October 04, 2004


Puritans always surprise me. I was reading an essay in a now out of print collection called The Damned Art: Essays int the Literature of Witchcraft, edited by Sydney Anglo, and came across a list of subjects about which one author wrote one, two or in some cases three books:

pirates, captives, criminals, thieves, imposters, evil customs, murder, drinking, taverns, dancing, cursing, anger, idolatry, hypocrisy, slothfulness, slanders, the ark, the tabernacle, sacrifices, adversity, prosperity, fifth of November, new year, winter, summer, heat, change, time, heavenly world, terrors of hell, natural science, Sabbath-keeping, antinomianism, arianism, quakerism, rules for right living, civil affairs, society to suppress disorders, commerce and trading, debtor and creditor, fidelity in engagements, masters, servants, parents, children, widows, orphans, youths, catechisms, oaths, calamitous fires, earthquakes, storms, rainbow, aurora borealis.

Our prodigious author was a member of the Royal Society, and, in 1721, was a proponent of using smallpox inoculations. His name was Cotton Mather.

Posted by Ideofact at October 4, 2004 11:40 PM

I am amazed, also.

A little while back, I ran across a magazine called "Christian History", and read an entire volume devoted to the life of Johnathon Edwards (Puritan minister, not V.P. candidate).

Apparently, Edwards was intensely interested in biology, and also wrote several interesting essays on the psychology of religious belief.

This comment about Cotton Mather seems to be along the same lines--both were men who pursued a broad range of studies, instead of devoting themselves purely to theology.

I've never thought of Puritans as learned or scientific men--but apparently, some were.

Posted by: steve h at October 5, 2004 03:25 PM