Thomas Morton Criticism - Essay

Evert A. Duyckinck and George L. Duyckinck (essay date 1856)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Duyckinck, Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck. “Thomas Morton.” In Cyclopaedia of American Literature, edited by M. Laird Simons, Vol. I, pp. 33-5. Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1877.

[In the following essay from a work first published in 1856, the critics present an overview of Morton's experiences in New England, using details presented in New English Canaan, a work they find to be humorous if not entirely factual.]

The readers of Nathaniel Hawthorne cannot fail to remember “the May-pole of Merry Mount.” The sketch, in its leading features, is a faithful presentation of a curious episode in the early history of New England. It has been...

(The entire section is 2625 words.)

Charles Francis Adams (essay date 1877)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Adams, Charles Francis. “The May-Pole of Merrymount.” The Atlantic Monthly XXXIX, Nos. 235, 236 (May, June 1877): 557-67, 686-97.

[In the following essay, published in two parts in the May and June, 1877, issues of the Atlantic Monthly, Adams presents the historical context in which Morton lived, comments on Morton's wit and reputedly “loose” moral character, and offers an account of Morton's life in New England, including his difficulties with the law.]

I. MAY-DAY, 1627.

The May-pole of Merrymount—that May-pole which inspired the historian Motley's first effort in literature, and which Hawthorne made the subject of a...

(The entire section is 15320 words.)

B. F. De Costa (essay date 1882)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: De Costa, B. F. “Morton of Merry Mount.” The Magazine of American History VIII, No. 2 (February 1882): 81-94.

[In the following essay, De Costa paints a sympathetic portrait of Morton—whom he finds to be one of the most interesting and misunderstood figures in the history of New England—using information gleaned from William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, John Winthrop's History of New England, and Morton's own New English Canaan.]

Historic truth often contains elements stranger and more dramatic than fiction, yet writers of romance incline to fling their opportunities away. Motley did this, when dealing with the character of...

(The entire section is 6931 words.)

William B. Cairns (essay date 1912)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Cairns, William B. “The New England Colonies. First Period, 1620-1676.” In A History of American Literature, pp. 21-55. New York: Oxford University Press, 1916.

[In the following excerpt,which originally appeared in 1912, Cairns offers a broad outline of Morton's life in New England, finds him to be an irresponsible and ultimately unworthy person, and judges the account in New English Canaan to be inaccurate, carelessly written, and merely superficially humorous.]

The exact facts regarding [Morton's] life are somewhat in doubt, for his own story and that of the Puritans do not agree, and probably neither is entirely trustworthy. It is known, however,...

(The entire section is 1100 words.)

Donald F. Connors (essay date 1969)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

Connors, Donald F. “The Children of the Forest.” In Thomas Morton, pp. 36-57. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1969.

[In the following excerpt from his full-length study of Morton, Connors evaluates Morton's depiction of Native Americans in New English Canaan.]

Morton's subject—the Indians of the New England region—in the first of the three books that comprise the New English Canaan was a favorite one with reporters of his time. Nineteen of the twenty short chapters in Book I are filled with speculations about their language and their ancestors, tales of their powwows and chieftains, and observations on their beliefs, their way of life, and their tractable...

(The entire section is 11667 words.)

Robert D. Arner (essay date 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Arner, Robert D. “Mythology and the Maypole of Merrymount: Some Notes on Thomas Morton's ‘Rise Oedipus.’” Early American Literature VI, No. 2 (Fall 1971): 156-64.

[In the following essay, Arner examines how the poem “Rise Oedipus,” which appears in New English Canaan, adapts classical mythology to present an allegorical description of the revels at Ma-re Mount.]

Well over three hundred years ago, Thomas Morton composed several poems characterized by one of his contemporaries, Governor William Bradford, as “sundry rhymes and verses, some tending to lasciviousness, and others to the detraction and scandal of some persons, which he affixed to...

(The entire section is 3630 words.)

Robert D. Arner (essay date 1974)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Arner, Robert D. “Pastoral Celebration and Satire in Thomas Morton's New English Canaan.Criticism XVI, No. 3 (Summer 1974): 217-31.

[In the following essay, Arner contends that the form of New English Canaan is based on festive folk rituals which ultimately derive from ancient Greek phallic ceremonies.]

Thomas Morton's New English Canaan, a work seldom regarded seriously either by historians or literary critics,1 is admittedly a troublesome book. As history, it is too literary for historians to trust; Morton's prejudices against the American Pilgrims and Puritans generate much of the wit, irony, and vivid imagery of the...

(The entire section is 6019 words.)

Karen Ordahl Kupperman (essay date 1977)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. “Thomas Morton, Historian.” The New England Quarterly L, No. 4 (December 1977): 660-64.

[In the following essay, Kupperman contends that though the accuracy of Morton's comments in New English Canaan regarding the Pilgrims' treatment of the Indians have been discounted because of his conflicts with the Pilgrims, careful study of his observations shows them to be similar to those of modern historians and demonstrates that his insights about early New England life should be taken more seriously.]

Although the record of English treatment of the American Indians during the earliest years of colonization is dismal, historians have...

(The entire section is 1843 words.)

Richard Drinnon (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Drinnon, Richard. “The Maypole of Merry Mount: Thomas Morton & the Puritan Patriarchs.” The Massachusetts Review XXI, No. 2 (Summer 1980): 382-410.

[In the following essay, Drinnon finds New English Canaan to be an authentic and singular effort of the European imagination to accept Native Americans and the American surroundings on their own terms, and regards Morton as part of a countertradition that continues to be manifested in American social life.]

The devil would never cease to disturb our peace, and to raise up instruments, one after another.

John Winthrop, Journal, December...

(The entire section is 12324 words.)

Daniel B. Shea (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Shea, Daniel B. “‘Our Professed Old Adversary’: Thomas Morton and the Naming of New England.” Early American Literature 23, No. 1 (Spring 1988): 52-69.

[In the following essay, Shea argues that Morton's failure to be taken seriously as a writer of literature is another effect of the triumph of Puritan ideology and the discourse of Puritanism, which silenced other voices that sought to shape the American consciousness.]

No less than love and war, literary history has its winners and losers. The triumphant ideology in colonial America was Puritan, and the discourse of Puritanism, as Sacvan Bercovitch has very fully demonstrated,1 not only...

(The entire section is 7877 words.)

Edith Murphy (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Murphy, Edith. “‘A Rich Widow, Now to Be Tane Up or Laid Downe’: Solving The Riddle of Thomas Morton's ‘Rise Oedipeus.’” William and Mary Quarterly, third series LIII, No. 4 (October 1996): 755-68.

[In the following essay, Murphy conducts a “gender analysis” of the poem “Rise Oedipus” in New English Canaan. In the poem, as in the book as a whole, Murphy contends, the land represents a widow, “her deceased husband the Indians, and her new husband the Pilgrims,” who are weak and incompetent. Morton presents himself as the “virile lover who has all the masculine qualities the new husband lacks,” she notes.]

On May 1, 1627, Thomas...

(The entire section is 7006 words.)