Archive for the ‘UK’ Tag

The Brontes of Howarth – Blue Peter 1979

The Brontes of Howarth – Blue Peter 1979.


“Sixth forms have read the satanic bits of Paradise Lost as if they were upmarket Tolkien”: Simon Jenkins

The Creation of Eve, watercolor illustration to Milton’s Paradise Lost by William Blake

Simon Jenkins writes:

If John Milton were alive today I imagine he would be writing this column. A former Blair luvvie, he would have refused the laureateship because of Labour’s human rights abuses. Rejected for a job at Ofsted he would have stormed off to teach classics at a prep school while his poems were remaindered as worthy but unreadable by Faber. His three wives would sell their kiss-and-tell memoirs to the Daily Mail.

This week’s celebration of Milton’s fourth centenary has been almost a private affair, led by that home of lost causes, Radio 3.

Sixth forms have read the satanic bits of Paradise Lost as if they were upmarket Tolkien. Some have taken a stab at Lycidas. But Milton no longer sets the heart racing. Imagine if this had been the anniversary of the birth of the poet with whom Milton so long shared a pedestal, Shakespeare.

There is no doubting the reason. Milton lacks the qualities now considered essential in a poet: concision, humour, or romance. As Dr Johnson said of Paradise Lost: “No one ever wished it longer.” Readers can handle the poignancy of On His Blindness and snatch pleasure from the great quotes. But the imagery and subject matter of the epics are rooted in a theology and mythology that today are gone.

Milton was brought up by his father “while yet a little child for the study of humane letters”. Not for him the rough and tumble of Shakespeare’s Stratford or the London stage. A fun-averse bookworm at Cambridge, at 23 he was already telling the world that his writing was the will of heaven: “All is, if I have grace to use it so/ As ever in my great Task-Master’s eye.”

We prefer to like our poets, and Milton was a bore and a prig. Even the youthfulness of the two early poems, L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, has a ponderous religiosity. The play, Comus, is a pastoral-mythical tract about a son of Bacchus and Circe that is near unplayable today.

Lycidas, supposedly an “honest shepherd”, is an elegy on a dead friend, a mix of pagan myths and Puritan Christianity. The least we owe it is, “Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new”, even if most people say fields for woods.

Milton was instantly famous. He was lionised in Italy, where he wrote verses in Latin and Italian and was eulogised in return. He met Grotius and Galileo, scholars and philosophers, and returned with an even more exalted sense of his destiny. He wrote a tract on education that would have blown the curriculum authority’s collective mind.

André Mangeot’s birthday, today November 15th, 2017

André Mangeot

Today, November 15th, is the birthday of UK author André Mangeot

“I’m not Welsh but I have a longing for and a protectiveness towards Wales…”: Fiona Sampson

Fiona Sampson: credit Ekaterina Voskresenskaya

Fiona Sampson interviewed by Interlitq: read the entire interview:

Interlitq: Could you tell us more about the time you spent in Wales. How strongly do you identify yourself with Wales and Welshness? Do you rate Dylan Thomas highly?

FS: I’m not Welsh but I have a longing for and a protectiveness towards Wales, and a continuing strong interest in Welsh arts culture. When I returned to Wales straight after finishing at Oxford, I set up an annual international poetry festival in Aberystwyth. Because the poetic traditions in Wales are long and deep-seated. I’ve talked about this elsewhere so won’t repeat myself.

It’s unfashionable to rate Dylan Thomas in British poetry right now but – ever the unfashionable – I owe my love of poetry to him. When I was in that village school in Wales, and when I was only six years old, our wonderful headmaster read us the beginning of Under Milk Wood in school assembly. It was way over our heads. I understood nothing – except that I thought it was amazing. Soon after that I started writing my own little poems in school. And apart from my teens when that English teacher knocked it out of me for about a decade, I just didn’t stop.

Ivy Compton-Burnett’s life “takes on the contours of a fully orchestrated Iris Murdoch novel…”

Iris Murdoch

Reviewing The Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett by Hilary Spurling, Joyce Carol Oates writes:

Since her subject left virtually no record of her life, it is natural that Ivy Compton-Burnett’s biographer look to numerous other sources. By degrees, after hundreds of pages of eyewitness reports, an appealing portrait emerges of a woman who is both fiercely secretive, yet ”public”; aloof, proud, possessed of a frequently malicious wit, yet often girlish and mischievous; wholly predictable in the habits and patterns of her life, yet wholly unpredictable in its particulars. As her life unfolds it takes on the contours of a fully orchestrated Iris Murdoch novel and by no means the attenuated quality of a novel by Compton-Burnett; and there is a delightful whiff of Barbara Pym too, surely, in the spectacle of the much-revered literary sibyl who astonished admirers by eating ”like a horse,” devouring half a pot of raspberry jam by herself and ”surreptitiously wiping her sticky fingers” on the cover of her host’s sofa, and, upon numerous occasions, greatly embarrassing dinner guests at formal dinners by groping about in her bloomers beneath the table – in search of her handkerchief, which she usually carried in that very practical place.