Scientific readings are located primarily in the first two levels and greatly reduced in the third level or even omitted, depending on one’s interpretation of the suggested readings. We see, then, that scientific data and methods remain the seed and early stalk of education. Melczer’s third assessment leads us back to the scientific nature of Milton’s trivium: “(3) at the same time, the humanistic, that is to say, the manoriented subjects lose their primacy to applied sciences such as agriculture, geography, natural philosophy, navigation, et cetera, all entailing a practice oriented observation of nature.”27 Milton would have students read Aristotle’s works in their original in order to repair the ruins of an Aristotelianism that was based oftentimes on commentary rather than the reading of primary material. Richard DuRocher disentangles the implications of the Roman authors that complement Greek writers listed in Of Education, explaining how Milton’s poetry captures the change in the dynamics and directionality of such areas of practical studies as agriculture, architecture, and mathematics in Paradise Lost. The integrated results he sees in Milton’s poetry correlate to the practical application of all studies that early modern English scientists promoted.28 Scientific application is the bud and flower of education as much as it is its seed and stock, importantly part of an organic whole. Milton’s replacement of the practical study of physic for medical


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studies and placement in the second level best encapsulates his tract’s alignment with advancing the curriculum toward new scientific learning and knowledge. Milton again emphasizes the shift to more solid things when he explains the practical value of medical knowledge: “the tempers, the humors, the seasons, and how to manage a crudity: which he who can wisely and timely doe, is not onely a great Physician to himselfe, and to his friends, but also may at some time or other, save an Army by this frugall and expenselesse means only, and not let the healthy and stout bodies of young men rot away under him for want of this discipline” (RM 983). Many progressive scientists repeated Milton’s call for the application of physic for and by soldiers. For example, Royal Society members lauded Thomas Sherley (1638–1678), who, after being “released of his military commands . . . resolved to fall to his practice of Physick in good earnest.”29 In their practical approach to knowledge, they found it only logically and emotionally practical that soldiers — men who had viewed bodily maladies firsthand — would be best suited to reach the practical aims of the study of physic. Milton’s inclusion of physic reflects the heightened appreciation for this previously subordinated area of study, an appreciation that John Rogers and Robert Erickson have carefully discussed in relation to Milton’s epic if not his educational tract.30 Regius Professor of Physic Francis Glisson (1597–1677) promoted the relatively new Harvian research tradition in the curriculum at Cambridge and encouraged students to challenge Galenic physiology. His successor, Robert Brady, took for his master’s degree disputation the overtly Harvian proposition that the pulsation of the arteries is caused by the impulsion of blood from the heart. Biographer Michael Hunter notes that, while it was still ridiculed as quackery by many in the Restoration, “Medicine was integral to Robert Boyle’s vision for natural philosophy. He saw medicine as ‘being a Part, or an Application of Natural Philosophy,’ and the amelioration of human life was one of the criteria directing his scientific programme.”31 In 1668, Locke supervised an operation to remove a cyst from Lord

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Ashley’s liver, and, in the same year, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Astonishingly, the operation was successful and Ashley lived another 15 years. Locke’s supervision of the procedure rather than his handling of the patient evinces the still-bifurcated role of medical scholar and physician. Throughout the century, applied medicine, or physic, was still the provenance of less powerful classes, like women. Early modern English scientists slowly and deliberately worked to modify the prevailing practice and ideologies of applied physic. (They still exist, of course.) Milton’s third-level language studies also demand practical, social application. Milton alters the standard metaphor of logic as a contracted hand and rhetoric as an open palm. Of Education states: “Logic therefore so much as is usefull, is to be referr’d to this due place withall her well coucht heads and Topics, untill it be time to open her contracted palm into a gracefull and ornate Rhetorick” (RM 984). Milton personifies logic as a woman who at first holds out a contracted palm but then opens it: rhetoric is an inviting extension of logic. The rational inheres in even the passionate topic of rhetoric. Indeed, Milton changes the usual trivium, generally considered a three-part sequence from grammar to logic then rhetoric, so that it is quadrivial, with rhetoric standing between logic and, Milton’s addition, poetry.32 Like his scientifically minded peers, Milton does not seek to eliminate rhetoric in general but rather to minimize the use of ornamental rhetoric in education and other arenas dedicated to the advancement of knowledge. Stating his preference for simplification and clear explanation rather than ornamentation for education in Animadversions, Milton asserts that the “chief sway in the Art of teaching requires that clearest and plainest expression be set foremost, to the end they may enlighten any following obscurity” (YP 1:709). Again and again, Milton prescribes logical simplicity for fallen students and their teachers. In the preface to Accedence Commenc’t Grammar, rhetoric stands after grammar: “of all the arts the first and most general is logic, next grammar, and finally rhetoric since reason can be used and even used extensively, without speech, but


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

speech cannot be used at all without logic. We give the second place to grammar because speech can be faultless even when it is unadorned but it cannot easily be adorned unless it first be faultless” (YP 8:216). For the advancement of learning, Milton and many scientists renewed attention to logic. Of course, topical confusion plagued that attempt. The distinction in Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics is between oration and written text; in Thomas Wilson’s widely read The Rule of Reason (1567), between plainness and ornamentation.33 By representing logic as an educational tool in A Fuller Course in the Art of Logic, Milton adds yet another dimension to these fluctuating distinctions: not just expressive but also educational and, by extension, social. As a learning topic and within the social environment of education, educational logic exists only when it is communicated to someone else because the teacher will teach logic through written and spoken words. In his comprehensive retrospective, Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500–1700, Wilbur Samuel Howell concludes that by 1700 logic was generally considered to be the “the valid verbalization of reality.”34 Milton’s view of logic conforms to that definition and, as with new scientific studies of language, focuses on validity. Neither Milton nor early modern English scientists discovered a new language or reconstructed old languages so that they could recover and reconstruct Truth. But they did expand the attention and importance placed on logic and effected a shift in the elements of discourse that reshaped the internal and external environments of intellectual discovery. Interestingly enough, Milton’s addition of poetry as an organic art aids us in understanding the transformation of natural philosophy to modern science. William Riggs interprets poetry as a tool or methodological art much like logic.35 He argues convincingly that, for Milton, poetry includes the physical “senses and the passions” in learning because it is “more simple, sensuous and passionate.”36 The “sublime art” of poetry provides something like a sublimated, secondhand experience, akin to Aristotle’s concept of catharsis in tragedy. That experience is not limited to the emotional or spiritual.

Subjects for Change in Of Education


As Milton explains in Of Education, works like “Aristotles poetics” teach students “what Religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of Poetry both in divine and humane things” (RM 984). The similarities between Milton’s overall curricular aims and the Royal Society’s catchphrase, “the glory of God and the benefit of mankind,” are unmistakable. But what exactly are the divine and humane uses of poetry? What kind of knowledge is poetry and why should it be included in the curriculum? For the purposes of understanding the function of poetry as a curricular component, we can synthesize two of John Shawcross’s observations: “Paradise Lost, is an example that works upon one’s passions: it does not serve as an agent, and it is a manifestation of itself, not of some other.”37 Paradise Lost is but one of Milton’s works that qualifies as the “sublime art” of poetry, both a reflection and a form of human experience with nature and with society. Shawcross makes use of the epic poem in his discussion of Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful to elucidate emotional knowledge as manageable and complementary to — and perhaps even part of — intellectual knowledge. Burke engages with human responses to artistic representations of “sensible things” that provide a specific kind of human experience. He remarks of Milton’s portrait of Satan, “like a Tower” and “As when the Sun new ris’n” in Paradise Lost 1.189–99: “Whoever attentively considers this passage of Milton, and indeed all of the best and most affecting descriptions of poetry, will find, that it does not in general produce its end by raising the images of things, but by exciting a passion similar to that which real objects excite by other instruments.”38 Simile, metaphor, and other poetic strategies of the passage Burke selects as examples work in complex ways to produce readily recognizable emotions in readers. This “passion similar” distinguishes the function of poetry as a curricular component. Unlike the unfiltered experiences of nature or human interaction, curricular components are lenses that refine and restrict vision so that materials can be cogently apprehended.


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

We can regard the curriculum in general and poetry in particular as providing related but distinct intellectual and therefore human experiences much like that provided by Galileo’s and Newton’s telescopes. Those distinct and governed experiences are preferable to ungoverned passions for the processes of learning. Milton provides a poeticized rendition of the same process in book 12 of Paradise Lost. Before taking Adam to the “Hill / Of Paradise” for his lessons, Michael specifies the purpose to be “to learn / True patience, and to temper joy with fear / And pious sorrow, equally enur’d / By moderation” (11.377–78, 360–63). Patience, joy, fear, and sorrow are not to be dismissed but moderated. Poetry, then, is useful as a curricular component because it provides a governed experience of passion in the curriculum. This is not to say that poetry is the sole repository of passion in the curriculum. We may offhandedly deny that mathematics, grammar, or natural philosophy include any passions. However, serious reflection of the willingness, drive, enjoyments, pride, frustrations, physical manipulations, and even objects associated with studies of those and other subjects contradicts such a denial. It would be more accurate to say that the curriculum elicits a specific set of passions and that poetry provides a specific type of experience within that specific set. Indeed, careful readers of Milton and other literature use poetry for these purposes all the time. The companion poems L’Allegro and Il Penseroso are decidedly more popular than Of Education, even though, as I have argued, they both express Milton’s public assessments of the educational curriculum. Milton represents such responses in Paradise Lost when Eve prefers to hear about the cosmos from Adam rather than Raphael. While many have bristled at the representation, the truth is that Milton’s readers have preferred Milton’s companion poems and epic to his educational prose tract because the latter elicits primarily intellectual activity rather than both intellectual and emotional experience. Ann Coiro draws out the similarities between Adam’s postlapsarian curricular lessons and those prescribed in Of Education,

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describing how “Michael leads Adam through an education that exactly parallels the methodical course that Milton had delineated in his educational tractate.”39 Coiro observes that Michael sequentially teaches Adam the topics for the “children” or “younger students” of the tractate. She then defines the topics for students once they enter the second, contemplative stage of education. Coiro’s alignment of the tract’s curriculum — with its potentially detached or theoretical approach — to the poem’s compelling human stories is responsive to the practical benefits Milton inscribes in his representation of all curricular subjects. Her emphasis on the sciences registers the basic rationale that many intellectuals of the period reiterated, that studies in nature would help ease the daily, physical difficulties of human life, a condition that is especially heightened in Michael’s lessons. The fallen human condition demands a more hands-on approach than previous, failed attempts, Bacon and Boyle’s “dirty-handed” model described in chapter 5. Coiro delineates the correspondence between Michael’s tableau-like lessons and the curriculum in Of Education and in doing so clarifies the educational function of poetry. She asks us to recognize that Milton’s poetic presentation invests the prose recommendations with appropriately strong but moderated feelings toward learning. While we may easily concede that Michael’s lessons provide a more passionate readerly experience than does the prose tract, we must also recognize that books 11 and 12 offer a less passionate readerly experience than books 1 through 10 of Paradise Lost; and that is precisely the point of convergence. Effective curricular presentations and representations of knowledge in the fallen world require a less extreme but no less profound engagement with the passions. Michael’s lessons utilize a discursive starkness also characteristic of emerging scientific plain prose to moderate rather than heighten passion. It may be helpful to provide an example of scientific plain prose of the seventeenth century since it is distinct from modern scientific prose. In a letter to Oldenburg, mathematician John Wallis describes the death of a scholar of Wadham College by a “stroke of thunder or lightening.”40 Wallis’s tone vacillates


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

between humane sorrow over the death of the young man and objective interest in the ensuing dissection. He describes at some length a violent night full of “very loud & frequent” thunder and creates a sense of fear about the display of natural power. He then discusses the “sad accident” and the efforts of resuscitating one of the two scholars caught in the storm: “putting into a warm bed, & rubbing, & putting strong waters into his mouth, &c no life could be brought into him.” After the extended description of the scholar’s harrowing struggle for life leading to his death, the young scholar immediately becomes a dehumanized “it,” a “corps,” which “Dr Willis, Dr Millington, Dr Lower, & myself, with some others, went to view.” In the remainder of the letter, Wallis discusses the corpse in objective, scientific terms: “on ye right side of ye neck was a little blackish spot about an inch long & about a quarter of an inch broad at ye broades; & was as if it had been seared with a hot iron.”41 The amply noted objective tone of Michael’s lessons stems in part from its similar representation of individuals who are fully humanized and who are then converted to generalized types for educational purposes. Emotionally charged facts are converted in objective terms so that the knowledge to be gained can be easily identified and explained. Adam interrupts Raphael’s story of the angelic war and the Creation only twice. In contrast, he “interpose[s]” during Michael’s lesson 12 times at short intervals to recite what he has learned from the discrete lessons (12.270). Michael’s poetic plain style mitigates Adam’s terror at viewing the physical horrors and plights of fallen humankind, and results in a more interactive educational episode. We can chronicle the objectifying movement toward the visual experiences of book 11 in the depersonalization or intellectualization of Adam’s responses. After the first tableau of Cain and Abel, Adam asks about the specific “meek man” (11.451). By the time he sees Enoch, he is able to exclaim passionately about objectified agents, “O what are these, / Deaths Ministers, not Men” (675–76). The individual “man” Abel and the pluralized “Men” then subsume into the representative “Man” Noah (887, 891).

Subjects for Change in Of Education


Unlike the first three levels of the table of the curriculum in Of Education, the last level does not have subheadings but instead maintains Milton’s radical rubric of “Reason” and “vertue,” under which are “Ethics . . . Proairesis,” “Economics,” “law, and legal justice,” “Theology,” “Church History,” and “Scriptures.” Especially in conjunction with his reading list, none of these fall easily into any of the traditional rubrics of the trivium, quadrivium, or even the philosophies. What most fully emerges at this fourth level is Milton’s insistence on a practical and reasonable curriculum that fosters rather than eschews innovation. Just like Milton’s designation of using “all the maps first with the old names; and then with the new” in the second level, his designation of “Church History ancient and modern” at this level presents knowledge as mutable and validates the ancient and modern equally. Milton’s practical approach is most pithily expressed in the immediate joining of the potentially theoretical study of “law” with the very practical issue of “legal justice”; and its reasonable nature most pithily expressed in the introduction of the new, advanced topic, proairesis. John F. Huntley supports his claim that “Milton’s emphasis is rational rather than disciplinary and moral rather than pietistic” by laying out some of the implications of Milton’s strong but understated rejection of the popular term synteresis: when Milton avoids a scholastic term for the classical one, he emphasizes once again the orientation of his educational thinking. In the tractate, he disclaims an obligation to educational reformers of his own age (“modern Janua’s and Didactics”). He repudiates the educational philosophy of the former age (“the Scholastick grossness of barbarous ages”). He represents his views as being the pure extension, into his own age, of a nearly forgotten classical paidea.42

As Huntley explains, synteresis and proairesis were often used synonymously, but the uncommon word proairesis would at the very least give students pause. At most, it would lead students to a practical rather than theoretical understanding of moral philosophy because, as Huntley explains, “proairesis signifies a choice of one thing before another; synteresis signifies a close watch or


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

preservation.”43 Milton selects the term that speaks to purification and innovation, a seemingly paradoxical drive that Bacon had tried to express in the word “instauration.” We are left with only one more section of the table to consider, the uniquely compartmentalized section near the end of Of Education, the only section with its own subtitle, “Their Exercise.” The section’s introduction advertises its inclusion as an improvement over modern and ancient curricula: “But herein it shall exceed them, and supply a defect as great as that which Plato noted in the common-wealth of Sparta; whereas that City train’d up their youth most for warre, and these in their Academies and Lyceum, all for the gown, this institution of breeding which I here delineate, shall be equally good both for Peace and warre” (RM 985). These expressive disciplines were so important to Milton that they give shape to the archangels of Paradise Lost, as discussed in part 1. Here, I will draw our attention only to the fact that, even though Milton replaces music with geography in the quadrivium, Milton’s curriculum makes provisions for the daily teaching of music and joins it to bodily exercise for the full duration of pupils’ studies. As such, Milton’s students would be exposed to music more than would most scholars of the period. This discussion of the specific components of the curriculum in Of Education must address, in conclusion, the nature of those components, which are strikingly clear when we pay attention to the tract’s images. They validate the preference for society and focus on the student within that small society. Milton’s use of individuals’ names and professions rather than text titles, to which I have already called our attention, is but one layer of the social sphere Milton constructs. His transformation of the fist of logic and open palm of rhetoric to personified Logic opening “her” rhetorical hand is another. In emphasizing the human agents that construct academic subjects, Milton’s text is like Raphael Sanzio’s fresco in the Vatican, The House of Athens (1580). Sanzio’s visual celebration of learning is populated by brilliant, mostly Ancient leaders like

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Alcibiades, Diogenes, Euclid, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, Socrates, Zeno, and Zoroaster with Plato and Aristotle at the center. Sanzio’s depiction of these mature figures shares with Milton his unification of various disciplines. Milton’s is distinct in two ways: he focuses primarily on the living rather than the dead, and on students rather than teachers, both of which he summarizes at the end of his discussion of the curriculum in Of Education: “These are the studies wherein our noble and our gentle youth ought to bestow in a disciplinary way from twelve to one and twenty; unlesse they rely more upon their ancestors dead, then upon themselves living” (RM 984). Unlike the figure of the teacher that emerges only at the end of the tract, as described in chapter 2, students populate the tract in places too many to summarize. We see bloody-nosed “striplings,” “tost and turmoiled with their unballasted wits”; and we see the “stocks and stubbs” amid the “choisest and hopefullest wits.” We get to admire the maturation of the imagined students of Milton’s academy, from their early training, focusing on their very mouths as their speech is “fashion’d to a distinct and cleer pronuntiation,” to their self-selected, group studies at its end, “solidly united the whole body of their perfected knowledge, like the last embattelling of a Roman legion. Now will be worth the seeing what exercises, and what recreations may best agree, and become these Studies” (RM 981–82). The pithy pun in “become their studies” powerfully expresses the value and future potentials of the curriculum when it is in the hands of a unified student body rather than primarily within their teachers or texts, an expression that resounds more with the advancement of learning than with a humanism that prioritized classical learning of the past. In 1959, Ernest Sirluck endeavored to reverse the then-dominant reading of Of Education as an extension of the Comenian form of educational reformation that Samuel Hartlib supported. Sirluck concluded by conceding, “If the present state of information leaves many of the details of the tractate’s relation to the contemporary scene


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

still obscure, the large outline is clearly discernible” (YP 2:216). Since then, only a handful of studies have focused on Of Education, leaving many of its details “still obscure,” a neglect that my table and explanation have sought to alleviate in part. In this chapter, I have endeavored to provide only some curricular details relevant to one of the most far-reaching part of Milton’s “contemporary scene,” the English Scientific Revolution. With these details about Milton’s most direct and extended text about education, we can now assess the poetic scenes of education that teacher-Milton represents in Paradise Lost for his student-readers to experience.


The Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost My previous chapters have clarified how Milton’s works reflected and helped shape the emerging concept of “scientists” and how they promoted progressive curricular reform. It still might be difficult to appreciate how Milton’s poetry could contribute to the study and development of mathematics. Mathematics is, after all, so theoretical compared to the natural sciences, as John Rogers has discussed. It is important to attend to mathematics also, however, because the mechanical universe founded on the mathematicization of the cosmos is one of the keystones of the English Scientific Revolution. The apparent expanse between Milton’s poetry and mathematics seems so large that E. D. Hirsch Jr. selected Paradise Lost from among all other English works to clarify his definition of the types of contexts that are appropriate and inappropriate in formulating valid interpretations, in his influential Validity of Interpretation: Paradise Lost could be discussed in relation to the history of mathematics, but inappropriately, since the poem is not significant in that context. On the other hand, can we say in advance that no literary text could have an important bearing on mathematics? Wordsworth’s poetry had a surprising importance in the development of inductive logic — if J. S. Mill rightly analyzed the influences upon him.1



The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

Hirsch uses Paradise Lost as a readily acceptable example. However, committed to avoiding irresponsible foreclosing of valid contexts, he concedes the possibility that Paradise Lost might hold a similar position as Wordsworth’s works in the history of mathematics: “It is at least conceivable that Paradise Lost with its compendious lore might have some significance for the history of mathematics in the seventeenth-century.”2 My goal for this chapter is to explain that it did. This chapter will focus on a pair of scenes in Paradise Lost in which Milton incorporates the new mathematical universe into a productive, human worldview: Eve’s poetic “Sweet is” song in book 4 and Adam’s astronomy lesson in book 8. This focus is crucial to establishing the validity of this study’s interpretation of the affiliations of Milton’s art and scientific development, to understanding the vast revision of science during the period, and to appreciating mathematics as a component of a multidisciplinary advancement of learning. Both the art of poetry and the mathematicization of science are social acts that use different but related symbolic systems of expressions. We should pay as much attention to the heavy theoretical implications as to the light touch of Albert Einstein’s sentence: “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” Of course, it is difficult to see this correspondence because mathematics and poetry use distinct languages. In poetic lines, meaning is composed by the use and integration of words; in mathematical lines, meaning comes about through the use and integration of numbers and mathematical symbols. Once we get past the generic disparities and language barriers, however, their parallel structures and significance become clear.3 It would be difficult to overstate the thoroughly radical transformation of mathematics in Milton’s lifetime. Through the Renaissance, Aristotle and the majority of natural philosophers rejected the use of mathematics in natural philosophy because of their insistence that natural philosophy explain phenomena in terms of physical causes. Despite the fact that motion was an essential physical category for Aristotle, the theoretical and conceptual

Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost


perfect circles and lines of old mathematics could not be represented in motion until calculus.4 In Physics, Aristotle acknowledges the representational limitations. He states that, although both a mathematician and physicist deal with “surfaces and volumes, lines and points,” a mathematician does “not treat of them as the limits of a physical body; nor does he consider the attributes indicated as the attributes of such bodies. That is why he separates them; for in thought they are separable from motion, and it makes no difference.”5 Even those branches of the mathematical sciences that seemed to come close to explaining the physical world, such as astronomy and optics, were disparaged as mixed sciences that tried to combine the principles of one theoretical mathematics, geometry, with a material philosophy, physics, in order to explain the behavior of heavenly bodies or rays of light. Aristotle concluded that mathematics could not contribute to explaining physical causes. Calculus completely revolutionized mathematics and natural philosophy. Its invention accounts for much of the dominant position that the once lowly quadrivium gained in the curriculum in the seventeenth century and continues to maintain. Along with the invention of calculus was the introduction of new mathematical signs to express derivatives and differentials used in its calculations. The prospect of inventing a mathematics that could topple the limitations of Aristotelian mathematics and even Euclidian geometry was highly appealing to English intellectuals’ sense of national pride. Indeed, mathematics was an area in which England had begun to divest itself in earnest of the belatedness of the East to West translitio studii. Like Milton’s Paradise Lost, calculus was an epic English achievement long in coming. The inventiveness of specifically English mathematicians leading up to the invention of calculus is astounding. In Ground of Artes (1540), Robert Record (1510?–1558) first used the signs of plus (+) for addition and minus (-) for subtraction. Then, in Whetstone of Witte (1557), he introduced the sign for equivalence (=). In Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio (1614) and his posthumously published Mirifici logarithmorum canonis constructio (1619), John Napier (1550–1617)


The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

invented logarithms, the exponent that indicates the power to which a number is raised to produce a given number, as in “103.” Napier is also credited with creating one of the earliest calculating machines, “Napier’s bones,” and with the first systematic use of the decimal point, as in “10.3.”6 At about the same time, Thomas Harriot (1560–1621) introduced the sign for relative size (