Oh, Milton and Williams: Old Chums

The world was all before them, where to choose

Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;

They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,

Through Eden took their solitary way.

I live in Providence, just two blocks up the hill from the place Roger Williams, the founder of RI, first lived. His house is no longer there, but the spot is the country's smallest national park. I've always been fascinating with Williams, who settled in Rhode Island in order to create a place with absolute separation of church and state; in some ways, he conceived of modern governance. The early glory of RI, bastion of dissidents as varied as Jews, Quakers and Baptists, has mostly faded. But so much of the American dream (the parts that are actually good) was dreamt just down the hill.

I learned that Williams was close to another dreamer I admire a great deal -- John Milton.

How cool is that? The man down the hill was friends with the author of Paradise Lost. Contact high. On a short trip back to England, Williams schooled Milton in Hebrew in exchange for lessons in Dutch.

Yeah, me too. I did that. I wish I was a genius, or even just brilliant. I'll just have to content myself gazing down at Williams' little park ...


emilykathryn said...

From a nosy reader: I've always loved Milton (who, in their right mind, could not?) but find it difficult at times because he was, apparently, such an awful man. He was blind when writing Paradise Lost and dictated it to his daughters whom he forced to work late through the night. But, oh what a lovely work.

Daniel-Halifax said...

No way!? Never knew that! Have you read "The Wordy Shipmates?" Excellent, especially if you're interested in Williams.

Nick Heywood said...

Yes, I read "Wordy Shipmates" on the plane back from Colombia! -- strange that the only printed matter I could find in English on offer in Bogota was so closely related to the history just steps from my house.

But really, this convergence of our taste in all things must stop. I'm starting to feel completely unoriginal.

Daniel-Halifax said...

It's an odd thing! Our royal ancestries must have crossed paths somewheres.

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