The Journal of John Woolman

The Journal of John Woolman

The Journal of John Woolman

The Journal of John Woolman

Excerpt

John Woolman's journal is in point of time the first American classic, predating the publication of the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by seventeen years. President Eliot of Harvard selected it for his Five Foot Book Shelf as an example of beautiful English, and Charles Lamb recorded his advice to those who wish to write well that they should "get the writings of John Woolman by heart."

The reading of journals is often fascinating because of their unconscious revelation of the subject's private life, but the journal of John Woolman does not belong to that school. Woolman prepared it from the first for publication, and omitted all details of his private life except such skeleton as was necessary to keep together the more public parts of his living--his Quaker work, his travels in the effort to convince his fellow men of the wrong of slavery. Fortunately, he gave much space to the wealth of meditation on the divine and human order which occupied so many of his hours.

It is this which gives the book its eternal quality and a steady circle of readers. That circle was never wider than now. A materialistic and war-ridden age seeks more satisfying values adapted to its needs. Religion must again establish its altar not merely in the "steeple-houses" but in the ordinary human heart and alongside the traffic of the common ways of life. To bear witness to that kind of religion is Woolman's peculiar gift. It was real to him . . .

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