Oxford does it right: The Merton Record arrives on our doorstep


IMG_20141111_145704We shouldn’t have been surprised. When we were contacted by the Merton College at Oxford about republishing our obituary on the late great Milton scholar, Martin Evans in The Merton Record, we offered our enthusiastic  support. The Welshman was an amazing man and an amazing Miltonist, and it was a privilege to study Paradise Lost with him.

We made Editor Helen Morley promise to send the finished product.

When the envelope arrived from Oxford, we were pleased to find a model of this kind of academic publishing: 200 perfect-bound pages with writing that matches high production values  – and it was delightful to be a small part of it. (Also noted: it has a review of Stuart D. Lee‘s A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien, who was a professor at Merton for many years.)

From my republished piece on Martin:

Evans coined the phrase “Miltonic moment” to describe the point of crisis just before the action changes dramatically, looking at once backward to a past that is about to be transcended or repudiated, and forward to a future that immediately begins to unfold.

His first reading of Milton marked a Miltonic moment of his own: “I fell hopelessly in love with the poetry. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever read,” Evans said.

Yet Evans is remembered for being a powerful mentor as well as a revered scholar.

IMG_20141111_145734The poet and scholar Linda Gregerson of the University of Michigan, his student in the late 1970s, recalled, “He was immensely generous, both personally and intellectually, able to convey deep learning with extraordinary clarity. He always took a deep delight in ideas, and was just opinionated enough to make things fun.” She recalled him as “impish, with a brilliant, irreverent sense of humor.”

“He converted many of us to a lifelong inhabitation in the world of Milton studies. It’s a formidable world in many respects, not nearly so genial as the world of Shakespeare studies, for example. But Martin imbued it, and us, with a durable sense of joy.”

You can read an earlier Book Haven post on Martin here – or about his 400th birthday party for Milton here. Or here’s a treat: go here and you can listen the the Milton scholar himself, at Milton’s birthday party (which was also a celebration of his own anniversary at Stanford). Hearing him read the last words of Paradise Lost is absolutely delicious.

(See? “Lycidas” is evidently still on my mind after my post yesterday about Derek Walcott.)

lovesongsPostscript on 9/19: Martin Evans’s influence was wide indeed. I just received this note from music scholar and author Ted Gioia: “I spent a lot of time with Martin Evans, both inside and outside the classroom, and learned a tremendous amount from him. My next book (on the history of love songs) is a better book because of what Martin taught me about Petrarch, Dante, Boccaccio, Castiglione, etc. Because of him, I read The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus, The Allegory of Love by C.S. Lewis and a number of other books that prepared me (in ways I never could have anticipated at the time) to write a study of the evolution of the love song.”


“It was the most exciting thing I’d ever read.” (Photo: L.A. Cicero)


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