By Professor Blair Hoxby
This booklet explores what the economic revolution of the 17th century intended to the best poet of the period, John Milton, and the wider literary culture within which he labored. New fiscal rules stimulated a variety of Milton's most famed writings as he and different authors engaged with the commercial discourse of the age, reimagining principles approximately self, neighborhood, and empire.
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Extra info for Mammon's Music: Literature and Economics in the Age of Milton
27 10:01 , , it may also mean that if she drinks it, she will soon be in a position to restore the principal of her loan with another body (line ). The same parable motivates Comus’s audacious allusion to Ovid’s account of man’s descent from a Golden Age to an Iron Age. Whereas in Ovid the gold in the earth’s womb (viscera) was ﬁrst extracted by men in an act of penetration occasioned by an excessive love of having (amor habendi) and ﬁgured as a rape (Met. –), according to Comus the earth is really inviting the exploration of her every oriﬁce by hutching gold in her loins.
Lines –) Comus develops this vision of a superabundant Nature with imaginative rapture before drawing the lesson, Beauty is natures coine, must not be hoorded, But must be currant, and the good therof Consists in mutuall and partaken blisse, Vnsavourie in th’injoyment of it selfe. 6 What will change his argument-by-analogy into something more, what will force us to consider its underlying assumptions, is the Lady’s iconoclastic literalism, her striking response to the (economic) vehicle, rather than the (sexual) tenor, of the tempter’s speech.
I say little because in a plot development that critics have not always found easy to explain, the Lady’s apparently virtuous abstinence nevertheless leaves her ‘‘in stonie fetters ﬁxt, and motionlesse’’ (line ). 17 Nonetheless, may not her situation, with her nerves ‘‘all chain’d up in alablaster’’ like a statue, her legs ‘‘root bound’’ like Daphne’s (lines –), also be the natural consequence of her inﬂexible notions of the economy and of sexuality alike? It is certainly remarkable to see how nearly Milton converges on Comus’s arguments for economic and sexual circulation in his tracts of the s: the Lady’s concern with abstention and distribution gives way to the pamphleteer’s investigation of the processes of circulation, commerce, and generation; an ethic of sexual hoarding gives way to an ideal of chaste sexuality governed by dissoluble (and potentially multiple) marriage contracts.