A Da Capo Original: From the acclaimed author of A Delusion of Satan, a unique gathering of firsthand accounts about the background, course, and repercussions of the Salem witch trials.
Hill takes on the ambitious task of compiling a text that will present the broadest possible outlook on the events in Salem in the early 1690s. Starting with excerpts from texts on witchcraft as early as the 15th century through to the work of both Increase and Cotton Mather, Hill moves on to texts that attempt to give a historical sense of a Puritan settlement beset by the fear of Indian raids. The chronicle of the witch hunt itself is told through contemporary accounts, most especially from the writings of Robert Calef, the Reverend George Burroughs (himself hanged as a witch) and extensive citations from the Reverend Samuel Parris, the Salem Village minister, whom Hill labels bluntly as a sociopath. Most valuably, perhaps, the last third of the Reader contains excerpts from historians and writers from the 17 to the end of the 20th century. The historians evaluate the witch trial experience as anything from the work of the devil to the excesses of Puritanism on a frightened settlement, from the social rivalry between an established agrarian community and rising bourgeois capitalism to poisoning by ergot, a rye fungus. Everyone has a theory; no one has a solution. The fiction writers, from Hawthorne to Arthur Miller, explore the events from their own view. Most striking, perhaps, is the inclusion of Arthur Miller's 1996 essay from the New Yorker, "Why I Wrote The Crucible," an account of his experience of a similar paranoia during the McCarthy era. Sometimes books entitled "readers" allow one to pick and chose the material to be read. This is not such a book. The sweep of this material demands a total reading. Highly recommended in combination with Carlson's A Fever in Salem, reviewedabove. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Perseus/Da Capo Press, 415p,illus, notes, bibliog, index, 23cm, 00-043163, $18.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Patricia A. Moore; Academic Resource Ctr., Emmanuel College, Boston, MA (retired) January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)