John K. Hale. Milton as Multilingual: Selected Essays, 1982-2004.Otago: Otago Studies in English, 2005. pp.xviii+282. ISBN 1 8771 3975 0.

Matthew Steggle
Sheffield Hallam University

Steggle, Matthew. "Review of John K. Hale. Milton as Multilingual: Selected Essays, 1982-2004." Early Modern Literary Studies 11.3 (January, 2006):9.1-5 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/11-3/revhale.htm>.


  1. This review should begin by disclosing a vested interest, namely that John K. Hale is a long-serving member of the editorial board of this journal. Regardless of this fact, however, it is still an unfeigned pleasure to welcome the appearance of this volume of his Selected Essays.

  2. A brief introduction by Beverley Sherry, and brief headnotes and endpieces, put each essay into context, so that while most of them have appeared previously in journals including Milton Studies, Classical and Modern Literature, and Philological Quarterly, they are given new shape by their organization in this collection. The essays are grouped under five headings: "Composing", "Language-Arts", "Self-understanding", "Paradise Lost and its early reception", and "De Doctrina Christiana and Language Issues". Scholars familiar with some of them from their appearance in journals, or familiar with Hale's important book Milton's Languages (1997), will already know the broad outlines of Hale's intellectual approach: close attention to the details of Milton's verbal structures, whether in English, Latin, Italian, or Greek, and of the pressures and processes of translation between these, and other, languages. Essays in Section 1 deal with Epitaphium Damonis, Milton's Odes, and Milton's neo-Latin prose; in Section 2 Hale considers Milton as translator, especially as psalm translator, and as scholar of Euripides; Section 3 looks at Poems (1645), at Milton's idea of books and book-form, and at "Milton on the style best for historiography". Section 4 includes a wonderful essay on Bentley's marginalia to Paradise Lost, and the relation between those marginalia and the readings of Bentley's own printed edition, as well as an analysis of early translations of Milton's poem. Hale brings to these early translators and scholars of Milton the same seriousness with which he analyses Milton's own scholarship and translation. By extension, this approach asks us to approach our work in scholarship and translation with the same seriousness. For instance, Hale's damning reconstruction of Bentley's work on Milton is, also, a lesson on the consequences of failing to practise systematically the skills of editorship: [the marginalia] "show how his quirky use of the pen on minor details distracted Bentley from major discoveries nearby" (190).

  3. Section 5 comprises four essays, three of them hitherto unprinted, arising from Hale's work with the international team of scholars investigating De Doctrina Christiana. Again, Hale's distinctive interest is in issues of style and translation, starting with his own task of doing justice to DDC's fluctuations of tone and register in an English translation. In "De Doctrina Christiana: a dialogue with Maurice Kelley", Hall respectfully questions Kelley's conclusions that the Latin of DDC is polished and stylish, and takes that as a starting point to readjust the perspective on larger questions of provenance. "Latin Bibles and De Doctrina Christiana" looks again at issues of style and translation in the scriptural citations and translations in DDC. "Notes on the style of the Epistle to all the churches" is a stylistic analysis of the opening of DDC, tracing, in particular, the imitations of Saint Paul.

  4. One small regret, for me, is that the collection does not include Hale's note, "Milton and the Sexy Seals: a peephole into the Horton years", published in EMLS in 1995. This piece displays Hale's characteristic strengths of imaginative engagement with the act of translation, founded in detailed archival scholarship; it made early use of what was then an unfamiliar technology, the purely electronic scholarly journal; and it has a come-hither title which has long confused internet search engines and brought many readers to EMLS who, perhaps, were a little surprised to end up here.

  5. Milton as Multilingual is a pleasing collection, gathering material from far and wide, adding new essays, and equipping the whole with a sense of shape and with a handy and detailed index. It is highly recommended to anyone interested in Milton or in questions around translation and the early modern.

Work cited:

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk

2006-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).