The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry

By Perry Miller | Go to book overview

ment restricted. In general, I think the extracts speak for themselves and need little exposition.

This book is based on a previous anthology that Thomas H. Johnson and I published in 1939, The Puritans, now out of print. A few items not in that volume are added, and I have tried to retain those that have proved of general interest. A few of these, because then for the first time made available to the modern reader, have in effect become standard passages in American literature. Of course many of the others had long ago found their places in the canon. In one respect this anthology falls short, in that it omits one of the greatest and certainly the most engaging of the Puritans, Roger Williams. The primary consideration is lack of space, but also, while his is the essential Puritan conscience, he developed heretical ideas which make him a sport amid the "orthodox" mind on which I wish to concentrate. Furthermore, William cannot fairly be exhibited in only short extracts, and I am the less worried about doing him an injustice because in 1953, in the Makers of the American Tradition series (Bobbs-Merrill), I issued a full volume of his writings.

Following the lead of Samuel Eliot Morison in his edition of William Bradford, I assumed as regards Williams the privileges of an editor and prepared a modern--not a "modernized"--text. Here I have again exercised that prerogative. I have regularized the spelling and capitalization, omitted italics, broken up long paragraphs, and endeavored to refashion the punctuation so as at once to remain faith- ful to the spirit of the text and yet to assist the modern reader. Since writers and printers in the seventeenth century observed no consistent rules in these matters, the discretion permitted an editor is large. However, since they punctuated on a rhetorical rather than a logical system, to impose the strict laws of modern practice on their sentences would be folly. Still, just as few readers today would be comfortable in reading Shakespeare were he always presented in the exact style of the First Folio, so I have found that many are put off by the unfamiliarity of seventeenth- century typography.

In that sense, then, my text is modern, but I have other-

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The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contents iii
  • Title Page v
  • Foreword ix
  • Chapter One - History 1
  • Chapter Two - State and Society 78
  • Chapter Three - This World and the Next 143
  • Chapter Four - Personal Narrative 225
  • Chapter Five - Poetry 265
  • Chapter Six - Literary and Educational Ideals 320
  • A Brief Bibliography 336
  • Index 341
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