Sunday, 7 December 2008

John Milton's 400th

There must be something about the eighth year of a century. We seem to have been celebrating a larger than usual number of anniversaries involving liberalism this year.

This coming week it is the turn of John Milton His "Areopagitica" (I trust that is correct; I looked it up in two books and found three different spellings. I will trust George Orwell, though.) is almost literally an iconic document in the history of the Liberal and Liberal Democratic parties.

After all the criticism of BBC's lower standards, it is good to see the corporation devoting a goodly strand to the great man next week. It is all on Radio 3 , though, not on any of the popular channels, radio or TV. Personally, I welcome any insight into the poetry of Milton, which I find hard going, unmediated. It is one of my great regrets that I wasn't introduced to "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained" when my mind was younger and sharper.

That George Orwell reference, by the way, was in a 1946 essay, "The Prevention of Literature". It is reproduced on the web here, but the transcriber has perpetrated yet another mistake in spelling "Areopagitica"! That apart, it is well worth reading.

We may be freer to pass political judgments than in 1946, but the ability to publish information is becoming just as restricted.

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