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09 Dec

Saving Milton: his friend Lady Ranelagh and his defender John Toland

John Milton dictating 'Paradise Lost' to his daughter due to his blindness
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John Milton is most famous today for his epic poem Paradise Lost, a poem that was almost lost due to the cause of Milton’s fame (or infamy) in 1660: his work writing defences of the Commonwealth against Royalist attacks. These were written when Milton was Secretary of Foreign Tongues to the Council of State from 1649. The works included Eikonoklastes (1649, justifying Charles I’s execution) and The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660, arguing against the Restoration). After the Restoration, Milton had to be hidden by friends: he eventually was arrested and held in custody for a few months. Friends in high places worked to ensure he was included in the Act of Free and General Pardon, Indempnity and Oblivion. Their success meant that Milton was released from prison, allowing him to complete his half-finished epic poem 1.

Milton had first come to attention as a poet. His first published work was Lycidas, an acclaimed pastoral elegy written for Dorothy Moore‘s brother Edward King. It’s likely that Dorothy Moore met Milton at some point, though as far as I’m aware there is no record of it. In the 1640s Milton became acquainted with members of the Hartlib circle, including Samuel Hartlib, John Durie, Henry Oldenburg and Lady Ranelagh. Milton and Hartlib probably met in 1643 and in 1644 Hartlib circulated Milton’s tract Of Education, To Master Samuel Hartlib2.
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19 Nov

The “Incomparable Lady Ranelagh”

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Detail from the Boyle Momument, St Patrick's Cathedral (c) Chiara Ogan/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Detail from the Boyle Momument, St Patrick’s Cathedral
(c) Chiara Ogan/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“UNESCO puts philosophy forward as a force for individual and collective emancipation”, as their statement for World Philosophy Day 2015 states. Historically, many have been locked out from philosophy due to their class or gender, and only had access to philosophical discussion through family or informal networks. One such was Katherine Jones, née Boyle.

Katherine Boyle was born 400 years ago this year, on the 22nd March, 1615 in Youghal. Her father, Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork, saw no point in education for daughters beyond fitting them for the marriage market. It’s been suggested that Katherine obtained her education when she was sent at the age of nine and a half to live with the family of her prospective husband, Sapcott Beaumont. When she was thirteen Beaumont’s father died and the marriage contract fell through. After two years at home in Ireland she was married off to Arthur Jones, heir to Viscount Ranelagh in 1630 when she was fifteen.
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