Areopagitica by John Milton: Feb.Literary Movement Challenge



Areopagitica; a speech of Mr John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parliament of England 1664

The speech was named after Areopagitikos, a speech written by the Athenian orator, Isocrates, in the 5th century BC.

‘Give me the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties’ John Milton

‘And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licencing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple;who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter.’ John Milton

(of course freedom of speech is not so cut and dried nowadays but you get the drift:)

England was engaged in Civil War, deposing and executing King Charles I.  When the fight was against the King, the Protestants had opposed censorship laws dictated by the King, but as so often happens, as soon as they were in power they issued their own set of laws. They were trying to banish writings in favour of the King and his family, the idea of a king, and other more extreme elements of religion.

John Milton begins by complimenting them on overcoming the tyranny of the King and tells them he was penning the speech as a matter of civil liberty and loyalty, as he wished to speak fairly and truthfully not to flatter and deceive.

He goes on to point out the ancient Greeks and Romans had never practiced censorship, if a text was deemed so bad, it could be banned or burnt, but after publication not before. The Greeks and Romans were held in great respect by the ‘civilized world’ at the time, so this had a bearing on his arguments.

Milton then pointed out to the Protestant rulers of the land that the first group of people to institute censorship was the Roman Catholic Inquisition – good move that.

His argument continues to show how banning the printing of a  ‘bad’ book, and the evil ideas within, will fail to suppress the ‘infection’ caused by them. There was still word of mouth. To suppress all infection and corruption one would need to ban all pastimes and social recreations and interactions. By allowing men to read would allow them to judge for themselves and learn what is evil and to be avoided, because God had allowed men to have free will and a conscience.

Milton desired a country open to truth and and understanding and not governed by an arbitrary standard of good taste and judgment. He is arguing that censorship in this fashion is thwarting God’s will, insulting Him almost, and leaving the door wide open to worse evils.

Of course John Milton being human has his own,  ‘it’s okay to ban these’ –

‘I mean not tolerated Popery, and open superstition,which as it extirpats all religious and civil supremacies, so itsef be extirpat’

Milton was just a little ahead of his times, he had, prior to Areopagitica, tried to persuade Parliament to change the laws on divorce, and been censored himself. He was a man of his times but with a great feeling for the individual rights. The Puritans did respond in 1643-1550 and allowed divorce on the grounds of infidelity and abandonment. A great achievement for the time.

Milton was one of the great Renaissance men, a great poet, defender of human rights and a thinker par excellence.

Although Milton was unsuccessful in changing the law on press censorship at the time, freedom of the presses was  achieved in 1695 because of it’s influence. His speech has been praised and held in honour through the ages. Transporting itself around the world. America has imbued it in their constitution and it has been cited by the Supreme Court there on numerous occasion.

It was and is a very important speech, and has influenced our lives and underpinned out desire for free speech for hundreds of years. Although the reading of the 50 pages was a difficult task, I am not fluent in the old ways of writing, my knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome is slender, I have always enjoyed his way with words and this was no exception. I have often heard about this speech and now I have read it. so smiling all around:)


Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlow: Feb Literary Movement Challenge

literary-movement-reading-challenge-buttonThe first book I read for February was Christopher Marlow: The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.

Although I have known this story since forever I have never actually read the play. Mainly because I have always had an aversion to reading plays. I have to admit that after having read Faustus I still have this aversion to reading them

However I do not need to enjoy the form, it is after all quite a short work. The brief is to place it in a literary time, and it does fit well. Written soon after the demise of the Roman Catholic Church and in the dawn of Protestantism, it follows, or maybe echoes would be a better description, the early medieval morality plays, but Marlow writing from the Renaissance period is representing the newer modern man. Highly educated Faustus thinks he knows it all – and it is said a well-educated person of that time could know a little about almost anything!

Faustus wants more .He is dissatisfied, arrogant, greedy, proud and to my mind a throughly unpleasant fellow. Just my opinion:) but then I never like Heathcliff either.

Faustus believes if he masters the realm of necromancy he will have mastery over everything. He manages to summon Mephistopheles and feels he has great powers, the thought that Satan maybe designed this meeting never seems to cross Faustus’s mind. In exchange for 24 years of a great life he sells his soul to the devil. It has always seemed a pretty poor bargain myself, but there you go.

Faustus rejects many chances to repent and be saved, he appears to believe that after his first act of betrayal he was damned anyway , there could be no forgiveness. So he clowns, philosophizes, struts and begs his way into eternal damnation.

There was, at the time of the writing of Dr Faustus, a controversy in the Church between the Calvinistic doctrine of absolute predestination, in other words God has decided at birth who will be saved and who wont be. No one has control over his or her fate, and the  anti Calvinists who  rejected the notion that man lacked the free will to come to God, and argued it caused the ordinary man to  be more likely to despair and fall into sin because – why bother?.

It was a clash of great importance and had reached its peak by the time Marlow penned Faustus. Since then there has been endless debate as to which side Marlow was on. Was Faustus damned because God had already decided he was never to be saved. Or was he damned because he willfully, of his own free will, chose not to come to God.

It is also the time of an explosion of learning, knowledge. Science and logic were on the ascendancy. Thinkers of the day, Marlow included were feeling the dissatisfaction and impossibility of being able to decipher all, and this included religion, into this new way of viewing the world in the short lifespan they had.

It is a pity Marlow had such a short life as I think he would be remembered as well as Shakespeare. His writing is powerful and his themes adventurous. I am also extremely pleased I have read Faustus at last.

Good intentions line the highway:Musing Mondays

musingmondays51Well so much for intentions! Not only did I not read the books in translation mentioned last week, I diverted off course with a random read – a book I picked up on a charity stall in the local supermarket. I enjoy these random buys of mine – they follow no predestined thought; whimsy and curiosity mark my choices. This one Broke Through Britain: One Man’s Penniless Odyssey intrigued so much I desired an instant read. No TBR pile for Peter Mortimer.  Another for Non Fiction Challenge.   Will be reviewing very soon.

As I was off course anyway, I decided to read Broken Homes by Ben Aaronvitch – this is the 4th of his I have read, I am behind:) So yet another urban fantasy and another for the British Book Challenge. Must get back on tract!

I did read Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards which was a little disappointing – maybe because I liked the Memory Keepers Daughter so much.

I managed to finish Doctor Faustus by Marlow for the Literary Movement Challenge. So not such a bad week for books. But miserable failure on what I declared,  I was going to read, last week:)

The Random Question this week is who or what influences my choice of books.

I think I would have to answer circumstances. When I was a child obviously my choices were more limited, I read what was in the children’s section of the public libraries, what was around me at home ( more than the library but not so many children’s) What was bought for me as gifts. Until I had enough pocket money to buy my own books, I just read everything I could find, regardless. Many of them too old for me – returning to them years later would be like reading a whole new book! When it was my money, when coins were precious, I would devour the blurbs, read the first chapters and cross my fingers.Mostly detective novels then, people like Dorothy Sayers, John Creasy, science fiction and my only real love affair with romances Georgette Heyer.

I went through a stage in my mid-late teens when I was still at school, studying for major exams, when I would devour magazines devoted to literature and new literary books, my’ pretentious’ stage I call it, when I became a little snobby about titles and authors – in public at least!:) I found some great writers from these reviews and they led onto other great books, so it wasn’t all bad.This was a period when I devoured the classics, they were also to stand me in good stead on my travels.

I rarely took advice from others, not many of my friends read as much as I, my parents had never banned books from me. So, by the time I left education and began wandering I had quite an eclectic taste. On my wanders I discovered the power of books to learn as I wandered. I had already discovered non fiction as a child but these books explaining the countries, by local writers, were amazing. This was also when I discovered so many readable books penned by foreign writers.

On my wanders my choices became even wilder because I relied heavily on other travelers cast offs, books left at camp sites, in hostel rooms, passed from back pack to backpack. I read some amazingly bad books and an equal number of good. On one occasion stuck on a sheep station in the outback in Australia I ran out of reading matter completely and the Jackaroo helped me out – he had in his possession 26 science fantasy books of the most lurid – naked women about to be devoured by some space monster or other. I read them all, by the end I was even enjoying them. His books saved my sanity. A junkie needs her daily fix:)

I do take note if someone recommends a book, or I read a review in a paper or online when I am browsing but will always take the final decision myself. I am very good at spotting what I would like after so many decades.

Yes circumstances mostly.

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

a spur of the moment reader:) musing Monday March 2nd

musingmondays51I missed posting last week from Monday onwards so straight back into Musing Monday.

What I plan to read this week. So many waiting my pleasure and I don’t normally decide until the spur of the moment. However, I do have to read The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards as it is our required read for a book group next week. I have high hopes of enjoying it.

It is also high time I reported in to my Books in Translation challenge, so I have taken off the shelves The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I bought this some time ago intrigued by the title, so it is on my Mount TBR challenge as well.

Also The Girl who saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – aren’t some titles just a siren song to possess these books:) I enjoyed his first book so much, fingers crossed this is as delightful

It is not strictly speaking a reading week for me, that was last week and because of health issues I didn’t read, so whether I will be able to fit all three in around my writing I’m not sure. Especially as I am still reading Marlow’s Dr Faustus.

Random Question: Now it is required of me to really think hard – and Monday morning is not the best time for this! A favourite Genre?

Dunno really.

In no particular order, I enjoy literary, magic realism, urban fantasy, some detective, non-fiction( science, natural life, ancient history, language)So many more it is quite an eclectic range

In fact I think I throughly confuse Amazons little elves when they are trying to find me similar reads based on my ordering.

I cannot hand on heart say which is my favourite. I’m not keen on romances, vampires, thrillers, historical but that is not to say I don’t sometimes find one I really enjoy. So afraid the random question has me stumped today- sorry folks.

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What is your favourite genre?


Musing Monday:February 23rd

musingmondays51Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Do you enjoy debating / discussing the books that others are currently reading? Why, or why not?

I blogged about this past week:

Last week I reviewed five books for the British Book reading challenge, on this blogsite, over three blogs in succession. I have moments when that is all I want; easy, exciting, escapism reads. I came to Urban Fantasy late in life but I guess the seeds of enjoyment were always there.

Otherwise I contributed to 1000speak blogathon where bloggers wrote their take on compassion. There are hundreds of bloggers who joined in and it’s certainly worth looking at a few.

If you ask people what they like best in their heroes, compassion, in it’s many forms and labels, comes up high on the list.

It is I think hard wired into our DNA. We forget it too often as our lives get so tangled and busy but everywhere you go in the world of ours compassion is there. I saw it firsthand years ago on my travels and see it constantly now at home. The ability to put oneself into another’s skin – to feel what they feel.  In times of great disaster it leaps to hold out its hands.  Parents can look at their children and feel another’s pain, can look around their neighbourhoods and feel the loss So lets raise a cheer for the compassionate and celebrate  can feel it every day, those who carry it so far they are willing to put their lives on the line to do so.

As to discussing a book with others:

I used to hate doing this and dreaded those times, when studying for Literature exams, when we expected to do so. My friends and I used to watch all the plays we could, in London, standing for hours in the gods. We watched Shakespeare, Osborne, Becket, Elliot, Brecht amongst many many others.  Immersed ourselves in modern authors and had to dissect and find hidden meanings endlessly.

I remember watching Peter O’Toole playing Hamlet in the long version nearly 5 hours of, I have to confess, torture on the legs! My friends always wanted to discuss, analyze on the way home and I only ever wanted to sit on the tube and relish in quiet what I had seen.

Live it for a few more hours.

For years after reading groups sprang up around the country I avoided them like the plague

Not for me.
Horrid idea.
Just enjoy the books.

Then I lost my books and spent three years in loneliness and decided in desperation to join a reading group. Treat reading

As homework
A task

It worked a treat, I remember it was a Minette Waters book. I found it difficult to discuss, at first I lurked on the fringes. It wasn’t pretentious as it had been in the days of exams, it was fun.

It was fun?
Well I never!

Now, well yes, I still have some reservations, some books which  I hold so dear I will not discuss them with others.

I belong to two reading groups now, down here on earth, none really in cyberspace. I love discussing our designated reads at the groups, especially if opinion is so divided there is an ‘interesting’ discussion about it. I have also taken on board genres and authors I would never have tried before and because of the discussions read them with a mind as to whether and why others would enjoy them. I believe this has made me far more tolerant, understanding of ‘others’ it has also added whole genres to my ‘likes’. More willing to step outside my comfort zone in pursuit of a good read.
Took a few decades but yes I do enjoy discussing books with others.