Citizen Milton
Milton and the French Revolution.

Bodleian Library Bodleian Library, Oxford
Dec 2007 - Apr 2008

Text by Sharon Achinstein

Site designed by Richard Rowley

10. The World's Milton: "fit audience find"

Coleridge noted that Milton's prose was "of a party" but that his poetry "belongs to the whole world." Both Milton's prose and poetry contain universal and abiding themes as creating conditions for, and sustaining, active and virtuous citizens and the climate of liberty throughout the world. About his prose, we hope this exhibition proves Coleridge wrong.

Le Paradise Perdu, tr. Nicholas Francois Dupré de Saint-Maur (Paris, 1792)

Many French Revolutionaries drew upon Milton's thoughts on liberty. Mirabeau adapted Milton's Areopagitica, in his Sur La Liberté de la Presse. Imité de l'Anglois de Milton (1788); Jean Baptiste Salaville excerpted Milton's First Defense of the English People as Théorie de la Royauté, d'Après la Doctrine de Milton (1789), and this fine colour-illustrated translation of Paradise Lost (Paris, 1792) adapts Satan's heroic rhetoric for the present.
Illustration from Le Paradise Perdu, tr. Dupré de Saint-Maur.
[Full size image]
Vet. E5 c.5, 6.

Le Paradise Perdu de Milton, tr. Francois-René de Chateaubriand (Paris, 1836)

On the opposite side of the Revolution, this prose translation reflects the lifelong influence of Milton on the literary founder of French Romanticism. The counter-revolutionary Chateaubriand (1768-1848) recoiled at the experience of the Terror, tracing parallels between the events of 1649 in England and 1789 in France. In exile in London between 1793 and 1800, Chateaubriand read deeply in English literature. Against the revolutionary Satan, Chateaubriand's hero of Paradise Lost is the repentant, human figure of Adam.
Vet. E6 f.81

Anatoly Lunacharsky, Oliver Kromvel (1920)

This melodrama, penned in 1918 by Anatoly Lunacharsky (1875-1933), the 'People's Commisar of the Enlightenment' after the October Revolution, pictures the English Revolutionary government aligned to the goals of the Russian Revolution, and puts the revolutionary Milton on stage along with the Lord Protector and radical John Goodwin.
TAS. Library O.PG3476.L8.O47

The success of Paradise Lost shows in its having been translated into languages across the world, including these very earliest translations which brought the work to new audiences.

Das verlustigte Paradies (1682). German.

8o G 100 Linc.

Paradisus amissa (1685). Latin.

Ashm. 1021 (4)

Top image: Illustration from Le Paradise Perdu, tr. Nicholas Francois Dupré de Saint-Maur (Paris, 1792)