Leah Whittington, Harvard University

Incomplete Milton, Leah Whittington

While Samuel Johnson celebrated Paradise Lost for “the completeness and integrity of its design,” modern Milton critics often look for the incomplete and the indeterminate in Milton’s works. This paper considers the uses Milton found in his poetry for the unfinished and the incomplete, focusing on his collaboration with the printer Humphrey Moseley to produce The Poems of Mr. John Milton in 1645. I compare Milton’s paratextual endnote for “The Passion” to conventional ways of marking the stopping points of incomplete poems in early modern print culture, exploring how Milton revises and alters these conventions to emphasize his personal connection to the printed book. In its emphasis on the author’s biography over the text’s transmission history, Milton’s absence marker provides a counterpoint at the level of the material book for the figurative incompletions and interruptions that structure the English portion of Poems (1645).