[DWJ] Query on DWJ and Milton

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Sep 30 07:56:09 EDT 2014


Not answering any one post, because I can't sort out which one I am
answering!

For what it is worth, when I was reading Milton at university at the
beginning of the century, I was inclined to be "ish" about his habit of
"as when" paragraphing, and Diana was extremely amused, from a great
height; we had a couple of conversations about Milton in which it was
clear she knew a fair bit about him (which didn't surprise me in the
least) and could instruct me -- but that was about his work, not about
hers or about his work in relation to hers.

She did once say that it was difficult to ascribe sources for things
when she seemed to have most of English literature in her head
somewhere and a husband who kept adding more -- John was reading
O'Brien at the time, I think, and there was a decidedly Napoleonic
Naval atmosphere about the house when he did that, which led her
directly into Heyer and Austen; the only reason she could be certain
for instance that she did not "mine" The Turn of the Screw was that she
had disliked that particular book enough to put it aside after about a
chapter and could thus be reasonably sure she had not used something
she had actively not read.  Even then she felt that she might have read
something else that did mine it, or read whatever it was that gave him
the idea for it -- heaven knows there are enough governesses in
literature, and not all of them admirable, look at the one in The
Brontes Went To Woolworths!  There must be an ur-governess somewhere,
but where she is I wouldn't like to guess.

I suspect there simply would be Milton in Diana's mix, as well as all
the rest of what went into making up her book-furniture.  Every so
often I notice a side-reference which I hadn't spotted on the first
eight reads, to something else I have read -- and almost every time I
did that while she was alive and I could ask her, the answer would be
along the lines of, "Oh, yes, I expect it is," when it wasn't a
definite, "Yes, that's where that came from.

Minnow



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