LIVING AT THIS HOUR: John Milton 1608–2008

Time, wrote W. H. Auden,

William Strang’s 1895 portrait of Milton, after an engraving by William Faithorne of 1670. Syn.2.89.7

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;

and while many have thought John Milton to be in need of forgiveness, whether for regicidal extremism or bilious misogyny, few have convincingly denied the capacity of his words to preserve him as a vital cultural presence. Conspicuous in his own day as a formidable scholar and linguist, a revolutionary of powerful rhetoric and obdurate principle, and a poet of sublime genius, Milton has continued to shape literature, art and public life through to the present time.

           This exhibition juxtaposes Milton’s own writings with texts and images from later centuries to examine the achievements of his life and the endurance of his writings and example. The currents of his influence have run sometimes forcefully, sometimes more gently, but Milton has never lost his place as an outstanding European poet and a compelling figure in the Western radical tradition.


W. H. Auden quotation from ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’.

Milton image in banner by kind permission of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society.