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2 Law & Human. iii (2008)

handle is hein.journals/lawhuman2 and id is 1 raw text is: Editorial
Paul Raffield and Gary Watt
'MILTON! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee.
Wordsworth's lines, lamenting the absence of a poetic voice capable of uniting and
articulating revolutionary aspirations for 'manners, virtue, freedom, power',2 appear
particularly poignant in the year of the 400th anniversary of Milton's birth. The great
poet of the English Revolution and servant of the Republican government (in 1649, the
Council of State appointed him to the post of Secretary for Foreign Tongues) is a totemic
figure in the field of law and humanities, arousing amongst critics hostility and
admiration in almost equal measure. Samuel Johnson dismissed him as'an acrimonious
and surly republican' while TS Eliot complained that 'of no other poet is it so difficult to
consider the poetry simply as poetry, without our theological and political dispositions
... making unlawful entry'.3 Eliot's disparaging comment lies at the heart of any debate
concerning the intellectual integrity of an interdisciplinary publication such as Law and
Humanities. If poetry can lead us to a more humane (and therefore a more complex)
understanding of the purpose and effect of law, then can the entry of theology or politics
into the hermeneutic realm of aesthetics be described fairly as'unlawful'?
If Milton were alive today, although his blindness might have hindered him, we believe
that he would have made an admirable and sympathetic editor of Law and Humanities,
one who would have shared our commitment to exploring the interface between law and
the liberal arts. As a boy, Milton would have been exposed on a daily basis to the arcana
of law and legal practice. His father, John (1562-1647), made a successful living as a
scrivener (the practice of which involved many of the functions of a modern-day
solicitor), working out of the family home at Bread Street, near Cheapside, in London.
Milton's secretarial skills in the service of the Commonwealth are possibly traceable to this
diurnal encounter with the scrivener's art. There is no doubt too that home-life
1 William Wordsworth,'London, 1802', Sonnet CCXIII.
2 Ibid.
3 TS Eliot,'Annual Lecture on a Master Mind: Milton' (1947) 33 Proceedings of the British Academy 63. For a
defence and appreciation of Milton's poetry, the outstanding work of the past 50 years remains Christopher
Ricks, Milton's Grand Style (Clarendon, Oxford 1963).


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