21 MARCH 1931, Page 31

Life in New England

puritan's Progress. By Arthur.,Train. (Scribner. 12s. 6d.)

TrreNew England men of the old colonial days had- hard lives and 'a -terrible Proportion of their women and children had hard deriths.! How. earnestly- some of. these worn-out women.roust have-wished themselves back in the Old Country-, even such- as only km* it from hearsay I , Think how severe the discipline .ranst- have been which in' two or three genera- tions could: MIL the innate generosity in the Englishman, and make : frugality- his most salient quality !- The "- hard- scrabble " for-ex-istence, according to the author of this -deeply- interesting book, had some bad effects upon character.

Mr. Train comes -of old New England stock. His forebears settled in' Massachusetts in 1635, and remained within a tramp of Boston until his father moved to New York. Fainily letters and traditions checked by parish records have enabled him to picture the colonial days and the early days of indepen- dence, as they appeared in the eyes of a strong and hard-

headed family. -

lie is a Cautious historian and generalises but little: When means of :transit were slow, dear, and difficult, small neigh- bourhoods inter-married among themselves, and life in one town differed from life in another far more than it does now, but in Massachusetts hardship; at least, was general, and conditions were- sordid. Lonely farnis were overcrowded, having but two or three rooms. In winter people slept in their day-clothes for warmth. The food- was coarse and not always plentifut.WOrk was, of necessity; ceaseless. Puritan ideals prevailed, and worship was considered to be a sufficient relaxation for a sinful world. Pleasure was not countenanced, though, of course, it was snatched at, in secret. Alcohol was the only mundane consolation openly permitted. " At least one out-and-out drunkard " was, we are told, to be found in almost every family, yet the standard of sexual morality was high. The women, of course, did not drink.

Men delighted in a fierce sort of justice, punishments were terrible, beginning in childhood, when work began also. It was considered good for the scholars in a Boston school to watch " the discipline of the post," when sometimes as many as sixteen men and women would be flogged amid the uproar of lookers on. Execution by burning was not unknown : a man had his ears cropped for forgery as late as 1801.

But human nature will out. In the strictest times there is record of a rebel minority. There were boys who would be boys, there were pretty sisters who would flirt, sceptics who sneered at religion, and men and women who took divorce into their own hands. For instance, in many churches a great square pew, or pen, was constructed where the little boys of the congregation were herded together, shepherded by a man with a stick. lie could not, however, maintain order, for these enclosures were known as " the devil's playhouses." At wedding times, brides had scripture warrant for not for- getting their ornaments. Church was the only meeting-place, and a pause was made in the service during which the newly- married couple solemnly turned round and round and displayed their finery. The strictest elders sanctioned some relaxation in honour of the supreme moment in two young lives. Vanity

was winked at for once. Other and coarser recognitions of -their new relations were permitted by the-public- opinion of rebel minorities.

Wives were not always dutiful. We hear of one who adver- tised in 1785 that she had lost her husband and whoever had

now got him would be rewarded if they would Only keep him. -There was a good deal of tight-lipped joking, too, to which the baptismal registers bear record. In the days- when grave men gave- their sons- such names as "Praise-God " others merrily jested beside the font. Mr. New had two sons chris- tened " Nothing " and " Something " Mr. Carrot called his boy " Christmas." " AlyMys " is a strange Christian name found in conjunction with the surname of " Gentle." During the French Revolution it was the fashion at Harvard to take new first names such as " Danton " and " Robespierre." 'There was a time when only one boy in Bowdoin College would declare himself a Christian and the majority of the, young wise- acres-in-rebellion gave orthodox Christianity but two genera- tions to live !

Slavery was not unknown in Boston, though many Bos- tonians of to-day do not realize the fact. Here is an adver- tisement published in the year 1781 :—

" To be Sold, an extraordinarily likely Negro Wench, 17 years old, she can be warranted to be strong, healthy and good natured, has no 'sense of Freedome, has been always used to a farmer's kitchen and dairy, and is not known to have any failing, but being with child,

which is the only cause of her being sold." .

Ai prosperity increased and the " up jog " began, the -uncertainty of life and the certainty of death occupied men's thoughts less exclusively. Inventions and discoveries fascin- ated the eyes of the American world. Here is an odd bit of prophecy bursting from the pen of a man who had just heard of photography ;—

" It appears to me not less wonderful that light should be made an active operating power in this manner, than that some such effect should be produced by sound ; and who knows whether, in this age of invention and discoveries, we may not be called upon to marvel at the exhibition of a tree, a horse, or a ship produced by the human voice muttering over a metal plate, prepared in the same or some other manner, the words tree horse ' and ship.' How greatly ashamed of their ignorance the bye-gone generations of mankind ought to be ! "

After the war of the North and South came a period of feverish material activity. People eared for money above all things, but that period, according to Mr. Train, has been long over. He draws an interesting picture of present conditions. " The Puritan " has made progress. He has become more humane because he is, so to speak, in better circumstances, and ease has softened his heart, especially towards his children; but in America, though he may alter his dress, his manner and his superficial habits, he will never change essentially. In the mind of this historian the wish cannot be regarded as father to the thought. Mr. Train has a strange and very naive grudge against his puritan inheritance. It leads him, he naively tells us, to lead a stricter life than he sees reason for, and, we gather, to fear deeply a stern Creator in whose existence he has intellectually but a very vague faith.