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One reads in the biographies of Milton the poet that his eyesight was defective from his youth, and that he became totally blind in his 44th year of age. Nothing definite, however, is said about the exact nature of his complaint, or complaints. STERN says that the poet's blindness was probably caused by Glaucoma (Milton und seine Zeit, Drittes Buch p. 267), and the same suggestion is made by J. HIRSCHBERG (Geschichte der Augenheilkunde, contained in GRAEFE-SAEMISCH-HESSE, Handbuch der gesamten Augenheilkunde, 2. Aufl., XIV, 4. Abt., 3. Buch, 10. Abschnitt, 1914, § 637, p. 146, footnote 2). Among Milton scholars, the prevailing opinion seems to be that this question is of a purely medical interest only. This is, however, by no means the case, as was dimly recognized by V. P. SQUIRES, who, in his article on "Milton's Treatment of Nature" (Modern Language Notes IX, pp. 454 ff.), speaks at some length of the possible effect of the poet's "Near-sightedness" upon his style (p. 472).

As against these vague suppositions and inconclusive reasonings, the present writer has formed a most definite theory concerning the influence of Milton's eye-troubles upon his literary production. In his pamphlet entitled "Milton und das Licht" (Niemeyer, Halle 1920; reprinted from Beiblatt zur Anglia, November-December 1919), he maintains that Milton was an albino by constitution, and must in consequence have suffered from Photophobia and Nyctalopia until his blindness became effective.

The influence of this photophobia and nyctalopia upon his writings was stated to be twofold, as manifesting itself in (1) the Selection of Plot, and (2) in the Choice of Words. (On this principle see H. SPERBER, "Motiv und Wort", Reisland, Leipzig 1918). This means (1) that his plots must be such as to enable him to move about under favourable conditions of illumination only, i. e. the action must take place in the dark or in the

twilight; and (2) that his thoughts are constantly revolving round the "Light-Shade Complex", in consequence of which he again and again yields to the emotional pressure to use words and expressions belonging to this group. These mental phenomena were said to disappear when the poet lost his sight.

The latter statement may serve for the basis of a chronological law. An attempt will be made to prove that it is possible to say that all those of Milton's writings which contain a strong photophobic element must have been composed before his blindness, and that the absence of such features is a proof of later composition. This law will be of the greatest value in determining the chronology of the different books of "Paradise Lost".

Before this law can be applied it is necessary, however, to introduce a most important modification. The date of Milton's effective blindness must be shifted to the period when the first attack of glaucoma occurred. This happened eight years before the definite destruction of the poet's sight in 1652, i. e. in the year 1644, as Milton himself explains in his letter to Philaras, dated September 28th, 1654. This letter contains sufficient evidence to enable the eminent ophthalmologist of Berlin University, Professor HIRSCHBERG, definitely to diagnose Milton's fatal complaint as Glaucoma. As the learned eye-specialist informed the present writer in a private letter, it is Milton's report of "seeing a rainbow" that leads to the above diagnosis. The first attack of glaucoma in 1644 would have the effect of suddenly reducing the sensibility of the retina so considerably as to cause the disappearance of the existing photophobia without, however, completely destroying the power of sight.

This qualification concerning the date of the disappearance of Milton's photophobia had remained concealed from the present writer in the first instance, because he had concentrated his attention on the poetical works. There are, however, no poetical works belonging, according to current criticism, to the decisive years about 1644. An examination of the prose works, however, will at once reveal the gulf which separates the period of photophobia from that of partial and complete blindness.

On the following pages the complete material resulting from an inquiry into the style of Milton's Early English Prose Works will be displayed. The method pursued has been to extract all

verbal references to the light-shade complex, and to compare their relative frequency. It is hoped that the number of references which have escaped the author's attention may be but small. The extracts have been grouped under six heads:

I. Phenomena of Light. The photophobic person is naturally very susceptible to all the different modes of illumination; he will, therefore, often introduce references to phenomena of light, and be liable to connect, in his metaphors, the idea of brightness with that of power.

II. Contrast between Light and Darkness. Considering the sensibility of the albinotic eye, it is not surprising to find Milton frequently alluding to the contrast between light and darkness to symbolize the idea of opposed principles.

III. Agreeable Modes of Illumination. This section contains metaphorical references to phenomena agreeable to the albino. This group must not be identified with Section I.

IV. Shade and Darkness. Owing to his photophobia, Milton exhibits a strong liking for metaphors based on the ideas of shade and of darkness.

V. Albinotic Vision. Under this head are classified all figures of speech which contain, in the opinion of the present writer, a reference to the mode of seeing peculiar to the albino.

VI. Albinotic Facies. This section is added as an appendix. It has no immediate connection with the light-shade complex but contains figures of speech suggested to Milton by the peculiarities of his personal appearance resulting from his albinotic condition. In this connection it is important to remember that the albino is remarkable for the "fairness" of his complexion, and for the general wrinkling of the skin around the immediate neighbourhood of the eyes ("frowning").

Extracts from the Early English Prose Works of Milton.

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