Milton and the Victorians

Book cover: Milton and the Victorians
Erik Gray
March 05, 2009

The Victorian period was a golden age for the study of Milton. Yet the influence of Milton on poetry, and on literature more generally, during the period is often obscure. Victorian writers rarely display the overt, self-conscious engagement with Milton that typified so much Romantic writing earlier in the nineteenth century. In Milton and the Victorians, Erik Gray argues that this shift represents not a breach but an expansion: if Milton's influence seems less remarkable than before, it is due not to his absence but to his pervasiveness.

Through detailed consideration of works by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, Alfred Tennyson, and George Eliot, Gray shows how Victorian writers tended to draw upon the less sublime, more understated elements of Milton's writings. In tracing the characteristically oblique influence of Milton on Victorian authors, Gray also draws attention to important aspects of Milton's own work, notably the way it often depicts power being exerted indirectly. Gray thus proposes new and nuanced models of literary relations, while offering original and elegant readings both of Milton's poetry and of major works of Victorian literature.

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