AMAZING GRACE: John Newton's Story by John Charles Pollock

AMAZING GRACE: John Newton's Story

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Pollock, best known for his blandly decorous life of Billy Graham, here runs through the same edifying routine with John Newton (1725-1807), the author of Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, and other popular Protestant hymns. But as a biographical subject Newton has at least two advantages over Graham: he's dead (so there's no need to tiptoe around his vices) and he's a lot more interesting. Before his conversion, Newton was as energetically unregenerate as one could wish. In keeping with his youthful motto, ""Never deliberate,"" he plunged headlong into an adventurous career that saw him shanghaied into the Royal Navy (he later deserted but was recaptured), imprisoned by a vicious white planter in what is now Sierra Leone, and surviving diverse other perils to become a captain in the slave trade; meanwhile he was a lusty blasphemer, a foul-mouthed atheist, and a shameless (or so he said) lecher. Then he was struck by amazing grace (first, during a raging storm in the North Atlantic), born again, married, ordained in the Church of England, and lived on to a ripe old age. A familiar story, but in some ways a very good one--except that Pollock almost kills it with flatfooted moralizing (""He had not dared approach Polly. His fornications in Africa had forfeited all claim to this pure girl of his dreams, . . .""). So a book that might have had a broad religious-humanistic appeal (Newton later became an abolitionist) won't get beyond a devout Evangelical audience.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row