A Reexamination of the Spelling Revisions in the Paradise Lost Book I Manuscript

Cameron Hunt McNabb, Curran McQuade


We argue that the revision patterns found in the Book I manuscript of Paradise Lost - some minute and some more sizable - not only affirm those previously discerned by Darbishire, Shawcross, and others, particularly in the area of phonetic spelling, but they also reveal one aspect of Milton’s spelling that has thus far been largely ignored. Amid the fast-paced and precarious development of early modern English, Milton’s spelling revisions also demonstrate attention to etymology, as might be expected from a man of so many tongues but which has thus far been overlooked in the scholarship. Thus, rather than treat the spelling choices in the Book I manuscript as a means of dating or witnesses towards a received text of Paradise Lost, we explore its orthography as one author’s engagement with the evolution of English spelling. The dominant revision patterns in the Book I manuscript document this engagement through two main spelling trends - one based on aural quality, which has been well-documented within the current literature, and another based on etymology, which has thus far been underanalyzed.


Milton, Paradise Lost, etymology, spelling

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