'A Late Court-Poet' revisited: Milton, Cleveland, and The Readie and Easie Way

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Abstract / Description of output

This essay makes a case for identifying the ‘late court-Poet’ to whom Milton alludes in both editions of The Readie and Easie Way to Establish a Free Common-wealth as the royalist poet John Cleveland, who died in 1658. Beginning with the difficulties critics and editors have previously encountered in identifying possible referents for Milton’s allusion, it proposes a new interpretative framework for the reference which is consistent with Milton’s polemical strategies, and which supports the suggestion that Cleveland might well have been his target. Drawing on new archival and textual evidence, as well as on recent scholarship, it sets out reasons for considering Cleveland a rival and enemy of interest for Milton from the 1630s onwards, and especially in the fraught moments of early 1660 when a restoration of the Stuart monarchy seemed–to Milton’s evident horror and despair–increasingly likely. In doing so, it revises familiar perceptions of Cleveland’s writings, readership, reputation and networks, offering a fresh view which illuminates a key aspect of Milton’s polemical focus in early 1660.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalThe Seventeenth Century
Early online date22 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Apr 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Milton, John
  • Cleveland, John
  • poetry
  • polemic
  • cipher
  • Restoration
  • monarchy


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