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Reviews Mr Edwards, Mr Lowell, and the Spider LINDA MUNK Jonathan Edwards. Letters and Personal Writings. Edited by George S. Claghom Vol 16 of The Works ojJonathan Edwards. General Editor, Harry S. Stout New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1998. 854. us $80.00 Many definitions ofPuritanism have been offered by historians. For the student of American culture, I suspect that the most useful would be simply that Puritanism is what Edwards is. Perry Miller I have a constitution in many respects particularly unhappy, attended with flaccid solids, vapid, sizy and scarce fluids, and a low tide of spirits ... Jonathan Edwards Robert Lowell's collection of 1946, Lord Weary's Castle, starts with the poet's 'Note': 'When I use the word after below the title of a poem, what follows is not a translation but an imitation which should be read as if it were an original English poem.' Acknowledging three of his sources, Lowell adds: 'I hope that the source of "After the Surprising Conversions" will be recognized.' In which sense should the source of'After the Surprising Conversions,' Jonathan Edwards, be 'recognized'? Does Lowell 'hope' that Edwards will be identified by means of the poem's subject matter - the death of Edwards's uncle by marriage, the Northampton merchant Joseph Hawley, who in 1735 cut his own throat? Does he 'hope' that Edwards will be acknowledged? 'After the Surprising Conversions,' like 'Mr. Edwards and the Spider,' depends on Edwards's prose writings, which Lowell must have read in one of the more or less unreliable nineteenth-century editions of the collected works. On 30 May 1735, Edwards wrote an eight-page letter to the Rev. Benjamin Colman about a series of surprising conversions in the Connecticut River Valley. Three days later, he broke open the letter to add a postscript: Since I wrote the foregOing letter, there has happened a thing of a very awful nature in the town. My Uncle Hawley, the last sabbath-day morning, laid violent UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 68, NUMBER 3, SUMMER 1999 MR EDWARDS, MR LOWELL, AND THE SPIDER 791 hands on himself by cutting his own throat. He had been for a considerable time greatly concerned about the condition of his soul ... He was kept very much awake a-nights, so that he had but very little sleep for two months ... The coroner's inquest judged him delirious. Satan seems to be in a great rage, at this extraordinary breaking forth of the work of God. I hope it is because he knows that he has but a short time. Expanded, Edwards's letter to Colman of 30 May 1735, along with a revised report of Hawley's suicide, was published in London as A Faithful Narrative of the Surprizing Work ofGod in the Conversion ofMany Hundred Souls in Northampton, and the Neighbouring Towns and Villages of New-Hampshire in New-England (1737). That version has 'somebody' (Spenser's DespaiT(~?) call out to Hawley, 'Cut your own throat, now is a good opportunity: now, NOW!' (The text of A Faithful Narrative is in volume 4 of the Yale edition of Edwards.) Lowell's 'After the Surprising Conversions' alludes to A Faithful Narrative and Joseph Hawley's passage of pain. From line 28 of the dramatic monologue: In the latter part of May He cut his throat. And though the coroner Judged him delirious, soon a noisome stir Palsied our village. At Jehovah's nod Satan seemed more let loose amongst us: God Abandoned us to Satan, and he pressed Us hard, Wltil we thought we could not rest Till we had done with life. The multitude, once unconcerned with doubt, Once neither callous, curious nor devout, Jumped at broad noon, as though some peddler groaned At it in its familiar twang: 'My friend, Cut your own throat. Cut your own throat. Now! Now!' I turn here to Edwards's 'Spider' letter, written in 1723 to Judge Paul Dudley. 'Everybody that is used to the country knows of their marching in the air from one tree to another, sometimes at the distance of five or six rods, though they are wholly destitute of wings.' The spiders' 'shining webs and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 790-795
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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