Milton criticism and the biography, 1779-1909
Burns, John Sandidge
Whiling, George W.
Master of Arts
The central purpose of this study has been to examine the criticism of Milton's poetry from 1779 to 199 and to consider the relation of this criticism to the poet's biography. It will be apparent that I have treated two aspects of this subject. In the first place, I have tried to determine, whenever possible, the relationship between the individual writer's literary criticism and his attitude towards Milton's character as a man. Further, I have tried to show how this attitude towards the man affected not only the critical approach to the poetry but the final judgment and evaluation of it. Second, I have attempted to set forth the various ways in which biographical material was used to interpret Milton's poetry from the publication of Samuel Johnson's Life to the Milton Tercentenary. I have selected 1779 as a starting point since it was only after that date that the biographical method was actually used to any great extent by Milton's critics. However, in order to give the necessary background to the development of the biographical method, I have briefly set forth Milton's position as a man and poet in the eighteenth century before Johnson. Here I have relied to a great' extent upon the modern studies of Milton's eighteenth century reputation by John Walter Good and Raymond Dexter Havens. As 199 represents the beginning, as it were, of modern Milton criticism, I bave selected that date as a stopping point. I have not attempted to study Milton's reputation in the nineteenth century since this subject has been exhaustively studied by recent scholars, in 1931, Frank Willis Plunkett explored the references to Milton in the leading British Magazines during the Romantic Period as his doctoral dissertation at the university of Indiana. Through an Inclusive study, he attempted to set forth the facts concerning popular criticism of Milton from 1779 to 1832. Shaw Wing Chan presented a study of nineteenth century Milton criticism to Stanford University in 1937 as his dissertation. His central purpose was to determine those aspects of Milton's major poems stressed most by critics as well as to decide which poems received the most attention. In 1941, as his doctoral dissertation at Harvard, James Ernest Thorpe considered the principle criticism of Milton's poetry from 18 to 194 to trace the evolution of the conceptions of Milton the man, the philosopher, and the artist. I have had access to these three studies, none of which emphasizes the connection between the biography and the literary criticism as considered in this study.