The Complete Works of John Milton: Volume III: The Shorter Poems. John Milton. Ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski and Estelle Haan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. clxxvi + 632 pp. $250

Peter Herman
2015 Renaissance Quarterly  
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. clxxvi þ 632 pp. $250. This book comes with quite a story. After Oxford released The Complete Works of John Milton: Volume III in 2012, Paul Hammond reviewed it for The Seventeenth Century, and what he found did not make him happy. The book was "a mess" (Paul Hammond, "Review: The Complete Works of John Milton: Volume III," The Seventeenth Century 28.2 [2013]: 240). Individual poems were not listed in the table of contents, and the index entry for each
more » ... entry for each item was "simply a string of undifferentiated page numbers" (Hammond, 239); the annotations at the back were not keyed to the text; Lewalski's notes for the English poems, mainly explaining allusions and repeating "glosses taken from the OED" (Hammond, 239), were more aimed at beginners and did not show much effort (for instance, of the twenty-nine comments on page 405, twenty-one are OED citations; of the eighteen on page 413, nine are from the OED); the transcriptions were riddled with errors; and the volume generally was not at all user-friendly. For example, anyone wishing to compare the transcripts of the Bridgewater and Trinity manuscript versions of A Mask with the final version had to "keep a finger in three different pages" (Hammond, 239; four if you also wanted to look at the notes) since they were not printed facing each other. At the end of his review, Hammond urged OUP to "withdraw, correct, and reissue" the book, which they did. The press quietly withdrew the volume. In 2014, Oxford published a "Corrected Impression," the volume currently under review. Did Lewalski, Haan, and Oxford University Press fix the problems? The answer is largely yes. While the original, unhelpful index remains, OUP added indexes of titles and first lines, so one no longer has to struggle to find individual poems. The commentary is
doi:10.1086/685264 fatcat:gjetjxexnvfnxpbyntqizxecoa