Thursday, April 06, 2006

'His writings are almost a hoax ...'

Bison Press have issued a reprint of Perry Miller's Jonathan Edwards.

Nothing stirs the mind to understand Edwards more than Miller's biography. Miller's book is a speculative intellectual adventure. Extracts like this (below) always make me think 'I wonder what Edwards really thought?' I'm fairly sure Miller didn't know - if anything is a cryptogram it is Miller's biography - but he does provoke curiosity in a way that few other writers can.

'So his second publication, like his first - and his last (Freedom of the Will) - contains an exasperating intimation of something hidden. There is a gift held back, some esoteric divination that the listener must make for himself. Edwards' writing is an immense cryptogram, the passionate oratory of the revival no less than the hard reasoning of the treatise of the will. The way he delivered his sermons is enough to confirm the suspicion that there was an occult secret in them: no display, no inflection, no consideration of the audience. ... His writings are almost a hoax, not to be read but to be seen through' (pp. 50-51).

Or the evocative descriptions with which the book is replete:

'Today, the two books are the least rewarding of Edwards' works since the issue is utterly forgotten. (The communion controversy) For sheer destructive argumentation, they are a joy to those who like that sort of thing, and if ever a man was cut into small pieces, and each piece run through a meat-grinder, it was Solomon Williams.' (p. 222)


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