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John Selden Scholar, Statesman, Advocate for Milton's Muse


John Selden Scholar, Statesman, Advocate for Milton's Muse

  • ISBN 13:


  • ISBN 10:


  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 11/05/2021
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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The life of John Selden (1584-1654) was both contemplative and active. Seventeenth-century England's most learned person, he was also one of the few survivors who continued in the Long Parliament of the 1640s his vigorous opposition, begun in the 1620s, to abuses of power, whether by Charles I or, later, by the Presbyterian-controlled Westminster Assembly. His gift for finding analogies among different cultures--Greco-Roman, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic--helped to transform both the poetry and prose of the century's greatest poet, John Milton. Regarding family law, the two might have influenced one another. Milton cites Selden, and Selden owned two of Milton's treatises on divorce, published in 1645, both of them presumably acquired while he was writing Uxor Ebraica (1646).

Selden accepted the non-biblically rabbinic, externally imposed, coercive Adamic/Noachide precepts as universal laws of perpetual obligation, rejecting his predecessor Hugo Grotius' view of natural law as the innate result of right reason. He employed rhetorical strategies in De Jure Naturali et Gentium (The Law of Nature and of Nations) to prepare his readers for what might otherwise have shocked them. Although Selden was very active in the Long Parliament, his only surviving debates from that decade were as a lay member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. The Assembly's scribe left so many gaps that the transcript is sometimes indecipherable. This book fills in the gaps and makes the speeches coherent by finding their contexts in Selden's printed works, both the scholarly, as in the massive De Synedriis, but also in the witty and informal Table Talk.

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