To Milton through Dryden and Pope, or, God, man and nature: Paradise Lost regained
This thesis handles a number of passages in the poems of Dryden and Pope which show that both poets had been deeply impressed by Paradise Lost. These passages are so various and numerous (this is one of the principal claims to novelty of this thesis) that it is no longer possible to maintain that Milton was in different ways an isolated figure. Secondly, the effect on both poets of these passages they admired in Paradise Lost is such as to justify the claim that in important respects Milton made Dryden and Pope. The principal point of this thesis is to provide evidence suggesting that the implied verdict on Paradise Lost which emerges from Dryden's and Pope's manifold uses of the poem in producing their own poetry, is radically unlike any of the verdicts pronounced on Paradise Lost by the most gifted readers of poetry during the years from Wordsworth's death down to the present. In Dryden and Pope there was a common underlying estimate of the permanent worth of Paradise Lost. This finding entails an examination of the nature and development of the divergent tradition, which is traced back to a point in the middle years of the nineteenth century, and has been maintained without substantial addition or modification until recent times. However, the bulk of the thesis is not polemical. God, Man and Nature are the topics which principally stirred the two poets in their reading of Paradise Lost. Nevertheless, neither Dryden nor Pope separated their feelings for Milton's Nature from their feelings for Milton's Man and Milton's God. The nature found by Dryden and Pope was a nature crowned by human nature, but was invisible until they were confronted by the intermingling and interpenetration of the human and the divine. Common to Dryden and Pope was the conviction that Paradise Lost was a unique creation and unique above all because these three elements were so interrelated, and one could never be isolated without involving all the others. The whole question of what constitutes evidence of Dryden's and Pope's contact with Paradise Lost is examined in a separate appendix. Further appendices include lists of all the instances known to me.