'Evil Be My Good': Derek Murphy on Milton

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Derek Murphy is offering Free Downloads of his scholarly books, "Evil Be My Good" and also "Jesus Potter Harry Christ". This week only!

The opening section of "Evil Be My Good" covers the history of scholarly commentary about Milton's Paradise Lost. Murphy shows an interesting evolution. Early observers fairly quickly noted that Milton's Devil is actually the hero of the epic poem, and various literary figures of the Enlightenment used this Devil as a metaphor for progressive politics. This continued until after WWII, when academics led by CS Lewis suddenly realized that Milton was trying to trick everyone into respect for the Devil, but that this was only a trap for the unwary. Sophisticated students needed to respect the basically evil nature of the Devil, and that God was the only possible hero Milton could have intended. Only recently, a few brave academic dissenters have returned at least partly to the early view.

Murphy, being among the few & the brave who still see Satan as Milton's progressive hero, sets out to prove his case by providing a biographical summary of Milton's career and his other works. Milton had been a leading advocate for the Parliamentary faction in the English Civil War against Charles I. He argued eloquently for freedom of speech, and against the divine right of kings. After Charles was executed, Milton continued to pamphleteer on Parliament's behalf. Milton had mixed feelings about Cromwell.

"Paradise Lost" was begun in about 1658, which was the same year Cromwell died, and the handwriting was arguably on the wall that the revolutionary period was over. When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Milton went into hiding and continued to work on the epic poem, published in 1664.

In light of events described by Murphy, it becomes easy to interpret the poem as a sort of autobiography. Milton's Satan is a metaphor for Milton himself, who had attempted to rebel against the Lord and now had been thrown into purgatory.

I confess I haven't read the second and third parts of the book very carefully yet. The second section is a survey of literary uses of Satan from Milton's time to the present, showing how Satan became a metaphor for progressive causes in general. More recently, the Devil has once again been relegated to Hell, as a symbol for cultural degradation blamed on those same progressive influences.

The third section is a detailed literary analysis of the epic poem itself, and as perceived by others.

Reading this book, I was struck by what an important figure Milton has been, and moreover, by the importance of the English Civil War, the Commonwealth, Cromwell's Protectorate, the Restoration, and the invasion of England by Orange Dutch forces under William & Mary (known as the "Glorious Revolution".) In our research up until now, we haven't paid much attention to this period.
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Try "Buy with one click". Worked for me: my old copy was returned to KU, and now I own it outright.

I'm beginning to wonder if KU is really a very good deal. My history shows ~25 items borrowed since 2014, less than one a month. Cheaper just to buy things.
 
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