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other recent writers. The works of Winthrop, Hubbard, Cotton, Eliot, and other chroniclers and divines of the earliest time, might be left unnoticed, if we regarded an elegant style as the standard of worth in books; but to pass over such works as Winthrop's Journal, the writings of Roger Williams, or the Magnalia of Cotton Mather-books reflecting the life and progress of a people—would imply a narrow and arbitrary definition of literature. We would rather regard it as the record of life, work, and thought, than as the plaything of idle minds; and, consequently, would prefer the diary of the laborious settler to the light tale or essay of more elegant authors who have little or nothing to say. The pamphlets of Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island, have, with regard to style, no claims upon our attention; yet their uncouth diction gave expression to some of the most important ideas connected with the welfare of mankind.
It would be tedious and useless to enumerate the titles and dates of the scattered materials of history found among early documents; and to give specimens of the crude diction used by many of the old colonists who wrote diaries of public and private transactions, would serve no good purpose. To indicate the fact, that America possesses a rich store of annals of her early times, it may suffice to mention, besides the Journal of Governor Winthrop, a few other works; such as Winslow's Good News from New England, and Mourt's Relation, both giving 'a detailed and most interesting narrative of the affairs of Plymouth Colony, for the first three years after the landing of the Fathers. These and various documents relating to the discovery and colonisation of the New World, it is well known, were collected at the time they were printed, by the indefatigable Samuel Purchas, and published by him in an abridged form, in that invaluable store-house of historical knowledge which he entitles his Pilgrimes. The number of these tracts and pamphlets, however, was so great, that even that immense repository could contain but a small part of them.'1 Bishop Kennett's catalogue, entitled Bibliothecæ Americanæ Primordia (1713), occupies a quarto volume of 275 pages. For numerous tracts and papers interesting to the special student of American history, we may refer to the publications of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and to the valuable collection edited by Peter Force.
1 Colonel Aspinwall's collection of books and manuscripts relating to America contains 771 distinct works, including many curious early documents—such as Gosnold's Brief and True Relation of the Discoverie of the North Part of Virginia that is, New England—1602; and John Clarke's-physician of Rhode Island-IL News from New England. These statements are taken from an article in the North American Review, No. 92.
JOHN WINTHROP (1587–1649) embarked for America in the year 1630, as the leader of those colonists who settled in Massachusetts. As governor of this colony, he displayed a noble and benevolent character, devoting fortune and health to the public service. Mather, in his Magnalia, says in his quaint manner : 'Our New England shall tell and boast of her Winthrop, a lawgiver as patient as Lycurgus, but not admitting any of his criminal disorders; as devout as Numa, but not liable to any of his heathenish madnesses ; a governor in whom the excellences of Christianity made a most approving addition unto the virtues, wherein, even without those, he would have made a parallel for the great men of Greece or of Rome which the pen of a Plutarch has eternised.' Governor Winthrop wrote a diary of events and transactions in the colony down to the year 1644: it remained long in manuscript, but was published about twenty years ago, and again in a new edition by Mr Savage. It is justly regarded as a curious and valuable record of the oldest times in Massachusetts, and has supplied materials for the use of Bancroft and other historians.
The plan of Winthrop's diary was adopted by WILLIAM HUBBARD (1621–1704), who wrote a History of New England, which long remained in manuscript. It must be regretted that Bancroft, who has so diligently studied these and so many other curious old documents, has not given extracts from them in the form of notes to his history : he gives merely concise references to books and manuscripts which very few readers can possess. There is here and there an unstudied graphic force in the notes of the old chroniclers, which even the accomplished historian can hardly rival.
The attempts made in versification during early times, hardly deserve any detailed notice. However rude the rhymes, they would be interesting if they had recorded events of real life, or had portrayed the manners of the colonists; but theology was dominant in verse as well as prose; or, if other topics were chosen, they were mostly of a common-place description. We find an exception in Tompson's verses; and a few lines, said to have been copied from the recitation of an old inhabitant who died in 1767, describe the bill of fare enjoyed by the early colonists, who had
* Pumpkin at morning, and pumpkin at noon.'
And when the north-west wind with violence blows,
In 1623 or 1624—about three years after the arrival of the Pilgrims--William Morell, an episcopal clergyman, wrote, in Latin hexameter verse, a description of New England. It was published in England, with a translation by the author, and has been reprinted in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The next production in verse was an English version of the Psalms of David, done by several of the most eminent divines, including John Eliot-usually styled the Apostle of the Indians' -Thomas Welde of Roxbury, and Richard Mather of Dorchester. This version—the first book printed in the United States—was published at Cambridge in 1640. It was dry, literal, and unmusical in the extreme, reducing the songs of Sion to such doggrel as the following:
“The rivers on of Babilon
There when wee did sit downe,
Wee remembered Sion.' The translators, with perfect self-complacency, commended their own style, and argued that God's altar needs not our polishings; for wee have respected rather a plain translation, than to smooth our verses with the sweetness of any paraphrase, and so have attended to conscience rather than elegance, fidelity rather than poetry, in translating the Hebrew words into English language, and David's poetry into English meetre.' But an improved version was
soon found desirable, and was prepared by the Rev. Henry Dunster, and Mr Richard Lyon. This version, styled the Bay Psalm Book, passed through seventy editions, and was extensively circulated in Scotland.
The best verse-writer in New England, during the lifetime of the Pilgrims, was ANNE BRADSTREET, wife of the governor of the Massachusetts colony. She was born in England (1612),
1 In England, it passed through eighteen editions, of which the last was issued in 1754.
and came with her husband to America in 1630. Her verses, considering their dates, are by no means contemptible. In her time, the French versifier Du Bartas was the favourite poet in New England. Puns and conceits of a laborious and uncouth fashion were admired as gems of thought. The learned divine, John Norton, in his funeral eulogy on Anne Bradstreet, thought it decorous to pun upon her name by saying
Her breast was a brave pallace, a broad street
Where all heroic, ample thoughts did meet.' In those days, the death of any noted divine called forth several elegies. When John Cotton, the first minister of Boston, died (1652), a versifier wrote a eulogy which might have suggested Franklin's epitaph upon himself. The eulogist regards Cotton as a book, and says
“O what a monument of glorious worth,
In leaves and covers of eternity ! BENJAMIN TOMPSON, who was master of the public school in Boston from 1667 to 1670, is styled the first native American poet.' His poem, entitled New England's Crisis (written in 1670-75), contains lamentations over the decay of the colony through luxurious habits, at a time when the women of Boston were found working to build a fort against the Indians !' Among other signs of degeneracy, Tompson deplores the curtailing of the grace before dinner, and the introduction of silk dresses, chocolate, tobacco, and French wines ; while he extols the old times when
Men fared hardly, yet without complaint,
And the best sauce to every dish-content.' ROGER WOLcor-born at Windsor, Connecticut, in 1679— wrote a long poem on the Charter obtained for his native colony in 1662, and gave a versified account of the warfare with the Pequod Indians. He set a good example in celebrating American scenes and events ; but his descriptions are very dull and prosaic: if he touches a poetic topic, he spoils it by some dry details; as, in describing mountains, he takes care to tell us
' Twenty-four miles surveyors do account
Between the eastern and the western mount'And then goes on to say
* Hither the eagles ily and—lay their eggs.'
MICHAEL WIGGLESWORTH-born in 1631—was a verse-writer on religious topics. His principal work, The Day of Doom, was very popular in its time, passed through six editions in America, and was republished in London. In the style of Sternhold and Hopkins, the most solemn matters are here described in rhymes so miserable, that passages intended to be serious read as caricatures. The end of the world is announced by such signs as
They rush from beds with giddy heads,
If we regard literature as a record of the progress of culture among a people, we cannot pass over those early writings, however antiquated in their style, which have given expression to new ideas. The founder of Rhode Island would deserve to be remembered, if he had written nothing more than the article on religious liberty inserted in the charter of his colony. He wrote on theology, besides an account of his own controversy against intolerance, and prepared a key to the Indian languages. These writings, with other contemporary documents, are valuable as they illustrate the life and character of a man who, in his views of society and government, was far in advance of his times. To criticise his works, or give specimens of his quaint and rugged style, would be useless : our purpose is to give the spirit of his life and writings.
He was born in 1599, or about that time, and it is supposed that Wales was his native land. During youth, it is said that he enjoyed the patronage of Sir Edward Coke, with whose daughter he for some time held a correspondence. Before leaving England, he was admitted to orders in the established church; but it does not appear
that he was appointed as curate of any parish. We are also left in ignorance of the time when his mind first embraced the great principle of perfect liberty of conscience with regard to religious creeds; but it is certain that he had not only adopted, but had fully developed this doctrine when he sailed for Massachusetts in 1630. The remainder of his biography shall be
1. The settlements then forming the colony of Massachusetts Bay, had been made two or three years previously. The civil code established by the colonists was founded on the institutes of Moses.' The state was secondary to the church.... It was ordered that no man should be admitted to the freedom of the body politic, but such as are members of some of the churches.'- North American Review, No. 128.-Gammell's Life of Roger Williams.