The Prose Writer Laureate?

The section at the beginning of Book 2 of “The Reason of Church Government” is just one example of a trend we have seen occur throughout our studies in Milton thus far; a break from the overall focus of the piece where Milton writes about himself and his writing. Although the pamphlet’s title lead me to believe I would be reading about Milton’s opinions on the episcopacy, pages 665-671 mostly cover Milton’s reason behind writing this piece. This interjection, in comparison to other ones we have discussed (for example, his lengthy and somewhat vain self depiction in “The Second Defence”) begins with more modest intentions. In fact, it would seem that the reason Milton chose to include this personal introduction into the next part of the piece is that he wants to assert his modesty and explain his humble intentions. He is not writing to garner fame or attention, but rather because he has a moral and spiritual duty to use the “few talents which God at present had lent [him]” in order to raise awareness about the dangers of the episcopacy. Much of his desire to write this piece is for fear of future regret in leaving this message unsaid. Perhaps the reason Milton felt the need to include all of this material validating his choice to write this piece is related to the opposition that Helgerson writes about in “Self Crowned Laureates.” One thing that makes a Laureate, according to Helgerson, is the sense that “poetry was itself a means of making a contribution to the order and improvement of the state.” Although the piece at hand is prose and not poetry, Milton’s assertion that his writing it was a responsibility rather than a pleasure (for no one wants to be the bearer of bad news.) As we see in this piece, Milton’s prose, as well as his poetry, helps to define him as a Laureate.

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