by John Milton

Rating: ★★★

Not a fully general defence of free speech and publication. Milton writes here specifically against pre-publication licensing of books by official censors, and parts of his argument do not apply to other forms of censorship, and indeed he at points seems even to approve of post-publication book-burnings; or else persecution of individuals for their writing. You can read this as a careful staking-out of the grounds of debate -- Milton fighting the specific and not the general case -- but it is thereby less full-throated than it might have been.

While certainly in agreement with him that sending your books to licensors for imprimatur is a detestable throttle on the free exchange of ideas and opinion (nowadays, of course, they would be called sensitivity readers, though their objections no less theological or prudish in origin), this polemical failed to grab me. Milton spends too long on preliminaries, writes not boldly enough, fails to give the rhetorical punch I expected. Positive for values, and a few good lines, but ultimately skippable.