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The Life and Times of Cotton Mather

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  86 ratings  ·  8 reviews
The early American Congregational minister and author Cotton Mather (1663-1728), remembered mainly for his participation in the Salem witch trials, is perhaps the greatest and most misunderstood figure in pre-revolutionary American history. Mather believed his main purpose in life was to do good and he devoted his life to praying, preaching, and writing, eventually ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 21st 2001 by Welcome Rain Publishers (first published 1984)
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Tamhack
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
The author's conclusion:
"To speak very generally now, but with no intent of putting Mather in a nutshell: he was the first person to write about the New World having never seen the Old. Much of his career illustrates, for the first time, the costs and gains to America's intellectual and artistic life of its divorce from Europe. These costs and gains have been one and the same-a lack of standards or a freedom to create (depending on how it is viewed) which has often inspired works tainted by
...more
Coyle
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Kenneth Silverman's biography is out of print, which is both fortunate and unfortunate at the same time. It is fortunate because Silverman writes his bio with all the best psychoanalytical tools at his disposal- which are exactly the kind of tools that rust and crumble as quickly as the next fad comes along. Given that this book was first published in 1984, you can probably well imagine how odd some of the analyses of Mather's psychology sound to someone living in the midst of today's fads. It ...more
Lytle
Dec 03, 2008 added it
“Cotton wished to have God in his thoughts every waking moment. To attain that high end he practiced a ‘spiritual Alchemy.’ This meant ceaselessly creating brief petitions and supplications—‘Ejaculatory Prayers’—and sending them to Heaven in an all-day stream of spontaneous praying. He often based the ‘ejaculation’ on some present thing or person, viewing the entire world as a preacher: ‘The Meanest Objects in the House, or in the Street, have afforded me Thousands of Lessons, which I have ...more
Susan O
". . . the nebulous mythological Mather serves to symbolize what American character is not, or should not be - bigoted, superstitious, authoritarian, and devious. In it's elements the conception is simplistic and inaccurate" (p 425)

Mather, "the quintessential Puritan bigot", was drawn "into the vanguard of religious toleration." (p 302)

Cotton Mather was one of, if not, the most prominent American colonialists until Benjamin Franklin and the other founding fathers. In fact, a teenaged Franklin
...more
Jonathan
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cottonus Matherus 1663-1728 named after both his grandfathers.

Interesting read: Ton's (Cotton) father, Increase, was a solitary (spent sixteen hours daily at his writing desk), moody and demanding man wholeheartedly committed to making those around him miserable. He was resentful of his parishioners of North Church due to his inadequate salary and when resolved initiated new resentments and antagonisms. Increase always wanted to return to England. His wife Maria wrote of Increase, "she expected
...more
Ariel
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: onesimus
It was a tough slog. I took month-long breaks. But I have finally finished and I know more about both the contradictory character of Cotton Mather and colonial New England. And finishing is itself a virtue.
Christian Engler
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Religion, next to poor economic conditions, was primarily responsible for the foundation of the colonies. It too was the backbone for its evolvement. And one of the chief leaders in that unfolding was the noted Congregational minister Cotton Mather, who, as author, theologian, science-minded neophyte and sometimes political insider, helped to lead the way before the likes of Washington, Franklin, Paine and Jefferson came into the underdeveloped social, religious and political scene. Though often ...more
Richard Bartholomew
"In his curiousness, epic reach, and quirkily ingenious individualism he was...the first unmistakably American figure in the nation's history".

With his Puritan background, weird name, and early involvement in the Salem witch-trials, Mather has - in Silverman's observation - become a "national gargoyle" in the US: a type of bigotry, superstition, and wrathful religion. Silverman's biography gives us all Mather's many faults and human failings (some of which repel, some of which amuse), but there
...more
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