Claire Tomalin and Philip Pullman on John Milton

Filed under: Poetry

Claire Tomalin and Philip Pullman discuss the life and legacy of John Milton, chaired by A.N. Wilson.

Where Joy for Ever Dwells

Few poets have excited greater extremes of scorn and delight than Milton. While Dr Johnson loathed the ‘gigantick loftiness’ of his poetry, and T.S. Eliot claimed that he wrote English ‘like a dead language’, there have always been plenty to side with Dryden in regarding Paradise Lost as ‘one of the greatest, most noble and sublime poems which this nation has produced’. Claire Tomalin first encountered Milton’s work as a teenager, and has been ‘in thrall’ to it ever since, returning to it ‘always with pleasure and renewed astonishment’. Philip Pullman studied Paradise Lost for A level, and was immediately bowled over. ‘My heart beat faster, the hair on my head stirred, my skin bristled.’ Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, is, in his own words, ‘a version of Paradise Lost in three books for teenagers’. Under the chairmanship of A.N. Wilson, and on the eve of Milton’s 400th birthday, Claire Tomalin and Philip Pullman talk about why, for them, Milton’s poetry has never lost its magic.

We are grateful to the Royal Literary Fund for sponsoring this meeting.

Recorded on Monday 8 December 2008