Departmental Bulletin Paper The Polemics on Liberty in Southey's Joan of Arc in Relation to John Milton

Sonoi, Chine

Robert Southey's liberal ideology in Joan of Arc (1798) echoes an influence by John Milton's polemics on liberty in his political tracts of the first and the second Defence of the People of England (1651 and 1654). Milton's innovative but classical theorisation on liberty which was found, for instance, in the “Preface" to the First Defence that people should at first “form a state in order to live in safety and freedom without violence or wrong" (Milton, 1651, 320) was reiterated by Southey in his romantic claim that the ultimate value of civil liberty and freedom which was symbolised in the young figure of a fatal woman, Joan, the vanquisher of tyranny, was unsurpassable. Despite its French plot, Southey tactically appeals to the British readers that liberal sensibility must be integral in human minds, emphasizing that the fight against tyrants in Orleans is justified by God just as Milton regards the war against Charles I as “right and just" (Milton, 1651, 318) acknowledged by God. In this paper I will analyse the ideological relationship between Southey and Milton in their discourse on liberal politics and look again into the fundamental elements of the British idea of liberty.

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