A critically acclaimed and accessible biography of one of the towering figures of New England's colonial period; winner of The Conference on Christianity and Literature's Book Award.
Powerful preacher, political negotiator for New England in the halls of Parliament, president of Harvard, father of Cotton Mather, Increase Mather was the epitome of the American Puritan. He was the most important spokesman of his generation for Congregationalism and became the last American Puritan of consequence as the seventeenth century ended. The story begins in 1639 when Mather was born in the Massachusetts village of Dorchester. He left home for Harvard College when he was twelve and at twenty-two began to stir the city of Boston from the pulpit of North Church. He had written four books by the time he was thirty-two.
Certain he was God's chosen instrument and New England God's chosen people, he disciplined mind and spirit in service to them both. Tempted to “Atheisme” and unbelief, afflicted early by nightmares and melancholy, then by hope and joy, he was a pioneer in recognizing the excitement of the new sciences and sought to reconcile them to theology.
This well-wrought biography, the first of Increase Mather in forty years, draws on the extensive Mather diaries, which were transcribed by Michael Hall.
Michael G Hall —
Michael G. Hall is professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has taught since 1959 and served as chairman from 1976 to 1980. He is the editor of Increase Mather's autobiography and the author of Edward Randolph and the American Colonies, 1676-1703. A graduate of Princeton University (B.A. 1949) and Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D. 1956), he was senior Fulbright lecturer at Quaid-i-Azim University in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 1985. Hall lives in Austin, Texas.
Hall, Michael G. The last American Puritan: the life of Increase Mather, 1639-1723. Wesleyan, 1988. (Dist. by Harper & Row), 438p bibl index ISBN 0-8195-5128-7. Outstanding Title! Reviewed in 1988nov CHOICE.
A superb presentation! In addition to offering a thorough and sympathetic biography of the great Puritan preacher, Hall also explains numerous religious and political issues with which Increase Mather was heavily involved, from debates over baptism, and the problems of witchcraft, to battles over control of Harvard College, and efforts at the restoration of the Massachusetts colony's charter. Hall describes Mather's role in all of these concerns and, in the process, provides an intellectual history of 17th-century Puritanism, as well as a political and social history of Massachusetts from the 1660s to the 1720s. Hall's work significantly expands on Robert Middlekauff's The Mathers; Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728, (1971) and is a fitting counter to Kenneth Silverman's prize-winning biography of Increase's son, Cotton, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather (CH, Sep '84). Carefully researched, extraordinarily well written, and nicely produced with illustrations, it is an absolute must purchase for any college library.