Captivity Narratives

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Alden T. Vaughan and Edward W. Clark (essay date 1981)

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SOURCE: Vaughan, Alden T. and Edward W. Clark. “Cups of Common Calamity: Puritan Captivity Narratives as Literature and History.” In Puritans among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption: 1676-1724, edited by Alden T. Vaughan and Edward W. Clark, pp. 1-28. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1981.

[In the following essay, Vaughan and Clark expound on the uniquely religious characteristics and influences of the Puritan captivity narrative.]

“It is no new thing for Gods precious ones to drink as deep as others, of the Cup of common Calamity.”

—Preface to Mary Rowlandson, The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 1682

“Remarkable Mercies should be Faithfully Published, for the Praise of God the Giver.”

—Sermon by John Williams, 1706

“It would be unaccountable stupidity in me,” wrote a former captive of the Indians in 1707, “not to maintain the most Lively and Awful Sense of Divine Rebukes which the most Holy God has seen meet … to dispense to me, my Family and People in delivering us into the hands of those that Hated us, who Led us into a strange Land.” But the redeemed captive, Reverend John Williams of Deerfield, Massachusetts, did not dwell on the Lord's rebukes. Like so many of his contemporaries in New England, Williams emphasized instead “The wonders of Divine Mercy, which we have seen in the Land of our Captivity, and Deliverance there-from [which] cannot be forgotten without incurring the guilt of the blackest Ingratitude.”1 A staunch Puritan, Williams believed—as earlier and later generations did not—that capture by the Indians was no military happenstance or secular accident. Captivity was God's punishment; redemption was His mercy; and New England must heed the lesson or suffer anew. Many survivors of the captivity ordeal proclaimed that message in stirring narratives which tell much about Puritan prisoners among the Indians and their French allies in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and reveal even more about the Puritan mind.

Puritans, of course, did not invent the captivity narrative. It is one of America's oldest literary genres and its most unique. Soon after Europe awakened to the existence of an inhabited western continent, stories of captivity by an alien culture began to excite the public imagination. Ironically, the earliest New World captivity tales must have been told by American natives: Spaniards, not Indians, first seized hapless victims to serve as guides, interpreters, hostages, or curiosities. But the Indians soon retaliated, and because Europeans long had a monopoly on the written word, most printed accounts related capture by Indians. Hence “captivity narrative” came to mean an account, usually autobiographical, of forced participation in Indian life. The literature of early American colonization is dotted with poignant and often gruesome tales of seizure, torture or adoption (sometimes both), and eventual escape or release. Such stories found a ready audience on both sides of the Atlantic, where they flourished, in one form or another, for three centuries.

Not until the late seventeenth century did captivity narratives emerge as a separate and distinct literary genre. Before then most captivity tales appeared as dramatic episodes in works of larger scope. That was true not only in Latin American literature—the accounts of Cabeza de Vaca and Juan Ortiz, for example—but also of North American settlement.2 Captain John Smith's various versions of his capture by Powhatan Indians and his last-second rescue by Pocahontas is a case in point; they were embedded in Smith's chronicles of early Virginia.3 Similarly, accounts of Father Isaac Jogues's incarceration, torture, release, recapture, and eventual death at the hands of the Iroquois were scattered through the annual Jesuit relations.4

(This entire section contains 11558 words.)

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4 More than a century later, the earlier pattern of captivity narratives as a single stage in an unfolding adventure still survived: witness the stories of Daniel Boone's capture and adoption by the Shawnee.5 But in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, writers in Puritan New England began to issue narratives of Indian captivity in separate book-length works, though usually brief and sometimes bound with other items.

The Puritans approached the new genre cautiously at first—their initial narrative appeared more than five years after the event and was privately printed. When that volume achieved instant popularity, similar works soon followed. Thereafter captivity narratives, usually as separate works, enjoyed nearly two centuries of commercial success in colonial America and the United States, although not without important changes. From unpolished but intense religious statements in the Puritan period, captivity narratives had evolved by the late eighteenth century into ornate and often fictionalized accounts that catered to more secular and less serious tastes. By the late nineteenth century the genre had lost most of its historical and autobiographical integrity. It ultimately blended with the “penny-dreadfuls” of America's Victorian-age fiction.

Puritan captivity narratives began in 1682 with Mary Rowlandson's story of capture during the later stages of King Philip's War. Her brisk Soveraignty & Goodness of God … Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson sold quickly; three more issues appeared within the first year, and others followed periodically throughout the Puritan era.6 Many subsequent New England narratives had almost as impressive literary careers and were the best-sellers of their day, and they remain among the most insightful clues to the tensions and expectations of Puritan society.

These stories were immensely popular because—like any successful literature—they served readers a hearty fare of literary and psychological satisfaction, peculiar to their time and place. In a society without fiction and plays, and almost barren of poetry, real-life dramas filled a crucial cultural void. Histories and accounts of warfare only partly met the need for dramatic literature. After 1676 tales of Indian captivity offered a more personal story: they told of raids and forced marches, of the wilderness and its native inhabitants, of the chilling efforts of Indians and Frenchmen to assimilate their captives into an alien culture. But the heart of the New England narrative—the theme that made it truly Puritan and infused it with unusual dramatic force—was its introspective concentration on God's role in the life of the individual and the collective community. As Rowlandson's title proclaimed, she wrote only incidentally about deliverance from misery and potential death. More important, she portrayed “The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises,” while an appended posthumous sermon by her husband raised “the possibility of God's forsaking a people, that have been visibly near & dear to him.” In sum, the Rowlandson's publisher promised an intensely personal account of God's testing and eventual salvation of a tormented soul, and a broad hint that her experience might foretell in microcosm the fate of all Puritans. Those were compelling attractions to the deeply pietistic people of seventeenth-century New England, who sought desperately to comprehend their preordained roles in God's awesome universe.

Puritan authors wove the captivity narrative from several existing literary strands. One strand was spiritual autobiography; numerous seventeenth and early eighteenth-century New Englanders described their search for salvation to edify their children and other kin and occasionally to inspire the community at large. John Winthrop's “Christian Experience,” Thomas Shepard's “My Birth & Life,” Anne Bradstreet's “To My Dear Children,” and Edward Taylor's “Spiritual Relation” are notable examples of an abundant theo-literary form.7 The literary use of a representative life reaches much further back, to be sure, at least to the Reformation when Martin Luther developed the exemplum fidei, which stressed the spirit of Christ's life rather than his deeds.8 That notion found congenial soil in Tudor-Stuart England, where the Puritans gave it added prominence and eventually carried it to their American Zion. The New England branch of the Puritan movement, and still later the Quakers in Pennsylvania, encouraged spiritual autobiography as a vital expression of the search for personal salvation. The principal authority on this early American literary form observes that “the spiritual autobiographer is primarily concerned with the question of grace: whether or not the individual has been accepted into divine life, an acceptance signified by psychological and moral changes which the autobiographer comes to discern in his past experience.”9 But the search for salvation was fraught with torments, doubts, and relapses, in almost perfect parallel to the experiences reported in the captivity narratives. In spiritual autobiographies, God and Satan wrestled for the sinner's soul; in captivity autobiographies, the captive, with God's help, battled Satan's agents. In both cases, of course, God eventually prevailed: the weary pilgrim survived the ordeal because his faith wavered but did not break, and because God's mercy was stronger than His wrath.

During and after his captivity by Indians, the victim pondered how his own experience coincided with God's plan. A redeemed captive usually saw his ordeal, and even the ordeal of his loved ones, as punishment for his past sins or present impiety. The survivor often concluded that he had gained measurably from the chastisement, and he almost invariably offered his experience as a lesson to neighbors of the ephemeral security of this world and the awesomeness of God's sovereignty. Mary Rowlandson, for one, came to appreciate God's omnipotence: “I then remembred how careless I had been of Gods holy time: how many Sabbaths I had lost and mispent, and how evily I had walked in Gods sight; which lay so closs unto my spirit, that it was easie for me to see how righteous it was with God to cut off the threed of my life, and cast me out of his presence forever. Yet the Lord still showed mercy to me, and upheld me; and as he wounded me with one hand, so he healed me with the other.”10 “Redemption,” a frequent term in captivity titles and texts, thus had a double meaning—spiritual as well as physical. Similarly, captivity stories combined individual catharsis and public admonition. Implicitly, at least, they exhorted the reader to find his or her own spiritual redemption. Rowlandson's title page explains that her story is directed “Especially to her dear Children and Relations.” God would not have subjected her to such an ordeal had He not intended her spiritual pilgrimage to enlighten her family and neighbors. Everything had a purpose. As Reverend John Williams insisted after his own harrowing ordeal, the Lord “has enjoyned us, to shew forth His praises in rehearsing to others the Salvations, and Favours we have been the Subjects of.”11

Astute ministers such as Cotton Mather made sure the lesson was not missed. Serving as Hannah Swarton's amanuensis, Mather wrote an epitome of the abasement-salvation theme which offered hope and courage to those in doubt of their own fate. Swarton laments, “I was neither fit to live nor fit to die; and brought once to the very Pit of Despair about what would become of my Soul.” But she found in her Bible the account of Jonah's troubles and resolved to pray as her biblical prototype had: “In the Meditation upon this Scripture the Lord was pleased by his Spirit to come into my Soul, and so fill me with ravishing Comfort, that I cannot express it.”12 And in Humiliations Followed With Deliverances Mather related the now-legendary story of Hannah Dustan's escape from the Indians after tomahawking her sleeping captors. In his initial recitation of the episode, Mather addressed a congregation in which she sat; he observed that “there happens to be at this very Time, in this Assembly, an Example, full of Encouragement unto these humiliations, which have been thus called for.”13 Presumably Hannah Dustan served many New Englanders as a living example of Christian piety and courage. In the same vein, Reverend John Williams wrote an extensive account of his own captivity and redemption; it went through several editions and ranks as one of the most forceful Puritan statements.14

A second source of inspiration for early New England captivity narratives was the sermon, that quintessential Puritan expression to which several generations of congregational preachers and settlers were addicted. In addition to the usual two Sunday sermons, there were Lecture Day sermons (usually on Thursday evening), election day sermons, fast and humiliation sermons, thanksgiving sermons, artillery company sermons, funeral sermons, even execution sermons. Most were delivered by clergymen, but occasionally laymen indulged as well.15 John Winthrop's shipboard “Model of Christian Charity” is the most famous lay sermon, but there were many others, and they formed an important, if smaller, part of the same rhetorical type. And while most sermons—lay or clerical—were never published, an impressive number were put into print and widely read. Moreover, many parishioners took notes on sermons for later meditation, and schoolchildren were required to discuss Sunday's sermon in Monday morning's class. Not surprisingly, Puritan captivity narratives borrowed liberally from sermon themes and language. Especially evident are their emphasis on moral lessons and their extensive use of biblical citations to bolster almost every argument. At root, captivity narratives were lay sermons (or, when recited secondhand by an Increase or Cotton Mather, clerical sermons) in the guise of adventure stories.

Third, and perhaps most significant, the Puritan captivity narrative owed much of its tone and content to “jeremiads”—those peculiar laments by Puritan clergymen (and, again, sometimes by laymen) that accused New England of backsliding from the high ideals and noble achievements of the founders, of God's evident or impending wrath, and of the need for immediate and thorough reformation.16 That theme emerged as early as the 1650s, sometimes in the pronouncements of the founding generation itself, but not until the 1660s and 1670s did the jeremiad become a literary cliché. Usually it appeared in sermons, but it also took other forms, such as Michael Wigglesworth's poetic God's Controversy with New England and the report of the Reforming Synod of 1679, which epitomized the jeremiad genre. (Even Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, a massive ecclesiastical history of New England, is part jeremiad.) In 1662, Wigglesworth, the lugubrious Massachusetts minister-poet, interpreted a prolonged drought as a clear sign of God's growing wrath:

For thinke not, O Backsliders, in your heart,
          That I shall still your evill manners beare:
Your sinns me press as sheaves do load a cart,
          And therefore I will plague you for this geare
Except you seriously, and soon, repent,
          Ile not delay your pain and heavy punishment.(17)

The impetus for such harangues came partly from an exaggerated sense of New England's “Golden Age” and chiefly from the Puritans' extreme biblicism. From close scrutiny of the Bible, Puritan divines drew parallels or types between the Old and New Testaments on which they based much of their religious and social doctrine. They used this typological system, for example, to justify their rejecting the corruptions of Old England for the wilderness of New England, thus reenacting the Israelites' flight from Egypt to the milk-and-honey land of Canaan. The ramifications of Puritan typology are too complex for adequate discussion here, but among them was the belief that God, in return for the colonists' suffering in the wilderness and establishing a new Zion, would protect and prosper His newly chosen people—if they remained true to His laws and steadfast in their faith.18 Puritan enthusiasts such as Increase and Cotton Mather searched relentlessly for evidence of God's favor to New Englanders, which they duly published under titles such as Illustrious Providences, Wonderful Works of God, and Remarkable Judgements of God.19 Predictably, the Mathers and their fellow seventeenth-century colonists found what they were looking for: miraculous deliverances from danger for the godly, divine retribution for the godless.

This search for the Lord's guiding hand had implications far beyond individual rewards and punishments. Sins—especially a persistent flouting of the true faith—brought punishment to the entire community because of the Puritans' compact with the Lord; as John Williams explained, “the great God … hath taken us into Covenant Relation to Himself.”20 Accordingly, the righteous must suffer along with transgressors when He punished his flock for its accumulated wrongs. Mary Rowlandson was only the first of the Puritan captivity narrators to identify Indian depredations with God's retribution against the entire community: “It is said, Psal. 81. 13. 14. Oh that my People had hearkned to me and Israel had walked in my ways, I should soon have subdued their Enemies, and turned my hand against their Adversaries. But now our perverse and evil carriages in the sight of the Lord, have so offended him, that instead of turning his hand against them, the Lord feeds and nourishes them up to be a scourge to the whole Land.”21 Two decades later, John Williams opened his narrative with essentially the same message: “The History I am going to Write, proves, That Days of Fasting & Prayer, without Reformation, will not avail, to Turn away the Anger of God from a Professing People.”22

Williams's contemporaries had frequently witnessed God's anger at incomplete reformation. In the 1670s and after, New England suffered a frightful series of major and minor calamities. The worst came in 1675-1676 when the region's most devastating Indian war claimed the lives of nearly a tenth of its adult colonial males—the highest mortality rate in American military history, before or since—and took a correspondingly heavy toll in property: twelve thousand homes burned, eight thousand head of cattle destroyed, innumerable farmlands laid waste. And the destruction did not end in 1676 with the death of Metacomet (King Philip); rather, it shifted to the relatively vulnerable northern frontier in Maine, New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts where Indians, often accompanied by their French allies, continued to raid isolated farms and villages. No wonder the Reforming Synod of Puritan ministers and lawyers concluded in 1679 that “God hath a Controversy with his New-England People”; the Indians, they believed, were His principal rod of chastisement.23 No wonder too that Puritan captives looked inward for signs of their own shortcomings. Most captives found convincing evidence; others acknowledged their failings but also recognized that even the innocent and the saintly must suffer when God punished an errant flock. “It is no new thing,” wrote the anonymous author of the preface to Mary Rowlandson's narrative, “for Gods precious ones to drink as deep as others, of the Cup of common Calamity.”24

Puritan readers responded enthusiastically to the captivity genre not only because it fused the prominent features of spiritual autobiography, lay sermon, and jeremiad with those of the secular adventure story. In its descriptions of the forced rending of Puritan families, the narratives unintentionally added an element of pathos that appealed profoundly to a society which placed unusual emphasis on family ties and responsibilities. This fundamental social unit was often revered in Puritan tracts and sermons and was frequently the subject of governmental legislation and proclamations. The importance Puritans gave to the family undoubtedly touched a universal chord among readers of the narratives and made more poignant their grief over the death of loved ones that so often accompanied captivities. Accounts of the murder of a husband, wife, or child are numerous, and the understated descriptions of their deaths helped the narrators weave their fascinating and sometimes horrifying tapestry of despair and salvation. A modern reader—like readers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—cannot resist deep sympathy for Mary Rowlandson when her six-year-old daughter dies in her arms or for John Williams when he learns of his wife's death by an Indian tomahawk after she fell through a frozen river.

Despite the importance a Puritan attached to family love and security, he knew that these affections were ultimately temporal and must not supersede the love of God. Had not Jesus said that a true Christian should follow Him (Luke 14:26) and if necessary forsake his family? And Puritans were familiar with the lesson of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress: every Christian must turn his back on spouse and family, shoulder his burden of sins, and start out for the Celestial City. This ultimate reliance on the self and its relation to God often conflicted with the family communal bond. A Puritan whose family had been dispersed after capture suffered an enormous sense of loss and guilt, tempered only slightly by the dictates of religion. The narratives of Mary Rowlandson, John Williams, and Elizabeth Hanson bear witness to the depth of such heart-wrenching experiences. Puritan captivity narratives have interest for modern readers beyond their poignant expression of religious fervor and individual anguish. As anthropological records they recount unique individual and group experiences; as observations of native tribes, many of which no longer exist, they provide rare descriptions of northeastern Indian life; and as ethnological histories they shed light on conflicts between disparate cultures—New England's against Algonquian-Iroquoian and, in some cases, New England's against French Canadian.

Modern readers of an Indian captivity narrative are likely to see what anthropologists term a rite of passage, or, more specifically, an initiation process by which a person moves from one set of perceptions to another. Several scholars have isolated the initiation process as a vital element in the captivity experience.25 There is, however, a danger in focusing too intently on the initiation ordeal and overlooking the significance of the much longer and equally profound captivity experience itself. The day-to-day struggle with an alien culture is the mainspring of the experience and the driving force of the captive's attempt to understand the change he has undergone.

Anthropologist Victor Turner provides an explanation of the initiation process that permits a broader focus on the three stages of rites de passage, or transitions from one social position to another—separation, margin, and reaggregation.26 Turner's analysis can be applied to captivity narratives. First, captives began to gain new knowledge about their own culture and American Indian culture when they were separated from their natal environment—in Puritan narratives, a New England town or frontier settlement. They then entered a “margin” (or “liminal”) phase where they lost the security they had enjoyed as English subjects and usually suffered servitude in a culture they considered grossly inferior to their own. With their world in psychological as well as physical disarray, the captives initially saw their new social relationships and consequent obligations as punishment and humiliation; unfamiliarity with Indian language kept them from understanding even nonthreatening remarks. Later they became more flexible and began to comprehend, perhaps even to appreciate, their captors' beliefs and manner of living.27 Finally, in the third stage, they were redeemed and reintegrated (“reaggregated”) into their own culture.

During the liminal phase the captive witnessed the bulk of what he recorded in his narrative, for in that stage—the actual captivity—he was relatively free from the social strictures and cultural values of his previous life. His natal culture's values were called into question; he must adapt to foreign ways or starve or be killed. Cut loose from his normal guideposts of language and social relationships, he entertained ideas and values that colonial New England did not allow. Old patterns were abandoned and new ones acquired. Just to keep alive, for example, all captives had to eat food they previously considered inedible. Mary Rowlandson drank broth boiled from a horse's leg and ate bark from trees, and found them palatable; Hannah Swarton ate “Groundnuts, Acorns, Purslain, Hogweed, Weeds, Roots, and sometimes Dogs Flesh”; Elizabeth Hanson scavenged “Guts and Garbage” of the beavers her masters had eaten.28 And virtually every captive, even in time of war, eventually admired the Indians' ability to accommodate harsh conditions. A captive's admiration usually extended only to Indian clothing and housing or to personal stamina and ingenuity; he rarely appreciated the complexities of Algonquian spiritual life or the Indians' approach to social and political organization. But at least the captives' earlier prejudices lost some of their rigidity when confronted by the realities of Indian life.

Rarely was a captive taken singly. Usually he was part of a group, often survivors of the same attack. Seeing the death of a parent or sibling sometimes left him in a psychological trauma, too shocked to rebel. When captives shared such a crisis, a small community of sufferers emerged. Turner calls the resulting esprit de corps “communitas”—the group identity created by those in the same liminal experience.29 Communitas can be seen in the New England narratives when captives gathered for group prayer. By praying together, Puritan hostages gained comfort from familiar religious rites and values while simultaneously restating their cultural separateness from their Indian or French captors. Both Indians and Frenchmen recognized the cohesive strength of group prayer and its detriment to acculturation, and both usually proscribed it.

Although collective activities strengthened common identity, Indian retribution against all captives when one of them escaped probably did more to cement communal bonds. When an English prisoner ran away, the captors usually threatened to kill one or more of those remaining. Few captives risked the responsibility, and the ensuing guilt, for such retaliation against their compatriots. John Williams reported one situation: “In the Night an English Man made his escape: in the Morning I was call'd for, and ordered by the General to tell the English, That if any more made their escape, they would burn the rest of the Prisoners.”30 Sometimes the Indians vented their wrath on those who escaped and were recaptured. John Gyles described his brother's fate: “My unfortunate Brother who was taken with me, after about three Years Captivity, deserted with an Englishman who was taken from Casco-Bay, and was retaken by the Indians at New-Harbour and carried back to Penobscot Fort, where they were both tortured at a Stake by Fire for some time; then their Noses and Ears were cut off, and they made to eat them; after which they were burned to Death at the Stake.”31 Such intimidating events worked paradoxically on a surviving captive: on one hand they forced him to endure, even to cooperate with his captors; on the other hand they heightened his resentment of the captors' culture and raised psychological barriers to acculturation.

Each captivity narrative was written during the postliminal period, usually soon after redemption, and reflects the profound impact of the liminal experience on the writer. And whatever the depth and variety of the impact, redeemed captives seemed compelled, like Coleridge's ancient mariner, to recite their tales. Among the scores of narratives that spanned the centuries and the continent, several distinct categories emerge.

First, some writers give the impression that they had not substantially changed, although former captives were obviously not quite the same psychologically as they had been before their ordeals. After redemption, once again in familiar surroundings, captives still vividly remembered their months in the wilderness. Mary Rowlandson, for one, could not forget: “I can remember the time, when I used to sleep quietly without workings in my thoughts, whole nights together, but now it is other wayes with me. When all are fast about me, and no eye open, but his who ever waketh, my thoughts are upon things past.”32

For women especially, the return to New England society posed problems of readjustment and reacceptance. Although no ethnological evidence indicates that northeastern Indians ever raped women prisoners, as Plains Indians sometimes did, female captives sometimes felt a need to defend their sexual conduct. Rowlandson, for example, assured her readers that “not one of them ever offered me the least abuse of unchastity to me, in word or action. Though some are ready to say I speak it for my own credit, But I speak it in the presence of God, and to his Glory.”33 Similarly, Elizabeth Hanson insisted that the Indians were “very civil toward their captive Women, not offering any Incivility by any indecent Carriage (unless they be much overgone in Liquor[)],” and implied that no intoxicated Indians had molested her.34

Under captivity, when many undreamed-of things could occur, both fear and its opposite—temptation—were omnipresent. There was always the suspicion that redeemed captives had, consciously or unconsciously, found Indian ways irresistible, and that they had to some degree “gone savage.” Such suspicions came easily in a culture that interpreted the form of God's displeasure as a reflection of its cause. “Christians in this Land, have become too like unto the Indians,” the Reforming Synod declared, “and then we need not wonder if the Lord hath afflicted us by them.”35 Thus community group pressure urged captives to reaffirm their natal culture's values more fervently than ever and to deny the attractions of “savage” life. On the other hand, it was acceptable to admit, as Hannah Swarton repeatedly does, that she strayed from God's path so long as it was a torment of the soul, not the passions. Mather, Swarton's mouthpiece, defends her honor while steadily guiding her toward conversion.36 Most New England narrators did not need such help. John Williams's Redeemed Captive and Mary Rowlandson's Soveraignty & Goodness of God emphatically reaffirm the Puritans' errand into the wilderness. It may not be coincidental that Williams was a clergyman and Rowlandson a clergyman's wife. The clerical class had the deepest commitment to Puritan values.

Narrators who gained empathetic insight into Indian culture constitute a second group. Although they reaffirm their natal ways, they acknowledge some Indian virtues. John Gyles is a good example. He admired the Indians' skill in hunting moose as well as the powwow's ability to forecast the hunt's success through dream visions; yet he considered Indian myths of no more value than fairy tales. Similarly, Gyles praised the Indians' adaptation to their environment but believed them too influenced by the unpredictable elements of nature and too addicted to feasting to plan for future needs. On the whole, adult Puritan captives successfully resisted efforts at assimilation by the French and Indians. Puritan indoctrination had been thorough, and a pervasive sense that an omniscient God kept close eye on His chosen flock was real enough to shield most adult New Englanders from cultural innovation.37

A third group of narratives was written by those who had difficulty adjusting to their natal culture after long exposure to Indian life. The number of such accounts is small and includes none of the New England captivities. However, as a matter of illustration, James Smith's Account of the Remarkable Occurences in the Life and Travels of Col. James Smith reflects a substantial assimilation of Indian habits.38 Captured in 1755 on the Pennsylvania frontier by a Caughnawaga and two Delawares, Smith lived for four years with Indians in the Ohio territory. He did not publish his narrative until 1799 because he felt that “at that time [1760] the Americans were so little acquainted with Indian affairs, I apprehended a great part of it would be viewed as fable and romance.” Although Smith returned to white America, he sympathetically described his life among the Indians and so thoroughly absorbed their military tactics that he taught them to settlers on the Ohio frontier.39 A more difficult adjustment is illustrated in John Tanner's narrative, published in 1830. Tanner spent over thirty years among the Ojibway tribe and, not surprisingly, his account offers a more accurate picture of Indian life than narratives by those who lived only briefly with their captors. When Tanner attempted to return to “civilized” society, he was rejected, and he probably rejoined the culture he had so thoroughly absorbed.40

Another category of narratives, this one hypothetical, could have been written by those who never returned to their natal culture. If captives who entirely forsook their original environment—who completely transculturated—had written of their experiences, we would have a still more sympathetic and knowledgeable portrayal of Indian life. This category would be filled mainly by those who had been captured as children; in most cases they forgot their mother tongue and hence could not easily have written their narratives. The Indians and the French were well aware, of course, that children did not have the physical or psychic strength to resist acculturation and had not yet acquired the political and cultural loyalties of adulthood. Although a captive child was not exactly a Lockean tabula rasa for his Indian captors, he readily learned a new language and new values. (By the same token, English missionaries made special efforts to indoctrinate Indian children into Christianity and European customs.) The most famous example of an unredeemed Puritan youngster's assimilation into Indian and French ways was Eunice Williams, daughter of John Williams. Aged seven when captured, Eunice remained in custody long after the rest of her family returned to New England, and she eventually succumbed to the alien culture. She was converted to Catholicism by Canadian nuns, married an Indian, and refused all subsequent efforts to reunite her with her Puritan family.41 The fact that many children captives chose not to return to their families must have shaken New England's confidence. Perhaps these youthful expatriots are a bittersweet symbol of the failure of the concept of “progress,” a notion to which the Puritans firmly subscribed and which became almost universal among nineteenth-century Americans.

Despite the relative brevity of the captivity period for most captives (usually a few months to a few years), the narratives collectively provide a fascinating glimpse of Indian culture. It is only a glimpse; Puritan society had abundant legal and social structures against imitating or admiring the Indians' “prophane course of life.”42 Indian ways were to be shunned, not emulated; “savagery” was feared and despised, not appreciated or respected. Hence captives had little incentive, save their own curiosity or a desire for dramatic detail, to describe native customs, and the few exceptions are marred by pervasive ethnocentricity.

Even if the captives had been willing and unbiased, the task of description would have been formidable. Most raiding parties probably had warriors from several tribes, each with a slightly—sometimes markedly—different cultural heritage; the same was often true of the villages to which the captives were taken. And although most Indian captors were from the northeastern Algonquian linguistic group, a significant minority were from the linguistically and culturally distant Iroquois Confederacy. Especially important among the latter were Mohawks who had converted to Roman Catholicism, nominally at least, and had moved to the Caughnawaga missionary settlement near Montreal. (Many Puritan captives, including Eunice Williams, were thus simultaneously confronted by Indian and French cultural pressures.) Most New England prisoners were taken to southeastern Canada, where French, Algonquian, and Iroquoian cultural influences were gradually but unevenly blending. Bewildered captives could scarcely have comprehended the complex and ever-changing Franco-Indian world of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but we can wish they had tried harder to describe, even if they could not understand or appreciate, their new surroundings.

When ethnographic material does appear in the captivity narratives, it is valuable and fascinating. Mary Rowlandson, for example, included a lively if not entirely sympathetic description of the ceremonial preparations for an attack on Sudbury, Massachusetts.43 Elizabeth Hanson explained (unsympathetically) Indian eating customs.44 John Gyles told much about Indian hunting and farming practices, methods of preserving food, and burial and marriage rites. Gyles, in fact, came closest of the Puritan narrators to providing comprehensive ethnographic information. Although he appears to have been a member in good standing of the Puritan community, his account is conspicuously less pietistic than the others; his relatively secular turn of mind allowed him to describe Indian and French customs more fully and even to devote several pages to the curious habits of the beaver.45

Several Puritan narrators dwelled on Indian maltreatment of captives—especially Quentin Stockwell and John Gyles, who were apparently handled more harshly than most New England captives. Gyles twice was saved from torture ceremonies, once by his master and once by a squaw and an Indian girl. In each instance, Gyles's savior pledged a gift to the tribe to reprieve him. Gyles later explained that “A Captive among the Indians is exposed to all manner of Abuse, and to the utmost Tortures, unless his Master, or some of his Master's Relations, lay down a Ransom, such as a Bag of Corn, or a Blanket, or such like: by which they may redeem them from their Cruelties.” When Gyles's kindly master later traveled to Canada and left him with less friendly guardians, Gyles fell into the hands of Cape Sable Indians who inflicted the torture that he had earlier avoided.46

Perhaps because he wrote his narrative long after the era of intense Puritan piety, Gyles attributed Indian compassion or cruelty to human inclination, Earlier captives saw the Indians as God's pawns, at least when it came to kindness. John Williams epitomized this aspect of the Puritan perspective: among “Passages of Divine Providence,” he reported that “God hath made such … characters … as delighted in cruelty, to pity and compassionate such who were led into captivity by them. Made them bear on their Arms, and carry on their Shoulders our Little Ones, unable to Travel, Feed the Prisoners with the best of their Provisions: Yea, sometimes pinch themselves, as to their daily food, rather than their Captives.”47 Similarly, Cotton Mather attributed the Indian men's reluctance to molest female captives to “a wonderful Restraint from God upon the Bruitish Salvages.”48 But whether God or man got the credit, New England narratives clearly reveal that some Indians were kind, some were cruel, and that generally the treatment of women and children was as humane as wartime conditions allowed.

Puritan perceptions of how Indians treated captives may be partly explained by the narrators' norms for family structure and its responsibilities. The New England family centered on the conjugal relationship of husband, wife, and children. Servants who resided under the roof of a Puritan home were treated almost as family members. They called the patriarchal head of the family “master” and owed him loyal and industrious service. Masters, in turn, were obliged by law and custom to treat their servants humanely and to provide them with adequate food, shelter, clothing, education, and religious training. Master and servant, in short, had almost the same relationship as father and child.49 (A sharp increase in African and Indian slaves in the eighteenth century helped to undermine the earlier master-servant relationship.) A Puritan captive of the Indians usually referred to his principal captor as master, which not only implied the captive's inferior status but also suggested that, in the captive's eyes, each had reciprocal obligations. In many of the Puritan narratives, captives—unconsciously thinking in terms of their culture alone—complain bitterly of the failure of Indian masters to provide them with enough food or comfort. Yet a captive often realized, as he grew more accustomed to Indian ways, that he usually ate as well or as poorly as his captors; the ill treatment of Elizabeth Hanson and her children in the 1720s was an exception, not the rule.

The Puritan family centered primarily on the relationship of husband, wife, and children in what anthropologists call a cognatic descent group: all descendants, both male and female, are emphasized equally. Northeastern Indians, on the contrary, employed a complex mixture of unilineal descent groups, both matrilineal and patrilineal. The lineage groups of a particular clan of a tribe could be traced through either husband or wife. Thus, an Indian child could inherit a distinct group of rights and responsibilities from his mother and quite a different set from his father.50 Moreover, in many tribes a man might have two or three wives, which not only offended the English captive but added to his bewilderment over the intricate matrix of Indian social bonds. In Elizabeth Hanson's narrative, for example, when her master ordered his son to beat her child, “the Indian boy's [maternal] grandmother, would not suffer him to do it.” Hanson's protectoress later became so upset with her son-in-law's behavior that she moved out of his wigwam.51

Because all captives were prisoners of war, some animosity toward Indians or French captors was inevitable, whatever the treatment accorded the prisoners and whatever the reasons for it. Perhaps inevitable too was the combination of war-bred enmity with latent contempt for Indians that gradually shifted the New England captivity narrative from an essentially religious tract, with occasional insights into Indian culture, to what Roy Harvey Pearce has aptly called a “vehicle of Indian-hatred.”52 That motif had first appeared in the preface to Rowlandson's narrative—though significantly not in the narrative itself—in an assertion that “none can imagine what it is to be captivated, and enslaved to such atheisticall proud, wild, cruel, barbarous, bruitish (in one word) diabolicall creatures as these, the worst of the heathen.”53 But not until Cotton Mather's accounts, especially those published in Decennium Luctuosum (1699) and repeated in Magnalia Christi Americana (1702), did the anti-Indian and anti-French themes become blatant. Late in the seventeenth century Mather lashed out at “those Ravenous howling Wolves,” and “these cursed Blood-Hounds”; by the turn of the century, Mather was ranting about “those Dragons of the Wilderness,” and “the Dark places of New-England, where the Indians had their Unapproachable Kennels … of Cruelty.54 That atrocities took place is undeniable; the point to be made here is that Mather began the transformation of captivity narratives into a new sub-genre. By 1740, as Pearce notes, “religious concerns came to be incidental at most; the intent of the typical writer of the narrative was to register as much hatred of the French and Indians as possible … The captivity narrative had become the American equivalent of the Grub Street criminal biography.”55 By then it had also ceased to be Puritan.

Most New England narratives before mid-eighteenth century praised the French for tempering the Indians' cruelty, providing material comfort, and arranging prisoner exchanges. That did not prevent Puritan writers from venting their contempt for the “Popish” or “Romish” religion, as can best be seen in the narratives by Williams and Swarton. Both accounts record extensive debates between the authors and their Catholic hosts, which forcefully illustrate how the Puritan mind continued to battle what it considered the regressive doctrines of Roman Catholicism. The Puritans' antagonists were seldom the Canadian laity, whom the narrators often thanked explicitly and abundantly, but rather the Jesuits and other clerics who assumed a God-directed edict to convert English captives—just as the Puritans assumed the opposite. Puritan captivity narratives thus suggest a cultural hostility between Canada and New England that in some ways paralleled the cultural chasm between English and Indians.

In style as well as substance, Puritan captivity narratives reflect the dominant characteristics of early New England. The narratives are distinguished not only by their religious fervor but (not surprisingly) by the clergy's close involvement in their composition, which gives them a distinct tone. Of the best New England narratives before 1750, only a few can be considered purely lay products. Several were written by clerics or their immediate kin; others were transcribed and embellished by clergymen, especially Cotton Mather. Even John Gyles, the most secular of the Puritan narrators, may have leaned heavily on a local chaplain for stylistic guidance.

Authors with clerical affiliation or assistance were not reluctant to arouse the reader's emotions, though they were less inclined to sensationalism than were later writers. Cotton Mather especially employed attention-grabbing devices usually suited for oral delivery, such as alliteration, exaggerated emphasis, and exclamations. And because of his concern with communal rather than individual experience, Mather often resorted to generalized diction. This tendency is evident in his attempts to deal with the physical landscape. When Mather writes of Mary Plaisted's journey into captivity, his description is not tactile but mental, filtered through a mind more concerned with spiritual than with physical reality. “But she must now Travel many Days,” he wrote, “thro' Woods, and Swamps, and Rocks, and over Mountains, and Frost and Snow, until she could stir no farther.”56 By contrast, John Williams had experienced captivity firsthand. Although his diction too is often general, he can recall physical details precisely; he writes, for instance, “Each night I wrung blood out of my stockings,” and “My shins also were very sore, being cut with crusty snow.”57

Although Mary Rowlandson cited biblical sources more than Williams did, she balanced spiritual generalities with precise observations. For example, in her chilling description of the attack on Lancaster, she and other victims were “standing amazed, with the blood running down to our heels.”58 Williams was more concerned with the Canadian Jesuits' attempts to convert his flock to Roman Catholicism than with an accurate rendering of the physical details of his wilderness experience. His narrative, in fact, is more precise in its Canadian than its New England portions. Rowlandson, on the other hand, displayed an acute understanding of the psychology of her Indian captors. She described with keen insight the second wife of her Indian master. Weetamoo, she tells us, was “a severe and proud Dame … bestowing every day in dressing her self neat as much time as any of the Gentry of the land: powdering her hair, and painting her face, going with neck-laces, with Jewels in her ears, and Bracelets upon her hands: When she had dressed her self, her work was to make Girdles of Wampum and Beads.” Rowlandson thus reveals her mistress's preoccupation with cosmetic baubles; Weetamoo's vanity becomes obvious.59

Gyles, too, presents his observations more carefully than his clerical counterparts. He can be meticulous in his description, even excruciating in detail. For example, Gyles contracted a severe case of frostbite, and wrote: “Soon after the Skin came off my Feet from my Ankles whole like a Shoe, and left my Toes naked without a Nail, and the ends of my great Toe-Bones bare, which in a little time turn'd black, so that I was obliged to cut the first Joint off with my Knife.”60 Later writers of captivity narratives would strive for such sensational effects, but Gyles does not indulge in gory detail for its own sake. His narrative unfolds with honesty and simplicity—no pious ejaculations nor infants with bashed-in skulls. He does not see his Indian companions through Rousseau-colored glasses; rather he identifies with them, often using “we” and “our” when referring to his captors.

Gyles's structural form also sets his narrative apart from earlier New England captivity accounts. Although it follows the usual chronological sequence, some of its chapters interrupt the narrative flow. Chapter VI, for example, presents a “description of several creatures commonly taken by the Indians on St. John's River.” That Gyles would pause in his story to include such an account suggests a subtle shift in author-audience relations. It is difficult to imagine Mather, Williams, or Rowlandson succumbing to such a natural history urge. Thus, by the time Gyles published his story, captivity narratives were in the process of becoming a subliterary genre; its audience expected not only a truthful tale but information about Indians, the landscape, and animals of which most townsfolk had no firsthand knowledge. Perhaps such pressure encouraged editors to “improve” the narratives for better reception.

Although Elizabeth Hanson was Quaker, her story belongs within the New England captivity narrative framework. The writer of the three-paragraph preface to her narrative of God's Mercy Surmounting Man's Cruelty alludes to biblical themes as well as contemporary historians, including, apparently, Cotton Mather. Hanson was captured in Maine and she, like other New Englanders, was bought from her captors by the Canadian French.61 When compared to another famous Quaker captivity narrative, Jonathan Dickinson's God Protecting Providence, Hanson's account—with its focus on New England terrain, on family trials, and on the moral lesson of the “kindness and goodness of God”—is clearly within the New England mold. Dickinson's narrative, published in 1699, is set in East Florida and Carolina. Moreover, Dickinson is more properly considered an Englishman than an American, and he does not conclude his narrative in the usual New England manner by asking the reader to see in the captive experience evidence of God's over-arching plan. Dickinson merely hopes “that I with all those of us that have been spared hitherto, shall never be forgetful nor unmindful of the low estate we were brought into.”62

Hanson's work, however, stands at the end of the New England school and at the beginning of a more personal and secular response to Indian captivity. Her narrative illustrates an increasingly conscious literary attempt to arouse the reader's sentiments. The drama of her family's ordeal and her husband's death while trying to redeem one of their children proved too tempting for later editors, who liberally embellished her story.63

As the narratives progress chronologically over the years, biblical quotations—another evidence of Puritan piety and clerical influence—decrease. John Gyles's book (1736) has few. Instead Gyles quotes The Odyssey, Dryden's Virgil, and even Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana. Elizabeth Hanson's narrative (1724) contains no biblical citations. Although religious tracts and sermons remained popular literary forms well into the eighteenth century, the focus of New England captivity narratives shifted from communal to personal, from religious to secular. Later, in narratives published during the Revolution and the early national period, the emphasis shifted again to a combination of personal experiences and national spirit. Puritan narratives, like Puritanism itself, had given way to new modes of expression.

Embellishment and diffusion marked the narratives' subsequent career. Beginning in the latter half of the eighteenth century, publishers of captivity narratives increasingly exercised a heavy editorial hand. Often they sought to imitate the sentimental fiction in vogue in England; sometimes they merely heightened the drama and polished the prose. The earlier narratives, especially those in Puritan New England, had exhibited a simple, unadorned style. Authors were not overly concerned with careful sentence patterns or orchestration of tone. Most narrators told their stories in chronological order and in a sparse, vital style that effectively conveyed the immediacy of the author's life-and-death struggle. Even when an editor's ghostly hand seemed to hover over the narrative, its emphasis remained substantive rather than rhetorical.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, the literary image of women captives also underwent significant alteration. Mary Rowlandson, Hannah Swarton, and Elizabeth Hanson achieved fame during their lifetimes as resilient and resourceful women. The gothic vogue of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries stereotyped female captives: the woman became a passive mother who witnessed the murder of her baby and the abduction of her older children by a cruel man-monster. Although the actual experience of captive women often justified a more assertive image, the usual picture in the public mind was of a frail woman submissively kneeling before her Indian captor, waiting for a death stroke from a raised tomahawk. Various components of this icon may be found in the woodcut depictions of later narratives and ultimately in Horatio Greenough's massive sculpture, “The Rescue Group.”64

In the early nineteenth century, captivity narratives presented fewer unadorned firsthand experiences and more rhetorical flourishes, often verging on fantasy. Even then, however, some of the captivity accounts contained important ethnographic detail, as in the narrative of John Tanner (1830) on which Longfellow drew extensively for his epic poem Hiawatha. But Tanner was exceptional. More representative of the later genre were dime novels such as Nathan Todd; or The Fate of the Sioux' Captive (1860), which catered to an audience more interested in sensation than verisimilitude.65 Even though authentic narratives about life among the western Plains Indians appeared as late as 1871, when Fanny Kelly's My Captivity among the Sioux Indians was published, popular fiction had largely absorbed the genre years before.66

In the 1830s Andrew Jackson's removal policy transplanted most eastern Indians permanently beyond the Mississippi River. As aggressive white farmers and land speculators moved onto confiscated Indian lands, the Indian, no longer viewed as a serious threat by easterners, became the sympathetic subject of popular dramas and novels. In 1829, King Philip, having lain silent for a century and a half, was resurrected by John Augustus Stone in Metamora, or the Last of the Wampanoags. The lead role secured Edwin Forrest an enduring fame and a small fortune as well; he played the part for forty years. In 1855 the stage Indian was so noble and so ethereal that John Brougham aimed a satiric arrow at pompous portrayals of Indians by actors such as Forrest; his burlesque Po-ca-hon-tas also made fun of James Nelson Barker's early drama The Indian Princess (1808) and George Washington Custis's Pocahontas (1830).67

The themes, imagery, and language of the captivity narrative occurred frequently in the more serious realms of American literature. As Richard Slotkin has pointed out, eighteenth-century works such as Jonathan Edwards's evangelical sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” employed the captivity rhetoric.68 In the early nineteenth century, when writers in the young republic increasingly turned their attention to American topics, the captivity genre helped to create a new national mythology. Here was the stuff of New World experience, something that contemporary Europe could not offer. Charles Brockden Brown's novel Edgar Huntly (1799) employed the capture-escape-flight theme so congenial to an audience familiar with captivity narratives. Brown's application of the wilderness landscape to reflect the tangled battle between reason and emotion in his hero's psyche parallels the Puritan's use of the wilderness to symbolize the struggle between the spiritual and physical worlds. Other early American novelists used the captivity theme more explicitly: by 1823 at least fifteen American novels included a captivity episode.69

Poets as well as prose writers responded to the quickening pace of American interest in Indian material in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The extremely popular Yamoyden, a Tale of the Wars of King Philip (1820), a long narrative poem written by James W. Eastburn and Robert C. Sands, focused on the plight of a fictional Nipnet chieftain and his white wife, Nora. With its shopworn imagery, sentimental description, and well-established romantic conventions, the poem nevertheless illustrates the sympathy which writers of imaginative literature then extended toward the Indian. The captivity theme and its underlying drama of the clash between Indian and European cultures reached its zenith, however, in the writer who first systematically exploited the myth of the American frontier, James Fenimore Cooper. The five volumes of the Leatherstocking tales delighted the American public: the initial novel of the series, The Pioneers (1823), sold 3,500 copies in its first day of publication.70 Although Cooper killed off his hero, Natty Bumppo, in The Prairie (1827), the wilderness theme was so effective that he resurrected the hunter and wrote three more novels about Bumppo's youth. Cooper's portrayal of the inevitable demise of his Noble Savage, Chingachgook, was more than lively reading; it was grist for the mills of those who cried Manifest Destiny in the 1830s and after, and thus encouraged American expansion as well as American literary themes. Cooper was not the only prominent writer of the early nineteenth century whose work reflected America's perception of the taming of the wilderness. Southern novelists such as William Gilmore Simms, most notably in The Yemasee (1835), echoed Cooper's message.

Later writers also exploited the metaphors of the hunter and the hunted that were central to captivity narratives. Nathaniel Hawthorne reconstructed the famous Hannah Dustan story, making the husband the hero. Mather's account of the tomahawk-wielding frontierswoman also intrigued Henry David Thoreau. In A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), Thoreau underscores the ambiguities of Indian-European relations; the climactic moment of the “Thursday” section of the book retells the Dustan story differently: “The family of Hannah Dustin all assembled alive once more except the infant whose brains were dashed out against the apple tree, and there have been many who in later times have lived to say that they have eaten of the fruit of that apple tree.”71 Thoreau's most famous work, Walden (1854), chronicles a mid-nineteenth-century American's attempt to confront nature on a level parallel to the Indians of earlier centuries. Herman Melville's first novel, Typee (1846), is based on the captivity-escape plot in which Toby, the main character, flees not from Indians but from South Sea islanders he suspects of cannibalism. Melville's awareness of the cruelties of both frontiersmen and Indians is found in its most mature form in The Confidence-Man (1857) in a perceptive chapter called “Metaphysics of Indian-Hating.”72

By mid-nineteenth century the captivity narrative had become fully integrated into American literature. If it had largely lost its standing as a reliable and introspective autobiographical account, and had wholly lost its religious fervor, it had nonetheless assumed an important role in the minds of America's most prominent authors. Through the voluminous and popular works of Cooper, Melville, Simms, Thoreau, and many others, the setting if not always the plot and substance of wilderness captivities had entered the mainstream of American literature.


  1. John Williams, The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion: A Faithful Narrative of Remarkable Occurrences in the Captivity and the Deliverance of Mr. John Williams (Boston, 1707), A2v.

  2. For bibliographic details see R. W. G. Vail, The Voice of the Old Frontier (Philadelphia, 1949), 90-91.

  3. Edward Arber and A. G. Bradley, eds., Travels and Works of Captain John Smith … 1580-1631, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1910), I, 14-22; II, 395-401, 911-912.

  4. Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 73 vols. (Cleveland, 1896-1961), XXXI, 17-137. This version is in Fr. Jerome Lalemont's “Relation of 1647” and includes Jogues's death. Father Jogues also wrote an account of his first captivity (1642) in a letter of 1643 to Father Jean Filleau, which has been reprinted several times. In 1646 Jogues was recaptured by the Iroquois and killed.

  5. Boone was a captive for seven days in 1769 and for several months in 1778. See John Filson, The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke (Wilmington, Del., 1784; facs. repr. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1966), 51-53, 63-66.

  6. For bibliographic details see Vail, Voice of the Old Frontier, 167-169. A case could be made for John Underhill as the author of the first Puritan captivity narrative. Though not autobiographical, his account of the captivity and release of two girls from Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1637 has many of the characteristics that later appear in Cotton Mather's secondhand accounts: drama, moral lessons, and pious rhetoric. See Underhill, Newes from America … (London, 1638; repr. in Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 3rd ser., 6[1837]), 12-13, 17-23.

  7. Some Puritan autobiographies were published; most remained in manuscript. For discussions of the genre see Daniel Shea, Spiritual Autobiography in Early America (Princeton, N.J., 1968), and Owen C. Watkins, The Puritan Experience: Studies in Spiritual Autobiography (New York, 1972). Winthrop's account is in Massachusetts Historical Society, Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston, 1929-1947), I, 154-161; Shepard's is best consulted in Michael McGiffert, ed., God's Plot: The Paradoxes of Puritan Piety, Being the Autobiography and Journal of Thomas Shepard (Amherst, Mass., 1972), 33-77; Bradstreet's is in The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse, ed. John Harvard Ellis (Charlestown, Mass., 1867; repr. Gloucester, Mass., 1962), 3-10; and Taylor's is reprinted in Donald Stanford, ed., “Edward Taylor's ‘Spiritual Relation,’” American Literature, 35 (1963-1964), 467-475.

  8. Sacvan Bercovitch, The Puritan Origins of the American Self (New Haven, 1976), 9-10.

  9. Shea, Spiritual Autobiography, xi.

  10. Mary Rowlandson, The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1682), 9.

  11. Williams, “Reports of Divine Kindness,” appended to Redeemed Captive, 97.

  12. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana: or the Ecclesiastical History of New-England, from … 1620. unto … 1698 (London, 1702), Bk. VI, 13.

  13. Humiliations, 40.

  14. Williams, Redeemed Captive. The best modern version is edited by Edward W. Clark (Amherst, Mass., 1976). For bibliographic details on the early editions see Vail, Voice of the Old Frontier, 201-202, 209, 265, 296, 300, 304, 387, 407-410.

  15. Puritan sermons have been studied from diverse perspectives. Suggestive if not always convincing analyses include John Brown, Puritan Preaching in England (New York, 1900); Babette M. Levy, Preaching in the First Half Century of New England History (Hartford, Conn., 1945); Bruce A. Rosenberg, The Art of the American Folk Preacher (New York, 1970); Horton Davies, Worship and Theology in England, vols. I-II (Princeton, N.J., 1970-1975); and Emory Elliott, Power and the Pulpit in Puritan New England (Princeton, N.J., 1975). Convenient anthologies of Puritan sermons include Phyllis M. Jones and Nicholas R. Jones, eds., Salvations in New England: Selections from the Sermons of the First Preachers (Austin, Tex., 1977); and A. W. Plumstead, ed., The Wall and The Garden: Selected Massachusetts Election Sermons, 1670-1775 (Minneapolis, 1968). Many sermons are reprinted in the Arno Press, “Library of American Puritan Writings: The Seventeenth Century,” selected by Sacvan Bercovitch (New York, 1979).

  16. The best discussion of the jeremiad is Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison, Wis., 1978), chaps. 1-2. Important earlier analyses include Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province (Cambridge, Mass., 1953; repr. Boston, 1968), passim; and Bercovitch, “Horologicals to Chronometricals: The Rhetoric of the Jeremiad,” Literary Monographs, III (Madison, Wis., 1970).

  17. Wigglesworth, “God's Controversy with New England,” Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, 12 (1871-1873), 89.

  18. Among several modern studies of Puritan typology, see especially Sacvan Bercovitch, ed., Typology and Early American Literature (Amherst, Mass., 1972).

  19. Increase Mather, An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences … Especially in New England (Boston, 1684); Cotton Mather, The Wonderful Works of God Commemorated … (Boston, 1690); Cotton Mather, Terribilia Dei: Remarkable Judgements of God, on Several Sorts of Offenders … among the People of New England … (Boston, 1697). For additional works by the Mathers on the same subject see Thomas J. Holmes, Increase Mather, A Bibliography of His Works, 2 vols. (Cleveland, 1931); and Holmes, Cotton Mather, A Bibliography of His Works, 3 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1940).

  20. Williams, “Reports of Divine Kindness,” 97.

  21. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 62.

  22. Williams, Redeemed Captive, 1.

  23. On King Philip's War see Douglas Edward Leach, Flintlock and Tomahawk: New England in King Philip's War (New York, 1958). The quote from the Reforming Synod is in [Increase Mather], The Necessity of Reformation … (Boston, 1679), 1.

  24. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, A2v.

  25. See, for example, Richard Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (Middletown, Conn., 1973), 103-104. Because this work relies so heavily on Joseph Campbell's monomyth theory (Hero with a Thousand Faces [New York, 1949]), it should be used with discretion; it does, however, contain provocative ideas and a valuable bibliography. See also James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 32 (1975), 55-88; and Richard VanDerBeets, “The Indian Captivity Narrative as Ritual,” American Literature, 43 (January, 1972), 562.

  26. Turner, Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society (Ithaca, N.Y., 1974), 231-232. Turner expands and modifies Arnold Van Gennep's terms of separation, margin, and reaggregation.

  27. Psychologists and other students of human behavior have long recognized the tendency of captives—whether they are taken by kidnappers, terrorists, or military forces—to develop sympathy for their captors. In some instances, the sympathy reflects a new awareness of the captors' viewpoint or culture—a true learning experience. But in other instances, captives admire, even emulate, captors who abuse and threaten them. The essential mechanism in this ostensibly illogical identification with the enemy is the captive's utter dependence on the captor for every necessity, even for life itself. For some widely diverse but highly suggestive writings on this matter, see Bruno Bettelheim, “Individual and Mass Behavior in Extreme Situations,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 38 (1943), 417-452; William Sargant, Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brainwashing (New York, 1957); Dorothy Rabinowitz, “The Hostage Mentality,” Commentary, 63 (June 1977), 70-72; and Walter Reich, “Hostages and the [Stockholm] Syndrome,” New York Times, Jan. 15, 1980.

  28. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 18-19, 21-22, 33; Swarton in Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, Bk. VI, 10; Hanson, God's Mercy Surmounting Man's Cruelty (Philadelphia, 1728), 13.

  29. Turner, Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors, 231-232.

  30. Williams, Redeemed Captive, 7. For a similar threat see “Quentin Stockwell's Relation” in Increase Mather, An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences (Boston, 1684), 45-46.

  31. John Gyles, Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, etc., in the Captivity of John Gyles, Esq. … (Boston, 1736), 11-12.

  32. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 71.

  33. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 64.

  34. Hanson, God's Mercy, 35-36.

  35. Increase Mather, Necessity of Reformation, 5.

  36. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, Bk. VI, 10-14 passim.

  37. For a discussion of Puritan captives' attraction to Indian life and the reasons why most resisted it, see Alden T. Vaughan and Daniel K. Richter, “Crossing the Cultural Divide: Indians and New Englanders, 1605-1763,” American Antiquarian Society Proceedings, 90 (1980), 23-99, especially 81-83. At most, about twelve percent of the captives who spent the last part of their captivities with the Indians, rather than with the French, remained permanently among them.

  38. For bibliographic details see Vail, Voice of the Old Frontier, 447.

  39. James Smith, Scoouwa: James Smith's Indian Captivity Narrative, ed. John J. Barsotti (Columbus, Ohio, 1978), 16.

  40. Tanner, A Narrative of the Captivity of John Tanner (New York, 1830).

  41. For a discussion of captives from all parts of British America who were assimilated by Indians, see Axtell, “White Indians of Colonial America.” The demographic aspects of Puritan captives—numbers, age, sex, and length of captivity—are analyzed in Vaughan and Richter, “Crossing the Cultural Divide.” Eunice Williams's story is best followed in John Williams's narrative and Alexander Medlicott, Jr., “Return to the Land of Light: A Plea to an Unredeemed Captive,” New England Quarterly, 38 (1965), 202-216. A valuable examination of the legends that accumulate around famous unredeemed captives, especially Eunice Williams, is Dawn Lander Gherman, “From Parlour to Teepee: The White Squaw on the American Frontier” (Ph.D. diss., University of Massachusetts, 1975), 70-91. The most famous narrative of a captive who remained with her captors is the semi-autobiographical account by Mary Jemison of Pennsylvania. In 1755, at age twelve, she was taken by the Seneca, with whom she lived until her death in 1833. Her career was described by James Everett Seaver, who interviewed her in 1823, in A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (Canandaigua, N.Y., 1824). Many subsequent editions have been issued, some of them entitled Deh-he-wa-mis … the White Woman of the Genessee.

  42. For example, J. Hammond Trumbull, ed., The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut …, 15 vols. (Hartford, 1850-1890), I, 78.

  43. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 50-52.

  44. Hanson, God's Mercy, 12-13, 15-17, 22, 24.

  45. Gyles, Memoirs of Odd Adventures, passim, especially 24-27. Gyles was a captive from 1689 to 1695, but his narrative did not appear until 1736. By the later date the old Puritan enthusiasm had severely waned, and the new enthusiasm of the Great Awakening had yet to make its full impact. That may account for Gyles's secular tone; it may also reflect an editor's influence. For a summary of the ethnographic information to be found in captivity narratives throughout North America and over the span of three centuries, see Marius Barbeau, “Indian Captivities,” American Philosophical Society Proceedings, 94 (1950), 522-548, especially 531-543.

  46. Gyles, Memoirs of Odd Adventures, 5. For a comprehensive but somewhat muddled analysis of cruelty to captives, see Nathaniel Knowles, “The Torture of Captives by the Indians of Eastern North America,” American Philosophical Society Proceedings, 82 (1940), 151-225.

  47. Williams, Redeemed Captive, 98.

  48. Cotton Mather, Good Fetch'd Out of Evil (Boston, 1706), 33-34.

  49. For a valuable general account of the Puritan family, see Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth Century New England, rev. ed. (New York, 1966). Of special relevance is the final chapter on Puritan tribalism. Among the most extensive Puritan statements are Cotton Mather, A Family Well-Ordered … (Boston, 1699), and Benjamin Wadsworth, The Well-Ordered Family … (Boston, 1712).

  50. For a general introduction to the complexities of kinship, see two chapters in Robin Fox, Encounter with Anthropology (New York, 1968), “Comparative Family Patterns” (85-94) and “Kinship and Alliance” (95-112). Useful also for its information on tribes in northern New England and southern Canada is Handbook of North American Indians, XV, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C., 1978).

  51. Hanson, God's Mercy, 26-28.

  52. “The Significances of the Captivity Narrative,” American Literature, 19 (1947), 5.

  53. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, A3v.

  54. Cotton Mather, Souldiers Counselled and Comforted (Boston, 1689), 28; Fair Weather. Or, Considerations to Dispel the Clouds … of Discontent … (Boston, 1691), 90; Good Fetch'd Out of Evil (Boston, 1706), 4; Magnalia Christi Americana, Bk. VII, 69.

  55. Pearce, “Significances of the Captivity Narrative,” 6-7.

  56. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, Bk. VII, 71.

  57. Williams, Redeemed Captive, 16.

  58. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 4.

  59. Rowlandson, Soveraignty & Goodness of God, 47-48.

  60. Memoirs of Odd Adventures, 16-17.

  61. For full bibliographic information see Vail, Voice of the Old Frontier, 216-218, 248, 272, 274, 309, 313, 336, 362-363.

  62. For full bibliographic information on Dickinson's narrative, see ibid., 192-194, 207-208, 223, 225-226, 244, 267, 292, 335, 350, 360, 370-372. The quote is from Jonathan Dickinson, Journal or, God's Protecting Providence, Being the Narrative of a Journey from Port Royal in Jamaica to Philadelphia between August 23, 1696 and April 1, 1697, ed. Evangeline Walker Andrews and Charles McLean Andrews (New Haven, Conn., 1961), 78.

  63. Compare, for example, the early American and English editions. The latter is conveniently reprinted, with frequent comparative passages from the 1754 American edition, in Richard VanDerBeets, Held Captive by Indians: Selected Narratives, 1642-1836 (Knoxville, Tenn., 1973), chap. 4.

  64. Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence, 94. See also Gherman, “From Parlour to Teepee,” which successfully counters the prevailing image of the American white woman on the frontier as a genteel carrier of Western culture. For a vivid example of the nineteenth century's image of the woman captive as submissive mother, see John Mix Stanley's oil painting, “Osage Scalp Dance” (1845), reproduced in Smithsonian, 9, no. 4 (July 1978), 52-53.

  65. Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (New York, 1950), 99-135.

  66. It is indicative of the “degenerate” state of the captivity narrative that Fanny Kelly's publishers felt compelled to verify her experience by appending several affidavits from United States military officers who rescued Mrs. Kelly. See Fanny Kelly, My Captivity among the Sioux Indians (1871; repr. Secaucus, N.J., 1962).

  67. Metamora and Po-ca-hon-tas are included in Richard Moody, ed., Dramas from the American Theatre, 1762-1909 (Boston, 1966), 199-228, 397-422.

  68. Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence, 103-106.

  69. Dorothy Forbis Behan, “The Captivity Story in American Literature, 1577-1826” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1952), passim.

  70. For the popular reception of the Leatherstocking Tales see James D. Hart, The Popular Book: A History of America's Literary Taste (New York, 1950), 80. One of Cooper's lesser known novels (The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish: A Tale, 2 vols. [New York, 1829]) focused directly on Puritan New England and the dilemmas of captivity and assimilation, and one of his better known (The Last of the Mohicans) was strongly influenced by the captivity theme.

  71. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (Boston, 1896), 426-427. For an interesting and provocative analysis of the Hannah Dustan story and how it fits into the American literary canon, see Leslie A. Fiedler, The Return of the Vanishing American (New York, 1968), 98-108.

  72. The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, ed. Elizabeth S. Foster (New York, 1954), 163-171.

Lorrayne Carroll (essay date 1996)

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SOURCE: Carroll, Lorrayne. “‘My Outward Man’: The Curious Case of Hannah Swarton.” Early American Literature 31, no. 1 (winter 1996): 45-73.

[In the following essay, Carroll investigates Cotton Mather's underlying message in his account of Hannah Swarton's abduction, comparing it to Mary Rowlandson's narrative.]

Properly an instrument is an efficient cause moved by the principal to an effect above its proper virtue.

Oxford English Dictionary1

Writing begins with an awareness of the person, not as an individual but rather as a social category.

Jonathan Goldberg, Writing Matter

In the conjunction of images of captivity, gender, and authorship found in women's captivity narratives, representations of power, powerlessness, and social authority exist in a dynamic relationship to one another. For example, Increase Mather endorses Mary Rowlandson's narrative,2The Sovereignty and Goodness of GOD …,3 to give evidence of divine “dispensation” and thereby asserts his prerogative as minister to grant legitimacy (his “dispensation”) to her suspect undertaking, publication. However, it is Rowlandson herself, moving across the New England landscape, and finally encountering King Philip, who earns the experiential authority to speak to the public—to publish—the particulars and the consequences of her captivity. Divine and ministerial authority depend on the singular female who recounts her exceptional tale to spread the news of providence at work in the New England wilderness. Increase Mather's “Preface” therefore seeks to recontain Rowlandson's authority under the rubric “dispensation” and place her safely back within the fold.

It is important to note that Rowlandson's journey begins and ends within the pale of Puritan practices. Although Lancaster is an outpost settlement, Rowlandson's husband is the minister for the community. And Rowlandson returns to Boston, where her story is published.4 Thus, with all her removes, Mary Rowlandson's journey terminates in the heart of New England Puritan culture.5 She spent the entire captivity among the Narragansetts in the wilderness, and her captivity had lasted approximately three months, an excruciatingly long time for her, but not nearly as long as other captivities. And Rowlandson was never installed in a French Canadian household, a fate that befell many subsequent captives. We may view her text as the preeminent example of the genre because, not only is it the first of its type and relatively long, but also its dramatic rendering of physical hardship and mental anguish produces rich images of the conditions of captivity. However, an examination of those captivity narratives published in the last years of the seventeenth century reveals that The Sovereignty and Goodness of God offers later writers not so much a model to emulate as a template against which to measure differences.

In these differences, stresses in Puritan culture reveal themselves. Reading for the ways that subsequent female captivity narratives vary from Rowlandson's (and on occasion echo it), we can recognize several cultural preoccupations. The texts address prescribed gender roles (and their corollary, the fashioning of a “reputation”) as well as fears concerning the vulnerability of northern borders to Indian and French attack. Variations and circumstances of publication—including date of publication, accompanying or embedding texts, attributions of authorship, and contemporary contextualizing documents—demonstrate that the female captivity narratives depict an array of issues: shrinking spheres of Puritan influence (and lax practices in the spheres purported to be properly constituted congregations), control of historiography (especially the writing of New England history), and the wars against the French (with the implicit threats of “papistry”). This catalogue of dread illustrates the broad context of the Puritan “errand into the wilderness.”

Understanding the importance of gender in these narratives allows us to examine the “errand,” especially as it attempted to construct a coherent society by instruction. Since instructional texts were crucial to shaping the culture, authorship offered a powerful instrument to those, like the Mathers, who held positions of authority. Authorship represented both a great burden—truthfully to display working providence—and a great avenue to power as a participant in cultural formation. That power in the hands of the traditionally quiescent female sector of the congregation posed specific problems for the ministers who saw the instructional potential in captivity but also the danger in allowing a woman to assert a public authority.6

Circumscriptions governing female authorship permitted spiritual leaders to reconfigure the female author, from subject of her narrative to object used for instructional purposes. This reconfiguration is achieved through the concepts of dispensation and reputation, terms that provide flexibility in dealing with the problem of the public, published woman. A goodwife superseding the bounds of home and hearth requires explanation and exculpation; thus Increase Mather preemptively defends Mary Rowlandson's propriety: “and therefore though this gentlewoman's modesty would not thrust it into the press, yet her gratitude unto God made her not hardly persuadable to let it pass, that God might have his due glory, and others benefit by it as well as herself” (320). He first emphasized that captivity can only be appreciated thoroughly by those who have suffered it and then goes on to argue that such captivity indicates divine dispensation. Through Mather's interpretation, the personal experience is transformed into a providential sign for all to read, or at least for all to understand. Here lies the justification for publication: because the text dramatizes God's mercy, specifically the spectacular form it takes in the New England forests, it warrants dissemination as example. This fact precedes all others, including the sex of the author. The dual definitions of dispensation, in its Puritan construction, allow for such elasticity. As both a system of divine ordering and a license for exceptional cases, dispensation provides a sense of God's plan, albeit not completely revealed, coupled with the concept that the plan is made (partially) visible through the unique experience of the individual, especially if the experience is itself unusual.7 Thus ministers like Mather can control the persuasive power of an author both personally exorbitant and with a unique story to tell, making her an instrument of their ends.

This combination of divine and ministerial authority, turning on the concepts of dispensation and reputation, can be found operating in subsequent captivity narratives attributed to women. When both God and a Mather interest themselves in a woman's text, there is certainly much at stake for Puritan culture. The instrumentality of the female author provides unique opportunities for lessons that exceed spiritual instruction and encompass larger issues of political and social import.8 Thus the figure of the woman captive who returns to write her story demonstrates not only the means by which Puritan ideologies can refashion the geographical/political frontiers but also the cultural frontiers demarcating private/public discourse. In this way the female author disrupts the conventional scene of public witness: the previously silenced woman not only testifies to personal salvation, but she does it in the broadest possible manner, the printed text.

Emerging into the public realm, a woman relies on her reputation, as well as a minister's testament, to grant her publication a nihil obstat. In Rowlandson's case, her reputation derives not only from her husband's position in Lancaster but also, as Teresa A. Toulouse indicates, from her own socially privileged family, the Whites.9 If a woman's dispensation to publish depends, at least initially, on the theological project of interpreting God's plan, then attestations to her good reputation clearly signal the much more temporal issue of class distinction. The two concepts are manipulated by the sponsoring clergy to fashion an apt instructional instrument legitimized by providential and secular authority.

This authority, indeed cultural prominence, of the Mathers throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth century arises from several factors that include their position as leading clergymen, practical politicking, longevity, and, not least, their prolific publication. The topics of these publications vary, from printed execution sermons to treatises on comets or the efficacy of inoculations against smallpox; both Increase and Cotton Mather wrote on a range of issues that extended beyond particular theological concerns. Diary entries by Cotton Mather testify to his almost obsessive concern with his own authorial practices and with publication; they indicate that Mather saw himself as an instrument and his writing as a means to further the work of Providence on earth.

Some of Mather's diary entries illustrate the collapse of distinctions between “private” writing—such as redactions of sermons made by congregants and brought home to be read to the family—with “public” writing—understood as the publication by printing press of texts meant for wide circulation. Particularly, emphasis on the trope of instrumentality confounds a reading of strictly bound realms of private and public. In the long entry for 20 August 1697, Mather records a day “sett apart, for the Exercises of a secret THANKSGIVING before the Lord” (Cotton Mather, Diary 1:226). Having first confessed his “horrible Sinfulness,” he writes: “I then solemnly declared unto the Lord, that I made Choice of this, as my chief Happiness, to bee a Servant of my Lord JESUS CHRIST, and an Instrument of His Glory” (Diary 1:227). He follows this declaration with a catalogue of reasons for thanksgiving. The “one special Article” is God's support for finishing what will become the (never published) Biblia Americana, here called “my CHURCH-HISTORY”: “I will in this Place, transcribe a few Lines of my Introduction to that History” (Diary 1:229). Thus the private diary receives a transcription of the (proposed) public document, and its introduction is embedded within the personal accounts of Mather's daily life where he records his determination to act on God's behalf. Writing, both private and public, represents an essential instrumentality, an exalted endeavor in which Christ is coauthor and for which Mather acts as both author and publisher.10

Authorship, for Mather, is simultaneously the act of an instrument and the instrument itself.11 So, the public document signed at Mather's behest by the contentious members of the Watertown church represents both the means and the sign of reconciliation:

I did endeavour to do service, (especially, at miserable Watertown, bringing the People in the east part of that poor Town, to sign an Instrument, wherein they confessed the Errors of their late Actions, and promised by the Help of Christ, a regular Behaviour; and otherwise helping the Council that mett there).

(Diary 1:235)

This doubled function of the authorial instrument—tool and testament—collapses the public and private realms. With divine guidance, Mather expresses his interior life to provide teachings and models for the public. Although all authors convert private thought into public expression, Mather's conception of instrumentality conflates his private thoughts with divine intention. The provenance of these expressions—his sermons, histories, biographies, and reportage of current events—explicitly appears as God, the First Author, with Mather as temporal author/instrument. Authorship therefore is the public rendering of a providential agenda privately revealed to Mather as willing recipient of divine favor—“His favouring mee, with the Liberty of the Press(Diary 1:228).

Among the stratagems Mather chose in publishing his divinely inspired texts were anonymity and pseudonymity. In To the People of New England, the opening address of Decennium Luctuosum, Mather argues for his own anonymity as the author of his history of the ten-year-war with Northeast tribes. However, the text includes a sermon delivered by him the previous September. He then elaborates on the conceit of anonymity by aligning his hand with God's, effectively making himself the instrument of divine revelation:

I pray, Sirs, Ask no further; Let this Writing be, like that on the Wall to Belshazzar, where the Hand only was to be seen, and not who'se it was. The History is compiled with Incontestable Veracity; and since there is no Ingenuity in it, but less than what many Pens in the Land might Command, he knows not why his Writing Anonymously may not Shelter him from the Inconveniencies of having any Notice, one way or other, taken of him.

(Decennium 181)

The purposes of this (false) anonymity, couched in terms of reticence and, especially, humility, are obscured by claims of “Incontestable Veracity,” an assertion that “the Author pretends that the famous History of the Trojan War it self comes behind our little History of the Indian War” and most directly by the invocation of the Biblical hand of God as a simile for the authorial hand. Thus the instrument and the power which it serves become one, and given Mather's strongly idiosyncratic style the authorship could hardly be in question for most who read this “anonymous” history, even had they been absent from the original sermon.

Mather's convoluted approach to authorship—his alternate claims, denials, and demurrals—achieves its most peculiar form in the captivity narrative of Hannah Swarton. Appended to his 1697 printed sermon Humiliations follow'd by Deliverances, the Swarton narrative stands at the end of a work detailing the tribulations of captives from the continuing skirmishes with the tribes along the frontiers. It is textually distinct from the body of the sermon, literally designated an appendix; like Mary Rowlandson's The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, the Swarton narrative is written in the first person. The story portrays a Hannah Swarton whose startling—and suspicious—capacity for theological debate indicates her exceptional grasp of subtle doctrinal positions, noteworthy in a frontier woman. And the curious dialogue this narrative conducts with the larger text that precedes it (and, to some extent, with Rowlandson's narrative) demonstrates some uses of the female author both within the Mather canon and within the broader sphere of New England Puritan literature. In these respects, the Swarton narrative avoids the tensions resulting from what Tara Fitzpatrick calls the “dueling textual voices” of the narrator and “the established ministers, who vied with the returned captives for authorial control of their narratives.” As she convincingly argues, “The women captives' ministerial sponsors sought, with decreasing success, to interpret the individual experiences of the captives as lessons directed at the entire community, regardless of the captives' own implicit resistance to such appropriation.”12 But Mather's complete authorial appropriation of Hannah Swarton's “I” produces a new set of tensions, ambiguities, and images that speak more to representations of female authorship and the author's reputation than to the exceptional condition of the returned captive and her need to tell her own story.

Hannah Swarton left no personal records apart from the alleged narrative of her captivity. Her name appears in the list of redeemed captives presented by Mathew Cary to the Council of the Massachusetts Bay Province in October of 1695.13 There, she is named “Johana Swarton” from the town of York. As Emma Coleman notes, there are several errors in the hometown ascriptions of the various captives, and from the Narrative we know that Hannah Swarton resided in Casco ([now Portland, Maine] Coleman 1:74). Margaret Stilson, who was “in the same house with [Swarton]” was redeemed by Cary as well, although Col. Tyng and Mr. Alden, mentioned as part of the displaced English in Quebec, were not on the list of redeemed captives.14

The historical record of Hannah Swarton,15 then, exists in the Cary list and the appendix to Cotton Mather's 1697 text, A Brief Discourse On the MATTER and METHOD, Of that HUMILIATION which would be an Hopeful Symptom of our Deliverance from Calamity. Accompanied and Accommodated with A NARRATIVE, of a Notable Deliverance lately Received by some English Captives, From the Hands of Cruel Indians. And some Improvement of that Narrative. Whereto is added A Narrative of Hannah Swarton, containing a great many wonderful passages, relating to her Captivity and Deliverance.16 According to the testimony of the “Narrative,” Hannah Swarton moved to the Casco settlement from Beverly, and as such, lived outside the “public ordinances” of Puritan polity. This lack of ministerial control differentiated most Maine settlers from other captives, who, exposed though they were in the frontier towns such as Haverhill and Lancaster, had benefit of established congregations (Ulrich 175-80). Indeed, the inhabitants of the Province of Maine historically had been a thorn in the side of the Massachusetts Province, not only aligning themselves with the Crown in the uprising of 1688 but then also petitioning King William for “assistance and protection” against the Massachusetts rebels.17 Maine had a bad reputation as a region of outlaws, “ungospelized plantations”18 and, corollary to that, Catholic sympathizers—a thicket of renegade settlers requiring the firm hand of congregationalist discipline. The settlements in Maine did not function as proper frontier buffers; instead, they represented the threat of a porous, exposed, vulnerable array of backsliding or areligious English communities, established to trade with the Indians and French rather than congregated around an ordained minister (such as Lancaster was under Joseph Rowlandson). Both the political and religious concerns with these outlying settlements emerge in Mather's portrait of Hannah Swarton.

In his bibliography of Cotton Mather's works, Thomas Holmes notes that the Swarton narrative

printed for the first time in Humiliations, is told, unlike the [Hannah] Dustan account, in the first person. Evidently Cotton Mather was Hannah Swarton's “ghost writer.” The narrative is printed entirely without quotation marks. The story is told with rich and intimate details of Swarton's experience, but the text of it in polished prose, embellished with Biblical references, allusions, and illustrations, with occasional moralizings in the true Matherian manner, is clearly Mather's.

(Holmes 2:492)19

Holmes notices the affiliation between the stories of the two Hannahs who appear in Humiliations, Duston (variously spelled, “Dustin,” and “Dustan”) and Swarton. Although the Swarton text

was advertised in Tulley's Almanack for 1697 as a part of an intended publication entitled Great Examples of Judgment and Mercy, that work was probably not printed. … We know that the Swarton Narrative as it appears in Humiliations was printed with this work and does not consist of sheets printed with and transferred from any other work, for the Narrative begins on signature E2, while the leaf E1 contains the last two pages connected with the Hannah Dustan Narrative.

(Holmes 1:498 n. 6)

Mather includes Duston's heroic escape from her captors in the primary text but appends “Swarton's” relation as a cautionary tale of the spiritual perils of frontier life in an “ungospelized plantation.” Whereas Duston's experiences emphasize her divine “deliverance” and Mather celebrates her heroism, Swarton is most clearly marked out for “humiliations.” As Mather's instrument for instruction, the Swarton narrative administers a warning to those choosing to live “outside the public ordinances”; more significantly, it baldly reveals Mather's use of authorial prerogatives. By “ghosting” for Hannah Swarton, Mather can become her, simultaneously representing her experiences and projecting himself as Hannah into the Northern wilderness and the parlors of the papists.

Diary entries for the autumn of 1696 illuminate Mather's motives for publishing Swarton's story. His entry for 2 October describes a “secret Fast” practiced “Especially to obtain Mercy for this Land in its deplorable Circumstances, and a mighty Revolution upon the Kingdomes of Great Britain and upon the French Empire” (Diary 1:205). Again, on 10 October he keeps a day of prayer for “Captives in the hands of cruel Enemies” with the resulting “Newes that came the Day following, of several Persons, escaped out of the Hands of the Indians” (Diary 1:206). Mather's interest in the captives forms part of his larger political concerns. When he prays, his personal spiritual needs often align with the Colony's more global interests: he “wrestled with the Lord” to obtain the knowledge that “a mighty Convulsion shall bee given to the French Empire; and that England, Scotland, and Ireland, shall bee speedily Illuminated, with glorious Anticipations of the Kingdome of God(Diary 1:207). For Mather, indeed, the personal (and, therefore, spiritual) is the political (and, therefore, historical).

The diary notes as well Hannah Swarton's place in this expansive scheme. Eager to make use of “the terrible Disasters wherewith some are afflicted,” Mather prepares for publication

a Collection of terrible and barbarous Things undergone by some of our English Captives in the Hands of the Eastern Indians. And I annexed hereunto, a memorable Narrative of a good Woman, who relates in a very Instructive Manner, the Story of her own Captivity and Deliverance. … Yea, I could not easily contrive, a more significant Way, to pursue these Ends; not only, in respect of the Nature of the Book itself, which is historical as well as theological; but also, in respect of its coming into all Corners of the Countrey, and being read with a greedy Attention.”

(Diary 1:210)20

The “who relates” would seem to indicate that Swarton herself composed this text, at least orally giving it some kind of narrative form, but as Holmes asserts and an examination of the text's style and content demonstrates, the printed text is Mather's composition. The emphasis on the story's instructional use and on Mather's contrivance to publish something read with “greedy Attention” reveals the value of novelty in a woman's text, particularly as a magnet for public notice. “Historical” and “theological,” and purportedly produced by a captive woman, this captivity narrative provides Mather with ample opportunity to pursue his “Ends.”

His choice to impersonate Hannah Swarton rather than employ the third person depends for its success on the concepts of dispensation and reputation, the same terms anchoring the Rowlandson narrative, and here reconfigured to suit the circumstances of Swarton's 1690 Maine captivity. The dispensation is formal, inhering in the narrative's function as an appendix to the sermon; the text itself requires no apologia because its publication is literally contextualized. Reputation, however, is a more complicated matter, and this key issue enables Mather to write in the first person as Hannah Swarton. Unlike Mary Rowlandson, “gentlewoman” wife of a Lancaster minister, Swarton lives in a free-floating society without the rigid hierarchies in which “reputation” has meaning. Indeed, as far as Boston is concerned, Hannah Swarton has no reputation—until Mather confers one. In impersonating Swarton, Mather chooses a castaway from the Maine woods, a woman whose personal value in the Puritan hierarchy is insignificant. The text thus recognizes conventions of both gender and class. Women—hidden in their homes, bound to obedience—and settlers without name or fortune (especially, those who are not members of established congregations) are blanks. Their invisibility in Puritan society makes them perfect tablets upon which ministers such as Mather can inscribe meaning and position.

If Mary Rowlandson tries in her narrative to recuperate her social “credit” by publishing her sufferings, the Swarton text never addresses the anxieties Rowlandson displays, especially about returning to Puritan society. This is because Hannah Swarton's “credit” is identical with her text, both invented by Cotton Mather. He simultaneously constructs a reliable, reputable witness and her narrative, one “instrument” in the conflated Matherian sense of agent and document. The fiction of her authorship succeeds because the actual Hannah Swarton is a social nonentity and her experiences produce a tale of humiliation and deliverance that dramatizes the lessons of the sermon. To that end, Mather employs the figure of Swarton to illustrate the points of his homily.

Humiliations begins appropriately with an image of Old Testament punishment, a scourging, and emphasizes the “Instrument, every stroke whereof gave Three Lashes to the Delinquent” (Humiliations 3). Close reading of the text demonstrates that Hannah Swarton performs the dual role of delinquent and instrument for the readers of the printed sermon; she is both sinner and means of redemption because, in confessing her sins and properly suffering for them, she provides a completed figure of the redemptive process by which the reader can “lay by” the lesson. As Mather asks at the outset, “What signifies confession without reformation?” (Humiliations 14), and the re-formed Swarton embodies deliverance—after humiliation.

The sermon was “preached at the Boston Lecture on Thursday, May 6, 1697” and a “public fast was observed a week later” (Holmes 2:488). As a jeremiad, it called for a fast to address the “Sad Catalogue of Provocations” (Humiliations 7) by which the population had angered the Lord and thereby drawn down his wrath. These provocations included twenty offenses, ranging from apostasy to “the woful Decay of good Family Discipline” (Humiliations 9). There is little attempt to classify the sins by degree of severity, so that the “multitudes” castigated for being unregenerate are listed along with the problems evinced by “a Flood of Excessive Drinking.Humiliations thereby stands as a compendium of ministerial anxieties that predictably encompass both spiritual and social issues, personal salvation and cultural conformity.

For example, in opening the text of 2 Chronicles 12:7 (“When the Lord saw, that they humbleth themselves, the Word of the Lord came unto Shemajah, saying, They have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance”), the second lesson describes the necessity of regular fasting, a duty not practiced “often enough” by the Church in New England. “Like Silly Children we know not when to Feed, and when to Forbear Feeding. But our Good God, in His Word ha's taught us!” (Humiliations 23). This theme is retrieved in the Swarton appendix with an ironic twist.

For the first Times while the Enemy feasted on our English Provisions, I might have had some with them: but then I was so filled with Sorrow and Tears, that I had little Stomach to Eat; and when my Stomach was come, our English Food was spent, and the Indians wanted themselves, and we more: So that then I was pined with want.

(Humiliations 52)

Swarton, “Like a Silly Child,” represents not only the extreme of enforced fasting, but also the wilful behavior of someone who succumbs to her emotions rather than attending to her needs. As well, Swarton's “want of Cloathing” and insufficient covering so that she is “pinched with Cold,” aggressively answers the sermon's call to put aside “Gay Cloaths” for “Sober, Modest, Proper, and very Humble” attire and symbolizes the chastisement due to “Churches [who] fall asleep till they are stript of their Garments” (Humiliations 26, 34).

The preeminent icon of Humiliations is the Judea capta motif. As Annette Kolodny notes, “New England divines were quick to seize upon the emblematic, typick features inherent in the increasing incidence of captivity” (Kolodny 20). Mather recalls a tradition of coins made in commemoration of the Roman conquest of Israel, then contextualizes it with one of his favorite scriptural representations of womanhood, the Daughter of Zion: “She being Desolate, shall sit upon the Ground” (Humiliations 31). As in Mather's 1692 sermon-cum-conduct book, Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion, the Church (here, synonymous with “New-England”) is again “figured by a woman.”21 Translated from Israel to the northern woods, Judea no longer leans against a palm tree:

Alas, If poor New-England, were to be shown upon her old Coin, we might show her Leaning against her Thunder-struck Pine tree, Desolate, sitting upon the Ground. Ah! New England! Upon how many Accounts, mayst thou say with her, in Ruth 1.13. The Hand of the Lord is gone out against me!

(Humiliations 31)

Mather reprises the woman/tree figure in the appendix, creating the image of Hannah Swarton, “pined with want,” “pined to Death with Famine,” and exhausted to the point of utter resignation, “so that many times I thought I could go no further, but must ly down, and if they would kill me, let them kill me.”

Yet Swarton “held out with them,” sturdily marching, outlasting poor John York who, weakening under duress, was killed by the Indians. Significantly, the only people who die in this narrative are men; women prevail throughout. The absence of men in the Indian captivity section of the Swarton text echoes their absence from the sermon (excepting the brief allusion to Thomas Duston's escape from the Haverhill attack). Mather closes the theological section of the sermon with a question: “Now, who can tell, how far one Humble Soul, may prevail, that shall put in Suit, the Sacrifice for the Congregation?” (Humiliations 39). The answer sat in front of him at the lecture in the person of Hannah Duston. Her trials readily provide the conclusion to the sermon proper and her actions and experiences, in many ways, determine the figuration of Hannah Swarton.

The relationship of the two Hannahs is crucial to an understanding of what is at stake in the authorship of the Swarton narrative. In dialogue with the sermon, the Swarton text recontains the image of a woman superseding her role, that depicted by the heroic, yet murderous, Duston, who killed and scalped her captors. The entire “Appendix” immediately follows the Duston passage, which is itself part of the sermon but distinctly bound within quotation marks. As well as creating a passive counter to the active Duston, the first-person Swarton text purports to be Hannah's version of her own experiences, a simultaneous claim to authenticity and immediacy. The Duston story, however, is removed from this immediacy graphically, by the quotation marks (that reveal it to be someone else's version of the events), and grammatically, by its third-person narration.

Indeed, the title-page of Humiliations refers to the Duston escape tale as “A NARRATIVE, Of a Notable Deliverance lately Received by some English Captives, From the Hands of Cruel Indians, And some Improvement of that Narrative.22 Hannah Duston may have initiated her own escape, but at the Boston Lecture she heard her own exploits narrated back to her, recontextualized—“improved”—by Mather, her exceptional behavior reconfigured for the purposes of the sermon. Hannah Swarton, captured, sold to the French, and ransomed back to Boston, represents not only the more common fate of the captive, but also the value of passivity. That is, Duston is transformed from an active subject to a passive object, while Swarton, passive sufferer, becomes the narrator of her own story, the speaking subject. Female resistance in any form must be contained: Swarton is ascribed the unusual role of author precisely because she is a nonresisting woman, humiliated by her sins, whose reputation is manufactured then manipulated for its instructional value. The image of the passive woman, even one writing her own story, is the example that really closes the printed version of the sermon.

The juxtaposition of Hannah Duston and Hannah Swarton speaks to the problem of redeeming the captive woman from her position out of bounds, again a question of dispensation and reputation. Duston's dispensation for her lethal actions relies both on her extraordinary deliverance and on her position outside the law: “and being where she had not her own Life secured by any Law unto her, she thought she was not forbidden by any Law, to take away the Life of the Murderers, by whom her Child had been butchered” (Humiliations 46), and her reputation is made upon her return by the acclaim she receives.23 The repetition of “Law” and emphasis on her child's murder surely means to justify Duston's actions. But for those in the congregation who recall the trial of 1693, the line reverberates with the fate of Duston's sister Elizabeth Emerson, who was executed for killing her illegitimate infant. Mather's personal connection to Emerson is noteworthy because he not only preached the sermon on her execution day, but he later published that sermon with “a pathetical Instrument” “obtained from the young Woman.”24 Although one was punished and the other praised, the significant characteristic shared by the sisters is a capacity for violence, indeed, murder. In light of Elizabeth Emerson's story, Mather's transformation of Duston from active deliverer to passive listener becomes more urgent: Duston's killings require exculpation, divorcing her (frighteningly similar) behavior from her sister's.

Symbolically, however, Hannah Duston's exorbitant actions are redeemed through the representation of the later Hannah, Swarton. Referring to a Biblical figure, the sermon asserts that Duston and her companion Mary Neff, “do like another Hannah, in pouring out their Souls before the Lord” (Humiliations 45). The concatenation of Hannahs creates an affiliation, from the Old Testament to Duston to Swarton, with Duston set off by the figures who “pour out their souls.” The Hannah of I Samuel supplicates the priest Eli, and Swarton asks forgiveness while recounting her wilderness experiences: they reach out to the elders for deliverance. Thus an implicit comparison is set up between the two New England Hannahs. The “Improvement” following Duston's story, directed at Duston, Neff, and Lennardson, makes it clear that none of the escapees had publicly confessed the spiritual experience of redemption.25 So, Mather admonishes them, “You will seriously consider, What you shall render to the Lord for all His Benefits?” (Humiliations 49); Hannah Swarton's narrative, which contains her testimony of spiritual redemption, concludes with that same text. Swarton therefore recuperates the as yet unregenerate Duston by providing the image of a woman who undergoes conversion during her captivity, thus making her first-person narrative worthy of dispensation and producing her new reputation. That is, if Duston's experience is noteworthy because it represents divine intercession resulting in her physical redemption, Swarton's story displays the greater providence of a religious conversion. So, female captivity permits a broad range of behaviors as long as the woman ends firmly ensconced in the ministerial text, recaptured for Puritan instruction.

In this respect, the Swarton text improves on previous captivity stories, particularly Mary Rowlandson's. Cotton Mather authorizes his own work by obviously alluding to the popular 1682 text introduced by Increase Mather. Mather goes one better than his father, however, not merely writing a preface, but actually composing the entire text. And, in following Rowlandson, Mather concludes the Swarton narrative with the same scripture (Psalms 116.12) Increase Mather uses in his Preface:

To conclude: whatever any coy fantasies may deem, yet it highly concerns those that have so deeply tasted, how good the Lord is, to enquire with David, What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me. Psalms 116.12.

(Rowlandson 321)

On several levels, “A Narrative of Hannah Swarton” becomes a condensed version of The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, with language and images abbreviated, telescoped, and combined in a rush to get to the crucial encounter with French Catholics. For example, Mary Rowlandson's twenty “Removes” reduce to Swarton's “Thus I continued with them, hurried up and down the Wilderness, from May 20, till the middle of February” (Humiliations 52-53). Where Rowlandson remained in the wilderness with the Indians from February 1675/6 to May 1676, Swarton's captivity lasted five years, from May 1690 to November 1695, largely spent in Canada. (She arrived “in sight of some French houses” in February 1690/91). Yet the Rowlandson narrative is a book-length text, running to seventy-three pages in its 1682 Cambridge edition, while the Swarton “Appendix” is only twenty-one pages long.

The popularity of Rowlandson's narrative may have been reason enough for Mather's translation of some of its elements into his own publication. In recalling many features of the Rowlandson text, Mather at once asserts the primacy of The Sovereignty and Goodness of God and establishes the female captivity narrative as a genre with standard images: privation in the woods, loss of kin, spiritual conversion. Mather's reiteration of his father's scriptural quotation both in the Duston section and the Swarton appendix signals another, less obvious but potent, component of the emerging form: whether the text is prefaced by a minister or actually written by one, the (purported) authors depend on the sponsoring ministers for the dispensation to publish. The Rowlandson text, with Increase Mather's preface and Joseph Rowlandson's closing sermon, gives Cotton Mather a model for ministerial publication that he quite capably wholly inhabits.26

Both indirectly and directly quoting Rowlandson's narrative, Mather provides a shorthand, recognizable digest of wilderness suffering en route to Quebec. But Indian captivity is not the focus of the Swarton narrative. Hannah Swarton's main adversaries are not her captors, the murderers of her husband and son, but the French who imperil her immortal soul. The distinction between Swarton's relationship with the Indians and that with the French can even be traced in the narrative's disposition of pronouns: at times “we” refers to the English captives, at times to Swarton and her Indian captors, but “we” never comprehends the French. Unlike Mary Rowlandson, who resented her Indian mistress, and Hannah Duston, who killed two men, two women, and six children, Hannah Swarton seems sometimes even to appreciate her captors. She is often left alone with her Indian mistress, and the two fend for themselves, subsisting on a maggoty moose liver or contacting a canoe of squaws who give Swarton a roasted eel. The spiritual bond she will later form in Quebec with Margaret Stilson is foreshadowed in this earlier connection with the Indian women who tend to her mortal needs.

The brevity of the Indian captivity section allows Mather to acknowledge the physical dangers of life on the frontier on his way to the real matter at hand: emphasizing the spiritual traps awaiting English settlers placed in proximity to French Catholics. As well, the narrative exposes the failures of the English missionary project when Swarton's “Indian Mistress” declares “That had the English been as careful to instruct her in our Religion, as the French were, to instruct her in theirs, she might have been of our Religion” (Humiliations 55). But the problem of proselytizing Indians is only incidental to Mather's immediate project of castigating, and besting, the French.

His “Appendix” consists of nine paragraphs, and by the third, Swarton has arrived in Quebec. The majority of scriptural quotations occur in the French section of the narrative. For example, only three short passages, from Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Job, appear in the text until the narrative approaches Swarton's first encounter with the French. As if bolstering her faith in preparation for that “trial,” lengthier interpolations from Psalms and Job remind Swarton of her spiritual and physical humiliation, and the paragraph ends with an attestation of their efficacy: “And by many other Scriptures, that were brought to my Remembrance, was I instructed, directed and comforted” (Humiliations 59). These quotations presage Swarton's remarkable facility in recalling scripture during religious debate, where she parries with the French Catholics who besiege her soul.

This passage reveals just how far Mather will stretch the captivity conventions to suit his agenda. Whereas the Rowlandson text, in general, confined itself to Rowlandson's personal spiritual and psychological matters, Mather uses the Swarton narrative to address contemporary social and political concerns. Removed from the wilderness, safe from the Indian captors, Swarton finds herself serving in a French household but under pressure “to Turn Papist.” She is threatened with deportation to France, where she would be burned; this threat serves Mather's aim of demonizing the French and increases the dramatic effect when Swarton challenges her captors on their own theology:

For their Praying to Angels, they brought the History of the Angel, that was sent to the Virgin Mary, in the First of Luke. I answered them, from Rev. 19.10 and 22.9. They brought Exod. 17.11 of Israels prevailing, while Moses held up his Hands. I told them, we must come to God only by Christ, Joh. 6[.] 37, 44. For Purgatory, they brought Mat. 5.25. I told them, To agree with God while here on Earth, was, to Agree with our Adversary in the way; and if we did not, we should be Cast into Hell, and should not come out until we Paid the utmost Farthing, which could never be paid.

(Humiliations 63-64)

Surprisingly adept at arguing doctrinal subtleties, “Hannah Swarton” functions most obviously here as Mather's instrument, proving the superiority of Puritan doctrine and practices over Catholic. The text itself nods toward the improbability of an unconverted frontier woman triumphing in theological argument with “the Nuns, the Priests, Friars, and the rest” (Humiliations 62). After this breathtaking scholarly fusillade from both sides, the narrator confesses “But it is bootless for me, a poor Woman, to acquaint the World, with what Arguments I used, if I could now Remember them; and many of them are slipt out of my memory” (Humiliations 64). Hannah Swarton triumphs because she has God (and Cotton Mather) on her side. Her French adversaries are doomed to fail in the face of such truth and power. That she is “a poor Woman” only makes the victory more compelling because she excels in a man's realm, with the sanction—and considerable scriptural knowledge—of a Puritan divine.

However, the indictment of Hannah Swarton's memory after so sharp a demonstration of its facility—literally citing chapter and verse to counter the Catholics—subverts the debate's authenticity and, ultimately, the very authority for the text, her remembrances. The authorial—and authoritative—voice falters here, perhaps retreating from that frightening Hutchinsonian image of the woman preacher, and reveals the fiction of the historical Hannah Swarton's authorship. From the description of her arrival in Quebec, we know that Hannah could not speak French, yet her skills improve dramatically so that she can hold forth against her enemies. This, and the relentless interpolations of Mather's interests should give the game away for later commentators. However, Fitzpatrick ascribes authorship to both Mather and Hannah Swarton, contending that, although “Swarton's narrative conveyed the most absolute submission to the will of God, … [it] again conflicted with Mather's interests in transcribing her story” (Fitzpatrick 17).27 It is difficult to see a conflict of interests, given that the narrative produces not only a redeemed soul, but also representations of religious declension, missionary failure, French coercion, Indian brutality, the dangers of life outside Puritan polity: all images and themes Mather consistently employed to critique the political and religious establishments in Boston for administrative laxity in Maine.28

A redemption occurring without benefit of the “public ordinances” might seem to certify the exceptionalism of Hannah Swarton.29 However, in captivity, Swarton does find a “congregation” among the other captives in Quebec. In the midst of spiritual despairs over her own regeneracy, the narrator states “I had gotten an English Bible, and other Good Books, by the Help of my Fellow Captives” (Humiliations 66). By means of this Bible and meditation, she achieves an understanding of her own salvation and describes it in the conventional language of conversion, noting the “Ravishing Comfort” that fills her and harkening to her previous sinfulness.30 The group of captured English provides an impromptu reconstruction of basic Puritan practice:

I found much Comfort, while I was among the French, by the Opportunities I had sometimes to Read the Scriptures, and other Good Books, and Pray to the Lord in Secret; and the Conference that some of us Captives had together, about things of God, and Prayer together sometimes; especially, with one that was in the same House with me, Margaret Stilson. Then was the Word of God precious to us, and they that feared the L O R D, spake one to another of it, as we had Opportunity. And Colonel Tyng, and Mr. Alden, as they were permitted, did speak to us, to confirm and Strengthen us, in the wayes of the Lord.

(Humiliations 68)

Although neither Tyng nor Alden is an ordained minister, they function as representatives of the ministry in their exhortations to spiritual strength. The women pray together at home, but in the “public” world of the captive congregation, men lead. When the French finally prohibit the gathering, Alden sends a message “That this was one kind of Persecution, that we must suffer for Christ” (Humiliations 68-69). Thus, as Fitzpatrick notes, captivity “relocat[es] the central experience of trial and redemption” (Fitzpatrick 17), but this narrative does so by reconstituting Puritan community in the “wilderness” of French homes and churches: the text explicitly refers to Swarton's “Captivity, among the Papists” (Humiliations 69).

In Quebec Swarton is treated well by the French woman from whom she begs provisions and is finally bought by the “Lady Intendant.” Emphasizing female community reinscribes proper domestic roles, which in themselves render Swarton properly passive. The first part of the narrative depicts Swarton obeying her Indian master and mistress, as when she aids them by gathering berries. When she arrives in Canada, however, this replaying of the Puritan domestic gives way to the pressing concerns of spiritual contest; once in a functioning household, the role changes. As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich notes, Boston ministers saw the threat of Catholicism more deeply troubling than the Indian menace, especially where the captives were women, because “twice as many females as males remained with the [French] enemy.” She attributes this behavior to “the primacy of marriage, the influence of religion, and the supportive power of female networks” (Ulrich 208). These networks, explicitly portrayed in the scenes with her Indian mistress and the squaws, disappear once Swarton's captivity with the French becomes the focus of the narrative. Her only female friend in Canada is the Puritan Margaret Stilson.31

Indeed, the relatively condensed account of Indian captivity comes to a remarkable conclusion with a spectacular image. When Swarton visits the first European home she has seen in nine months to beg for food, she is given beef, bread, and pork and is expected to return to her captors. “But the Snow being knee deep, and my Legs and Hams very sore, I found it very tedious to Travel; and my sores bled, so that as I Travelled, I might be Tracked by my Blood, that I left behind me on the Snow” (Humiliations 60). Immediately after this sentence, Swarton asks to spend the night at the French house, and she never returns to the Indians. Here, the transformation in circumstances that the narrative characterizes as a “Change, as to my Outward man” opposed to the “Inward man” is marked in blood. In the forest, suffering from scant cover, Swarton bleeds; once in French hands, she is brought to the hospital where she is “Physicked and Blooded” (Humiliations 62). The move from external to internal, registered in blood, signals the beginning of her greatest trial. Previously, Swarton's emblematic suffering resonated with other accounts of wilderness captivity. Her blood on the landscape writes the recognizable tale of survival as seen in Rowlandson; in this respect, it metaphorizes female authorship, the fiction of a teller and her (salvational) tale, the marks on the page. The shift from outward to inward “man” actually represents a shift from passive female captive to active male debater; more precisely, Swarton's blood marks the end of Swarton's story and the initiation of Mather's theological tour de force.

In this, the Swarton narrative's value as an Indian captivity tale is superseded by the powerful image of English Protestantism conquering French Catholicism. As we have seen, the narrative emphasizes the French aspect of the captivity, not only in the amount of text dedicated to French, as opposed to Indian, captivity, but also in the reconstructed Puritan congregation in the heart of Canada. Swarton's transformation, from passive Indian captive to aggressive theological warrior, indicates that this story, although initially echoing previous captivity narratives, has a different agenda. It is indeed a tale of suffering, conversion, and return. And as a conversion narrative, it reinforces the concept that the greatest battles occur internally, spiritual wrestling in the privacy of the soul. Yet this wrestling is then externalized in the theological debates. Hannah Swarton's fictive authorship thus channels the flow of Puritan instruction, into “Hannah Swarton” then out again to the French, an instrument of Mather in the Canadian wilderness.

As J. M. Bumstead notes in his study of colonial captivity narratives, “Because of the emphasis on the Indian, it is frequently overlooked that most of the captivity accounts [between 1680 and 1760] record contact with the French” and the frequency of French contact can be seen in Emma Coleman's two-volume study of Canadian captives.32 Mather's “Appendix” to Humiliations follow'd with Deliverances was the first published account of a captive brought to Canada. As I have noted, Swarton's narrative is indebted to the Rowlandson text, but the Swarton account, in turn, dramatizes the concerns of a specifically French captivity that surface in subsequent narratives set in Canada. In so doing, it shifts away from the Indian captivity's focus on the exigencies of wilderness survival. Indeed, no actual wilderness threatens Swarton once she arrives in Quebec, and the anxiety about physical suffering gives way to spiritual turmoil. Civilization (albeit French) offers a test of faith as demanding as the thickets of the north woods. Ardent Puritans like John Williams remain steadfast until deliverance. Others, such as Williams's daughter Eunice and, apparently, Swarton's own daughter, succumb to French influence.33 Later captivities, particularly those published after the Revolutionary War, negotiated the difficult task of recounting a time when the French, contemporary allies of the new Republic, represented a great threat. Jemima Howe's captivity narrative (1792), for example, is notable for its delicate, even sentimentalized, portrayal of her French captors and was used later as anti-British propaganda.34

By 1792, women's publications were more common than in the days of Hannah Swarton. Mather's impersonation relied on the historical and cultural forces shaping gender roles and authorship in 1697. But use of the captivity narrative as anti-French polemic persisted throughout the wars between France and Britain waged during the eighteenth century. The endangered soul, snared by Catholicism, remained a potent icon in the ideological battles fought in the colonies. Cotton Mather, in the guise of Hannah Swarton, established captivity as a genre that not only attacked Indians as brutish heathens but reached into the refined parlors of Quebec to find horrific threats there as well.


When Mather turns to history to chronicle ten years of debilitating Indian warfare, he constructs thirty “articles” to illustrate the awful depredations endured by English settlers throughout New England. Decennium Luctuosum is a catalogue of horrors, graphically informing readers about scalpings, eviscerations, immolations, and hatchetings. A series of captivity stories appears in the text, including “Article XXV,” “A Notable Exploit; wherein Dux Femina Facti,” the tale of Hannah Duston. Published only two years after Humiliations, however, Decennium does not include the Swarton text. Mather used his own material from other sources to bolster the book, and the opening “articles” detail early skirmishes on the eastern frontier. It would seem that Hannah Swarton's story, beginning with the attack on Casco, would fit naturally into this scheme. But Decennium Luctuosum emphasizes Indian brutality, not French religious coercion. In fact, the final pages of the book portray the fallacies of Quakerism rather than the importunities of French Catholicism. Therefore, although the “Narrative of Hannah Swarton” purports to be an Indian captivity narrative, a personal account of suffering in the hands of the tribes, it is more accurately characterized as a French captivity narrative and theological exercise. As such, Mather rightly excludes it from this historical text, keeping his antipathies focused on the “Nations of Indians.”

As self-professed historiography, Decennium Luctuosum moves away from earlier homiletic tracts employing current events to demonstrate providential displeasure. The text's obsessive classicism, interpolating more Latin and Greek than scripture, secularizes the project. Here is no sermon to instruct readers in the path of salvation but rather a highly sensationalized register of relentless misery and occasional relief.35 As history, it required the omniscient authority of third-person narration. In the self-effacing tone adopted at the outset of Decennium, Mather states:

In Truth, I had rather be called a Coward, than undertake my self to Determine the Truth in this matter; but having Armed my self with some good Authority for it, I will Transcribe Two or Three Reports of the matter, now in my Hands, and Leave it unto thy own Determination.

(Decennium 186)

He includes accounts from “a Gentleman of Dover” and “a Gentleman of Casco” that indict not only the Indians but particularly Governor Andros for their roles in fomenting the hostilities. The language of both accounts replicates Mather's own perfervid prose in the introduction and the text following; when he appends a third account, “which was published in September, 1689,” it is an excerpt from his own sermon, “Souldiers Counselled and Comforted” (Boston, 1689 [Editor's Note, Decennium 190]). Significantly, the “Gentlemen” whose reports are embedded in this Mather text produce an entirely different discourse from the Swarton narrative. Theirs is literally named “Authority” and represents public witness to political events, not personal (and spiritual) experience. So although Mather “transcribes” male authors to support his history, this purloined authorship is contextualized as historical, public, and authoritative: an admitted transcription, not a fictionalized first-person relation.

Mather's final rendition of the “Narrative of Hannah Swarton” appears in 1702 with the publication of Magnalia Christi Americana. Having begun its literary life intended for a text never printed, then appearing as an appendix to a sermon, the Swarton passage finally rests among some of Mather's stranger productions. Reprinted in chapter 2 of the sixth book of Magnalia, the narrative seems to come full circle. From the unpublished Great Examples of Judgment and Mercy, Swarton's story moves to the section designated “Illustrious Discoveries and Demonstrations of The Divine Providence in Remarkable Mercies and Judgments on Many Particular Persons.” There are minor, but telling variants between the two versions; for example, the word “them” is more often rendered “'em” in the Magnalia, approximating a frontier women's conversation more than the formal discourse of the printed sermon.

The strangest variant occurs near the end of the text where Swarton, having bested the Catholics, resumes her retrospection of scriptural comfort,

I often thought on the History of the man Born Blind; of whom Christ, when His Disciples asked, Whether this man had Sinned, or his Parents? answered, Neither this man, nor his Parents; but this was, that the works of God might be made manifest in him. So, tho' I had deserved all this, yet I knew not but one Reason, of Gods bringing all these Afflictions and Miseries upon me, and then Enabling me to bear them, was, That the Works of God might be made manifest.

(Humiliations 70)

Within the Puritan calculus of sins accounted and punished, Swarton “deserved” the miseries she incurs. In Magnalia, the word “deserved” becomes “desired” (Magnalia 360), signalling a shift from passive suffering to active atonement and utility. If the first version suits Mather's reliance on the required passivity of a woman author as instrument, the second version ups the ante. That is, in moving from a deserving subject to a desiring subject, the instrument becomes a more fit vessel for the lessons offered. The variant represents Hannah Swarton as a willing instrument, a self-aware subject for the manifestation of divine providence. Although this would seem to subvert the passivity of the Humiliations narrator, the Magnalia text offers a Swarton utterly complicit in her abjection. This odd rendition of Swarton's spiritual self-evaluation aptly illustrates a powerful figuration of the female author: one conscious of, and acceding to (indeed, craving), the redemptive use of her publicized figure.

Magnalia recontextualizes Hannah Swarton's story once more. Clearly not of historical value—or it would have been included in the voluminous Decennium—the narrative assumes the status of a curiosity, an “extraordinary salvation.” Magnalia's Swarton follows descriptions of miraculous rescues and “rare cures,” where Mather recounts the tale of dropsical Sarah Wilkinson:

When she was open'd, there were no bowels to be found in her, except her heart, which was exceeding small, and as it were perboil'd. … Other bowels, none could be found: yet in this condition she liv'd a long while, and retain'd her senses to the last.

But we will content ouselves with annexing to these things a narrative of a woman celebrating the wonderful dispensations of Heaven.

(Magnalia 356)

Proceeding from the amazing hollow woman to Hannah Swarton, the segue seems quirky at best. Yet relegation of the narrative to a passage of “Believe It or Not” sensationalism reveals its oddity even in Mather's estimation. By 1702, over thirty years of intermittent, sometimes acute, Indian battle had made captivity commonplace. Gory, horrific tales fill Decennium Luctuosum, and women constitute the majority of sufferers. Without fierce anti-Indian rhetoric, the Swarton narrative cannot perform the ideological work that a story like Duston's can. Nor can its highly stilted version of religious contest, which actually portrays the French as kind, if zealous, missionaries, suffice for the scathing criticisms the continuing warfare requires. Reduced to a conventional spiritual conversion account, the “Narrative of Hannah Swarton” provides insufficient propaganda to warrant reprinting as history or jeremiad. Subject of a text without social utility except as an exhibit in Mather's freak show of remarkables, Hannah Swarton, who never wrote her own story, is an appropriate emblem of his use of female authorship: a hollow woman, filled in by Mather's (divinely directed) hand.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich describes Hannah Swarton as “the ideal captive” (Ulrich 180). Indeed, Swarton represents the idealized captive, Mather's extension into the theological thickets of Catholic Canada, whose “means of … Deliverance, were by reason of Letters” (Humiliations 71). In staging Hannah Swarton's conversion not in the wild forests of northern New England but the civilized venue of the French Lord-Intendant's home, Cotton Mather literally domesticates the captivity narrative and extends its utility as a device for propaganda against both the French and the Indians. Alluding to the familiar imagery of deprivation, he moves quickly to the more important business of conversion in the face, not of physical suffering, but of religious antagonism. Although she has suffered the grueling journey of winter travel through northern Maine forests and lost her family in the attack, Swarton's gravest concern is arrival in Canada, “for fear lest I should be overcome by them, to yield to their Religion” (Humiliations 59). The horrors of Indian attack and near-starvation fade in comparison to the “greater snare” of Catholicism.

Mather both cannily taps popular images of suffering and invents fresh ones like Judea capta to assemble his own version of captivity's humiliations. Adopting a woman's voice, he elaborates on the figure of the virtuous woman, extending the instrumental potential for this usually silent segment of the Church. Mather's own complicated engagement with the vicissitudes of authorship allows him to invoke certain expectations about female authors in his readers while simultaneously creating a new use for woman's publication, as a variation on pseudonymity and anonymity. In this, he relies on what Michel Foucault characterizes as the author's “classificatory function.” “Such a name,” here, the woman's name, Hannah Swarton, “permits one to group together a certain number of texts, define them, differentiate them from and contrast them to others. In addition, it establishes a relationship among the texts” (Foucault 107). Although Hannah Swarton's name appears only once as author, the scarcity of women's texts in the period affiliates “her” relation with Mary Rowlandson's and so claims authenticity only from an extraordinary experience like captivity. This authenticity is the prerequisite for female authorship and is differentiated from the authority of the male accounts Mather interpolates into Decennium; women's publication can only signalize the private experience of deliverance as opposed to the public function of the male writer as historian and reporter.36 This distinction accounts for the Swarton narrative's absence from Mather's historical productions and its final home in a series of curiosities. “A Narrative of Hannah Swarton” had outlived its usefulness by 1702; as instrument in the vast project of ecclesiastical and secular history, which Magnalia attempts to unite, the woman's story remains much too personal, even idiosyncratic, to serve as an entry into the public spectacle of Puritan progress. Appended to the tale of the hollowed-out woman, Hannah Swarton's narrative represents the limits of female authorship's utility for Mather. He never published as a woman again.


  1. From Baxter's Catholic Theology, an entry from 1675, in the Oxford English Dictionary for “instrument.”

  2. Increase Mather's authorship of the preface remains unproved. However, several scholars believe that textual evidence supports the premise that Mather was indeed “Ter Amicam” and wrote it (Minter 343 n.; and Derounian 85). Although there is no absolute confirmation for this assumption, I am persuaded by Derounian et al. that Increase Mather is the likely author and, as my argument will demonstrate, his authorship influences Cotton Mather's foray into the captivity narrative form. However, even if Increase Mather were not the author, the Rowlandson Preface stands as a kind of editorial practice whose emphasis on dispensation and reputation recurs in Cotton Mather's works discussed here.

  3. I use The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed; Being a Narrative Of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson … in Slotkin and Folsom, because, unlike the True History, which was published in London, Sovereignty was published and circulated in the Colony.

  4. “Our family being now gathered together (those of us that were living) the South Church in Boston hired an house for us: then we removed from Mr. Shepards, those cordial friends, and went to Boston, where we continued about three-quarters of a year: still the Lord went along with us, and provided graciously for us. I thought it somewhat strange to set up housekeeping with bare walls; but as Solomon says, Money answers all things; and that we had through the benevolence of Christian friends, some in this town, and some in that, and others: and some from England, that in a little time we might look, and see the house furnished with love” (364). It is clear from the list of “friends” that the Rowlandsons enjoyed a great deal of support after their trials. The breadth of support, from various towns and from England, speaks to the relative importance of the Rowlandson and White families.

  5. The Rowlandson family then moved from Boston to Wethersfield, Connecticut.

  6. The Biblical authority derives in part from the Pauline proscription against women speaking in Church in 1 Timothy: 11, 12. The notorious, more proximate, example of the problem is, of course, Anne Hutchinson.

  7. In The Doctrine of Divine Providence, Increase Mather offers theodicy couched in terms of the exceptional. He cautions readers not to rely too much on their own understanding or reason. “To make things depend chiefly upon the decrees and wills of man, is to place Man in the Throne and to dethrone him that sitteth in Heaven. We must therefore know, that all Events of Providence are the issues and executions of an Ancient, Eternal, Unchangeable decree of Heaven” (8). Explicitly, the verb “to dispense” speaks to both this “decree” and the interpretation of the exceptional: “There are also extraordinary mercies and extraordinary judgements, which the Providence of God does sometimes dispense towards the children of men” (47).

  8. Increase Mather notes the “atheistical, proud, wild, cruel, barbarous, brutish (in one word) diabolical creatures” (321) who captured her and the folly of a premature determination “that the army should desist the pursuit, and retire” (318) in their battle against the Narragansetts. Thus, Mather's preface places Rowlandson's tale within a broader range of Puritan concerns, from the diabolical provenance of the Narragansetts to the ill-executed military strategies of “the forces of Plymouth and the Bay.”

  9. Toulouse argues that it is precisely the anxiety of a captive woman to redeem her social value within the “hierarchical social discourse” of Puritan New England that characterizes the Rowlandson narrative. She notes that Rowlandson's father, John White, was “Lancaster's wealthiest citizen” (670).

  10. The Diary contains many references to Mather's visitations among his congregation in which he disseminates his own work.

  11. “When I have readd thro' a Book, at any time, I would make a Pause; and first, give Thanks to the Father of Lights, for whatever Illumination He has by this Book bestow'd upon me. Secondly, If the Author be in his Book an useful Servant of the Church, I would give Thanks to God, for His Raising up such an Instrument, and Inclining and Assisting of him to this Performance …” (Diary 2:226).

  12. Fitzpatrick characterizes the “dueling textual voices of the captives and their ministerial sponsors” as “palimpsests, engraved by authors whose exegeses are in dialogical relation to one another.” Acknowledging “the clergy's attempts to impose a socially and doctrinally unified and orthodox interpretation of the captives' experiences,” Fitzpatrick reads in the tensions between these voices a “gendered site of … narrative formation” (2). The subversive effect of the woman's voice, noticed by many scholars, including Fitzpatrick, in studies of Mary Rowlandson's narrative, meets an unusual obstacle in Cotton Mather's treatment of Hannah Swarton's story.


  14. Edward Tyng was commander of Casco fort until 1688 when he was appointed Governor of Annapolis by Phips. He was returning to Maine when he was captured on board John Alden's sloop. Alden was in the service of the Colony “to provide provisions and clothes for the force at Falmouth.” Both Tyng and Alden were carried to France, and Tyng died in prison there. Alden returned, only to be charged in the 1692 witchcraft trials (when he was 70 years old). He escaped from a Boston jail and hid until the furor passed (Coleman 1:70 n., 215-16). Another, less reliable, source for Swarton, Tyng, and Alden's stories is Willis, who relies unquestioningly on Mather's text.

  15. Coleman has traced a history of John Swarton [“spelled on Canadian records: Soarre, Shiard, Shaken, Soüarten, Sowarten, Schouarden, Souard”]: “John Swarton of Beverly received a fifty acre grant in North Yarmouth. In his petition he said he had fought with Charles II in Flanders.” “Church mentions ‘One Swarton, a Jersey man’ whose language he could hardly understand” (Coleman 1:204).

  16. Because my concern with the Swarton narrative includes its publication history, I use two versions of the text. The first, hereafter referred to as Humiliations, was published in 1697 and the second version, “A Narrative of Hannah Swarton,” appeared in Mather's Magnalia. The variants are discussed below.

  17. The petition accuses the Massachusetts Bay leaders of dragging their heels in dispatching aid to Maine during the Indian attacks waged in the summer of 1688. It not only praises the work of Gov. Andros in providing relief to the Province upon his return from New York and getting a full report of the depradations, but it indicts the “Change of Government” (after the insurrection of April 1688) with supplying the Indians “with stores of Warr and Amunition by vessels sent by some in Boston to trade with them, and thereupon [the Indians] took new Courage and resolution to Continue the Warr; and having got to their assistance other Indians, who before were unconcerned they presently burnt and destroyed the several Fortifications which the Forces had deserted. …” The petition was signed 25 January 1689, almost a year after the anti-Andros uprising in Boston, and shortly before the attack on Casco.

  18. Mather later wrote specifically about the dangers of living without benefit of a minister in his 1702 Letter to Ungospelized Plantations.

  19. Holmes asserts that “Cotton Mather wrote this Narrative some time between November, 1695, the month of Hannah Swarton's return, and November, 1696—probably nearer the latter date—when he wrote his advertisement for Great Examples, the work in which he first intended to print the Swarton Narrative” (2:493).

  20. Holmes discusses the trajectory of the Swarton text at length (1:452-53). It was advertised as part of the forthcoming Great Examples of Judgment and Mercy, which was never printed.

  21. Mather explicitly metaphorizes female virtue as the Church itself: “Indeed, there are more women than men in the Church and the more virtuous they prove, the more worthy will the Church be to be figured, by a woman that fears the Lord” (Ornaments 9).

  22. Holmes initially states that the Duston Narrative “as it now stands is almost certainly of Cotton Mather's authorship or editing” (2:491). However, in a longer consideration of the timing of the sermon and Mather's other attempts at fact-gathering, he concludes, “We are inclined to believe, therefore, that the original of the Hannah Dustan Narrative was written by the Rev. Benjamin Rolfe of Haverhill, but that its statements were confirmed by Cotton Mather's interview with the principals, and that the printed text received his editorship” (2:492). This view is supported by the title page's presentation of the story as an “Improvement.

  23. The variant reading of the Duston episode in Decennium Luctuosum provides information about the specific rewards received by Duston, Neff, and Lennardson.

  24. See Holmes (3:1198-1200) for notes on the sermon Warnings from the Dead (Boston, 1693). Emerson's “Instrument” was reprinted in Mather's Pillars of Salt and in the Magnalia. Ulrich reports that Emerson was severely beaten by her father and indicates that this abuse could account for her “rebellion” (Ulrich 197-98).

  25. Duston (1657-c. 1735) did not become a member of the Church until March 1727, almost exactly thirty years after the captivity. See Taylor 182.

  26. Comparing Rowlandson's captivity narrative with Life Among the Indians, the 1857 account of Olive and Mary Ann Oatman's captivity (and its subsequent editions), Derounian-Stodola argues that the two texts are “complementary examples of intertextual continuity and narrative evolution” (33); she sees continuity in the works' function as “political guises” (43) but distinguishes them through their respective authorial voices. So, because “Mary Rowlandson's voice and style still dominate her narrative … we might identify her text as ‘factive,’ that is, told in the first person and tending toward veracity” (43). However, the Oatman narratives, which Derounian-Stodola argues are “constructed—indeed, created” (35) by a Methodist minister, Royal B. Stratton, seem to her “‘fictive,’ that is, tending toward fiction and using narrative strategies appropriate to that genre” (43). If one were to argue continuity along the lines of “ministerial involvement,” as Derounian-Stodola does, the Swarton narrative provides much more evidence of ministerial manipulation, especially in terms of the purported/purloined authorial voice. Swarton's is indeed “fictive” in Derounian-Stodola's terms.

  27. Fitzpatrick argues that Swarton was “converted at the hands of apostates, whose challenges to the ‘true religion’ prompted Swarton's profession of Puritan faith.” She sees this as a subversion of the notion that conversion should occur within “the communal covenant,” which would offer nurturance within Puritan social order, the congregation.

  28. See the controversy surrounding the publication of Publick Occurrences, an anonymously published criticism of the government's campaign on the eastern frontier, and Mather's “slippery” disavowal of his authorship in Silverman, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather 75-76. Mather's dodging is evident in his letter to John Cotton (October 17, 1690) protesting that “the publisher had not one line of it from me, only as accidentally meeting him in the high-way, on his request, I showed him how to contract and express the report of the expedition at Casco and the east” in Silverman, Selected Letters of Cotton Mather 27. These are the expeditions that should have prevented the attack on Casco that resulted in Swarton's capture.

  29. Mather reminds his audience in the sermon that “Words that are spoken in an Ordinance of the Lord Jesus Christ, carry with them a peculiar Efficacy and Authority” (Humiliations 48).

  30. “I desired to see all my Sins, and to Repent of them all, with all my Heart, and of that Sin which had been especially a Burden to me, namely, That I Left the Publick Worship and Ordinances of God, to go to Live in a Remote Place, without the Publick Ministry …” (Humiliations 67-68).

  31. According to church records, Swarton's daughter, whose whereabouts were unknown at the end of the narrative, remained in Canada and converted. See Levernier and Cohen 31-32.

  32. Bumstead states that Mrs. Sarah Gerish was “the first Canadian captive whose narrative was printed” because it was included in Cotton Mather's A History of Remarkable Occurrences in the Long War (1699) [see note below]. Since Swarton's text appeared in 1697, hers was certainly the first. Although Bumstead's article contains other errors, it is a useful overview of British responses to French Canadian captivity. He argues that French attitudes toward Protestant captives changed from “efforts at complete cultural assimilation of the captive” to a more detached and “regularized” practice of incarceration. So, where Swarton and other earlier captives lodged with French families as house servants or farm workers, later captives were treated as conventional prisoners-of-war and passed their captivities in “formal prison buildings” (87). Some of the language that appears for the first time in the Swarton text is reiterated in later narratives, such as the differentiation figured by the “inward man” threatened by French Catholics and the “outward” man provided for by them. Bumstead does not mention the Swarton narrative in his study.

  33. Bumstead argues that “The real dramatization of the ambiguities and anxieties of the English was done by John Williams …” (82). See his discussion (82-84) of Williams's The Redeemed Captive.

  34. See “Jemima Howe—Background” in Kestler 139-42. There are several versions of Howe's narrative, as Kestler notes; I refer to “A Genuine and Correct Account of the Captivity, Sufferings and Deliverance of Mrs. Jemima Howe, of Hinsdale in New-Hampshire.” “Taken from her own mouth, and written, by the Reverend Bunker Gray [sic],” in Washburn.

  35. The story of seven-year-old Sarah Gerish, “a very Beautiful and Ingenious Damsel” foreshadows the sensationalism of later captivity narratives in its sentimental rendering of the little child imprisoned in a wilderness with a “Dragon” for a master. The Gerish account is notable, too, for its representation of sexual threat when Sarah's master commands her to “loosen som of her upper-Garments.” “God knows what he was going to do …” the account continues, but no harm comes to the child and she is eventually restored to her family (Decennium 200).

  36. Derounian-Stodola notes that “by the mid-nineteenth century, the Indian captivity narrative was no longer primarily an autobiographical literary construct but was often an exploitative political vehicle to facilitate genocide [of Native Americans]” (44). As my argument demonstrates, the construct and the vehicle were conflated as early as 1697. This political aspect of the texts appears precisely because women's stories were private matters. They therefore depend for publication on ministers, who can offer both dispensation and certification of good reputation, because the Church is a public institution that shapes and ministers to the private soul.

Works Cited

Bumstead, J. M. “‘Carried to Canada!’: Perceptions of the French in British Colonial Captivity Narratives, 1690-1760.” American Review of Canadian Studies 13 (1983): 79-96.

Coleman, Emma Lewis. New England Captives Carried to Canada. 2 vols. Portland, Maine: The Southworth Press, 1925. Vols. 1-2.

Derounian, Kathryn Zabelle. “Puritan Orthodoxy and the ‘Survivor Syndrome’” in Mary Rowlandson's Indian Captivity Narrative.” Early American Literature 22 (1987): 82-93.

Derounian-Stodola, Kathryn Z. “Indian Captivity Narratives of Mary Rowlandson and Olive Oatman: Case Studies in the Continuity, Evolution, and Exploitation of Literary Discourse.” Studies in the Literary Imagination 27 (1994): 33-46.

Fitzpatrick, Tara. “The Figure of Captivity: The Cultural Work of the Puritan Captivity Narrative.” American Literary History 3 (1991): 1-26.

Foucault, Michel. “What Is an Author?” The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.

Goldberg, Jonathan. Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1990.

Holmes, Thomas J. Cotton Mather: A Bibliography of His Works. 3 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1940. Vols. 1-3.

“INSTRUCTIONS TO MATTHEW CARY. …” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 24 (1870): 286-91.

Kestler, Frances Roe. The Indian Captivity Narrative: A Woman's View. New York: Garland Press, 1990.

Kolodny, Annette. The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1984.

Levernier, James A., and Hennig Cohen, eds. The Indians and Their Captives. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977.

Mather, Cotton. Diary of Cotton Mather. 2 vols. New York: Frederick Unger Publishing Co., 1957. Vols. 1-2.

———. Decennium Luctuosum. Narratives of the Indian Wars. Ed. Charles H. Lincoln. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913.

———. Humiliations follow'd With Deliverances. 1697. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1977.

———. Magnalia Christi Americana. 2 vols. 1852. New York: Russell and Russell, 1967.

———. Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion or the Character and Happiness of a Virtuous Woman by Cotton Mather: A Facsimile Reproduction. Delmar, N.Y.: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1978.

Mather, Increase. The Doctrine of Divine Providence. Boston, 1684. Evans 371.

Minter, David L. “By Dens of Lions: Notes on Stylization in Early Puritan Captivity Narratives.” American Literature 45 (1973): 335-47.

“Petition of the Inhabitants of Maine.” The Andros Tracts. Boston: The Prince Society, 1868.

Silverman, Kenneth. The Life and Times of Cotton Mather. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1985.

———. Selected Letters of Cotton Mather. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1971.

Slotkin, Richard, and James K. Folsom, eds. So Dreadfull a Judgment: Puritan Responses to King Philip's War, 1676-1677. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1978.

Taylor, E. W. B. “Hannah Dustin of Haverhill.” The Granite Monthly 43 (1911): 177-83.

Toulouse, Teresa A. “‘My own Credit’: Strategies of (E)valuation in Mary Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative.” American Literature 64 (1992): 655-76.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1983.

Washburn, Wilcomb E., ed. Narratives of North American Indian Captivities. 111 vols. New York: Garland, 1977.

Willis, William. The History of Portland. Portland, Maine: Bailey and Noyes, 1865. [facs. rpt., Portland, Maine: Maine Historical Society, 1972.]


Criticism: Overviews


Criticism: Captivity Narratives And Native Americans