Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day and Those Sexy Puritans

In his recently published book, The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America, Edmund Morgan entitles one of his chapters, "Those Sexy Puritans." Echoing themes from his earlier book, The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England, Morgan once again debunks the myth that the Puritans were ascetic kill-joys.

Let's hear from the Puritans themselves.

"Thou must be my valentine." John Winthrop took the time to write this to his wife, Margaret, on February 14, 1629, as he was in the midst of preparations to embark for the New World. While he is away he promises that "Mondays and Fridays, at five of the clock at night, we shall meet in spirit till we meet in person."

Anne Bradstreet, America's first English speaking poet and Puritan by conviction, wrote, "To my Dear and Loving Husband" from the Mass. Bay Colony (seventeenth-century):

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompetense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Thomas Hooker, a minister in the Mass. Bay Colony (seventeenth-century) wrote:

“As a wife deals with the letters of her husband that is in a far Country; she finds many sweet inklings of his love, and she will read these letters often, and daily: she would talk with her husband a far off, and see him in the letters, Oh (saith she) thus and thus he thought when he wrote these lines, and then she thinks he speaks to her again.”

“The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves, he dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes, muses on her as he sits at the table, walks with her when he travels. . . . she lies in his Bosom, and his heart trusts in her, which forceth all to confess, that the stream of his affection, like a mighty current, runs with full tide and strength.”

Jonathan Edwards on his wife, Sarah (eighteenth-century):

“They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is beloved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or another invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything except to meditate of him. . . . Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful if you give her all the world. . . . She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind. . . . She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

Matthew Henry comments on Genesis chapter 2:21-24 (eighteenth-century):

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

1 comment:

pilgrim said...

Thanks for showing how we can show love in a Godly way--with passion.

And for showing the Puritans aren't the emotionless killhjoys they are/were often portrayed as