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Sabbath in Puritan New England by Alice Morse Earle

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baby was baptized, the minister prayed for a mitigation of the weather,
and on the same day in another town "Rev. Mr. Wigglesworth preached on the
text, Who can stand before His Cold? Then by his own and people's sickness
three Sabbaths passed without public Worship." February 20 he preached from
these words: "He sends forth his word and thaws them." And the very next
day a thaw set in which was regarded as a direct answer to his prayer and
sermon. Sceptics now-a-days would suggest that he chose well the time to
pray for milder weather.

Many persons now living can remember the universal and noisy turning up
of great-coat collars, the swinging of arms, and knocking together of the
heavy-booted feet of the listeners towards the end of a long winter sermon.
Dr. Hopkins used to say, when the noisy tintamarre began, "My hearers, have
a little patience, and I will soon close."

Another clergyman was irritated beyond endurance by the stamping,
clattering feet, a _supplosio pedis_ that he regarded as an irreverent
protest and complaint against the severity of the weather, rather than as a
hint to him to conclude his long sermon. He suddenly and noisily closed his
sermon-book, leaned forward out of his high pulpit, and thundered out these
Biblical words of rebuke at his freezing congregation, whose startled faces
stared up at him through dense clouds of vapor. "Out of whose womb came the
ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are
hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen. Knowest thou the
ordinance of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof on the earth?
Great things doth God which we cannot comprehend. He saith to the snow, Be
thou on the earth. By the breath of God frost is given. He causeth it to
come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy. Hearken unto
this. _Stand still_, and consider the wondrous works of God." We can
believe that he roared out the words "stand still," and that there was no
more noise in that meeting-house on cold Sundays during the remainder of
that winter.

The ministers might well argue that no one suffered more from the freezing
atmosphere than they did. In many records I find that they were forced to
preach and pray with their hands cased in woollen or fur mittens or heavy
knit gloves; and they wore long camlet cloaks in the pulpit and covered
their heads with skull caps--as did Judge Sewall--and possibly wore, as he
did also, a _hood_. Many a wig-hating minister must, in the Arctic
meeting-house, have longed secretly for the grateful warmth to his head and
neck of one of those "horrid Bushes of Vanity," a full-bottomed flowing

On bitter winter days Dr. Stevens of Kittery used to send a servant to the
meeting-house to find out how many of his flock had braved the piercing
blasts. If only seven persons were present, the servant asked them to
return with him to the parsonage to listen to the sermon; but if there were
eight members in the meeting-house he so reported to the Doctor, who then
donned his long worsted cloak, tied it around his waist with a great
handkerchief, and attired thus, with a fur cap pulled down over his ears,
and with heavy mittens on his hands, ploughed through the deep snow to
the church, and in the same dress preached his long, knotty sermon in
his pulpit, while fierce wintry blasts rattled the windows and shook the
turret, and the eight godly, shivering souls wished profoundly that one of
their number had "lain at home in a slothfull, lazey, prophane way," and
thus permitted the seven others and the minister to have the sermon in
comfort in the parsonage kitchen before the great blazing logs in the open

Ah, it makes one shiver even to think of those gloomy churches, growing
colder, and more congealed through weeks of heavy frost and fierce
northwesters until they bore the chill of death itself. One can but
wonder whether that fell scourge of New England, that hereditary
curse--consumption--did not have its first germs evolved and nourished in
our Puritan ancestors by the Spartan custom of sitting through the long
winter services in the icy, death-like meeting-houses.

Of the insufficient clothing of the church attendants of olden times it
is unnecessary to speak with much detail. The goodmen with their heavy
top-boots or jack-boots, their milled or frieze stockings, their warm
periwigs surmounted by fur caps or beaver hats or hoods; and with their
many-caped great-coats or full round cloaks were dressed with a sufficient
degree of comfort, though they did not possess the warm woollen and silken
underclothing which now make a man's winter attire so comfortable. They
carried muffs too, as the advertisements of the times show. The "Boston
News Letter" of 1716 offers a reward for a man's muff lost on the Sabbath
day in the street. In 1725 Dr. Prince lost his black bearskin muff, and in
1740 a "sableskin man's muff" was advertised as having been lost.

But the Puritan goodwives and maidens were dressed in a meagre and scanty
fashion that when now considered seems fairly appalling. As soon as
the colonies grew in wealth and fashion, thin silk or cotton hose were
frequently worn in midwinter by the wives and daughters of well-to-do
colonists; and correspondingly thin cloth or kid or silk slippers,
high-channelled pumps, or low shoes with paper soles and "cross-cut" or
wooden heels were the holiday and Sabbath-day covering for the feet. In wet
weather clogs and pattens formed an extra and much needed protection
when the fair colonists walked. Linen underclothing formed the first
superstructure of the feminine costume and threw its penetrating chill to
the very marrow of the bones. Often in mid-winter the scant-skirted French
calico gowns were made with short elbow sleeves and round, low necks, and
the throat and shoulders were lightly covered with thin lawn neckerchiefs
or dimity tuckers. The flaunting hooped-petticoat of another decade was
worn with a silk or brocade sacque. A thin cloth cape or mantle or spencer,
lined with sarcenet silk, was frequently the only covering for the
shoulders. In examining the treasured contents of old wardrobes, trunks,
and high-chests, and in reading the descriptions of women's winter attire
worn throughout the eighteenth and half through the nineteenth century, I
am convinced that the only portions of Puritan female anatomy that were
clothed with anything approaching respectable regard for health in the
inclement New England climate were the head and the hands. The hands of
"New English dames" were carefully protected with embroidered kid or
leather gloves (for the early New Englanders were great glove wearers) or
with warm knit woollen mittens, though mittens for women's wear were
always fingerless. The well-gloved hands were moreover warmly ensconced in
enormous stuffed muffs of bearskin which were almost as large as a
flour barrel, or in smaller muffs of rabbit-skin or mink or beaver. The
goodwives' heads bore, besides the close caps so universally worn, mufflers
and veils and hoods,--hoods of all kinds and descriptions, from the hoods
of serge and camlet and gauze and black silk that Mistress Estabrook, wife
of the Windham parson, proudly owned and wore, from the prohibited "silk
and tiffany hoods" of the earliest planters down through the centuries'
inflorescence of "hoods of crimson colored persian," "wild bore and hum-hum
long hoods," "pointed velvet capuchins," "scarlet gipsys," "pinnered
and tasselled hoods," "shirred lustring hoods," "hoods of rich pptuna,"
"muskmelon hoods," to the warm quilted "punkin hoods" worn within this
century in country churches. These "punkin-hoods" were quilted with great
rolls of woollen wadding and drawn tight between the rolls with strong
cords. They formed a deafening and heating head-covering which always had
to be loosened and thrust back when the wearer was within doors. It
was only equalled in shapeless clumsiness and unique ugliness by its
summer-sister of the same date, the green silk calash,--that funniest and
quaintest of all New England feminine headgear,--a great sunshade that
could not be called a bonnet, always made of bright green silk shirred on
strong lengths of rattan or whalebone, and extendible after the fashion of
a chaise top. It could be drawn out over the face by a little green ribbon
or "bridle" that was fastened to the extreme front at the top; or it could
be pushed in a close-gathered mass on the back of the head These calashes
were frequently a foot and a half in diameter, and thus stood well up from
the head and did not disarrange the hair nor crush the headdress or cap.
They formed a perfect and easily-adjusted shade from the sun. Masks, too,
the fair Puritans wore to further protect their heads and faces,--masks of
green silk or black vehet, with silver mouthpieces to place within the lips
and thus enable the wearer to keep the mask firmly in place. Sometimes two
little strings with a silver bead at one end were fastened to the mask, and
seined as mouthpieces. With a string and bead at either corner of the
mouth the mask-wearer could talk quite freely while still retaining her
face-covering in its protecting position. These masks were never worn
within doors. In the list of goods ordered by George Washington from Europe
for his fair bride Martha were several of these riding-masks, and the kind
step-father even ordered a supply of small masks for "Miss Custis," his
little step-daughter.

In bitter winter weather women carried to meeting little
foot-stoves,--metal boxes which stood on legs and were filled with hot
coals at home, and a second time during the morning from the hearthstone of
a neighboring farm-house or a noon-house. These foot-warmers helped to make
endurable to the goodwives the icy chill of the meeting-house; and round
their mother's foot-stove the shivering little children sat on their low
crickets, warming their half-frozen fingers.

Some of these foot-stoves were really pretentious church-furnishings. I
have seen one "brassen foot-stove" which had the owner's cipher cut out of
the sheet metal, and from the side was hung a wrought brass chain. By this
chain, a century ago, the shining polished brass stove was carried into
church in the hands of a liveried black man, who held it ostentatiously at
arms' length, that neither ash nor scorch might touch his scarlet velvet
breeches. And after he had tucked it under my lady's tiny feet as she sat
in her pew, he retired to his freezing loft high up among the beams,--the
"Nigger Pew,"--where, I am sorry to record, he more than once solaced and
warmed himself with a bottle of "kill-devil" which he had smuggled into
church, until he fell ignominiously asleep and his drunken snores so
disturbed the minister and the congregation, that two tithingmen were
forced to climb the ladder-like staircase and pull him down and out of
the church and to the neighboring tavern to sleep off the effects of the
liquor. For being "a man and a brother" and, above all, in spite of his
petty idiosyncrasies, a very good and cherished servant, he could not be
thrust out into the snow to freeze to death.

But with the extreme Puritan contempt of comfort even foot-stoves were
not always allowed. The First Church of Roxbury, after having one church
edifice destroyed by fire in 1747, prohibited the use of footstoves in
meeting, and the Roxbury matrons sat with frozen toes in their fine new
meeting-house. The Old South Church of Boston was not so rigid, though it
felt the same dread of fire; for we find this entry on the records of the
church under the date of January 10, 1771: "Whereas, danger is apprehended
from the [foot] stoves that arc frequently left in the meeting-house after
the publick worship is over; Voted, that the Saxton make diligent search on
the Lord's Day evening and in the evening after a lecture, to see if any
stoves are left in the house, and that if he find any there he take them
to his own house; and it is expected that the owners of such stoves make
reasonable satisfaction to the Saxton for his trouble before they take them

In Hardwicke, in 1792, it was ordered that "no stows be carried into our
new meeting-house with fire in them." The Hardwicke women may have found
comfort in a contrivance which is thus described in by an "old inhabitant:"

"There to warm their feet
Was seen an article now obsolete,
A sort of basket tub of braided straw
Or husks, in which is placed a heated stone,
Which does half-frozen limbs superbly thaw.
And warms the marrow of the oldest bone."

In some of the early, poorly built log meeting-houses, fur bags made of
coarse skins, such as wolf-skin, were nailed or tied to the edges of the
benches, and into these bags the worshippers thrust their feet for warmth.
In some communities it was the custom for each family to bring on cold days
its "dogg" to meeting; where, lying at or on his master's feet, he proved
a source of grateful warmth. These animal stoves became such an abounding
nuisance, however, that dog-whippers had to be appointed to serve on
Sundays to drive out the dogs. All through the records of the early
churches we find such entries as this: "Whatsoever doggs come into the
meeting-house in time of public worship, their owners shall each pay
sixpence." Sixpence seems little, but the thrifty and poor Puritans would
rather freeze their toes than pay sixpence for their calorific dogs.

The church members made many rules and regulations to keep the cold out of
the meeting-house during service-time, or perhaps we should say to keep the
wind out. Thus in Woodstock, Connecticut, in 1725 it was ordered that the
"several doors of the meeting-house be taken care of and kept shut in very
cold and windy seasons according to the lying of the wind from time to
time; and that people in such windy weather come in at the leeward doors
only, and take care that they are easily shut both to prevent the breaking
of the doors and the making of a noise." In other churches it was ordered
that "no doors be opened to the windward and only one door to the leeward"
during winter weather.

The first church of Salem built a "cattied chimney twelve feet long" in its
meeting-house in 1662, but five years later it was removed, perhaps through
the colonists' dread lest the building be destroyed by a conflagration
caused by the combustible nature of the materials of which the chimney was
composed. Felt, in his "Annals of Salem," asserts that the First Church of
Boston was the first New England congregation to have a stove for heating
the meeting-house at the time of public worship; this was in 1773. This
statement is incorrect. Mr. Judd says the Hadley church had an iron stove
in their meeting-house as early as 1734--the Hadley people were such
sybarites and novelty-lovers in those early days! The Old South Church of
Boston followed in the luxurious fashion in 1783, and the "Evening Post"
of January 25, 1783, contained a poem of which these four lines show the
criticising and deprecating spirit:--

"Extinct the sacred fire of love,
Our zeal grown cold and dead,
In the house of God we fix a stove
To warm us in their stead."

Other New England congregations piously froze during service-time well into
this century. The Longmeadow church, early in the field, had a stove in
1810; the Salem people in 1815; and the Medford meeting in 1820. The church
in Brimfield in 1819 refused to pay for a stove, but ordered as some
sacrifice to the desire for comfort, two extra doors placed on the
gallery-stairs to keep out draughts; but when in that town, a few years
later, a subscription was made to buy a church stove, one old member
refused to contribute, saying "good preaching kept him hot enough without

As all the church edifices were built without any thought of the
possibility of such comfortable furniture, they had to be adapted as best
they might to the ungainly and unsightly great stoves which were usually
placed in the central aisle of the building. From these cast-iron monsters,
there extended to the nearest windows and projected through them, hideous
stove-pipes that too often spread, from every leaky and ill-fastened
joint, smoke and sooty vapors, and sometimes pyroligneous drippings on the
congregation. Often tin pails to catch the drippings were hung under the
stove-pipes, forming a further chaste and elegant church-decoration. Many
serious objections were made to the stoves besides the aesthetic ones.
It was alleged that they would be the means of starting many destructive
conflagrations; that they caused severe headaches in the church attendants;
and worst of all, that the _heat warped the ladies' tortoise-shell

The church reformers contended, on the other hand, that no one could
properly receive spiritual comfort while enduring such decided bodily
discomfort. They hoped that with increased physical warmth, fervor in
religion would be equally augmented,--that, as Cowper wrote,--

"The churches warmed, they would no longer hold
Such frozen figures, stiff as they are cold."

Many were the quarrels and discussions that arose in New England
communities over the purchase and use of stoves, and many were the meetings
held and votes taken upon the important subject.

"Peter Parley"--Mr. Samuel Goodrich--gave, in his "Recollections," a very
amusing account of the sufferings endured by the wife of an anti-stove
deacon. She came to church with a look of perfect resignation on the
Sabbath of the stove's introduction, and swept past the unwelcome intruder
with averted head, and into her pew. She sat there through the service,
growing paler with the unaccustomed heat, until the minister's words about
"heaping coals of fire" brought too keen a sense of the overwhelming and
unhealthful stove-heat to her mind, and she fainted. She was carried out of
church, and upon recovering said languidly that it "was the heat from the
stove." A most complete and sudden resuscitation was effected, however,
when she was informed of the fact that no fire had as yet been lighted in
the new church-furnishing.

Similar chronicles exist about other New England churches, and bear a
striking resemblance to each other. Rev. Henry Ward Beecher in an address
delivered in New York on December 20, 1853, the anniversary of the Landing
of the Pilgrims, referred to the opposition made to the introduction of
stoves into the old meeting-house in Litchfield, Connecticut, during the
ministry of his father, and gave an amusing account of the results of the
introgression. This allusion called up many reminiscences of anti-stove
wars, and a writer in the "New York Enquirer" told the same story of the
fainting woman in Litchfield meeting, who began to fan herself and at
length swooned, saying when she recovered "that the heat of the horrid
stove had caused her to faint." A correspondent of the "Cleveland Herald"
confirmed the fact that the fainting episode occurred in the Litchfield
meeting-house. The editor of the "Hartford Daily Courant" thus added his

"Violent opposition had been made to the introduction of a stove in the
old meeting-house, and an attempt made in vain to induce the soc
to purchase one. The writer was one of seven young men who finally
purchased a stove and requested permission to put it up in the
meeting-house on trial. After much difficulty the committee consented.
It was all arranged on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday we took our
seats in the Bass, rather earlier than usual, to see the fun. It was a
warm November Sunday, in which the sun shone cheerfully and warmly on
the old south steps and into the naked windows. The stove stood in the
middle aisle, rather in front of the Tenor Gallery. People came in and
stared. Good old Deacon Trowbridge, one of the most simple-hearted and
worthy men of that generation, had, as Mr. Beecher says, been induced
to give up his opposition. He shook his head, however, as he felt the
heat reflected from it, and gathered up the skirts of his great
as he passed up the broad aisle to the deacon's seat. Old Uncle Noah
Stone, a wealthy farmer of the West End, who sat near, scowled and
muttered at the effects of the heat, but waited until noon to utter his
maledictions over his nut-cakes and cheese at the intermission. There
had in fact been _no fire in the stove_, the day being too warm.
We were too much upon the broad grin to be very devotional, and smiled
rather loudly at the funny things we saw. But when the editor of the
village paper, Mr. Bunce, came in (who was a believer in stoves in
churches) and with a most satisfactory air warmed his hands by the
stove, keeping the skirts of his great-coat carefully between his
knees, we could stand it no longer but dropped invisible behind the
breastwork. But the climax of the whole was (as the Cleveland man says)
when Mrs. Peck went out in the middle of the service. It was, however,
the means of reconciling the whole society; for after that first day we
heard no more opposition to the warm stove in the meeting-house."

With all this corroborative evidence I think it is fully proved that the
event really happened in Litchfield, and that the honor was stolen for
other towns by unveracious chroniclers; otherwise we must believe in an
amazing unanimity of church-joking and sham-fainting all over New England.

The very nature, the stern, pleasure-hating and trial-glorying Puritan
nature, which made our forefathers leave their English homes to come, for
the love of God and the freedom of conscience, to these wild, barren, and
unwelcoming shores, made them also endure with fortitude and almost with
satisfaction all personal discomforts, and caused them to cling with
persistent firmness to such outward symbols of austere contempt of
luxury, and such narrow-minded signs of love of simplicity as the lack of
comfortable warmth during the time of public worship. The religion which
they had endured such bitter hardships to establish, did not, in their
minds, need any shielding and coddling to keep it alive, but thrived far
better on Spartan severity and simplicity; hence, it took two centuries of
gradual and most tardy softening and modifying of character to prepare the
Puritan mind for so advanced a reform and luxury as proper warmth in the
meeting-houses in winter.


The Noon-House.

There might have been seen a hundred years ago, by the side of many an old
meeting-house in New England, a long, low, mean, stable-like building, with
a rough stone chimney at one end. This was the "noon-house," or "Sabba-day
house," or "horse-hows," as it was variously called. It was a place of
refuge in the winter time, at the noon interval between the two services,
for the half-frozen members of the pious congregation, who found there the
grateful warmth which the house of God denied. They built in the rude stone
fireplace a great fire of logs, and in front of the blazing wood ate their
noon-day meal of cold pie, of doughnuts, of pork and peas, or of brown
bread with cheese, which they had brought safely packed in their capacious
saddlebags. The dining-place smelt to heaven of horses, for often at the
further end of the noon-house were stabled the patient steeds that, doubly
burdened, had borne the Puritans and their wives to meeting; but this
stable-odor did not hinder appetite, nor did the warm equine breaths that
helped to temper the atmosphere of the noon-house offend the senses of the
sturdy Puritans. From the blazing fire in this "life-saving station" the
women replenished their little foot-stoves with fresh, hot coals, and thus
helped to make endurable the icy rigor of the long afternoon service.

If the winter Sabbath Day were specially severe, a "hired-man," or one of
the grown sons of the family, was sent at an early hour to the noon-house
in advance of the other church-attendants, and he started in the rough
fireplace a fire for their welcome after their long, cold, morning ride;
and before its cheerful blaze they thoroughly warmed themselves before
entering the icy meeting-house. The embers were carefully covered over
and left to start a second blaze at the nooning, covered again during the
afternoon service, and kindled up still a third time to warm the chilled
worshippers ere they started for their cold ride home in the winter
twilight. And when the horses were saddled, or were harnessed and hitched
into the great box-sleighs or "pungs," and when the good Puritans were well
wrapped up, the dying coals were raked out for safety and the noon-house
was left as quiet and as cold as the deserted meeting-house until the
following Sabbath or Lecture day.

If the meeting-house chanced to stand in the middle of the town (as was
the universal custom in the earliest colonial days) of course a noon-house
would be rarely built, for it would plainly not be needed. Nor was a
"Sabba-day house" always seen in more lonely situations, if the sanctuary
were placed near the substantial farm-house of a hospitable farmer; for to
that friendly shelter the whole congregation would at noon-time repair and
absorb to the fullest degree the welcome cider and warmth.

In Lexington for many years after the Revolutionary War, the winter
church-goers who came from any distance spent the nooning at the Dudley
Tavern, where a roaring fire was built in the inn-parlor, and there the
women and children ate their midday lunch. The men gathered in the bar-room
and drank flip, and ate the tavern gingerbread and cheese, and talked over
the horrors and glories of the war. In Haverhill, Derby, and many other
towns, the school-house, which was built on the village green beside the
church, was used for a noon-house by the church members, though not by
their horses. The house of learning was never chimneyless and fireless, as
was the house of God.

As churches and towns multiplied, a meeting-house was often built to
accommodate two little settlements or villages (and thus was convenient for
neither), and was frequently placed in an isolated or inconvenient place,
the top of a high hill being perhaps the most inconvenient and the most
favored site. Thus a noon-house became an absolute necessity to Puritan
health and existence, and often two or three were built near one
meeting-house; while in some towns, as in Bristol, a whole row of
disfiguring little "Sabba-day houses" stood on the meeting-house green,
and in them the farmers (as they quaintly expressed in their petitions for
permission to erect the buildings) "kept their duds and horses."

In Derby, after several petitions had been granted to build noon-houses, it
was found necessary, in 1764, to place some restrictions as to the location
of the buildings, which had hitherto evidently been placed with the
characteristically Puritanical indifference to general convenience or
appearance. While the town still permitted the little log-huts to be
erected, and though they could be placed on either side of the highway, it
was ordered that the builders must not so locate them as to "incommode any
highways." As early as 1690 the thoughtful Stonington people built a house
"14 foot square and seven foot posts" with a chimney at one side, for the
express purpose of having a place where their minister, Rev. Mr. Noyes,
could thaw out between services. The New Canaan Church built on the green
beside their meeting-house a fine "Society House," twenty-one feet long
and sixteen feet wide, with a big chimney and fireplace. The horses were
plainly "not in society" in New Canaan, for they were excluded from the
occupancy and privileges of the Society House.

"James June & all that lives at Larences" were allowed to build a
"Sabbath-House" on the green near the New Britain meeting-house "as a
Commodate for their conveniency of comeing to meeting on the Sabbath;" at
the same time James Slason of the same village was given permission to "set
yp a house for ye advantage of his having a place to go to" on the Sabbath.
Frequently the petitions "to build a Sabbath Day House" or a "Housel for
Shelter for Horss" were made in company by several farmers for their joint
use and comfort, as shown by entries in the town and church records of
Norwalk, New Milford, Durham, and Hartford.

Noon-houses were much more frequent in Connecticut than in Massachusetts,
and in several small towns in the former State they were used weekly
between Sunday services until within the memory of persons now living;
and some of the buildings still exist, though changed into granaries or
stables. There was one also in use for many years and until recent years in
Topsfield, in Massachusetts. We chanced upon one still standing on a lonely
Narragansett road. A little enclosed burial-place, with moss-grown and
weather-smoothed head-stones and neglected graves, was by the side of a
filled-in cellar, upon which a church evidently had once stood. At a short
distance from the church-site was a long, low, gray, weather-beaten wooden
building, with a coarse stone-and-mortar chimney at one end, and a great
door at the other. Two small windows, destitute of glass, permitted us
to peer into the interior of this dilapidated old structure, and we saw
within, a floor of beaten earth, a rough stone fireplace, and a few rude
horse-stalls. We felt sure that this tumble-down building had been neither
a dwelling-house nor a stable, but a noon-house; and the occupants of a
neighboring farm-house confirmed our decision. Too worthless to destroy,
too out of the way to be of any use to any person, that old noon-house,
through neglect and isolation, has remained standing until to-day.

It was not until the use of chaises and wagons became universal, and the
new means of conveyance crowded out the old-fashioned saddle and pillion,
and the trotting horse superseded the once fashionable but quickly despised
pacer, that the great stretches of horse-sheds were built which now
surround and disfigure all our country churches. These sheds protect,
of course, both horse and carriage from wind and rain. Few churches had
horse-sheds until after the War of the Revolution, and some not until after
the War of 1812. In 1796 the Longmeadow Church had "liberty to erect a
Horse House in the Meeting House Lane." This horse house was a horse-shed.

The "wretched boys" were not permitted even in these noon-houses to talk,
much less to "sporte and playe." In some parishes it was ordered by the
minister and the deacons that the Bible should be read and expounded
to them, or a sermon be read to keep them quiet during the nooning.
Occasionally some old patriarch would explain to them the notes that he
had taken during the morning sermon. More unbearable still, the boys were
sometimes ordered to explain the notes which they had taken themselves. I
would I had heard some of those explanations! Thus they literally, as was
written in 1774, throve on the "Good Fare of Brown Bread and the Gospell."

In Andover, Judge Phillips left in his will a silver flagon to the church
as an expression of interest and hope that the "laudable practice of
reading between services may be continued so long as even a small number
shall be disposed to attend the exercise." Mr. Abbott left another silver
flagon to the Andover Church to encourage reading between services; though
how this piece of plate encouraged personally, since neither the deacons
nor the boys got it as a prize, cannot be precisely understood. The
noon-house in Andover was a large building with a great chimney and open
fireplace at either end. It has always seemed to me a piece of gratuitous
posthumous cruelty in Judge Phillips and Mr. Abbott to try to cheat those
Andover boys of their noon-time rest and relaxation, and to expect them,
wriggling and twisting with repressed vitality, to listen to a long extra
sermon, read perhaps by some unskilled reader, or explained by some
incapable expounder. The Sabbath-school did not then exist, and was not in
general favor until the noon-houses had begun to disappear. The Reverend
Jedediah Morse, father of the inventor of the electric telegraph, was
almost the first New England clergyman who approved of Sabbath-schools and
established them in his parish. In Salem they were opened in 1808, and the
scholars came at half-past six on Sunday mornings. Fancy the chill and
gloom of the unheated, ill-lighted churches at that hour on winter
mornings. The "Salem Gazette" openly characterized Sunday-schools, when
first suggested, as profanations of the Sabbath, and for years they were
not allowed in many Congregational churches. When the Sabbath-schools
were universally established, and thus the attention and interest of the
children was gained during the noon interval (the time the schools were
usually held in country churches), and when each family sat in its own pew,
and thus the boys were separated, and each under his parents' guardianship,
the "wretched boys" of the Puritan Sabbath disappeared, and well-behaved,
quiet, orderly boys were seen instead in the New England churches.

This fashion of sermon-reading at the nooning happily did not obtain in
all parts of New England. In many villages the meetings in the society
noon-houses were to the townspeople what a Sunday newspaper is to Sunday
readers now-a-days, an advertisement and exposition of all the news of the
past week, and also a suggestion of events to come. At noon they discussed
and wondered at the announcements and publishings which were tacked on
the door of the meeting-house or the notices that had been read from the
pulpit. The men talked in loud voices of the points of the sermon, of the
doctrines of predestination pedobaptism and antipedobaptism, of original
sin, and that most fascinating mystery, the unpardonable sin, and in lower
voices of wolf and bear killing, of the town-meeting, the taxes, the crops
and cattle; and they examined with keen interest one another's horses,
and many a sly bargain in horse-flesh or exchange of cows and pigs was
suggested, bargained over, and clinched in the "Sabba'-day house." Many a
piece of village electioneering was also discussed and "worked" between the
services. The shivering women crowded around the blazing and welcome fire,
and seated themselves on rude benches and log seats while they ate and
exchanged doughnuts, slices of rusk, or pieces of "pumpkin and Indian mixt"
pie, and also gave to each other receipts therefor; and they discoursed
in low voices of their spinning and weaving, of their candle-dipping
or candle-running, of their success or failure in that yearly trial of
patience and skill--their soap-making, of their patterns in quilt-piecing,
and sometimes they slyly exchanged quilt-patterns. A sentence in an old
letter reads thus: "Anne Bradford gave to me last Sabbath in the Noon House
a peecing of the Blazing Star; tis much Finer than the Irish Chain or the
Twin Sisters. I want yelloe peeces for the first joins, small peeces will
do. I will send some of my lilac flowered print for some peeces of Cicelys
yelloe India bed vallants, new peeces not washed peeces." They gave one
another medical advice and prescriptions of "roots and yarbs" for their
"rheumatiz," "neuralgy," and "tissick;" and some took snuff together, while
an ancient dame smoked a quiet pipe. And perhaps (since they were women as
well as Puritans) they glanced with envy, admiration, or disapproval, or
at any rate with close scrutiny, at one another's gowns and bonnets and
cloaks, which the high-walled pews within the meeting-house had carefully
concealed from any inquisitive, neighborly view.

The wood for these beneficent noon-house fires was given by the farmers
of the congregation, a load by each well-to-do land-owner, if it were a
"society-house," and occasionally an apple-growing farmer gave a barrel of
"cyder" to supply internal instead of external warmth. Cider sold in 1782
for six shillings "Old Tenor" a barrel, so it was worth about the same
as the wood both in money value and calorific qualities. A hundred years
previously--in 1679--cider was worth ten shillings a barrel. In 1650, when
first made in America, it was a costly luxury, selling for L4 4s. a barrel.
That this thawed-out Sunday barrel of cider would prove invariably a source
of much refreshment, inspiration, solace, tongue-loosing, and blood-warming
to the chilled and shivering deacons, elders, and farmers who gathered in
the noon-house, any one who has imbibed that all-potent and intoxicating
beverage, oft-frozen "hard" cider, can fervently testify.

Sometimes a very opulent farmer having built a noon-house for his own and
his family's exclusive use, would keep in it as part of his "duds" a few
simple cooking utensils in which his wife or daughters would re-heat or
partially cook his noon-day Sabbath meal, and mix for him a hot toddy or
punch, or a mug of that "most insinuating drink"--flip. Flip was made of
home-brewed beer, sugar, and a liberal dash of Jamaica rum, and was mixed
with a "logger-head"--a great iron "stirring-stick" which was heated in the
fire until red hot and then thrust into the liquid. This seething iron made
the flip boil and bubble and imparted to it a burnt, bitter taste which was
its most attractive attribute. I doubt not that many a "loggerhead" was
kept in New England noon-houses and left heating and gathering insinuating
goodness in the glowing coals, while the pious owner sat freezing in the
meeting-house, also gathering goodness, but internally keeping warm at the
thought of the bitter nectar he should speedily brew and gladly imbibe at
the close of the long service.

The comfort of a hot midday dinner on the Sabbath was not regarded with
much favor, though perhaps with secret envy, by the neighbors of the
luxury-loving farmer, who saw in it too close an approach to "profanation
of the Sabbath." The heating and boiling of the flip with the red hot
"loggerhead" hardly came under the head of "unnecessary Sabbath cooking"
even in the minds of the most straight-laced descendants of the Puritans.

When stoves were placed and used in the New England meeting-houses, the
noon-day lunches were eaten within the pews inside the sanctuary, and the
noon-houses, no longer being needed, followed the law of cause and effect,
and like many other institutions of the olden times quickly disappeared.


The Deacon's Office.

The deacons in the early New England churches had, besides their regular
duties on the Lord's Day, and their special duties on communion Sabbaths,
the charge of prudential concerns, and of providing for the poor of the
church. They also "dispensed the word" on Sabbaths to the congregation
during the absence of the ordained minister. Judge Sewall thus describes
in his diary under the date of November, 1685, the method at that time of
appointing or ordaining a deacon:--

"In afternoon Mr. Willard ordained our Brother Theophilus Frary to the
office of a Deacon. Declared his acceptance January 11th first
now again. Propounded him to the congregation at Noon. Then in even
propounded him if any of the church of other had to object they might
speak. Then took the Church's Vote, then call'd him up to the Pulpit,
laid his Hand on's head, and said I ordain Thee, etc., etc., gave him
his charge, then Prayed & sung 2nd Part of 84th Psalm."

The deacons always sat near the pulpit in a pew, which was generally
raised a foot or two above the level of the meeting-house floor, and which
contained, usually, several high-backed chairs and a table or a broad
swinging-shelf for use at the communion service. These venerable men were
a group of awe-inspiring figures, who, next to the parson, received the
respect of the community. In Bristol, Connecticut, the deacons wore
starched white linen caps in the meeting-house to indicate their office,--a
singular local custom. One of their duties in many communities was
naturally to furnish the sacramental wines, and the money for the payment
thereof was allowed to them from the church-rates, or was raised by special
taxation. In Farmington, Connecticut, in 1669, each male inhabitant was
ordered to pay a peck of wheat or one shilling to the deacons of the church
to defray the expenses of the sacrament. In Groton church, in 1759, "4
Coppers for every Sacrament for 1 year" was demanded from each communicant.
In Springfield the "deacon's rate" was paid in "wampam,"--sixpence in
"wampam" or a peck of Indian corn from each family in the town. This
special tax was somewhat modified in case a man had no wife, or if he were
not a church-member, but in the latter case he still had to pay some dues,
though of course he could not take part in the communion service. In 1734
the Milton church ordered the deacons to procure "good Canary Wine for
the Communion Table." Abuses sometimes arose,--abominably poor wines were
furnished, though full rates were paid for the purchase of wine of
good quality; and in Newbury the man who was appointed to furnish the
sacramental wines, sold, under that religious cover, wine and liquors at

The deacons also had charge of the vessels used in the communion service.
These vessels were frequently stored, when not in use, under the pulpit in
a little closet which opened into "the Ministers wives pue," and which was
fabled to be at the disposal of the tithingmen and deacons for the darksome
incarceration of unruly and Sabbath-breaking boys. The communion vessels
were not always of valuable metal; John Cotton's first church had wooden
chalices; the wealthier churches owned pieces of silver which had been
given to them, one piece at a time, by members or friends of the church;
but communion services of pewter were often seen.

The church in Hanover, Massachusetts, bought a pewter service in 1728, and
the record of the purchase still exists. It runs thus:--

3 Pewter Tankards marked C. T. 10 shillings.
5 " Beakers " C. E. 6 sh. 6d. each.
2 " Platters " C. P. 5 sh. each.
1 " Basin for Baptisms.

This pewter service is still owned by the Hanover church, a highly prized
relic. Until 1753 the church in Andover used a pewter communion service,
but when a silver service was given to it, the Andover church sent the
vessels of baser metal to a sister church in Methuen. In Haverhill the will
of a church-member named White gave to the church absolutely the pewter
dishes which were used at the sacrament, and which had been his personal
property. The "ffirst church" of Hartford had "one Puter fflagon, ffower
pewter dishes, and a bason" left to it by the bequest of one of its
members. When the Danvers church was burned in 1805, the pewter communion
vessels were saved while the silver ones were either burnt or stolen. As
pewter was, in the early days of New England, far from being a despised
metal, and as pewter dishes and plates were seen on the tables of the
wealthiest families, were left by will as precious possessions, were
engraved with initials and stamped with coats of arms, and polished with
as much care as were silver vessels, a communion service of pewter was
doubtless felt to be a thoroughly satisfactory acquisition and appointment
to a Puritan church.

The deacons of course took charge of the church contributions. Lechford,
in his "Plaine Dealing," thus describes the manner of giving in the Boston
church in 1641:--

"Baptism being ended, follows the contribution, one of the deacons
saying, 'Brethren of the Congregation, now there is time left for
contribution, whereof as God has prospered you so freely offer.' The
Magistrates and chief gentlemen first, and then the Elders and all the
Congregation of them, and most of them that are not of the church, all
single persons, widows and women in absence of their husbands, came up
one after another one way, and bring their offering to the deacon at
his seat, and put it into a box of wood for the purpose, if it be money
or papers. If it be any other Chattel they set or lay it down before
the deacons; and so pass on another way to their seats again; which
money and goods the Deacons dispose towards the maintenance of the
Minister, and the poor of the Church, and the Churches occasions
without making account ordinarily."

Lechford also said he saw a "faire gilt cup" given at the public
contribution; and other gifts of value to the church and minister were
often made. Libellous verses too were thrown into the contribution boxes,
and warning and gloomy messages from the Quakers; and John Rogers,
in derision of a pompous New London minister, threw in the insulting
contribution of an old periwig. One Puritan goodwife, sternly unforgiving,
never saw a contribution taken for proselyting the Indians without
depositing in the contribution-box a number of leaden bullets, the only
tokens she wished to see ever dispersed among the red men.

Even our pious forefathers were not always quite honest in their church
contributions, and had to be publicly warned, as the records show, that
they must deposit "wampum without break or deforming spots," or "passable
peage without breaches." The New Haven church was particularly tormented by
canny Puritans who thus managed to dispose of their broken and worthless
currency with apparent Christian generosity. In 1650 the New Haven "deacons
informed the Court that the wampum which is putt into the Church Treasury
is generally so bad that the Elders to whom they pay it cannot pay it

In 1651, as the bad wampum was still paid in by the pious New Haven
Puritans, it was ordered that "no money save silver or bills" be accepted
by the deacons. After this order the deacons and elders found tremendous
difficulty in getting any contributions at all, and many are the records of
the actions and decisions of the church in regard to the perplexing matter.
It should be said, in justice to the New Haven colonists, though they were
the most opulent of the New England planters, save the wealthy settlers
of Narragansett, that money of all kinds was scarce, and that the Indian
money, wampum-peag, being made of a comparatively frail sea-shell, was more
easily disfigured and broken than was metal coin; and that there was little
transferable wealth in the community anyway, even in "Country Pay." The
broken-wampum-giver of the seventeenth century, who contributed with intent
to defraud and deceive the infant struggling church was the direct and
lineal ancestor of the sanctimonious button-giver of nineteenth-century
country churches.

In Revolutionary times, after the divine service, special contributions
were taken for the benefit of the Continental Army. In New England large
quantities of valuable articles were thus collected. Not only money, but
finger-rings, earrings, watches, and other jewelry, all kinds of male
attire,--stockings, hats, coats, breeches, shoes,--produce and groceries of
all kinds, were brought to the meeting-house to give to the soldiers. Even
the leaden weights were taken out of the window-sashes, made into bullets,
and brought to meeting. On one occasion Madam Faith Trumbull rose up in
Lebanon meeting-house in Connecticut, when a collection was being made for
the army, took from her shoulders a magnificent scarlet cloak, which had
been a present to her from Count Rochambeau, the commander-in-chief of the
French allied army, and advancing to the altar, gave it as her offering to
the gallant men, who were fighting not only the British army, but terrible
want and suffering. The fine cloak was cut into narrow strips and used as
red trimmings for the uniforms of the soldiers. The romantic impressiveness
of Madam Trumbull's patriotic act kindled warm enthusiasm in the
congregation, and an enormous collection was taken, packed carefully, and
sent to the army.

One early duty of the deacons which was religiously and severely performed
was to watch that no one but an accepted communicant should partake of the
holy sacrament. One stern old Puritan, having been officially expelled from
church-membership for some temporal rather than spiritual offence, though
ignored by the all-powerful deacon, still refused to consider himself
excommunicated, and calmly and doggedly attended the communion service
bearing his own wine and bread, and in the solitude of his own pew communed
with God, if not with his fellow-men. For nearly twenty years did this
austere man rigidly go through this lonely and sad ceremonial, until he
conquered by sheer obstinacy and determination, and was again admitted to

A very extraordinary custom prevailed in several New England churches.
Through it the deacons were assigned a strange and serious duty which
appeared to make them all-important and possibly self-important, and
which must have weighed heavily upon them, were they truly godly, and
conscientious in the performance of it. In the rocky little town of Pelham
in the heart of Massachusetts, toward the close of the eighteenth century
and during the pastorate of the notorious thief, counterfeiter, and forger,
Rev. Stephen Burroughs, that remarkable rogue organized and introduced to
his parishioners the custom of giving during the month a metal check to
each worthy and truly virtuous church-member, on presentation of which the
check-bearer was entitled to partake of the communion, and without which he
was temporarily excommunicated. The duty of the deacon in this matter was
to walk up and down the aisles of the church at the close of each service
and deliver to the proper persons (proper in the deacon's halting human
judgment) the significant checks. The deacon had also to see that this
religionistic ticket was presented on the communion Sabbath. Great must
have been the disgrace of one who found himself checkless at the end of the
month, and greater even than the heart-burnings over seating the meeting
must have been the jealousies and church quarrels that arose over the
communion-checks. And yet no records of the protests or complaints of
indignant or grieving parishioners can be found, and the existence of
the too worldly, too business-like custom is known to us only through

Many of the little chips called "Presbyterian checks" are, however, still
in existence. They are oblong discs of pewter, about an inch and a half
long, bearing the initials "P. P.," which stand, it is said, for "Pelham
Presbyterian." I could not but reflect, as I looked at the simple little
stamped slips of metal, that in a community so successful in the difficult
work of counterfeiting coin, it would have been very easy to form a mould
and cast from it spurious checks with which to circumvent the deacons and
preserve due dignity in the meeting.

The Presbyterian checks have never been attributed in Massachusetts to
other than the Pelham church, and are usually found in towns in the
vicinity of Pelham; and there the story of their purpose and use is
universally and implicitly believed. A clergyman of the Pelham church gave
to many of his friends these Presbyterian checks, which he had found among
the disused and valueless church-properties, and the little relics of the
old-time deacons and services have been carefully preserved.

In New Hampshire, however, a similar custom prevailed in the churches of
Londonderry and the neighboring towns.. The Londonderry settlers were
Scotch-Irish Presbyterians (and the Pelham planters were an off-shoot of
the Londonderry settlement), and they followed the custom of the Scotch
Presbyterians in convening the churches twice a year to partake of the
Lord's Supper. This assembly was always held in Londonderry, and ministers
and congregations gathered from all the towns around. Preparatory services
were held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Long tables were placed in
the aisles of the church on the Sabbath; and after a protracted and solemn
address upon the deep meaning of the celebration and the duties of the
church-members, the oldest members of the congregation were seated at the
table and partook of the sacrament. Thin cakes of unleavened bread were
specially prepared for this sacred service. Again and again were the tables
refilled with communicants, for often seven hundred church-members were
present. Thus the services were prolonged from early morning until
nightfall. When so many were to partake of the Lord's Supper, it seemed
necessary to take means to prevent any unworthy or improper person from
presenting himself. Hence the tables were fenced off, and each communicant
was obliged to present a "token." These tokens were similar to the
"Presbyterian checks;" they were little strips of lead or pewter stamped
with the initials "L. D.," which may have stood for "Londonderry" or
"Lord's Day." They were presented during the year by the deacons and elders
to worthy and pious church-members. This bi-annual celebration of the
Lord's Supper--this gathering of old friends and neighbors from the rocky
wilds of New Hampshire to join, in holy communion--was followed on Monday
by cheerful thanksgiving and social intercourse, in which, as in every
feast, our old friend, New England rum, played no unimportant part. The
three days previous to the communion Sabbath were, however, solemnly
devoted to the worship of God; a Londonderry man was reproved and
prosecuted for spreading grain upon a Thursday preceding a communion
Sunday, just as he would have been for doing similar work upon the Sabbath.
The use of these "tokens" in the Londonderry church continued until the
year 1830.

In the coin collection of the American Antiquarian Society are little
pewter communion-checks, or tokens, stamped with a heart. These were used
in the Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, and were delivered to pious
church-members at the Friday evening prayer-meeting preceding the communion
Sabbath. Long tables were set in the aisles, as at Londonderry. In
practice, belief, and origin, the New Hampshire and Pennsylvania churches
were sisters.

The deacons had many minor duties to perform in the different parishes.
Some of these duties they shared with the tithingman. They visited the
homes of the church-members to hear the children say the catechism, they
visited and prayed with the sick, and they also reported petty offences,
though they were not accorded quite so powerful legal authority as the
tithingmen and constables.

It was much desired by several of the first-settled ministers that there
should be deaconesses in the New England Puritan church, and many good
reasons were given for making such appointments. It was believed that
for the special duty of visiting the sick and afflicted in the community
deaconesses would be more useful than deacons. There had been an aged
deaconess in the Puritan church in Holland, who with a "little birchen
rod" had kept the children in awe and order in meeting, and who had also
exercised "her guifts" in speaking; but when she died no New England
successor was appointed to fill her place.


The Psalm-Book of the Pilgrims.

We read in "The Courtship of Miles Standish," of the fair Priscilla, when
John Alden came to woo her for his friend, the warlike little captain, that

"Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of Ainsworth,
Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music together; Rough-hewn,
angular notes, like stones in the wall of a churchyard, Darkened and
overhung by the running vine of the verses. Such was the book from
whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem."

One of these "well-worn psalm-books of Ainsworth" lies now before me,
perhaps the very one from which the lonely Priscilla sang as she sat

There is something especially dear to the lover and dreamer of the olden
time, to the book-lover and antiquary as well, in an old, worn psalm or
hymn book. It speaks quite as eloquently as does an old Bible of loving
daily use, and adds the charm of interest in the quaint verse to reverence
for the sacred word. A world of tender fancies springs into life as I turn
over the pages of any old psalm-book "reading between the lines," and as
I decipher the faded script on the titlepage. But this "psalm-book of
Ainsworth," this book loved and used by the Pilgrims, brought over in one
of those early ships, perhaps in the "Mayflower" itself, this book so
symbolic of those early struggling days in New England, has a romance, a
charm, an interest which thrills every drop of Puritan blood in my veins.

It is pleasing, too, this "Ainsworth's Version," aside from any thought of
its historic associations; its square pages of diversified type are well
printed, and have a quaint unfamiliar look which is intensely attractive,
and to which the odd, irregular notes of music, the curiously ornamented
head and tail pieces, and the occasional Hebrew or Greek letters add their
undefinable charm.

It is a square quarto of three hundred and forty-eight closely printed
pages, bound in time-stained but well-preserved parchment, and even the
parchment itself is interesting, and lovely to the touch. The titlepage is
missing, but I know that this is the edition printed, as was Priscilla's,
in Amsterdam in 1612 (not "in England in 1600" as a note written in the
last blank page states). The full title was "The Book of Psalms. Englished
both in Prose and Metre. With annotations opening the words and sentences
by conference with other Scriptures. Eph. v: 18,19. Bee yee filled with
the Spirit speaking to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual-Songs
singing and making melodie in your hearts to the Lord." The book contains
besides the Psalms and Annotations, on its first pages, a "Preface
declaring the reason and use of the Book;" and at the last pages a "Table
directing to some principal things observed in the Annotations of the
Psalms," a list of "Hebrew phrases observed which are somewhat hard and
figurative," and also some "General Observations touching the Psalms."

I can well imagine what a pious delight this book was to our Pilgrim
Fathers; and what a still greater delight it was to our Pilgrim Mothers,
in that day and country of few books. They possessed in it, not only a
wonderful new metrical version of the Psalms for singing, but a prose
version for comparison as well; and the deeply learned and profoundly
worded annotations placed at the end of each Psalm were doubtless of
special interest to such "scripturists with all their hearts" as they were.

There were also, "for the use and edification of the saints," printed above
each psalm the airs of appropriate tunes. The "rough-hewn, angular notes"
are irregularly lozenge-shaped, like the notes or "pricks" in Queen
Elizabeth's "Virginal-Book," and are placed on the staff without bars.
Ainsworth, in his preface, says, "Tunes for the Psalms I find none set of
God: so that ech people is to use the most grave decent and comfortable
manner that they know how, according to the general rule. The singing notes
I have most taken from our Englished psalms when they will fit the mesure
of the verse: and for the other long verses I have also taken (for the most
part) the gravest and easiest tunes of the French and Dutch psalmes." Easy
the tunes certainly are, to the utmost degree of simplicity.

Great diversity too of type did the Pilgrims find in their Psalm-book:
Roman type, Italics, black-letter, all were used; the verse was printed in
Italics, the prose in Roman type, and the annotation in black-letter and
small Roman text with close-spaced lines. This variety though picturesque
makes the text rather difficult to read; for while one can decipher
black-letter readily enough when reading whole pages of it, when it is
interspersed with other type it makes the print somewhat confusing to the
unaccustomed eye.

One curious characteristic of the typography is the frequent use of the
hyphen, compound words or rather compound phrases being formed apparently
without English rule or reason. Such combinations as these are given as
instances: "highly-him-preferre," "renowned-name," "repose-me-quietlie,"
"in-mind-uplay," "turn-to-ashes," "my-alonely-soul," "beat-them-final,"
"pouring-out-them-hard," "inveyers-mak-streight," and "condemn-thou-them-
as-guilty,"--which certainly would make fit verses to be sung to the
accompaniment of Master Mace's "excellent-large-plump-lusty-fullspeaking-

Ainsworth's Version when read proves to be a scholarly book, exhibiting far
better grammar and punctuation and more uniformity of spelling than "The
New England Psalm-book," which at a later date displaced Ainsworth in the
affections and religious services of the New England Puritans and Pilgrims.
Both versions are somewhat confused in sense, and of uncouth and grotesque
versification; though the metre of Ainsworth is better than the rhyme. It
is all written in "common metre," nearly all in lines of eight and six
syllables alternately.

The name of the author of this version was Henry Ainsworth; he was the
greatest of all the Holland Separatists, a typical Elizabethan Puritan,
who left the church in which he was educated and attached himself to the
Separatists, or Brownists, as they were called. He went into exile in
Amsterdam in 1593, and worked for some time as a porter in a book-seller's
shop, living (as Roger Williams wrote) "upon ninepence in the weeke with
roots boyled." He established, with the Reverend Mr. Johnson, the new
church in Holland; and when it was divided by dissension, he became the
pastor of the "Ainsworthian Brownists" and so remained for twelve years.
He was a most accomplished scholar, and was called the "rabbi of his age."
Governor Bradford, in his "Dialogue," written in 1648, says of Ainsworth,
"He had not his better for the Hebrew tongue in the University nor scarce
in Europe." Hence, naturally, he was constantly engaged upon some work of
translating or commentating, and still so highly prized is some of his work
that it has been reprinted during this century. He also, being a skilful
disputant, wrote innumerable controversial pamphlets and books, many
of which still exist. It is said that he once had a long and spirited
controversy with a brother divine as to whether the ephod of Aaron were
blue or green. I fear we of to-day have lost much that the final, decisive
judgment from so learned scholars and students as to the correct color has
not descended to us, and now, if we wish to know, we shall have to fight it
all over again.

In spite of his power of argument (or perhaps on account of it) the most
prominent part which Ainsworth seemed to take in Amsterdam for many years
was that of peacemaker, as many of his contemporaries testify: for they
quarrelled fiercely among themselves in the exiled church, though they
had such sore need of unity and good fellowship; and they had many church
arguments and judgments and lawsuits. They quarrelled over the exercise of
power in the church; over the true meaning of the text Matthew xviii. 17;
whether the members of the congregation should be allowed to look on their
Bibles during the preaching or on their Psalm-books during the singing;
whether they should sing at all in their meetings; over the power of the
office of ruling elder (a fruitful source of dissension and disruption in
the New England congregations likewise) and above all, they quarrelled long
and bitterly over the unseemly and gay dress of the parson's wife, Madam
Johnson. These were the terrible accusations that were brought against that
bedizened Puritan: that she wore "her bodies tied to the petticote with
points as men do their doublets and hose; contrary to I Thess. v: 22,
conferred with Deut. xx: 11;" that she also wore "lawn coives," and
"busks," and "whalebones in the petticote bodies," and a "veluet hoode,"
and a "long white brest;" and that she "stood gazing bracing and vaunting
in the shop dores;" and that "men called her a bounceing girl" (as if
she could help that!). And one of her worst and most bitterly condemned
offences was that she wore "a topish hat." This her husband vehemently
denied; and long discussions and explanations followed on the hat's
topishness,--"Mr. Ainsworth dilating much upon a greeke worde" (as of
course so learned a man would). For the benefit of unlearned modern
children of the Puritans let me give the old Puritan's precise explanation
and classification of topishness. "Though veluet in its nature were not
topish, yet if common mariners should weare such it would be a sign of
pride and topishness in them. Also a gilded raper and a feather are not
topish in their nature, neither in a captain to weare them, and yet if a
minister should weare them they would be signs of great vanity topishness
and lightness." I wonder that topish hat had not undone the whole Puritan
church in Holland.

In settling all these and many other disputes, in translating,
commentating, and versifying, did Henry Ainsworth pass his days; until,
worn out by hard labor, and succumbing to long continued weakness, he died
in 1623. This romantic story of his death is told by Neal. "It was sudden
and not without suspicion of violence; for it is reported that, having
found a diamond of very great value in the streets of Amsterdam, he
advertised it in print; and when the owner, who was a Jew, came to demand
it, he offered him any acknowledgment he would desire, but Ainsworth though
poor would accept of nothing but conference with some of his rabbis upon
the prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the Messiah, which the
other promised, but not having interest enough to obtain it he was
poisoned." This rather ambiguous sentence means that Ainsworth was
poisoned, not the Jew. Brooks's account of the story is that the conference
took place, the Jews were vanquished, and in revenge poisoned the champion
of Christianity afterwards. Dexter most unromantically throws cold water on
this poisoning story, and adduces much circumstantial testimony to prove
its improbability; but it could hardly have been invented in cold blood by
the Puritan historians, and must have had some foundation in truth. And
since he is dead, and the thought cannot harm him, I may acknowledge that I
firmly believe and I like to believe that he died in so romantic a way.

The Puritans were psalm-singers ever; and in Holland the Brownist division
of the church came under strong influences from Geneva and Wittenberg, the
birth-places of psalm-singing, that made them doubly fond of "worship in
song." Hence the Pilgrim Fathers, Brewster, Bradford, Carver, and Standish,
for love of music as well as in affectionate testimony to their old pastor
and friend, brought to the New World copies of his version of the Psalms
and sang from it with delight and profit to themselves, if not with ease
and elegance.

Dexter says very mildly of Ainsworth's literary work that "there are
diversities of gifts, and it is no offence to his memory to conclude that
he shone more as an exegete than as a poet." Poesy is a gift of the gods
and cometh not from deep Hebrew study nor from vast learning, and we must
accept Ainsworth's pious enthusiasm in the place of poetic fervor. Of the
quality of his work, however, it is best to judge for one's self. Here is
his rendition of the Nineteenth Psalm, so well known to us in verse by
Addison's glorious "The spacious firmament on high." The prose version is
printed in one column and the verse by its side.

1. To the Mayster of the Musik: A Psalm of David

2. The heavens, doo tel the glory of God: and the out-spred firmament
shevveth; the work of his hand.

3. Day unto day uttereth speech: and night unto night manifesteth

4. No speech, and no words: not heard is their voice

5. Through all the earth, gone-forth is their line: and unto the
utmost-end of the world their speakings: he hath put a tent in them for
the sun.

6. And he; as a bridegroom, going-forth out of his privy-chamber:
joyes as a mighty-man to run a race

7. From the utmost end of the heavens is his egress; and his
compassing-regress is unto the utmost-ends of them: and none _is_
hidd, from his heat.

2. The heav'ne, doo tel the glory of God and his firmament dooth

3. work of his hands. Day unto day dooth largely-utter speach and night
unto night dooth knowledge shew

4. No speach, and words are none.

5. thier voice it-is not heard. Thier line through all the earth is
gone: and to the worlds end, thier speakings: in them he did dispose,

6. tent for the Sun. Who-bride-groom-like out of his chamber goes:
joyes strong-man-like, to run a race

7. From heav'ns end, his egress: and his regress to the end of them
hidd from his heat, none is:

In order to show the proportion of annotation in the book, and to indicate
the mental traits of the author, let me state that this psalm, in both
prose and metrical versions, occupies about one page; while the closely
printed annotations fill over three pages; which is hardly "explaining with
brevitie," as Ainsworth says in his preface. With this psalm the notes
commence thus:--

"2. (the out-spred-firmament) the whole cope of heaven, with the aier which
though it be soft and liquid and spred over the Earth, yet it is fast and
firm and therefore called of us according to the common Greek version a
firmament: the holy Ghost expresseth it by another term Mid-heaven.
This out-spred-firmament of expansion God made amidds the waters for a
separation and named it Heaven, which of David is said to be stretched out
as courtayn and elsewhere is said to be as firm as moulten glass. So under
this name firmament be commised the orbs of the heav'ns and the aier and
the whole spacious country above the earth."

These annotations must have formed to the Pilgrims not only a dictionary
but a perfect encyclopaedia of useful knowledge. Things spiritual and things
temporal were explained therein. Scientific, historic, and religious
information were dispensed impartially. Much and varied instruction was
given in Natural History, though viewed of course from a strictly religious
point of view. The little Pilgrims learned from their Psalm-Book that the
"Leviathan is the great whalefish or seadragon, so called of the fast
joyning together of his scales as he is described Job 40: 20, 41 and
is used to resemble great tyrants." They also learned that "Lions of
sundry-kinds have sundry-names. Tear-in-pieces like a lion. That he ravin
not, make-a-prey; called a plueker Renter or Tearer, and elsewhere Laby
that is, Harty and couragious; Kphir, this lurking, Couchant. The reason
of thier names is shewed, as The renting-lion as greedy to tear, and the
lurking-Lion as biding in covert places. Other names are also given to this
kind as Shachal, of ramping, of fierce nature; and Lajith of subduing his
prey. Psalm LVI Lions called here Lebain, harty, stowt couragious, Lions.
Lions are mentioned in the Scriptures for the stowtness of thier hart,
boldnes, and grimnes of thier countenance."

Here are other annotations taken at hap-hazard. The lines,

"Al they that doo upon me look
a scoff at me doe make
they with the lip do make-a-mow
the head they scornful-shake,"

Ainsworth thus explains: "Make-a-mow, making-an-opening with the lip
which may be taken both for mowing and thrusting out of the lip and for
licentious opening thereof to speak reproach." The expression "Keep thou me
as the black of the apple of the eye" is thus annotated: "The black, that
is, the sight in the midds of the eye wherein appeareth the resemblance of
a little man, and thereupon seemeth to be called in Hebrew Ishon which is a
man. And as that part is blackish so this word is also used for other black
things as the blackness of night. The apple so we call that which the
Hebrew here calleth bath and babath that is the babie or little image
appearing in the eye." Anger receives this definition: "ire, outward in
the face, grauue, grimnes or fiercenes of countenance. The original Aph
signifieth both the nose by which one breatheth, and Anger which appeareth
in the snuffing or breathing of the nose."

Before the Holland exiles had this version of Ainsworth's to sing from,
they used the book known as "Sternhold and Hopkins' Psalms." They gave it
up gladly to show honor to the work of their loved pastor, and perhaps also
with a sense of pleasure in not having to sing any verses which had been
used and authorized by the Church of England. In doing this they had to
abandon, however, such spirited lines as Sternhold's--

"The earth did shake, for feare did quake
the hills their bases shook.
Removed they were, in place most fayre
at God's right fearfull looks.

"He rode on hye, and did soe flye
Upon the cherubins
He came in sight and made his flight
Upon the winges of windes."

They sung instead,--

"And th' earth did shake and quake and styrred bee
grounds of the mount: & shook for wroth was hee
Smoke mounted, in his wrath, fyre did eat
out of his mouth: from it burned-with heat."

Alas, poor Priscilla! how could she sing with ease or reverence such
confused verses? The tune, too, set in the psalm-book seems absolutely
unfitted to the metre. I fear when she sang from the pages "the old Puritan
anthem" that she was forced to turn it into a chant, else the irregular
lines could never have been brought within the compass of the melody; and
yet, the metre is certainly better than the sense.

It may be thought that these selections of the Psalms have been chosen for
their crudeness and grotesqueness. I have tried in vain to find othersome
that would show more elegant finish or more of the spirit of poetry; the
most poetical lines I can discover are these, which are beautiful for the
reason that the noble thoughts of the Psalmist cannot be hidden, even by
the wording of the learned Puritan minister:--

1. Jehovah feedeth me: I shall not lack

2. In grassy fields, he downe dooth make me lye: he gently-leads mee,
quiet-Waters by.

3. He dooth return my soul: for his name-sake in paths of justice

4. Yea, though I walk in dale of deadly-shade ile fear none yll, for
with me thou wilt be thy rod, thy staff eke, they shall comfort mee.

But few of these psalm-books of Ainsworth are now in existence; but few
indeed came to New England. Elder Brewster owned one, as is shown by
the inventory of the books in his library. Not every member of the
congregation, not every family possessed one; many were too poor, many
"lacked skill to read," and in some communities only one psalm-book was
owned in the entire church. Hence arose the odious custom of "deaconing" or
"lining" the psalm, by which each line was read separately by the deacon or
elder and then sung by the congregation. There is no doubt, however,
that this Ainsworth's Version was used in many of the early New England
meetings. Reverend Thomas Symmes, in his "Joco-Serious Dialogue," printed
in 1723, wrote: "Furthermore the Church of Plymouth made use of Ainsworths
Version of the Psalms until the year 1692. For altho' our New England
version of the Psalms was compiled by sundry hands and completed by
President Dunster about the year 1640; yet that church did not use it, it
seems, 'till two and fifty years after but stuck to Ainsworth; and until
about 1682 their excellent custom was to sing without reading the lines."

John Cotton's account of the Salem church written in 1760, says, "On June
19, 1692, the pastor propounded to the church that seeing many of the
psalms in Mr. Ainsworth's translation which had hitherto been sung in the
congregation had such difficult tunes that none in the church could set,
they would consider of some expedient that they might sing all the psalms.
After some time of consideration on August 7 following, the church voted
that when the tunes were difficult in the translation then used, they
would make use of the New England psalm-book, long before received in
the churches of the Massachusetts colony, not one brother opposing the
conclusion. But finding it inconvenient to use two psalm-books, they at
length, in June 1696 agreed wholly to lay aside Ainsworth and with general
consent introduced the other which is used to this day, 1760. And here it
will be proper to observe that it was their practice until the beginning of
October, 1681 to sing the psalms without reading the lines; but then, at
the motion of a brother who otherwise could not join in the ordinance [I
suppose because he could not read] they altered the custom, and reading
was introduced, the elder performing that service after the pastor had
first expounded the psalm, which were usually sung in course."

On the blank leaf of the copy of Ainsworth now lying before me are written
these words, "This was used in Salem half-a-century from the first
settlement." In a record of the Salem church is this entry of a church
meeting: "4 of 5th month, 1667. The pastor having formerly propounded
and given reason for the use of the Bay Psalm Book in regard to the
_difficulty of the tunes_ and that we could not sing them so well
as formerly and _that there was a singularity in our using Ainsworths
tunes_: but especially because we had not the liberty of singing all the
scripture Psalms according to Col. iii. 16. He did not again propound the
same, and after several brethren had spoken, there was at last a unanimous
consent with respect to the last reason mentioned, that the Bay Psalm Book
should be used together with Ainsworth to supply the defects of it."

It is significant enough of the "low state of the musik in the meetings"
when we find that the simple tunes written in Ainsworth's Version were too
difficult for the colonists to sing. To such a condition had church-music
been reduced by "lining the psalm" and by the lack of musical instruments
to guide and control the singers. It was not much better in old England;
for we find in the preface of Rous' Psalms (which were published in
1643 and authorized to be used in the English Church) references to the
"difficulty of Ainsworth's tunes."

Hood says, "There is almost a certainty that no other version than
Ainsworth was ever used in the colonies until the New England Version was
published. But if any one was used in one or two of the churches it was
Sternhold and Hopkins." I cannot feel convinced of this, but believe that
both Ravenscroft's and Sternhold and Hopkins' Versions were used at first
in many of the Bay settlements. Salem church had a peculiar connection in
its origin with the church of Plymouth, which would account, doubtless,
for its protracted use of the version so loved by the Pilgrims; but the
Puritans of the Bay, coming directly from England, must have brought with
them the version which they had used in England, that of Sternhold and
Hopkins; and they would hardly have wished, nor would it have been possible
for them to acquire speedily in the new land the Ainsworth's Version used
by the Pilgrims from Holland.

The second edition of Ainsworth's Version was printed in 1617, a third
in 1618; the fourth, in London in 1639, was a folio; and the sixth, in
Amsterdam in 1644, was an octavo. A little 24mo copy is in the Essex
Institute in Salem, and an octavo is in the Prince Library, now in the
custody of the Public Library of the City of Boston. The latter copy has
a note in it written by the Rev. Thomas Prince: "Plymouth, May 1, 1732. I
have seen an edition of this version of 1618; and this version was sung
in Plymouth Colony and I suppose in the rest of New England 'till the New
England Version was printed."

There is a copy of the first edition of Ainsworth in the Bodleian Library
and one in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. The American Antiquarian
Society and the Lenox Library are the only public libraries in America that
possess copies, so far as I know. The one in the library of the American
Antiquarian Society was presented to it in 1815 by the Rev. William Bentley
of Salem, Massachusetts, to whom also belonged the copy of the Bay Psalm
Book now in the library at Worcester. He was a divine and a bibliophile and
an antiquary, but there also ran in his veins blood of warmer flow. During
the war of 1812, when the report came, in meeting-time, that the frigate
"Constitution" was being chased into Marblehead harbor, the loyal parson
Bentley locked up his church, and tucked up his gown, and sallied forth
with his whole flock of parishioners to march to Marblehead with the
soldiers, ready to "fight unto death" if necessary. Being short and fat,
and the mercury standing at eighty-five degrees, the doctor's physical
strength gave out, and he had to be hoisted up astride a cannon to ride to
the scene of conflict,--martial in spirit though weak in the legs.

But this association with the old book is comparatively of our own day; and
the most pleasing fancy which the "psalm-book of Ainsworth" brings to my
mind, the most sacred and reverenced thought, is of a far more remote, a
more peaceful and quiet scene; though men of warlike blood and fighting
stock were there present and took part therein. It is with that Sabbath Day
before the Landing at Plymouth which was spent by the Pilgrims, as Mather
says, "in the devout and pious exercises of a sacred rest." And though
Matthew Arnold thought that the Mayflower voyagers would have been
intolerable company for Shakespeare and Virgil, yet in that quiet day of
devout prayer and praise they show a calm religious peace and trust that
is, perhaps, the highest spiritual type of "sweetness and light." And from
this quaint old book their lips found words and music to express in song
their pure and holy faith.


The Bay Psalm-Book.

It seems most proper that the first book printed in New England should be
now its rarest one, and such is the case. It was also meet that the first
book published by the Puritan theocracy should be a psalm-book. This New
England psalm-book, being printed by the colony at Massachusetts Bay, is
familiarly known as "The Bay Psalm-Book," and was published two hundred
and fifty years ago with this wording on the titlepage: "The Whole Book of
Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre. Whereunto is prefixed a
discourse declaring not only the lawfullnes, but also the necessity of the
Heavenly Ordinance of Singing Psalmes in the Churches of God.

"Coll. III. Let the word of God dwell plenteously in you in all wisdome,
teaching, and exhorting one another in Psalmes, Himnes, and spirituall
Songs, singing to the Lord with grace in your hearts.

"James V. If any be afflicted, let him pray; and if any be merry let him
sing psalmes. Imprinted 1640."

The words "For the Use, Edification, and Comfort of the Saints in Publick
and Private especially in New England," though given in Thomas's "History
of Printing," Lowndes's "Bibliographers Manual," Hood's "History of Music
in New England," and many reliable books of reference, as part of the
correct title, were in fact not printed upon the titlepage of this first
edition, but appeared on subsequent ones. Mr. Thomas, at the time he wrote
his history, knew of but one copy of the first edition; "an entire copy
except the title-page is now in the possession of rev. mr. Bentley of
Salem." The titlepage being missing, he probably fell into the error of
copying the title of a later edition, and other cataloguers and manualists
have blindly followed him.

There were in 1638 thirty ministers in New England, all men of intelligence
and education; and to three of them, Richard Mather, Thomas Welde, and John
Eliot was entrusted the literary part of the pious work. They managed to
produce one of the greatest literary curiosities in existence. The book
was printed in the house of President Dunster of Harvard College upon a
"printery," or printing-press, which had cost L50, and was the gift of
friends in Holland to the new community in 1638, the name-year of Harvard
College. Governor Winthrop in his journal tells us that the first sheet
printed on this press was the Freeman's Oath, certainly a characteristic
production; the second an almanac for New England, and the third, "The Bay
Psalm-Book." Some, who deem an almanac a book, call this psalm-book the
second book printed in British America.

A printer named Steeven Daye was brought over from England to do the
printing on this new press. Now Steeven must have been given entire charge
of the matter, and could not have been a very literate fellow (as we
know positively he was a most reprehensible one), or the three reverend
versifiers must have been most uncommonly careless proof-readers, for
certainly a worse piece of printer's work than "The Bay Psalm Book" could
hardly have been struck off. Diversity and grotesqueness of spelling were
of course to be expected, and paper might have been coarse without reproof,
in that new and poor country; but the type was good and clear, the paper
strong and firm, and with ordinary care a very presentable book might have
been issued. The punctuation was horrible. A few commas and periods and
a larger number of colons were "pepered and salted" _a la_ Timothy
Dexter, apparently quite by chance, among the words. Periods were placed
in the middle of sentences; words of one syllable were divided by hyphens;
capitals and italics were used after the fashion of the time, apparently
quite at random; and inverted letters were common enough. The pages were
unnumbered, and on every left-hand page the word "Psalm" in the title was
spelled correctly, while on the right-hand page it is uniformly spelled
"Psalme." But after all, these typographical blemishes might be forgiven if
the substance, the psalms themselves, were worthy; but the versification
was certainly the most villainous of all the many defects, though the
sense was so confused that many portions were unintelligible save with
the friendly aid of the prose version of the Bible; and the grammatical
construction, especially in the use of pronouns, was also far from correct.
Such amazing verses as these may be found:--

"And sayd He would not them waste: had not
Moses stood (whom He chose)
'fore him i' th' breach; to turne his wrath
lest that he should waste those."

Cotton Mather, in his "Magnalia," gives thus the full story of the
production of "The Bay Psalm-book":--

"About the year 1639, the New-English reformers, considering that their
churches enjoyed the other ordinances of Heaven in their scriptural
purity were willing that the 'The singing of Psalms' should be restored
among them unto a share of that _purity_. Though they blessed God
for the religious endeavours of them who translated the Psalms into the
_meetre _usually annexed at the end of the Bible, yet they beheld
in the translation so many _detractions _from, _additions
_to, and _variations _of, not only the text, but the very
_sense _of the psalmist, that it was an offense unto them.
Resolving then upon a new translation, the chief divines in the country
took each of them a portion to be translated; among whom were Mr. Welds
and Mr. Eliot of Eoxbury, and Mr. Mather of Dorchester. These like the
rest were so very different a _genius_ for their poetry that Mr.
Shephard, of Cambridge, on the occasion addressed them to this purpose:

You Roxb'ry poets keep clear of the crime
Of missing to give us very good rhime.
And you of Dorchester, your verses lengthen
And with the text's own words, you will them strengthen.

The Psalms thus turned into _meetre_ were printed at Cambridge, in
the year 1640. But afterwards it was thought that a little more of art
was to be employed upon them; and for that cause they were committed
unto Mr. Dunster, who revised and refined this translation; and (with
some assistance from Mr. Richard Lyon who being sent over by Sir Henry
Mildmay as an attendant unto his, son, then a student at Harvard
College, now resided in Mr. Dunster's house:) he brought it
the condition wherein our churches have since used it. Now though
I heartily join with those gentlemen who wish that the _poetry_
thereof were mended, yet I must confess, that the Psalms have never
yet seen a _translation_ that I know of nearer to the Hebrew
original; and I am willing to receive the excuse which our translators
themselves do offer us when they say: 'If the verses are not always so
elegant as some desire or expect, let them consider that God's
altar needs not our pollishings; we have respected rather a plain
translation, than to smooth our verses with the sweetness of any
paraphrase. We have attended conscience rather than elegance, fidelity
rather than ingenuity, that so we may sing in Zion the Lord's songs of
praise, according unto his own will, until he bid us enter into our
Master's joy to sing eternal hallelujahs.'"

I have never liked Cotton Mather so well as after reading this calm
and kindly account of the production of "The Bay-Psalm-Book." He was a
scholarly man, and doubtless felt keenly and groaned inwardly at the
inelegance, the appalling and unscholarly errors in the New England
version; and yet all he mildly said was that "it was thought that a little
more of art was to be employed upon them," and that he "wishes the poetry
hereof was mended." Such justice, such self-repression, such fairness
make me almost forgive him for riding around the scaffold on which his
fellow-clergyman was being executed for witchcraft, and urging the crowd
not to listen to the poor martyr's dying words. I can even almost overlook
the mysterious fables, the outrageous yarns which he imposed upon us under
the guise of history.

The three reverend versifiers who turned out such questionable poetry are
known to have been writers of clear, scholarly, and vigorous prose. They
were all graduated at Emanuel College, Cambridge, the nursery of Puritans.
Mr. Welde soon returned to England and published there two intelligent
tracts vindicating the purity of the New England worship. Richard Mather
was the general prose-scribe for the community; he drafted the "Cambridge
Platform" and other important papers, and was clear and scholarly enough
in all his work _except_ the "Bay Psalm-Book." From his pen came the
tedious, prolix preface to the work; and the first draft of it in his own
handwriting is preserved in the Prince Library. The other co-worker was
John Eliot, that glory of New England Puritanism, the apostle to the
Indians. His name heads my list of the saints of the Puritan calendar; but
I confess that when I consider his work in "The Bay Psalm-Book," I have
sad misgivings lest the hymns which he wrote and published in the Indian
language may not have proved to the poor Massachusetts Indians all that our
loving and venerating fancy has painted them. It is said also that Francis
Quarles, the Puritan author of "Divine Emblems," sent across the Atlantic
some of his metrical versions of the psalms as a pious contribution to the
new version of the new church in the new land.

The "little more of art" which was bestowed by the improving President
Dunster left the psalms still improvable, as may be seen by opening at
random at any page of the revised editions. Mr. Lyon conferred also upon
the New England church the inestimable boon of a number of hymns or
"Scripture-Songs placed in order as in the Bible." They were printed in
that order from the third until at least the sixteenth edition, but in
subsequent editions the hymns were all placed at the end of the book after
the psalms. I doubt not that the Puritan youth, debarred of merry catches
and roundelays, found keen delight in these rather astonishing renditions
of the songs of Solomon, portions of Isaiah, etc. Those Scripture-Songs
should be read quite through to be fully appreciated, as no modern
Christian could be full enough of grace to sing them. Here is a portion of
the song of Deborah and Barak:--

24. Jael the Kenite Hebers wife
'bove women blest shall be:
Above the women in the tent
a blessed one is she.
25. He water ask'd: she gave him milk
him butter forth she fetch'd
26. In lordly dish: then to the nail
she forth her left hand stretched.

Her right the workman's hammer held
and Sisera struck dead:
She pierced and struck his temple through
and then smote off his head.
27. He at her feet bow'd, fell, lay down
he at her feet bow'd, where
He fell: ev'n where he bowed down
he fell destroyed there.

28. Out of a window Sisera
his mother looked and said
The lattess through in coming why
so long his chariot staid?
His chariot wheels why tarry they?
29. her wise dames, answered
Yea she turned answer to herself
30. and what have they not sped?

31. The prey by poll; a maid or twain
what parted have not they?
Have they not parted, Sisera,
a party-colour'd prey
A party-colour'd neildwork prey
of neildwork on each side
That's party-colour'd meet for necks
of them that spoils divide?

Our Pilgrim Fathers accepted these absurd, tautological verses gladly, and
sang them gratefully; but we know the spirit of poesy could never have
existed in them, else they would have fought hard against abandoning such
majestic psalms as Sternhold's--

"The Lord descended from above
and bow'd the heavens hye
And underneath his feete he cast
the darkness of the skye.

"On cherubs and on cherubines
full royally he road
And on the winges of all the windes
came flying all abroad."

They gave up these lines of simple grandeur, to which they were accustomed,
for such wretched verses as these of the New England version:--

9. Likewise the heavens he downe-bow'd and he descended, & there was
under his feet a gloomy cloud
10. And he on cherub rode and flew; yea, he flew on the wings of winde.
11. His secret place hee darkness made his covert that him round confide.

I cannot understand why they did not sing the psalms of David just as
they were printed in the English Bible; it would certainly be quite as
practicable as to sing this latter selection.

President Dunster's improving hand and brain evolved this rendition:--

"Likewise the heavens he down-bow'd
and he descended: also there
Was at his feet a gloomy cloud
and he on cherubs rode apace.
Yea on the wings of wind he flew
he darkness made his secret place
His covert round about him drew."

Though the grotesque wording and droll errors of these old psalm-books can,
after the lapse of centuries, be pointed out and must be smiled at, there
is after all something so pathetic in the thought of those good, scholarly
old New England saints, hampered by poverty, in dread of attack of Indians,
burdened with hard work, harassed by "eighty-two pestilent heresies," still
laboring faithfully and diligently in their strange new home at their
unsuited work,--something so pathetic, so grand, so truly Christian, that
when I point out any of the absurdities or failures in their work, I dread
lest the shades of Cotton, of Sewall, of Mather, of Eliot, brand me as of
old, "in capitall letters," as "AN OPEN AND OBSTINATE CONTEMNER OF GOD'S
HOLY ORDINANCES," or worse still, with that mysterious, that dread name, "A

The second edition of the "New England Psalm-Book" was published in 1647;
the one copy known to exist has sold for four hundred and thirty-five
dollars. The third edition was the one revised by President Dunster and
Mr. Lyon, and was printed in 1650. In 1691 the unfortunate book was again
"pollished" by a committee of ministers, who thus altered the last two
stanzas of the Song of Deborah and Barak:--

28. Out of a window Sisera
His mother look'd and said
The lattess through in coming why
So long's chariot staid?
His chariot-wheels why tarry they?
Her ladies wise reply'd
29. Yea to herself the answer made,
30. Have they not speed? she cry'd.

31. The prey to each a maid or twain
Divided have not they?
To Sisera have they not shar'd
A divers-colour'd prey?
Of divers-colour'd needle-work
Wrought curious on each side
Of various colours meet for necks
Of those who spoils divide?

Rev. Elias Nason wittily says of "The Bay Psalm-Book," "Welde, Eliot, and
Mather mounted the restive steed Pegasus, Hebrew psalter in hand, and
trotted in warm haste over the rough roads of Shemitic roots and metrical
psalmody. Other divines rode behind, and after cutting and slashing,
mending and patching, twisting and turning, finally produced what must ever
remain the most unique specimen of poetical tinkering in our literature."

Other editions quickly followed these "pollishings" until, in 1709, sixteen
had been printed. Mr. Hood stated that at least seventy editions in all
were brought out. Some of these were printed in England and Scotland, in
exceedingly fine and illegible print, and were intended to be bound up with
the Bible; and occasionally duodecimo Bibles were sent from Scotland to
New England with "The Bay Psalm-Book" bound at the back part of the book.
Strange as it may seem, the poor, halting New England version was used in
some of the English dissenting congregations and Scotch kirks, instead of
the smoother verses composed in England for the English churches.

The Reverend Thomas Prince, after two years of careful work thereon,
published in 1758 a revised edition of the much-published book, and it was
adopted by his church, the Old South, of Boston, the week previous to his
death. It was used by his congregation until 1786. He clung closely to the
form of the old editions, changing only an occasional word. In his preface
Dr. Prince says that "The Bay Psalm-Book" "had the honor of being the
first book printed in North America, and as far as I can find, in this
New World." We have fuller means of information now-a-days than had the
reverend reviser, and we know that as early as 1535 a book called "The
Book of St. John Climacus or The Spiritual Ladder" had been printed in the
Spanish tongue, in Mexico; and no less than one hundred and sixteen other
Spanish works in the sixteenth century, as the "Bibliografia Mexicana"

If the printing of all these various editions was poor, and the diction
worse, the binding certainly was good and could be copied in modern times
to much advantage. No flimsy cloth or pasteboard covers, no weak paper
backs, no ill-pasted leaves, no sham-work of any kind was given; securely
sewed, firmly glued, with covers of good strong leather, parchment, kid, or
calfskin, these psalm-books endured constant _daily_ (not weekly) use
for years, for decades, for a century, and are still whole and firm.
They were carried about in pockets, in saddle-bags, and were opened, and
handled, and conned, as often as were the Puritan Bibles, and they bore the
usage well. They were distinctively characteristic of the unornamental,
sternly pious, eminently honest, and sturdily useful race that produced

Judge Sewall makes frequent mention in his famous diary of "the New Psalm
Book." He bought one "bound neatly in Kids Leather" for "3 shillings &
sixpence" and gave it to a widow whom he was wooing. Rather a serious
lover's gift, but characteristic of the giver, and not so gloomy as
"Dr. Mathers Vials of Wrath," "Dr. Sibbs Bowels," "Dr. Preston's Church
Carriage," and "Dr. Williard's Fountains opened," all of which he likewise
presented to her.

The Judge frequently gave a copy as a bridal gift, after singing from it
"Myrrh aloes," to the gloomy tune of Windsor, at the wedding.

8. Myrrh Aloes and Cussias _smell_
all of thy garments _had_
Out of the yvory pallaces
whereby they made thee glad:

9. Amongst thine honourable maids
kings daughters present were
The Queen is set at thy right hand
in fine gold of Ophir.

But his most frequent mention of the "new psalm-book" is in his "Humbell
acknowledgement" made to God of the "great comfort and merciful kindness
received through singing of His Psalmes;" and the pages of the diary bear
ample testimony that whatever the book may appear to us now, it was to the
early colonists the very Word of God.

As years passed on, however, and singing-schools multiplied, it became much
desired, and even imperative that there should be a better style and manner
of singing, and open dissatisfaction arose with "The Bay Psalm-Book;" the
younger members of the congregations wished to adopt the new and smoother
versions of Tate and Brady, and of Watts. Petitions were frequently made in
the churches to abolish the century-used book. Here is an opening sentence
of one church-letter which is still in existence; it was presented to the
ministers and elders of the Roxbury church September 11th, 1737, and was
signed by many of the church members:--

"The New England Version of Psalms however useful it may formerly have
been, has now become through the natural variableness of Language, not only
very uncouth but in many Places unintelligible; whereby the mind instead
of being Raised and spirited in Singing The Praises of Almighty God and
thereby being prepared to Attend to other Parts of Divine Service is Damped
and made Spiritless in the Performance of the Duty at least such is the
Tendency of the use of that Version," etc., etc.

Great controversy arose over the abolition of the accustomed book, and
church-quarrels were rife; but the end of the century saw the dearly loved
old version consigned to desuetude, uever again to be opened, alas! but by
critical or inquisitive readers.

There is owned by the American Antiquarian Society, and kept carefully
locked in the iron safe in the building of that Society in Worcester, a
copy of the first edition of "The Bay Psalm Book." It is a quarto (not
octavo, as Thomas described it in his "History of Printing") and is in very
good condition, save that the titlepage is missing. It is in the original
light-colored, time-stained parchment binding, and contains the autograph
of Stephen Sewall. It also bears on the inside of the front cover the
book-plate of Isaiah Thomas, and at the back, in the veteran printer's
clear and beautiful handwriting, this statement: "After advertising for
another copy of this book and making enquiry in many places in New England
&c. I was not able to obtain or even hear of another. This copy is
therefore invaluable and must be preserved with the greatest care. Isaiah
Thomas, Sep. 20. 1820." His "History of Printing," was published in 1810,
and the Society had acquired through the gift of "the rev. mr. Bentley" the
copy which Thomas mentioned in his book.

It is strange that Thomas should have been ignorant of the existence of
other copies of the first edition of "The Bay Psalm-Book," for there were
at that time six copies belonging to the Prince Library in the possession
of the Old South Church of Boston. One would fancy that the Prince Library
would have been one of his first objective points of search, save that a
dense cloud of indifference had overshadowed that collection for so long
a time. Five of those copies remained in the custody of the deacons and
pastor of the Old South Church until 1860, and they were at one time all
deposited in the Public Library of the City of Boston. Two still remain in
that suitable place of deposit; they are almost complete in paging, but are
in modern bindings. The other three copies were surrendered by Lieut-Gov.
Samuel Armstrong (who, as one of the deacons of the Old South Church,
had joint custody of the Prince Library), severally, to Mr. Edward
Crowninshield of Boston, Dr. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff of Boston, and Mr.
George Livermore of Cambridge. Governor Armstrong surrendered these three
books in consideration of certain modern books being given to the Prince
Library, and of the modern bindings bestowed on the two other copies; which
seems to us hardly a brilliant or judicious exchange.

In Dr. Shurtleff "The Bay Psalm-Book" found a congenial and loving owner;
and under his careful superintendence an exact reprint was published in
1862 in the Riverside Press at Cambridge. He wrote for it a preface. It was
published by subscription; one copy on India paper, fifteen on thick paper,
and fifty on common paper. Copies on the last named paper have sold readily
for thirty dollars each. All the typographical errors of the original were
carefully reproduced in this reprint.

At Dr. Shurtleffs death, his "Bay Psalm-Book" was catalogued with the rest
of his library, which was to be sold on Dec. 2, 1875; but an injunction was
obtained by the deacons of the Old South Church, to prevent the sale of the
old psalm-book. They were rather late in the day however, to try to obtain
again the too easily parted with book, and the ownership of it was adjudged
to the estate. The book was sold Oct. 12, 1876, at the Library salesroom,
Beacon Street, Boston, for one thousand and fifty dollars. It is now in the
library of Mrs. John Carter Brown, of Providence, Rhode Island. Special
interest attaches to this copy, because it was "Richard Mather, His Book"
as several autographs in it testify; and the author's own copy is always of
extra value. Cotton Mather, a grandson of Richard, was the close friend of
the Reverend Thomas Prince, who founded the Prince Library, and who left it
by will to the Old South Church in 1758. Mr. Prince's book-plate is on the
reverse of the titlepage of this copy of "The Bay Psalm-Book," and is in
itself a rarity. It reads thus:--

"This Book belongs to
The New England Library
Begun to be collected by Thomas Prince
upon his ent'ring Harvard-College July 6
1703, and was given by said Prince, to
remain therein forever."

There was a sixth copy of "The Bay Psalm-Book" in the Prince Library in
1830 when Dr. Wisner wrote his four sermons on the Old South Church of
Boston,--a copy annotated by Dr. Prince and used by him while he was
engaged on his revision. It has disappeared, together with many other
important books and manuscripts belonging to the same library. The
vicissitudes through which this most valuable collection has passed--lying
neglected for years on shelves, in boxes, and in barrels in the
steeple-room of the Old South Church, depleted to use for lighting fires,
injured by British soldiery, but injured still more by the neglect and
indifference of its custodians--are too painful to contemplate or relate.
They contribute to the scholarly standing and honor of neither pastors nor
congregations during those years. It is enough to state, however, that it
is to the noble and ill-requited forethought of Dr. Prince that we owe all
but three of the copies of the Bay Psalm-Book which are now known to be in

There is also a perfect copy of the first edition of the old book in the
Lenox Library in New York, and the manner in which it was acquired (and
also some further accounts of two of our old friends of the Prince Library,
the acquisitions of Messrs. Crowninshield and Liverraore) is told so
entertainingly by Henry Stevens, of Vermont, in his charming book,
"Recollections of Mr. James Lenox" that it is best to quote his account in

"For nearly ten years Mr. Lenox had entertained a longing de
to possess a perfect copy of 'The Bay Psalm Book.' He gave me to
understand that if an opportunity occurred of securing a copy for him I
might go as far as one hundred guineas. Accordingly from 1847 till his
death, six years later, my good friend William Pickering and I put our
heads and book-hunting forces together to run down this rarity. The
only copy we knew of on this side the Atlantic was a spotless one in
the Bodleian Library, which had lain there unrecognized for ages, and
even in the printed catalogue of 1843 its title was recorded without
distinction among the common herd of Psalms in verse. I had handled it
several times with great reverence, and noted its many peculiar points,
but, as agreed with Mr. Pickering, without making any sign or imparting
any information to our good and obliging friend Dr. Bandinel, Bodley's
Librarian. We thought that when we had secured a copy for oursel
it would be time enough to acquaint the learned Doctor that he was
entertaining unawares this angel of the New World.

"Under these circumstances, therefore, only an experienced collector
can judge of my surprise and inward satisfaction, when on the 12
January, 1855, at Sotheby's, at one of the sales of Pickering's stock,
after untying parcel after parcel to see what I might chance to see,
and keeping ahead of the auctioneer, Mr. Wilkinson, on resolving to
prospect in one parcel more before he overtook me, my eye rested
an instant only on the long-lost Benjamin, clean and unspotted. I
instantly closed the parcel (which was described in the Catalogue as
Lot '531 Psalmes, other editions, 1630 to 1675 black letter, a parcel')
and tightened the string just as Alfred came to lay it on the table. A
cool-blooded coolness seized me, and advancing to the table behind Mr.
Lilly I quietly bid, in a perfectly natural tone, 'Sixpence,' and so
the bids went on increasing by sixpence until half a crown was reached,
and Mr. Lilly had loosened the string. Taking up this very volume he
turned to me and remarked that 'This looks a rare edition, Mr. Stevens,
don't you think so? I do not remember having seen it before,' and
raised the bid to five shillings. I replied that I had little doubt of
its rarity though comparatively a late edition of the Psalms,
at the same time gave Mr. Wilkinson a six-penny nod. Thenceforth a
'spirited competition' arose between Mr. Lilly and myself, until
finally the lot was knocked down to 'Stevens' for nineteen shillings. I
then called out with perhaps more energy than discretion, 'Delivered!'
On pocketing this volume, leaving the other seven to take the usual
course, Mr. Lilly and others inquired with some curiosity, 'What rarity
have you got now?' 'Oh, nothing,' said I, 'but the first English book
printed in America.' There was a pause in the sale, while all had a
good look at the little stranger. Some said jocularly, 'There has
evidently been a mistake; put up the lot again.' Mr. Stevens, with the
book again safely in his pocket, said, 'Nay, if Mr. Pickering, whose
cost mark of [3s] did not recognize the prize he had won, certainly the
cataloguer might be excused for throwing it away into the hands of the
right person to rescue, appreciate, and preserve it. I am now fully
rewarded for my long and silent hunt of seven years.'

"On reaching Morley's I eagerly collated the volume, and at first found
it right witli all the _usual_ signatures correct. The leaves were
not paged or folioed. But on further collation I missed sundry of the
Psalms, enough to fill four leaves. The puzzle was finally solved when
it was discovered that the inexperienced printer had marked the sheet
with the signature w after v, which is very unusual.

"This was a very disheartening disappointment, but I held my tongue,
and knowing that my old friend and correspondent, George Liverm
of Cambridge, N. E., possessed an imperfect copy, which he and Mr.
Crowninshield, after the noble example of the 'Lincoln Nosegay,' had
won from the Committee of the 'Old South' together with another and
perfect copy, I proposed an advantageous exchange and obtained
four missing leaves. Mr. Crowninshield strongly advised Mr. Livermore
against parting with his four leaves, because, as he said, 'They would
enable Stevens to complete his copy and to place it in the library of
Mr. Lenox, who would then crow over us because he also had a perfect
copy of "The Bay-Psalm Book."'

"Having thus completed my copy and had it bound by Francis Bedford in
his best style, I sent it to Mr. Lenox for L80. Five years later I
bought the Crowninshield Library in Boston for $10,000, mainly to
obtain his perfect copy of 'The Bay Psalm Book,' and brought the whole
library to London. This second copy, after being held several months,
was at the suggestion of Mr. Thomas Watts, offered to the British
Museum for L150. The Keeper of the Printed Books, however, never had
the courage to send it before the Trustees for approval and payment; so
after waiting five or six years longer the volume was withdrawn, bound
by Bedford, taken to America in 1868, and sold to Mr. George Brinley
for 150 guineas. At the Brinley sale, in March, 1878, it was bought by
Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt for $1200, or more than three times the cost
of my first copy to Mr. Lenox."

We hear the expression of a book being "worth its weight in gold." "The Bay
Psalm-Book," in the Library of the American Antiquarian Society, weighs
nine ounces, hence Mr. Vanderbilt paid at least seven times its weight in
gold for his precious book. Lowndes's "Bibliographers' Manual" says, "This
volume, which is extremely rare and would at an auction in America produce
from four to six thousand dollars, is familiarly termed 'The Bay Psalm
Book.'" This must have been intended to be printed four to six hundred
dollars, and is about as correct as the remainder of the description in
that manual.

The copy which is spoken of by Mr. Stevens as being in the Bodleian Library
at Oxford was once the property of Bishop Tanner, the famous antiquary.
Thus it is seen that there are seven copies at least of the first edition
of "The Bay Psalm-Book" now in existence in America, instead of "five or
at the most six," as a recent writer in "The Magazine of American History"

And of all the manifold later editions of the New England Psalm-Book
comparatively few copies now remain. Occasionally one is discovered in an
old church library or seen in the collection of an antiquary. It is usually
found to bear on its titlepage the name of its early owner, and often,
also, in a different handwriting, the simple record and date of his death.
Tender little memorial postils are frequently written on the margins of
the pages: "Sung this the day Betty was baptized"--"This Psalm was sung at
Mothers Funeral" "Gods Grace help me to heed this word." Sometimes we see
on the blank pages, in a fine, cramped handwriting, the record of the
births and deaths of an entire family. More frequently still we find the
familiar and hackneyed verses of ancient titlepage lore, such as are
usually seen on the blank leaves of old Bibles. This script was written in
a "Bay Psalm-Book" of the sixteenth edition, and with the characteristic
indifference of our New England forefathers for tiresome repetition, or
possibly with their disdain of novelty, was seen on each and every blank
page of the book:--

"Israel Balch, His Book,
God give him Grace theirin to look
And when the Bell for him doth toal
May God have mearcy on his Sole."

What the diction lacked in variety is quite made up, however, in the
spelling, which was painstakingly different on each page.

Another Psalm-Book bore, inscribed in an elegant, minute handwriting, these
lines, which were probably intended for verse, since the first word of each
line commenced with a capital letter:--

"Abednego Prime His Book
When he withein these pages looks
May he find Grace to sing therein
Seventeen hundred and forty-seven."

This is certainly pretty bad poetry,--bad enough to be worthy a place in
"The Bay Psalm Book,"--but is also a most noble, laudable, and necessary
aspiration; for power of Grace was plainly needed to enable Abednego or any
one else to sing from those pages; and our pious New England forefathers
must have been under special covenant of grace when they persevered against
such obstacles and under such overwhelming disadvantages in having singing
in their meetings.

Another copy of the old New England Psalm-Book was thus inscribed:--

"Elam Noyes His Book
You children of the name of Noyes
Make Jesus Christ your only choyse."

The early members of the Noyes family all seemed to be exceedingly and
properly proud of this rhyming couplet; it formed a sort of patent of
nobility. They wrote the pious injunction to their descendants in their
Psalm-Books and their Bibles, in their wills, their letters; and they,
with the greatest unanimity of feeling, had it cut upon their several
tombstones. It was their own family motto,--their totem, so to speak.

In a New England Psalm-Book in the possession of the American Antiquarian
Society there is written in the distinct handwriting of Isaiah Thomas these
explanatory words:--

"This was the Pocket Psalm-book of John Symmons who died at Salem at
100 years. He was born at North Salem went a-fishing in his youth was a
prisoner with the Indians in Nova Scotia afterwards followed his labours in
a Shipyard and till great old age laboured upon his lands and died
without pain Aet 100. 31 October, 1791. He was a worthy conscientious and
well-informed man and agreeable until the last hour of his life."

I can think of no pleasanter tribute to be given to the character of any
one than the simple words, "He was agreeable until the last hour of his
life." What share in the production and maintenance of that amiable and
enviable condition of disposition may be attributed to the ever-present
influence of the Pocket Psalm-Book cannot be known; but the constant
study of the holy though clumsy verses may have largely caused that sweet
agreeability which so characterized John Symmons.

There lies now before me a copy of one of the early editions of "The Bay
Psalm-Book." As I open the little dingy octavo volume, with its worn
and torn edges, I am conscious of that distinctive, penetrating,
_old-booky_ smell,--that ancient, that fairly _obsolete_ odor that
never is exhaled save from some old, infrequently opened, leather-bound
volume, which has once in years far past been much used and handled. A book
which has never been familiarly used and loved cannot have quite the same
antique perfume. The mouldering, rusty, flaky leather comes off in a
yellow-brown powder on my fingers as I take up the book; and the cover
nearly breaks off as I open it, though with tender, book-loving usage. The
leather, though strong and honest, has rotted or disintegrated until it has
almost fallen into dust. Across the yellow, ill-printed pages there runs,
zig-zagging sideways and backwards crab-fashion on his crooked brown legs,
one of those pigmy book-spiders,--those ugly little bibliophiles that seem
flatter even than the close-pressed pages that form their home.

Fair Puritan hands once held this dingy little book, honest Puritan eyes
studied its ill-expressed words, and sweet Puritan lips sang haltingly but
lovingly from its pages. This was "Cicely Morse Her Book" in the year 1710,
and bears on many a page her name and the simple little couplet:--

"In youth I praise
And walk thy ways."

And pretty it were to see Cicely in her praiseful and godly-walking youth,
as she stood primly clad in her sad-colored gown and long apron, with a
quoif or ciffer covering her smooth hair, and a red whittle on her slender

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