Chapter 2


I. The First Half of the Century.

II. Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
III. The Second Half of the Century.
IV. Poetry of the Revolution.
V. The Close of the Century.


IN the study of literature, there is nothing more gratifying than the discovery of an author who has unconsciously put himself visibly into his book. Two or three American writers wrote thus amiably at this period of our colonial history, and their works form an interesting and welcome group.

Samuel Sewall, 1652-1730.

The most prominent of these was Judge Samuel Sewall, who arrived in America in 1661 and settled at Newbury. He was a conspicuous man in the Massachusetts colony and became the Chief-justice of Massachusetts. Like his friend, Cotton Mather, he was involved in the witchcraft delusion and was one of the judges who condemned the victims to death. His repentance, his dramatic confession of error and his annual fast are familiar tradition.1 It should be remembered, also, that in a little book, The Selling of Joseph (1700), Judge Sewall wrote the first published argument against slavery. From 1673 to 1729, Samuel Sewall kept a diary -- and thereby left for generations of readers to come one of the most frank and unconventional records of the time. The publication of this journal1 shows that it is worthy of a place with that of Samuel Pepys (pronounced Peps), of London, whose celebrated Diary covers the decade of 1659-69. The social life of colonial New England is most happily illustrated in Sewall's memoranda; and the stiff stateliness of the stern old Puritan type loses at least its solemnity when we read the Judge's record of his unavailing suit for the hand of Madam Winthrop.

[Oct. 6, 1720.] "A little after 6 P.M. I went to Madam Winthrop's. She was not within. I gave Sarah Chickering the Maid 2s., Juno, who brought in wood 1s. Afterward the Nurse came in, I gave her 18d having no other small Bill. After a while Dr. Noyes came in with his Mother [Mrs. Winthrop]; and after his wife came in: They sat talking, I think, till eight a'clock. I said I fear'd I might be some interruption to their Business; Dr. Noyes reply'd pleasantly: He fear'd they might be an Interruption to me, and went away. Madam seemed to harp upon the same string [she had previously declared that she could not break up her present home]. Must take care of her children; could not leave that House and Neighborhood where she had dwelt so long. I told her she might doe her children as much or more good by bestowing what she laid out in House-keeping, upon them. Said her son would be of Age the 7th of August. I said it might be inconvenient for her to dwell with her Daughter-in-Law, who must be Mistress of the House. I gave her a piece of Mr. Belcher's Cake and Ginger-Bread wrapped up in a clean sheet of Paper; told her of her Father's kindness to me when Treasurer, and I Constable. My daughter Judith was gone from me and I was more lonesome -- might help to forward one another in our journey to Canaan. -- Mr. Eyre came within the door; I saluted him, ask'd how Mr. Clark did, and he went away. I took leave about 9 a'clock."

The Judge's suit did not prosper.

"8r, 21 [October 21.] Friday, My Son, the Minister, came to me p.m. by appointment and we pray one for another in the Old Chamber; more especially respecting my Courtship. About 6 a-clock I go to Madam Winthrop's. Sarah told me her Mistress was gone out, but did not tell me whither she went. She presently ordered me a Fire; so I went in, having Dr. Sibb's Bowells with me to read. I read the first two Sermons, still no body came in: at last about 9 a-clock Mr. Jn.o Eyre came in; I took the opportunity to say to him as I had done to Mrs. Noyes before, that I hoped my visiting his Mother would not be disagreeable to him; he answered me with much Respect. When it was after 9 a clock He of himself said he would go & call her, she was but at one of his Brothers: A while after I heard Madam Winthrop's voice enquiring something about John. After a good while and Clapping the Garden door twice or thrice, she came in. I mentioned something of the lateness; she bantered me, and said I was later. She received me Courteously.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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