Today we left Boston and headed west to the Berkshires, in western Massachusetts, where Herman Melville lived from 1850-1863. It was here in Pittsfield that Melville wrote what many consider to be the greatest of American novels, Moby Dick. Melville’s home-Arrowhead, as it is called-which functions as a Melville museum, was our sole stop for the day, but it was worth the detour from our Great Awakening theme.
Herman Melville’s writing career was unusual. His first book, Typee, was a semi-autobiographical tale of his whaling adventures in the South Pacific. Typee was an immediate popular success and brought Melville overnight fame. His second book, Omoo, picked up where Typee left off, but was still written as popular fiction.
In writing Moby Dick, Melville aimed higher. He wanted to produce great literature, rather than mere popular fiction, and so he wrote a book with thick with symbolism, many layers, and a message. Many believe Moby Dick to be the greatest piece of American literature ever produced. There is some disagreement as to the symbolism and the main theme of the book, but I side with those who believe Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest for the white whale is a symbol of man’s unholy pursuit of God. Moby Dick is packed with theological symbolism, starting with the name of the characters and carried through to the last act of the captivating story.
A Covid test, a Covid test; My kingdom for a Covid test. Most of the day the GSB team spent trying to figure out where to find a Covid test we could take before crossing the border into Canada that satisfied the Canadian requirements for entry and the U.S. requirements for reentry.
You would think the requirements for entry into Canada and reentry in the U.S. would be clear and easy to find in the midst of a pandemic. To the contrary, it took three highly educated people, one a lawyer, the better part of 7 hours of discussing, researching, calling, and Googling to figure it out.
Our day began with a drive to Newburyport, Massachusetts that should have lasted an hour but took nearly two because of traffic and a stop at Dunkin Donuts. If you’ve not been to Boston, you may not know Dunkin Donuts has taken dominion over Boston. We counted five on a one-mile stretch on the road out of Boston, so we felt compelled to stop and see what all the fuss was about. I’m still trying to figure it out.
We went to Newburyport because that is the location of Old South Presbyterian Church (see pic above), where George Whitefield is buried. He died there on September 30, 1770, the morning after insisting on preaching the gospel one last time as he felt he was passing from this life to the next. He was buried in a crypt under the church.
Only, we made the mistake of coming on a Saturday when the church was closed, so we could only wander around outside and did not see the crypt. It was a disappointment to be sure, but with the disappointment came a surprise: the house next door was the house where William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), one of the most influential abolitionist of his day, was born.
Today we visited Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts, suburbs of Boston where the American Revolutionary War began. Ann is a bit of a revolutionary, which I think also fuels her Reformation spirit and anti-popery, and The Wife has always considered rules mere suggestions. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that the visit to Concord and Lexington was orchestrated by them.
I went along, but only after finding some eyewitness testimony to the Great Awakening in Concord. This took the form of an anonymous letter written to a minister in 1742, which is part of Jonas Bowen Clarke’s Collection of Papers at the Congregational Library in Boston. I wisely kept the content of the letter to myself until lunch, after The Wife and Ann had fully exercised their revolutionary impulses and were ready to get back to our trip’s theme.
On the drive to Lexington and Concord, I couldn’t help but try to provoke Ann and The Wife by asking if they thought a disagreement over taxation (i.e. taxation without representation) was a valid reason for revolting against authority.
Today was a free day of sorts. I wanted to mix in some shopping, along with hitting on our Great Awakening theme. I collect fountain pens, so I decided to start the day with a trip to Bromfield Pen Shop, but when I arrived at the store, everything was boxed up and the guy in charge said they were moving up the street to a new location, and it would be two weeks before they could sell any pens. Bummer.
I then headed toward the Boston Public Library where they keep the Thomas Prince collection, which includes books from his library, as well as his correspondence. It was going to be a trek, but it seemed a worthy quest for a chance to see the actual letters and remnants of the library of this distinguished figure from the Great Awakening.
So, I walked the 30 minutes to the Boston Public Library. As I neared the library, I noticed a beautiful old church on the other side of Boylston Street; not just any church but the Old South Church! I started reading the plaque on the building, and it noted Benjamin Franklin and Sam Adams worshipped here. Then I read that this building was built in 1875, which by my reckoning is about 100 years after Franklin and Adams were roaming the streets of Boston. I’m guessing the “here” referred to the congregation. I went in and took a quick look, but I didn’t come here to see 1875; I came here to see 1740. Ugh.