Thursday, July 10, 2008

John Milton: Sexy Rockstar

So I'm heading off to London today, to catch the tail-end of the Milton conference and mostly really to finish writing my book. That sounds equally satisfying and fictitious, "to finish writing my book," as if I were some sort of creative genuis, when really all I'm doing is finishing a chapter, fixing another up, and writing a new introduction. Hardly qualifies as "book writing."

Waiting for my flight, I decided to catch-up on some older issues of the New Yorker, where I found Jonathan Rosen's little piece on Milton, which I think a colleague had recommended I check out. Much as I love the way a kicky modern word or phrase must be employed where no other will do (like when Rosen describes Satan and Gabriel "trash-talking" for instance), I did find myself biting my lip with disapproval. Rosen portrays Milton as a sexually avid rockstar well-versed in kamasutra and polyamory: "Nevermind that there were actually three Mrs. Miltons, and that Milton, who defended divorce and even polygamy, was a sensuous Purtitan, exquisitely attuned to the "amorous delay" of life in Eden." This is clearly a case of the poet being confused with the poetry.

I mean, really. Just because he happened to have three marriages- hastened not by two tame divorces as Rosen suggests here, but by two tragically premature deaths - and wrote stunningly beautiful passages about angelic and Edenic sex, we are supposed to believe that Milton was great in bed?

"Exquisitely attuned to the 'amorous delay'"? What is that supposed to mean? Milton was Casanova? He knew all about foreplay? (Maybe delay is the reason his first wife ran away for three years).

I, for one, would rather not try to imagine what Milton was like in bed, though I'm sure an historical novel is already in the works (by Philippa Gregory). Suffice it to say, it will not be taking up residence on my nightstand. . . unless some idiot buys it for me.


Renaissance Girl said...

not sure that it provides any insight into the sexual milton, but there IS a novel by a guy called ackroyd (sp?): _milton in america_. someone gave it to me a few years ago, and i've never had time to crack it. perhaps it will reveal all: all we ever wanted to know about milton but were afraid to ask.

Pamphilia said...

Right, the Peter Ackroyd one. I thought that one was an imagined alternative history?