Beautiful Sublime: The Making of ‘Paradise Lost,’ 1701-1734

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Stanford University Press, Mar 1, 1990 - Poetry - 252 pages
'Sublime' and 'Milton' - no other pairing is used more frequently in early discussions of the author of Paradise Lost: Addison finds Milton's genius 'wonderfully turned to the Sublime', John Dennis calls Milton 'the sublimist of all our poets', while Jonathan Richardson concludes that Milton's mind 'is truly poetical. Great, strong, elegant and sublime'. Modern critics look askance at these 'sublime Miltonists', who are charged with forcing Paradise Lost, they took what was essentially a Restoration term and challenged it with an alternative aesthetic category - the beautiful. Though beauty did mark a certain generic stability (in a Burkean sense), it came increasingly to represent generic transformation, which in its most radical form recast the notion of a 'sublime Milton'. It is this play of oxymorons - sublime epic and beautiful sublime - that marks the brilliance of the early eighteenth century' criticism of Paradise Lost. To explore the early-eighteenth-century view of the 'sublime Milton', the author analyzes the work of five readers of Paradise Lost during the years 1701-34: Joseph Addison, the only writer of the five who attained any lasting fame; John Dennis, by far the most important - and overlooked - of the early Miltonists; Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, author of a brilliant parody of Book 8 and of even more remarkable accounts of Eve; Jane Adams, a lyric poet from Scotland who re-imagined the domestic hierarchy of Adam and Eve; and Jonathan Richardson, who attempted the first Christian interpretation of Paradise Lost and who authored the first biography of Milton as a 'sublime poet'. Together these critics represent the richness, cohesion, and variety of the interpretive community reading Paradise Lost in the first decades of the eighteenth century.

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Prologue I
The Aesthetic of the Beautiful
The Aesthetic of Terror
The Aesthetic of Mediation

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Page 102 - Their dread commander : he, above the rest, In shape and gesture proudly eminent, Stood like a tower ; his form had yet not lost All her original brightness ; nor appear'd Less than archangel ruin'd, and the excess Of glory obscured...
Page 68 - So spake our general Mother, and with eyes Of conjugal attraction unreprov'd, And meek surrender, half imbracing lean'd On our first Father, half her swelling Breast Naked met his under the flowing Gold Of her loose tresses hid...
Page 95 - Which but endures whilst tyrant man does sleep; When a sedate content the spirit feels, And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals, But silent musings urge the mind to seek Something too high for syllables to speak; Till the free soul, to a compos'dness charm'd, Finding the elements of rage disarm'd, O'er all below, a solemn quiet grown, Joys in th...
Page 102 - Less than archangel ruined, and the excess Of glory obscured ; as when the sun, new risen, Looks through the horizontal misty air Shorn of his beams, or from behind the moon, In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds On half the nations, and with fear of change Perplexes monarchs.
Page 113 - Queen, had his action been finished, or had been one. And Milton, if the Devil had not been his hero, instead of Adam ; if the giant had not foiled the knight, and driven him out of his stronghold, to wander through the world with his lady errant; and if there had not been more machining persons than human in his poem.
Page 204 - THE passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is astonishment : and astonishment is that state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror.
Page 17 - Of elements The grosser feeds the purer, earth the sea, Earth and the sea feed air, the air those fires Ethereal, and as lowest first the moon; Whence ia her visage round those spots, unpurg'd Vapours nor yet into her substance turn'd".
Page 21 - But more refin'd, more spiritous, and pure, As nearer to him plac't or nearer tending Each in thir several active Spheres assign'd, Till body up to spirit work, in bounds Proportion'd to each kind.
Page 135 - So much the rather thou, celestial Light, Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers Irradiate ; there plant eyes, all mist from thence Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell Of things invisible to mortal sight.

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