John Hale. Milton's Cambridge Latin: Performing the Genres 1625-1632. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005. 305pp. ISBN 978 0 86698 332 7.

Angelica Duran
Purdue University

Angelica Duran. "Review of John Hale. Milton's Cambridge Latin: Performing the Genres 1625-1632."Early Modern Literary Studies 13.3 (January, 2008) 12.1-5 <URL:>.

  1. The book's title accurately describes the select texts under study but is unlikely to attract as wide of an audience as it should. In Milton's Cambridge Latin: Performing the Genres 1625-1632, John Hale provides a refreshing analysis of the extant performative prose that John Milton (1608-1674) penned in Latin during his Cambridge years, of obvious interest to Miltonists and Latinists. But, Hale also provides readers with an engaging sense of the lively role of performed Latin to early modern English scholars, of equal importance to early modern scholars, educational specialists, and those interested in multi-lingual culture in general. Milton's texts serve, at once, as well-appreciated, unique texts and as fascinating examples for explanation of the larger educational, public, and linguistic contexts.

  2. Hale's tone inspires interest in subjects that may be all too readily thought to be tedious. He conveys a great deal of important information about both college and university requirements in Milton's day and about the subtleties of Latin usage inscribed in academic performances, especially the puns on salting, the bilingual ritual when freshmen were inducted to freshman status. Milton's Cambridge Latin demands careful attention on the part of readers because so much is conveyed in a compressed yet thankfully appealing style, perhaps mimetic of the very experience that Hale describes of Milton's original Cambridge audiences. When Hale summarizes that "Rhetoric was part of making the logic pleasing, entertaining" (22), one cannot help but be pleased that he practices what he states in his own writing.

  3. Continually emphasizing the likely and implied human interactions between speaker and audience in oral performance, Hale dedicates the book's four parts to the genres of university exercises, voluntaries, pieces for the college community, and salting. One of Hale's greatest strengths is in defining and signaling clearly the differences between genres. For example, he moves from the first chapter on disputations to the second on act verses by writing "Whereas his disputations evinced little spirit of emulation, and did not extend or affect their genre, his act verses show the exact opposite. He infuses this equally set mode of philosophical expressions with considerable new life" (33).

  4. I am glad to have John Hale's Milton's Cambridge Latin sitting on my bookshelf as a concise, engaging resource on early modern English academic performances, especially because they are Milton's of course. As the works of a highly influential author, they can be readily integrated into classroom discussions in courses that already include Milton: ideally, they can indeed expand a return of interest in the worthy poet, appropriately reframed thanks to Hale as an erstwhile, impressively-creative Renaissance student. The book is invaluable for research on multilingualism and on seventeenth-century academic practices. In graduate classrooms, parts of the book could serve as nice complements to Milton's Of Education (1644) or works on public academic performances by Juan Luis Vives, Richard Mulcaster, and others.

  5. Milton's Cambridge Latin is an especially strong resource for Comparative Literature research and classes. The last part, "Part IV: Milton's Salting (Editio Princeps), Text and Translation," is a fine exposition on translation theory and practice. After graciously acknowledging the positive contributions of the Tillyards' translations, Hale states of his own translation, "The present version prints the extant text together, in its original tongues, for the reader to read as a whole and consecutive experience of what Milton did as the master of those 1628 [salting] ceremonies" (240). The book ends with Latin transcriptions on facing pages of Hale's English translations of the oration "In Feriis [] jeventute," the prolusion "Laboranti, ut videtur," and "Anno Aetatis 19. At a Vacation Exercise." Footnotes to both the Latin and English refer directly to grammatical issues that display choices in translation, describe variants in the early editions of the works, and explain the humour that might be otherwise, well, lost in translation. The helpful footnotes, the Latin and English on facing pages, and Hale's thorough enjoyment of Milton's Latin works so clearly evinced in the preceding parts inspired me to renovate my Latin skills, degenerated since graduate school. The exercise was well worth the effort under Hale's learned, balanced guidance.

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© 2008-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).