Milton in America

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Peter Ackroyd has made a reputation for writing provocative historical fiction. Some of his most original novels include THE LAST TESTAMENT OF OSCAR WILDE (1983), HAWKSMOOR (1985), CHATTERTON (1987), and THE TRIAL OF ELIZABETH CREE (1995). He also has written a number of notable biographies, including EZRA POUND AND HIS WORLD (1980), T. S. ELIOT (1984), DICKENS (1990), and BLAKE (1995). In his fiction, Ackroyd has never been less than daring. Always willing to take chances, his fictional devices do on occasion overwhelm the uninitiated reader. Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of seemingly any historical period about which he writes, Ackroyd has once again created a vivid portrait of a time in history with MILTON IN AMERICA.

As the author of the epic poem PARADISE LOST (1667, 1674), John Milton was a major literary and religious figure during his lifetime. He was a devout Puritan and lived the last twenty years of his life totally blind. For the purposes of MILTON IN AMERICA, Ackroyd has Milton join the Puritans in their flight from England after Charles II has been restored to power in 1660. In reality, Milton remained in England and lived a rather quiet life in London. For the trip to Colonial America, Milton secures the services of a young attendant who is named Goosequill. The blind Milton endures the hardships of the long journey with the help of his faithful attendant. Upon arrival in New England, the respected Milton joins his Puritan brethren...

(The entire section is 432 words.)