Of True Religion and John Milton.
February 7, 2010
In 1673, a year before his death, John Milton published a pamphlet entitled “Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and what the best means may be used against the Growth of Popery.” His great poems were all behind him, death before him. Oddly, this pamphlet is little known to the general reader of Milton. After looking through a number of textbook collections of Milton for university courses, published during the last several decades, I was surprised to discover none of them contained “Of True Religion,” yet it was the last piece the man ever wrote. All the more startling is that “Of True Religion” presents a portrait of John Milton significantly at variance with the Puritan caricature of him that is often promoted by scholars in the university. All too often Milton is torn out of his historical time and not seen to be in fact the liberal that he was, clearly headed toward the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which further limited the monarchy and prepared the way for the modern efflorescence of individual liberty and freedom. To distort Milton into a one-dimensional Puritan suppresses the complexity of his actual thinking and life….
Now available in
The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays
Forthcoming, September, 2014.