Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger Among the Pilgrims

Overview

David Lindsay, researching old records to learn details of the life of his ancestor, Richard More, soon found himself in the position of the Sorcerer's Apprentice-wherever he looked for one item, ten more appeared. What he found illuminated not only More's own life but painted a clear and satisfying picture of the way the First Comers, Saints and Strangers alike, set off for the new land, suffered the voyage on the Mayflower, and put down their roots to thrive on our continent's northeastern shore. From the ...

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Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger Among the Pilgrims

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Overview

David Lindsay, researching old records to learn details of the life of his ancestor, Richard More, soon found himself in the position of the Sorcerer's Apprentice-wherever he looked for one item, ten more appeared. What he found illuminated not only More's own life but painted a clear and satisfying picture of the way the First Comers, Saints and Strangers alike, set off for the new land, suffered the voyage on the Mayflower, and put down their roots to thrive on our continent's northeastern shore. From the story, Richard emerges as a man of questionable morals, much enterprise, and a good deal of old-fashioned pluck, a combination that could get him into trouble-and often did. He lived to father several children, to see, near the end of his life, a friend executed as a witch in Salem, and to be read out of the church for unseemly behavior. Mayflower Bastard lets readers see history in a new light by turning an important episode into a personal experience.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Histories based on genealogy often suffer from tunnel vision. Lindsay commits the opposite offense in this tale of one Richard More, a Lindsay ancestor who sailed at age five to the Plymouth colony aboard the Mayflower. In using the story of "the Mayflower Bastard" (so-called because More was the illegitimate son of landed gentry) as a lens through which to view early New England history, Lindsay has created a sprawling tale that exhausts the reader's patience as a cast of thousands parades through dozens of familiar scenes most extensively treated elsewhere. Lindsay's strategy is understandable. Little documentation on More, a Salem seafarer and tavern keeper, has survived; even his date of death is unknown. In the hands of a deft writer, the resulting fictionalization and speculation can work brilliantly, but this author is, at best, workmanlike. Lindsay, whose previous books explore inventors and inventions, also falters when choosing a narrative voice. At several points, he addresses a mysterious "you" apparently the accuser who had the elderly More cast out of the church for "lasciviousness." In other places Lindsay lapses into the first person. One of those asides is a gross sexual escapade Lindsay shared with a sailor friend, which the author includes to prove that sailors then and now did not share the moral code of the God-fearing Puritans. Aside from questionable historicity of such a comparison, no reader picking up a book about this nation's origins should be exposed to such a gratuitously offensive interjection. Still, some Mayflower buffs may want this volulme. (Nov. 13) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Lindsay, author of three books about the history of inventions and inventors, unspools the life of Richard More, an obscure and distant ancestor, and his role as one of the members of the early Massachusetts Puritan settlement. More sailed as an infant on the Mayflower in 1620 and lived through the infamous Salem witch trials of the 1690s. Lindsay set out not to trace his genealogical ties to More but to try to describe the remarkable aspects of this virtually unknown man. Despite his prodigious research, mostly in public records of the colony and complemented by secondary research from historians, Lindsay has had to rely much on supposition to paste his story together. Context is also problematic: Lindsay fails to suggest much of the importance of More's story for a broader analysis, in spite of his obvious awareness of contemporary historical research on Puritan society. Lindsay prefers to personalize his story, often using the first and second person in his writing to demonstrate that More is virtually his only focus. The book is interesting but not a scholarly treatment. For libraries with a special interest in the Pilgrims or the Plymouth colony. Charles K. Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Richard More is a distant cousin of Lindsay's (The Patent Files, 1999), a First Comer on the Mayflower who grew up to be a bigamous debauchee, and this is his tale: a mostly jolly entertainment that finishes on a reflective note. Lindsay has cobbled together More's life from extant records-adding surmises and conjectures as necessary-and squared it with the times: from landfall in 1620 to the era of witches' nooses in Salem. Product of a dalliance, More got shipped aboard the Mayflower at the age of five by his disgruntled father-in-name-only. Wonderfully, wryly told, Lindsay's tale charts More's wayward course. Put into the hands of a Saint-a particularly vibrant Puritan-for his first seven years at Plimouth Colony, he disappears from Lindsay's sights until surfacing aboard the Blessing, out of London for New England in 1635. Well on his way to becoming a dispossessed soul, More falls in with the fishermen of Maine outposts, who "drank like the damned and shared their wives as they did their boats." When he finally settles in Salem, he marries and starts to raise a family and gain a position in town. Problem is, he marries and starts to raise a family in London as well, which he takes pains to hide, as bigamy is a hanging offense. All this is painted against a rich historical backdrop of tobacco and bells, feuding between Separatists and Strangers, the Quaker and Antinomian controversies ("as usual, theology was not the real issue at stake, because no one was studying it"), the whole dissembling of the New England ideal, pretending to one course while following another. Like something out of Henry Fielding, a bad seed gets worse (More eventually wears the scarlet letter) in a quizzicalstory that keeps momentum and drollery all the way to its humanist end.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312325930
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/12/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,328,353
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lindsay has previously published several books, including The Patent Files: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Invention and Madness in the Making: The Triumphant Rise and Untimely Fall of America's Show Inventors . He has also written for New York Press, American Heritage, The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal and The American Experience. In addition to being a successful historian, he is also a founding member of the music groups the Klezmatics and They Might Be Giants. David Lindsay lives in New York City

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Preface xv
Introduction: The Casting Out xix
1. Swan Song 1
2. Religious Company 21
3. The Promised Land 35
4. A Mother's Wish 51
5. To Sea 67
6. Providence and Desire 87
7. A Familist Affair 102
8. The Double Life of Richard More 115
9. The Bell 125
10. The Quaker Crisis 142
11. Battles Large and Small 158
12. Under Watchful Eyes 175
13. Hypocrisy Unmask'd 189
14. Hysteria 202
Aftermath: Stone Remains 214
Notes 219
Partial Bibliography 243
Index 251
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2003

    My Ancestor - Richard More

    Along with the author, I am also a direct descendent of Richard More through his daughter Susanna. I have done extensive research into my family history and have collected the dates, places, etc. regarding my family. Thanks to David Lindsay he has brought Richard More, the man, to life. He has done an excellent job in making you understand what Richard More went though during his lifetime and how you felt sorry for him when he is taken away from his mother and sent off to a new land at the age of 5. Richard's life was a real-life soap opera with all the drama. It makes an excellent read whether you are family or not. I even purchased an extra book so I can hand them down to my children someday. I would love to see this book made into a movie.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2005

    Good book that brings Early Colonial America to life.

    I enjoyed the text not only for it's inventive way of exploring our early history, but also for the obvious research it entailed to complete it. I share the confusion that the other reviewers have referred to, of the occassional use of referring to the reader as 'you'. It tended to confuse me more than make me think more deeply of the subject matter. But I recommend the book highly for anyone who shares a curiousity of just what our ancestors really were like in the early Colonial period. In this context the author has done a superb job. And I want to commend him for his efforts. As anyone who has studied family history knows finding details of an ancestors life is extremely difficult in the best of cases and to have it woven so well into a full historical context is a real pleasure for the reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2004

    A Very Tough Assignment

    I picked this book up several years after taking particular note of Richard More's headstone in the Old Burying Ground in Salem. I was intruigued by the idea of learning more about this relatively anonymous Mayflower passensger whose life spanned the ancient beginning through the Salem Witch Trials. I wasn't terribly disappointed. Though Lindsay imposes some unnecessary parallels between his own life and that of More, he nevertheless does a very nice job splicing together an interesting and cohesive narrative about More's life. I can imagine the daunting task of trying assemble enough information to make this work. Although More wasn't an unknown, he is certainly no fixture in American history books, so the information Lindsay provides seems to be the product of some extraordinaryly intense research. And at the same time, he does not succumb to the temptation to include some of the less verafiable leads he mentioned outside the text, like the appearance of William Shakespeare. I was a bit put off by his address of the reader as 'you,' as though I was actually part of the Salem congregation that helped impugn More for his adultery. It was distracting and unecessary, although it was perhaps an attempt to bring some additional flavor to waht he may have feared was too dry a text. Lindsay shouldhave ignored this impulse. On the whole, it will be a very enjoyable read to anyone with a particular interest in the Mayflower or the earlist days of the colonies.

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