Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Damnation of Theron Ware: Or Illumination” as Want to Read:
The Damnation of Theron Ware: Or Illumination
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Damnation of Theron Ware: Or Illumination

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  632 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
A candid inquiry into the intertwining of religious and sexual fervor, and a telling portrait of the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, this novel foreshadows the rise of naturalism in American literature. The Damnation of Theron Ware (published in England as Illumination) is an 1896 novel by American author Harold Frederic. It is widely considered a class ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 7th 1986 by Penguin Classics (first published 1896)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Damnation of Theron Ware, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Damnation of Theron Ware

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 31, 2010 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frederic, Harold. THE DAMNATION OF THERON WARE. (1896). ****. I first read this novel back in 1959 for a course called “The Advent of Realism in the American Novel.” The course required reading twenty books during three months – most of them, including this one, I had never heard of before. Back then, I already knew everything and this novel, after reading it, seemed a great bore. Reading it now, I am amazed at what a landmark piece it was in America’s literary development. I don’t know if it’s ...more
Dec 20, 2014 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Karen Legge
Reading Thoughts:

22 JAN 2014 -- Having been visited upon by the "trinity of evil," Theron makes a veiled threat and, poof, the evil trinity is gone. I know they will be back!

28 JAN 2014 -- Theron is a young man feeling his way in the world. He is too naive to really understand the machinations of the narrow-minded thinking of the trinity of evil. This committee of churchmen have long forgotten the beauty of the Church.

29 JAN 2014 -- Typical man-thought! Theron is acting in an inappropriate man
Will Waller
Assigned for a class, this book had all the makings of being a real bore. It’s a 19th century book on a Methodist minister, written by an author I had never heard lauded, with Victorian language (flowery!). I was looking forward to reading something less dry than what I had been reading for class but given the other books assigned, this was not difficult.

Boy, I was surprised by this book. It’s ability to go into new depths regarding the troubles facing pastors in the 19th century and today was
Ben Hallman
Feb 27, 2013 Ben Hallman rated it really liked it
Once again, I've read a book that never once would've come into contact with my bookshelf had it not been for my American Lit class. I hadn't heard of The Damnation of Theron Ware until it showed up on the syllabus, but, being one never to shy away from a good story about goin' to hell, I looked forward to Harold Frederic's minor classic. And, fortunately, it turned out to be a damn fine novel. (I made a pun. I'm witty.)

Now makes for a good time to drop some knowledge gleaned from American Lit:
Feb 05, 2016 Alice rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alice by: Michael
I liked this very much. Very easy to read with an engaging plot. There were no real cliff hangers at the ends of chapters but I certainly wanted read into the next chapter. The author does a great job of engaging the reader with an interesting plot while weaving in his themes without being pedantic. And I enjoyed some of the subtle humor/satire of the thoughts inside the character's heads.

Theron is certainly a weak and immature character with little redeeming qualities. Yet I did feel sorry for
Aug 08, 2012 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of American Literature
Shelves: 19th-century
Illumination is the only title this book should really have. This is not a Gothic horror of a young man's fall from grace, the sort of thing I so loved in Le Calvaire and which Octave Mirbeau depicted so exquisitely. This tale is too American for that.

What I thought about while reading is that history, as good as it is, can never give you the vivid picture of an era that a good novel can. And this novel is good. The story tells how a naive young Protestant preacher of the 1880's in New York Stat
Aug 01, 2008 Dustin rated it really liked it
A naive Methodist minister encounters a learned doctor and an old Catholic priest who suggest to him ideas altogether new to his intellect. He is taken by these new thoughts and reads many progressive books and quickly transforms from the audience to "backstage," where "you see that the trees and houses are cloth, and the moon is tissue paper, and the flying fairy is a middle-aged woman strung up on a rope. That doesn't prove the play, out in front, isn't beautiful and affecting, it only shows t ...more
Aug 07, 2016 Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically a major mid-life crisis.

This is a longish 3 part relationship story of Evanglist Theron. It was written in 1896 in realist style centred in a small town near New York and its religious communities. It was actually a rather simple yet cleverly deep story: Theron a happily married protestant leader decides to write a book about the biblical person Abraham and goes to the Catholic priest Forbes and his scholar doctor friend Ledsmar to get some help. Theron in one conversation learns how n
Nov 15, 2011 Marvin rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
If more older books were as engaging as this hundred-year-old book, I'd read more of them. This was recommended to me quite a while back by my friend George Minot, and it was a good recommendation. A young Methodist minister, hoping for an appointment to a fashionable urban church, is appointed instead to a small, backward-looking, congregation in a small town. Ironically, it is there that, in spite of his ingrained anti-Catholicism and suspicion of modernism, he befriends the local Catholic pri ...more
Spike Gomes
Dec 17, 2013 Spike Gomes rated it really liked it
A young, naive and idealistic Methodist preacher is posted to a church in upstate New York where he is dismayed by the pettiness and small-mindedness of his congregation and seeks solace in the intellectual and aesthetic company of a Catholic priest, a wealthy bohemian Irish girl and an agnostic scientist. His eyes are opened to another world, which shows him the hollowness of both rote religion and intellectual striving and the emptiness of his own character which is culminates in breakdown.

Jul 08, 2011 Rachelfm rated it it was amazing
My journey to this book was a long and dogged one. My friend Mary first suggested it several years ago, and our local library didn't carry it. The rest of my reading list intervened, and when I put out an all-call for reading suggestions, she nudged me again. I made a purchase request to the Seattle Public Library, and they eventually saw fit to acquire four copies for the system, and probably got the first read in the city.

No classic work of American fiction has ever before made me wish I was r
H.J. Swinford
Dec 01, 2011 H.J. Swinford rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I can't decide if I totally hated this book or if I didn't really like it, but it was still well-written and interesting. I certainly didn't like it at all, but I can't say it was horrible or poorly done. I suppose I don't like a lot of realism, and that is what this book is. All I got from it was basically: conservative, blinding religion screws people up and they go crazy when they taste the outside world. I read it in a literature class, and most of the other students really liked it, so I gu ...more
Rex Libris
Feb 27, 2014 Rex Libris rated it really liked it
Theron Ware is a young Methodist clergyman during he late 1800's. Raised on a farm he is very innocent and traditional in his beliefs. He is moved to a new town where he falls int othe orbit of some very secular sophisticates. He falls in love with one of them, and has he puffs himself up into something he is not, he begins to lose his wife, his faith, and his grasp on reality. In the climax of the book the woman he thinks he loves rejects him, and by extenion the rest of the sophisticated crowd ...more
Michael Burns
Jul 26, 2014 Michael Burns rated it it was amazing
A classic American book, I wish I could give it more stars. Theron Ware is a young Methodist minister who wishes to preach at an urban city with more prestige and a higher salary. Unfortunately the Methodist Conference assigns him to the small rustic town of Octavius, thought to be based on the author's hometown of Utica, Ny. He loathes his parishioners but falls in love with the catholic culture in his community and escapes to it as much as possible. He plans to make up for his meager salary by ...more
Feb 13, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-school
I wish we had more from Frederic, as I really loved this novel. Some might say the irony is a bit overdone, but I love the twists it adds to his tale. You can neither absolutely condemn nor admire just about any of these characters. The only one whose potential for redemption is Alice, but even then we see very little of her and her association with Theron and passive role makes it difficult to fully engage. Frederic spares no one in this tale, offering a grim outlook for a humanity which underg ...more
Tom Leland
Apr 18, 2013 Tom Leland rated it liked it
Very good. "Evidently there was an intellectual world, a world of culture and grace, of lofty thoughts and the inspiring communion of real knowledge, where creeds were not of importance, and where men asked one another, not "Is your soul saved?", but "Is your mind well furnished?"

Would be of particular interest to Catholics and Methodists, and to a lesser degree, to people who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of New York and want to get a glimpse of life there 120 years ago.

Wikipedia note on thi
Jul 06, 2008 Cher rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, before-1950
The only thing interesting to me about this book was its repeated concept of degenerateness, spiritual and physical. The sins of the father becoming encoded genetically and spiritually upon the son, until ultimately a line would die out from utter decrepitude.

The plot is relatively simple. A young preacher is posted to a town. He means well but is vain and shallow and doesn't understand the larger social politics at work. Hence, certain doom for the naive idiot. His main detractor is a woman who
Nov 30, 2010 Ashlie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Several years ago I listened to a lecture series on Religion in America. This book was one of the three that they recommended at the end of the series. It presents a window onto what religion was like in the late 19th century; it is also a good story. It chronicles the slow descent of the Reverend Theron Ware into disbelief, and I think it gave a pretty accurate portrayal of self-deception and pride, as seen from the inside out. The book dragged quite a bit in the middle, but it picked up toward ...more
David A-S
Jan 15, 2016 David A-S rated it liked it
An interesting book that many are trying to reclaim as an American classic. The reader travels with Theron Ware, a Methodist pastor in the 1890s as his character rapidly goes from a model of simple faith to one whose exposure to a broader world leads to a Faustian fall. It is a thoughtful piece that is speaking to a time in faith when broader study and the historical critical method started to inform theology at many levels. But at times, Theron Ware resonates as a pretty flat, spineless charact ...more
Feb 22, 2013 Doug rated it really liked it
This book is often considered one of the great American novels of the 19th century. It feels far more modern than that because it addresses the challenge to faith by scientific, logical and aesthetic critiques. The writing is very good although the characters quickly make one think of Elmer Gantry but with more intellectual reflection. It also recalls the opening sections of In the Beauty of the Lilies. A book that prvides a nice "slice" of life in the 1890's in America. A story that unfolds qui ...more
After reading this book I had more questions than answers about the rewards of piety, and the consequences of pragmatism. The protagonist is easy to identify with in his hopes and ambitions as well as his vulnerability to pride and temptation. Those issues are timeless, as is Frederic's prose. I recommend this especially to those with an opportunity to discuss the book with others - either a book club, or to read it with a friend. "The Damnation of Theron Ware" would lend itself to satisfying ph ...more
Dec 06, 2011 Martin rated it did not like it
My son made me read this. He got pretty excited about it because of a college class that focussed on literary realism. Personally, he saw in himself similarities to the hypocrisy of Theron Ware. Oh, Philip, you're not even close. Ware was an interesting character insofar as he was completely unaware of his hipocracy. You're far too honestly introspective to be anything like him.

This is a brand of realism that I have no enthusiasm for. It's part of that tradition which examines the spiritual pove
There were parts of the writing I really enjoyed. Some of the descriptions were lovely and made the story feel more dimensional and I could picture the scene in my head. I was, however, not impressed with the characters or plot. I read this for one of my college seminar courses and while I thought it did a nice job of providing interesting discussion in class, it wasn't something that I would recommend to other people. I didn't like it.

*Taken from My Sentiments Exactly!:
Apr 07, 2007 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this back in college for an assignment in obscure American realism writers and fell for it instantly. I've managed to track it down (Frederic isn't as readily in print as many of his contemporaries) and have read it a time or so since with equal enjoyment. Perfect for those who question the ideals and regimen of orthodox ethics, it gives a very human view of a good man's downfall when his life falls short of his expectations.
Kristen Coppess
Jul 28, 2011 Kristen Coppess rated it it was amazing
Every time I read this book, it grows new layers. The first time I was disgusted with Theron and his idiocy. The next time I felt empathy for his hardships within the church and community. The next time I read it as a commentary on female influence in the religious and secular community. This time I was entertained by the theory that German beer saved the Catholic Church in America. Read it over and over again.
Apr 21, 2010 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic-theme
A fascinating look at religious sensibilities in 19th century America, from Protestant to Catholic. The standard review calls it the Faustian tale of a (Protestant) preacher's demise, but it is really an insightful look into religious beliefs and the degrees--or sincerity--thereof, or perhaps the absence thereof. The most memorable statement is the heroine's assertion that she is Catholic insofar as the culture appeals to her.
Nov 20, 2009 Cat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, despite its horrible antihero, is very well written. I got sucked into it, manly out of hatred for Theron and his despicable and ignorant selfishness, but I rushed right through wanting to know what would happen. With themes of finding your self and living to don't be a bore, this novel shines light into the annoyance of wavering and passive people. Ugh Theron, you really stink! But a great book!
Jan 16, 2014 Sunrise rated it really liked it
Frederic's naturalism paints an amazing portrait of the male American during encroaching modernisms that seemed both unfathomable and unsurmountable for those whom just started to tread the waters of being worldly. Frederic's Theron Ware is fantastically rendered, as we become aware that there is no turning back from naivety, and the horrors of modern awareness are perhaps the only means of attaining a modern world-humility. Such a frightening concept!
J.M. Hushour
Feb 18, 2013 J.M. Hushour rated it it was amazing
A devastating account of a naive Methodist minister's encounter with turn-of-the-century "progressivism" and his eventual self-destruction. Or is it redemption? Absurdly forgotten, one of the best American novels I've ever read. A withering portrayal of psychological descent and obsession. Highly recommended.
Jul 30, 2012 Sharon rated it it was ok
It's almost impossible for me to like a book when I don't like the main character. Theorn Ware is, um, "not my favorite" person in the world. What a flip flopper!! Although I did enjoy some of the moments in the book and enjoyed the writing style (thank you Kindle Fire for automatic dictionary!), I honestly couldn't be done with this book soon enough.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Modern Instance
  • Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People
  • Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt
  • Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South
  • The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950
  • Fundamentalism and American Culture
  • When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture
  • The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition Reform
  • A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States
  • The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
  • The Americas: A Hemispheric History
  • Does God Exist? An Answer for Today
  • The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (Studies in North American Indian History)
  • Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto
  • Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West
  • Old Mortality
  • Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and Jonestown
  • King Alfred of England
Frederic was born in Utica, New York, to Presbyterian parents. After his father was killed in a train accident when Frederic was 18 months old, the boy was raised primarily by his mother. He finished school at fifteen, and soon began work as a photographer. For four years he was a photographic touch-up artist in his hometown and in Boston. In 1875 he began work as a proofreader for the Utica Heral ...more
More about Harold Frederic...

Share This Book

“Meredith,' interposed Celia, 'makes one of his women, Emilia in England, say that poetry is like talking on tiptoe; like animals in cages, always going to one end and back again.” 1 likes
More quotes…