Jan De Hartog GEORGE McCANDLISH - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Peaceable Kingdom] is a book of epic sweep, a book crammed with great and noble deeds of high adventure, but an epic without heroes; a saga of the gentle people called Quakers, a hymn to that of God in every man, but a book filled with rapes and violence, a bestial lynching, Indian massacres and the fetid corruption and the outrage of slavery. (pp. 220-21)

No heroes and no saints…. [Quaker leader George Fox is] a man who loves all mankind, yet one who, filled with the sense of God's power, is careless of how he affects others.

Nor does Margaret Fell, the mother of Quakerdom, appear more saintly…. [She] remains a prisoner of her upbringing….

[What] a rich and varied gallery of characters the author has created (among them George Fox and Margaret Fell) to reveal the seed of Light in a troubled and violent world. (p. 221)

One can quarrel with the simple theology—Quakers claim they have none and are not interested in formulating one—and question how accurately the tales reflect the spirit of the times; but it is hard to fault the virtuosity of the teller, or the spirit of compassion in which the tales are told. A Quaker saga? Rather, a historical romance, a Quaker Gone with the Wind. (p. 222)

George McCandlish, "Books: 'The Peaceable Kingdom'," in Commonweal (copyright © 1972 Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), Vol. XCVI, No. 9, May 5, 1972, pp. 220-22.