An Epic Achievement
Paradise Lost was first published 350 years ago in 1667, and was still being hailed and even enjoyed as an epic achievement (literally) into the early twentieth century. Now it’s almost unread, except by the chosen academic few. Why? The real problem, says John Carey in his recent abridgement, is not its world picture but quite simply its length. Milton had just turned 20 when he first announced his epic intention, to compose a poem that would encompass all space and time: an ambitious aim, and, as it took another thirty years to accomplish, the resulting work was never going to be short.