THE GENTLE RADICAL: A Biography of Roger Williams by Cyclone Covey

THE GENTLE RADICAL: A Biography of Roger Williams

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Professor Covey is a man of many interests, and this remarkable contribution to our knowledge of colonial thought is obviously a labor of love and scholarship. Nevertheless, the book will not take the place of Brockunier's standard (1940) study of Williams nor of Ola Elizabeth Winslow's later (1957) biography. First of all, only the earlier part of Williams' complicated career is covered; the last forty years of growth and change, and his publications, apparently await another volume. The part covered is indeed treated ""in depth."" Most readers will find that they are struggling not only through much detailed church history, colonial politics, and Indian wars, but also through biographies of Williams' contemporaries. The style makes the process even more difficult as sentence after sentence has to be reread in an effort to grasp the sense. Some of these stylistic individualities are amusing: no one should mind taking a few minutes to place a man's ""posthumous father-in-law""; more frequently the way through clauses is merely tedious. On the other hand, readers with a scholarly interest in the seventeenth century will appreciate Dr. Covey's use of primary sources, his scrupulous attempt to be fair, and his service in having unearthed and made available in one convenient volume information about less known colonial figures. Dr. Covey has also accomplished one end that may surprise him: after reading through The Gentle Radical, even a scorner of Cotton Mather may thing longingly of the latter's summary of Williams as the man ""with a windmill in his head.

Publisher: Macmillan