A splendid and relevant essay by Andrew Doyle highlighting his scholarly credentials in contrast to the narrow and bigoted views of the Master of the College.
Of course those who wish to suppress views contrary to their own as hateful forget that to do so is to set themselves up as an infallible Pope rather than an enquiring academic.
Reading your comment at first I thought you were referring to the Pope of the Alexander variety. 😀 Need more coffee, methinks.
Yes. I only begin reading once I have downed my 1st cup of Saicaf espresso.
It is Milton’s contention that we are far better placed to know and overcome evil if we are acquainted with its essence, and censorship deprives us of this opportunity. Censorship, he maintains, is tantamount to a repudiation of the human spirit.
Ah. For me, in this issue, evil is censorship. Being acquainted with the essence of evil is to be acquainted with a repudiation of the human spirit.
Oh have they censored ‘The Rape of the Lock’ ?
Agreed, an excellent polemic, perhaps the best thing on UnHerd this week. Milton, who spent his last 22 years blind, is one of the unsung heroes of England. Who can forget his splendid opening to Sonnet 16 “Cromwell our chief for men”?
For someone of my advanced years, it is simply astonishing that ‘we’ are studiously destroying the inalienable and hard fought right of any Englishman to say what he likes, when he likes, and to whom he likes. Once lost this right will be impossible to regain.
One can forgive the supine Irish for slavishly following their malignant Scotch ,’cousins’, but for ‘the other place’* to be lauding this pernicious nonsense is nothing short of a national disgrace.
O for those happy days!:-
(*Cambridge for US readers.)
My husband is a Gonville and Caius alumnus, they are now out of his will.
Frankly it is terrible it has come to this!
Absolutely..defund censorship !
I haven’t read it but isn’t it “Chief of men”. I only knew the line from Antonia Fraser’s book.
Spot on and absolutely correct. Slovenly typing (again), must do better!
NB : Impossible to edit now for some reason?
No worries. I didn’t know it was from Milton at all.
Inverted commas in the wrong place, should be … ‘Scotch’ cousins … and … diaspora would be a better word that cousins.
I thought emphasising cousins might prove more controversial.
Diaspora sounds a bit too biblical for me.
The main issue for me is that “those who wish to suppress views contrary to their own” isnt even the reason for why they do such things.
Pretty sure most members of government voting for these bills would have a different discussion down at the pub after a couple beers.
Which leads me to believe that better governance could be achieved in such a local. If you had to do a shot every time somebody “on your side” got up and said the same thing, they might actually make alot more sense.
What a pleasure to read this essay, thank you Andrew Doyle.
More of this please Unherd.
Excellent article by someone who knows what they are talking about.
Not sure the quotes about the “Romish weed” and are the best ones to highlight his contradictions – actions he carried out (commonly against more extreme Puritanism) while censor would have been better. Surely vehement and forthright speech should be applauded, especially in the anti-republican repression of the restoration.
His writings on divorce were not a departure from religiosity but an aspect of it – biblically sourced and with the aim of creating happier (and therefore more christian) people. It also came with the caveat, already expounded upon by the author, of liberty being upheld over licence.
“[Milton] was at pains to distinguish between what he called “licence”, the freedom to do whatever one desires, and “liberty”, by which the faithful man is called to purge those passions and temptations that enslave the soul. “Licence”, Milton contends, is no freedom at all, but an indulgence that amounts to a form of self-imposed tyranny.”
This speaks so forcefully to our age, where Jefferson’s claim that all human beings have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has been contorted into a strange belief that all have the right to BE happy, and that anything preventing that happiness is necessarily an act of oppression. It’s sad that Milton’s political, religious, and social ideas, so central to the founding of America, are lost to self-obsession, ignorance, and willfulness.
The key word is ‘pursuit‘, a chase in which there is no guarantee of catching up.
“We appear to have lost our faith in our ability to make the stronger case.”
Isn’t Milton’s Christianity key here, not just a passing detail of his personal life? Free speech is free for something, truth, which is not secured by faith in humanity but in God. I suspect Milton would today be saying, lose faith in the source of truth, lose faith in the possibility of truth.
Free speech, yes. Free will, yes. But free speech freed, free will freed, to know true freedom.
I am not being pedantic, do you mean loose or lose as either could make sense.
Thank you – lose! I’ll change it.
No. Neither faith in humanity or in whichever god one’s particular upbringing might try to induce faith in. Rather more akin to scientific method, which is to establish temporary “proofs” until proven otherwise. Hence, free speech is the means to determine what is good and right rather than faith, which is demonstrably unreliable. Free speech can then adjust what is deemed to be good and right ad infinitum, and the world would be a much better place if this replaced religiosity.
It’s telling that those who claim to know what is good and right in the transgender wars are the ones who seek to deny free speech. I wonder why?
Thank you for such a well argued and relevant essay – most definitely, more of this please! The problem is: though, whilst so many of us probably applaud such sentiments as Andrew’s, and fear the consequences of present trends, we feel powerless. Analysis of a threat is the first step, but what can we do about it? What action can we take when those with political power seem unwilling to recognise the threat, or even to be complicit in perpetuating it?
An interesting piece; I wish we had had someone like the author teaching us at my school.
That was an excellent read. Thank you very much. I did Milton in school, but I had no memory of what his writing was about.
One quotation I did not understand:
““How shall the licencers themselves be confided in,” writes Milton, “unless we can confer upon them, or they assume to themselves above all others in the land, the grace of infallibility and uncorruptedness?””
One last thing, my money is for the master of Caius (the lovely Pippa) and her acolytes to be made mincemeat by the same people they are trying to “safeguard and protect”, and that in the end they *will* lose their job that they are trying at *all* costs to protect. It is just a matter time (just ask Kate Clancy).
“the lovely Pippa”? Have you gone blind like Milton?
Thanks for an interesting article – I never knew the mob had desecrated the great poet’s grave.
Indeed. I’ve benchmarked St. Giles Cripplegate for visiting during my next trip to the capital. (This historic building not being at odds with my anti-religiosity!!)
Don’t leave it too long, it’s adjacent to the Museum of London which closes permanently on the 4th December next!
A timely and insightful piece. Thank you Andrew Doyle!
Excellent article. Thank you AD.
Brilliant, inspiring article!
Those responsible for such misguided legislation do not have compassionate intentions. To a man and woman, the people who pass this legislation are doing so either to virtue signal or because the very idea that other people think differently scares them.
Excellent piece and the first time I’ve seen a true Milton admirer address his Cromwellian hypocrisy.
And what about this Sonnet – splendid verse but would now be charged as anti-Catholic hate speech ?
Before I finish reading this, just a splenetic question – why do otherwise reasonably talented and fluent writers fall for this modern inelegance of ‘quite the…’ rather than the standard ‘quite a…’? Disappointing.
Interesting, I never noticed.
Had a quick search and found this interesting conversation:
Very helpful, thank you. The thread eventually gets round to the two things I was looking for – first the slightly arch affectation usage from around a century ago which is where I recognise this form from (‘He’s quite the dandy, eh, old man?’ à la Scott Fitzgerald); and second the desire of the youth, quite reasonably, to use a new phrase to push the elderly out of the conversation. It still makes my teeth hurt, though – and just as I was getting over the replacement of ‘Well…’ by ‘So..’ at the beginning of every remark.
…and don’t start me on ‘If I’m honest..’ for ‘To be honest…’. Well, are you???
“So” is ghastly, as is “I am a good” in response to “How are you”. I went to an excellent grammar school decades ago but I am sad to say I think English was the worst taught subject with very little grammar (largely because most of us were reasonably good at it in any event, and we all had to do at least two if not three foreign languages so their teachers taught us grammar).
I am usually prey, as you seem to be, to anguish about inelegant, careless or plain wrong usage.
But in this instance, I think there is a good case for ‘quite the’, as it allows the introduction of a particular tone of voice.
‘My cousin is quite an expert in …’ probably means what it appears to say. (Allowing always for English usage of ‘quite’ to mean anything on a sliding scale of ‘very slightly’ to ‘extremely’).
‘My cousin is quite the expert in …’ suggests that perhaps the cousin has that view of himself, but the speaker wishes to hint at a slight hesitance to agree.
Precisely! And elegantly expressed. (Hope my beginning of a sentence with “And” is permissable!)
Nice piece, shame about the hypocrisy from the greatest blocker on twitter!
The Barbican has a “charmless” brutalism ? It’s a lovely, fantastic building! I think of it as like a medieval fortress. I used to love visiting it in the 1990s…..Very good article on free speech though….as one one expect from Andrew Doyle. His book on free speech is great.
Chacun a son gout.
Very good article indeed; but I must leap to defend the Barbican, an architectural gem even if one must reflect a little before seeing that way; but really a romantic townscape engirdled in classical form
And again the downvotes. Even if you don’t like the Barbican, a downvote is most certainly unwarranted here.