Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Life of John Milton
David Masson (1822–1907)
Milton, John, The Life of. ‘Narrated in connection with the Political, Ecclesiastical, and Literary History of his Time,’ by David Masson (7 vols., 1858–94. Revised and enlarged edition of Vol. i., 1881). A thorough and minute ‘Life of Milton,’ with a new political, ecclesiastical, and literary history of Milton’s whole time, 1608–74. The work embraces not only the history of England, but the connections of England with Scotland and Ireland, and with foreign countries, through the civil wars, the Commonwealth, the Protectorates of Oliver and Richard Cromwell, the period following of anarchy, and the first fourteen years of the Restoration. It claims to be, and unquestionably is, the faithful fulfillment of a large design to make a history of England’s most interesting and most momentous period, from original and independent studies; not a mere setting for the biography of Milton, but a work of independent search and method from first to last, to which the inquirer can turn for accurate information in regard to any important fact of the entire Milton period.  1
  The Pilgrim Fathers took refuge in Holland the very year of Milton’s birth; the age was the age of Puritanism; Milton was the very genius of Puritanism, and largely too of broad Pilgrim character and mind; the Westminster Assembly, by which Scotch Calvinism was made dominant in England, was a notable fact, side by side with the Long Parliament, from July 1st, 1643, to February 22d, 1649; Presbyterianism found advantage from this Assembly to plant its organization on English soil; the less vigorous and more truly English system of independency, conspicuously represented by the Pilgrims to New England, won a place in the history; and over all rose that Commonwealth, which runs in the name of Cromwell, and to the governing body of which—the great Council of State—Milton was secretary from March 15th, 1649, to December 26th, 1659. To all these large and significant matters Professor Masson addressed himself with masterly research; and in due connection brings upon the scene all the great figures of the time. He uses the utmost pains also to tell the story of Milton’s powerful prose writings, his vigorous and independent thinking in those great works which are one of the richest mines of interest and inspiration in the whole of English literature. Not only has Professor Masson given everything knowable about Milton, but he has shown the truest appreciation of the mind and character of the great poet, and of the varied aspects of the great age in which he played so conspicuous a part.  2

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