by Jan De Hartog ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 3, 1971
Volume one of a projected two volume novel concerned with the near-miraculous workings of the Spirit within variously situated clusters of the Society of Friends throughout four centuries, and the inevitable violence to thought and person that crowds the quiet eye of religious affirmation. Part one sets forth beginnings -- the spiritual awakening in 1652 of wealthy English matron Margaret Fell through aggressive visitations by George Fox, ""God-drunk,"" an itinerant preacher. "". . .every man carries the divine within him, and. . .it is our destiny to follow its leanings. We must receive His word direct. . . If He says do not kill, then do not kill."" The words of Fox, presumably derived from his writings, have a singular force. However, when the ""force"" of this spiritual sirocco reaches the Fell household -- and neighbors, servants and the prisoners of dreaded Lancaster Castle -- the witnesses are levitated fictionally into hasty expositions of theological battle stations and Anglo-Saxon attitudes. Margaret Fell's acts of mercy and love, particularly her comfort of an eleven year-old outcast about to be hanged, and her absorption in the prison's wretched inmates, have the strenuous piety of Sunday School texts of another era. Margaret, regrettably, is dull. (""Well. . .what it boils down to is love,"" she explains to her husband in a weary burst.) And the villain, uncomplicated evil, is a caricature one would gladly stomp down. Part two is involved with a Pennsylvanian community of wealthy slave-owning Quakers in 1754-5 and the revitalization of the Faith in the midst of the corruption of slavery, dishonorable dealing with the Indians, and hypocrisy. The conscience of one man, Boniface Baker, who frees his slaves and journeys westward, is the agent which brings about one tiny peaceable kingdom of blacks, Indians and whites, meeting and learning together. This is a busy section packed with intertwining family names past and present, atrocities, murder, unFriendly sex and some military action, as well as heroes and heroines on wilderness and soul journeys. The grand design, begun here in 677 pages, will appeal to the current concern with religious witness, and its selection as Literary Guild entry for January (plus major advertising) may establish The Peaceable Kingdom here on earth.
Pub Date: Jan. 3, 1971
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1971
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