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Of Plymouth Plantation: Sixteen Twenty to Sixteen Forty-Seven

Of Plymouth Plantation: Sixteen Twenty to Sixteen Forty-Seven by William Bradford

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Summary

Book Description

Modern Library College Editions

William Bradford's "Of Plymouth Plantation" is a remarkable work by a man who himself was something of a marvel. It remains one of the most readable seventeenth-century American books, attractive to us as much for its artfulness as for its high seriousness, the work of a good storyteller with intelligence and wit. Edited, with an Introduction, by Francis Murphy.—This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Reviews

5 out of 5 stars Excellent Adventure Tale, April 21, 2001

By William "billybuddsailor" (Los Angeles, CA United States)

This review is from: Plymouth Plantation 1620 - 1647 (Paperback)

I came across this book quite by accident and didn't think it would be much of a read. Generally speaking I don't read histories and one from the early 1600's was a pretty daunting task - or so I thought. In fact, it was a great tale of adventure and faith and an extremely insightful and thought provoking book about how this country was started and what it must have looked like to those who arrived here some 350 years ago.  I really did love this book.

Bradford is an engaging writer whose prose isn't hard to understand. In places his understatement about the death and hardship faced almost constantly is even amusing. Nothing of the kind of challenges that the Leyden pilgrims faced in Massachusetts will seem familiar to a modern reader. Just the same, the fact that it all happened is fascinating. One can almost imagine being there, looking over the decks of the Mayflower and facing all that December gray and wilderness and wondering what you were doing coming here. Told in first person it reads like an adventure as much as a history.

The pilgrims here are also quite human and not at all the diorama characters of a first graders Thanksgiving craft project. They face social challenges and the horrors of death and disease. Attacks by natives actually [occurred] on occasion. The dream of a sort of providence is one that proves difficult in the real world. Bradford mourns the loss of these ideals and the people who imported them. There's something a little sad in his later passages, whether it be age or a truly lost paradise one never really knows. But what Bradford imagined as a sort of religious nirvana clearly doesn't pan out in the end. Nevertheless it is well worth the journey. I highly recommend a read of this American classic.

5 out of 5 stars Excellent All-Time Classic, January 23, 1997

By A Customer

William Bradford spends the entire first chapter of his book describing the Separatist religious movement--he was NOT a Puritan, contrary to the previous review. Bradford's writing style, while sometimes introspective and monotone, is in many instances the most eloquent of all early American authors, using very thoughtful and beautiful metaphors. To describe the success of the Plymouth Colony after about 20 years, he wrote "Thus out of small beginnings greather things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation". Bradford describes those small beginnings in his book, from the Pilgrims troubles in England to their departure and life in Holland. After twelve years in Holland, the Pilgrims made a teary departure from their friends to come on the Mayflower to America. As they are about to board the ship that will take them to England and on to America, Bradford in a sentimental outpouring writes "they went aboard and their friends with them, where truely doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to see what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound . . . But the tide, which stays for no man, calling them away that were thus loath to depart, their reverend pastor falling down on his knees with watery cheeks commended them . . . And then with mutual embrases and many tears they took their leave one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them." It was a "last leave to many", because after Bradford writes the only existing first-hand account of the Mayflower's voyage, and describes briefly some of the explorations made by the Pilgrims, he then describes the horrible first winter which killed half the Pilgrims: "it pleased God to visit us daily with death, and with so general a disease that the living were scarce able to bury the dead, and the well not in any measure suffiient to tend to the sick". Written in an English that is easier to read than Shakespeare, yet old enough to remind the reader of the books historical value and place in American history. [Its] plain style should remind us that Bradford was not an English elitist governor like those that would come later such as Winthrop, Sewell, Winslow, and Cotton, but was in fact a simple subsistence farmer by trade. If you want a fluffy, inaccurate, and childish portrayal of Pilgrim life, read a high school history book. If you want the real thing, read "Of Plymouth Plantation" by William Bradford. It's the first American classic

4 out of 5 stars The Pilgrims, but not as we know them, May 2, 1999

By A Customer

Contrary to a previous review, Bradford can in all accuracy be [labeled] a Puritan, though he himself would not have appreciated the title, it being a word used as a jibe by their opponents. Nowadays, the word has come to refer to a theological standpoint, independent of political positioning. Hence an Anglican might be a Puritan (see Master Alden who came over on the Mayflower), and a Separatist would be even more likely to be one. Puritans might also be called "the hotter sort" of Protestants, for their strictness in matters scriptural, and Puritan theology is entirely in keeping with Bradford's position and beliefs, both political and religious, as a Separatist.

Previous reviewers seem to have approached the book with [differing] expectations. If you want to read about John and Priscilla, go to Longfellow, and if you want to read about Constance of the Mayflower, then you won't find her here (except in the records for the 1623 land division, maybe) - and indeed few of the myths of the Pilgrim Story can be found in Bradford's history. This might [disappoint] some people who like to paint their history with honest toil and romance, Plymouth Rocks and Thanksgivings, but to a more attentive reader, Bradford has delights enough to keep anybody satisfied. His style is at times cumbersome, and the language of the 1640s(ish) can often obscure the already confusing legal language of some of the letters and contracts in the book. The language and style, though, are part of the book's character. Bradford's reticence in always referring to himself as either "The Governor" or "Governor Bradford" is not only quaint but also instructive, and to dismiss is as tedious is not to give it its due attention.

Overall, Bradford still keeps a sense of adventure and dedication: adventure that the reader may share when confronted with sudden unfamiliar truths of the divisions which separated the Pilgrims, or the decidedly economic [flavor] to some of the reasons for their departure from Holland. Even to witness on a page before you the first time in any known source that the word "Pilgrims" was used to describe the settlers at Plymouth, is enough to make the reader feel privileged.

Morison's notes now look somewhat dated - his [anachronistic] mention of Communism sticking particularly in the throat, but the reader might share some of his admiration which obviously emerges for the governor and his people. The Pilgrims at Plymouth can in many ways be regarded as adventurers and even (rather more dubiously) pioneers. Maybe if more people were exposed to Bradford's work they would see that although they weren't quite what popular culture would have us think of them, they were all the same resolute and brave people in most untoward circumstances.


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