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BOOK REVIEWS AND NOTES Edited by Edwin B. Bronner Mr. Whittier, A Biography. Elizabeth Gray Vining. The Viking Press, N.Y., 1974. 169 pages. $7.95. The life of John Greenleaf Whittier was filled with paradox and conflict; conflict between his urge toward political action and toward withdrawal, between his affections for women friends and his passionate attachment to mother and sister, between his desire to throw himself wholly into poetry and his strong leaning toward contemporary journalism, between his loyalty to the Society of Friends and his frequent criticism of it, between his fondness for dress and his sense of Quaker simplicity. Chronic life-long ill health with a wealth of apparently psychosomatic symptoms speaks eloquently of this inner turmoil. When he wrote: "Take from our souls the strain and stress and let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace," he surely spoke to his own condition. The miracle is that out of this cauldron he produced so much poetry that spoke to the condition of his age, and speaks to many of us today, if we will but stop and listen. In "Mr. Whittier, A Biography," Elizabeth Gray Vining has told the story of Whittier's life for young adult readers without simplifying or glossing over its complexities, and told it with such a lively style that it is good reading for all ages. One particularly rejoices in her ability to paint the setting, whether it is the farm where Whittier grew up, the city of Boston which he first visited as a young man, or Philadelphia the night Pennsylvania Hall was burned. The great names of the day: Garrison, Sumner, Mott, Lundy, Stanton, John Brown, Emerson, Holmes, drift in and out of the story, like friendly neighbors, and a whole era takes life before our eyes. Through Whittier's eyes, we review the history of the abolitionist cause to which he was so passionately attached, from the founding of the Anti-Slavery Society to the day of Jubilee, the day of Emancipation; we see the birth of the labor movement, and we observe the struggle for liberty in Ireland and Poland. Though he came in time to support suffrage and coeducation for women, Whittier was opposed when his Quaker sisters—Angelina and Sarah Grimké, Abby Kelley Foster, Lucretia Mott—asserted their right to participate in the antislavery movement on the same footing as men. He felt the issue was important, but should be kept separate from abolition. The women on the other hand, and their male supporters, saw that it was impossible to separate one set of rights from another, and that "all mankind is tied up in a great bundle." The criticism of men like Whittier (who wrote Benjamin Jones that he was "off women" after the issue was raised in the 1840 AntiSlavery Society anniversary meeting) and of Theodore Weld and others 66 BOOK REVIEWS67 pained these women more than that of outsiders, and drove them on toward Seneca Falls. One wonders whether Whittier's own ambivalent feelings about women had something to do with his stand; and whether in Harriet Livermore, a character in his long narrative poem "Snowbound" we see the stereotype of the "itinerant female vagabond lecturer," the traveling female abolitionist. This however is a small point to raise in relation to the memory of a man who has given us so many moving poems and hymns, and whose life story is a tribute to the talent of the human spirit for transformation . Elizabeth Vining has done us all a real service in bringing us a vivid picture of the beloved Quaker poet. The extremely handsome illustrations, drawn primarily from old etchings, make it a good book for gift giving at any time of year. PhiladelphiaMargaret H. Bacon While it is Day: An Autobiography. By Elton Trueblood. New York, Harper & Row, 1974. Pp. xi, 170. Price $5.95. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day. —John 9:4 Elton Trueblood is probably the Friend in this hemisphere who is best known as a Friend. What he has found to do, he has done with his might. Graduating from Penn College (now William Penn) in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 66-67
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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