It is interesting that out of the sentimentality, prudery and languid artifice to which American femininity was subjected in the early 19th century, such free-thinking free spirits emerged, notably Mary Baker Eddy, who in spite of her formidable accomplishment was actually a woman of great charm. And frailty-- evident from the undefined ill health of her youth to the undiagnosed ""dyspepsia"" that followed it and the more or less chronic invalidism which of course prompted her synthesis of belief in the faith she founded, Christian Science. Peel, a historian first, adherent only secondarily, without ""parti pris interpretation,"" traces the first half of her life which ends with the publication of her Science and Health, one hundred years ago. He previously wrote Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture (1958) and is only the second person to have had access to the Archives of the Mother Church. Most exhaustively he re-traces the facts of her life that were factors in her debilitation and led her to formulate the idea that the ""mortal mind produced all disease,"" confirmed after her transference to and later dependence on healer Quimby. Peel also uses her own works extensively to document the development of her thoughts through the years, questioning its final resolution after the accident with the miraculous recovery and even more miraculous discovery of a faith on which to found a church. Certainly a much stronger book than Beasley's adulatory portrait in 1963 (Mary Baker Eddy-Duell, Sloan & Pearce) and the still more parochial publications of the Christian Science Publ. Society.