Life and Times of Cotton Mather

Life and Times of Cotton Mather

4.5 2
by Kenneth Silverman
     
 

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Reintroducing Kenneth Silverman's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the most celebrated of all New England Puritans, at once a sophisticated work which succeeds admirably in presenting a complete portrait of a complex man and a groundbreaking study that accurately portrays Mather and his contemporaries as the first true American rather than European expatriates.

Overview

Reintroducing Kenneth Silverman's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the most celebrated of all New England Puritans, at once a sophisticated work which succeeds admirably in presenting a complete portrait of a complex man and a groundbreaking study that accurately portrays Mather and his contemporaries as the first true American rather than European expatriates.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566492065
Publisher:
Welcome Rain Publishers
Publication date:
12/28/2001
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
413,138
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.16(d)

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Life and Times of Cotton Mather 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If I had to describe this book in one word it would be: Brilliant. I though I knew a great deal about Cotton Mather, but after reading this book I realize I really didn't. I always believed Cotton was much more involved in the Salem witch trials than he really was. I didn't know someone tried to kill Cotton because of his support of small pox inoculation. I didn't realize how involved he was not only in religion, but also in science and politics. After reading this book I find I think I know more about Cotton Mather than I know about my own neighbors today. This is a very detailed book. In this book we see both the great talents of Cotton Mather and his faults. Not only are we given information on what he did, but also we find out why he did it. His life is covered from birth to death. We find out how his father and even his grandfather influenced his life. We find out how his quest for fame and struggles with that quest affected his life. We see the struggles he had with three wives and a multitude of children. Not only do we learn about Cotton Mather, we learn about what was going on around him, and so we are shown a slice of how society operated at that time. There is a tremendous amount of information in this book. In fact, in my opinion, there was too much information. For example, in the early part of the book, we learn about Cotton's stuttering problem. Which is good, because we learn how this affects Cotton's life at that time, but this goes on and on and on for many pages. I didn't need to know that much. But, on the other hand, none of this information is useless, and for anyone wanting a greater understanding of Cotton Mather, it is probably welcome. This is true throughout the book. The writing is engaging and easy to read, but to me the book at times becomes somewhat tedious. Not because it ever gets boring, but simply because I wasn't looking for such a detailed study of Cotton Mather's life. In fact, I found myself at times skimming through paragraphs to get to the next point. Again, this is not a statement about the book as much as a statement that maybe for some people-like me--there is just too much detail for what we wanted to read. But even then, this book is one of the best biographies of any I have ever read from this time period. As a comparison, I will relate this to a very popular book from a few years ago-John Adams by David McCullough (yes, I know this is later time period). In the Adams book, we are given only a slice of history of Adams life, starting from early on in the American Revolution forward. In the Mather book, we learn nearly everything from his birth to his death. The Adams book is distorted in that the writer tries to make a hero of Adams, never pointing out his weaknesses, but only stressing his strengths. In Cotton Mather we are given everything-both strengths and weaknesses. In Adams we are given just a string of events in the life of Adams. In Mather we are given not only the events, but are given information to understand just why Cotton Mather reacted to them and influenced them as he did. I know I am in a minority, but I thought 'John Adams' by McCullough was not a great biography. Cotton Mather is-even though I also thought it was too detailed for my tastes. In fact, I think if this book were edited to half its length, I believe it would find a much larger audience. But then, it would offer only half the information. A definite dilemma for any author. In the end, however, this is a tremendous book offering a great deal of information. It is well written and easy to read. I have read other biographies of Cotton Mather, but this one has to be the best, offering the most, I have ever read. As a book in general I would rate it only a three or maybe even a two, just because, as I said before, sometimes I found it tedious because of the tremendous amount of information. The book is well-written but not the best written book I have ever read. It is engaging, but sometimes tediou
Guest More than 1 year ago
Behold a uniquely Early American tragedy -- one of the finest minds of his time and place (and both time and place are well-examined by Silverman), Cotton Mather is second-generation Puritan minister force-fed massive doses of religion from infancy onward, in a world where superstition, faith, and science coexisted and conflicted, often in the same mind. How natural is the human tendency to grasp for control in a world inhabited by tyrannical monarchs, hostile elements, taunting classmates, treacherous 'savages' whose ways are totally alien to 'civilization' as Europeans knew it ... even Mather's own tongue betrayed him, then later, repeatedly, his 'sinful' desire for sex. Silverman presents a preternaturally bright, sensitive child, then a too-young 'father' of the church caught in and resonating to the conflicts all around him. Like other zealots of various faiths, at various times in history, he grasped for understanding and control with the tools he had available; and like all who try to fight nature, human or otherwise, his own or another's, he ultimately failed. For all that Silverman comes to despise the later acts and suspect motivations of Cotton Mather, he gives us plenty of information to decide for ourselves whether to approve, deride, or empathize with the man who did what he felt he had to in a world that must have seemed almost incomprehensible to someone who perceived as much of it as Cotton Mather did.