Citizen Milton
The Nonesuch Comus (linoleum engraving)

Bodleian Library Bodleian Library, Oxford
Dec 2007 - Apr 2008

Text by Sharon Achinstein

Site designed by Richard Rowley

11. 'Most Musical, Most Melancholy'

Poet of loss, poet of tragedy, Milton was also a poet of vibrancy and celebration, as is evident from London theatrical playbills here showing the performances of his most performed work, Comus. Composers and artists from the Handel, who adapted many of Milton's works, to Penderecki, who wrote an opera, Paradise Lost (1978) have responded to his varied tones, the theatricality and musicality of his works. Milton's contempoary, John Dryden, was an early admirer and rival, who adapted Paradise Lost into an opera (never performed), changing the blank verse format into rhyming couplets.

Comus. Nonesuch Press (1937)

For this "ornamented" edition of The Mask of Comus, Mildred R. H. Farrar designed cuts for linoleum, which were made by the Curwen Press.
Mildred Ferrar's illustration for Comus (1937).
[Full size image]
Arch. c b.15, p. 1

John Dryden, The State of Innocence and the Fall of Man (1677)

Vet . A3 d.179

Johann Ernst Galliard (1687-1749), Hymn of Adam and Eve out of Paradise Lost (1728)

Harding Mus. E694

G. F. Handel, L'Allegro & Il Penseroso (1740)

Mus. 21 b.1

Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851), Milton: Opera en un acte (1805)

Harding Mus. c448

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956), Two sonnets, op. 12 : for tenor (or soprano) ... words by John Milton (1925)

Ms. Mus. C.383

Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-), Adagietto. for Paradise Lost (1979)

Mus. 221 C.841(3)

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1 May 1867

Johnson Collection

London Playbills Drury Lane, 30 November 1797

Johnson Collection

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Top image: Illustration of Comus from the Nonesuch Press edition of 1937.