Sunday, 7 December 2008

Marquand and Milton




Few of us who heard David Penhaligon talking about Milton's Areopagitica will forget it. Not only did he pronounce the hitherto unnoticed silent 'h' at the beginning he quoted with passion the key bit :


'And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter'
The Areopagitica was the symbol of office for Presidents of the Liberal Party

I bought the Guardian on Saturday to read the Ofsted interview about their failings on Baby P and notice an editorial on Milton's 400th anniversary which included:
'A new essay by David Marquand in Political Quarterly argues that Milton shaped three great themes of English popular politics: republican self-respect as opposed to monarchical servility, engaged civic activity versus slothful private apathy, and government by challenge and discussion rather than deference or conformism.'
Marquand's writings were central to reconciling many in the Liberal Party to working with a section of the Social Democrats in the early 1980's. I well remember being sent an article Marquand had written-I think it was in a magazine called Encounter or some such- which
persuasively argued what most of us thought was an essentially 'liberal' analysis.