The Norton Book of American Autobiography available in Hardcover
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- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
"The essential American form of expression."from the Introduction by Jay Parini
From Mary Rowlandson's story of her capture by Indians in the mid-seventeenth century to Mary Paik Lee's story of being a pioneer Korean woman in America at the beginning of the twentieth century, the autobiographical form has provided our most vivid, intimate glimpses of daily American life and self-understanding.
In this groundbreaking anthology, respected writer and critic Jay Parini brings together an abundant selection from over three centuries of "the democratic voice . . . discovering itself." Here are the voices of the Founding Fathers and African American slaves; of transcendentalists and suffragists; of ancestors such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Mark Twain, Henry James, Helen Keller, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, and many others; and of a wide range of contemporaries, including Maxine Hong Kingston, Gore Vidal, Julia Alvarez, and Mark Doty.
The rich, continuous influence of autobiographical writing in our culture is clear, and as memoirs continue to fascinate readers, this invaluable anthology provides an essential guide to our foremost American literary tradition.
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About the Author
Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College. Parini's recent books include The Last Station, Benjamin's Crossing, and Some Necessary Angels: Essays on Writing and Politics.
Gore Vidal (1925-2012) was an American novelist and critic. His recent books include his collected essays, United States, and a novel, The Smithsonian.
Read an Excerpt
Relatively little is known about Mary Rowlandson, who was born in England and migrated to the New World with her father, John White. She married Joseph Rowlandson, a minister, in 1656. But her life changed on February 10, 1676, when she and her three children were captured by the Wampanoag Indian leader, Matocomet. The story of her captivity by Indians was issued in 1682, entitled The Sovereignty and Goodness of God ... Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. This memoir is governed by a deeply religious sensibility; indeed, Rowlandson underwent a profound transformation during the eleven weeks of her captivity. Rowlandson's sorrow is evident here: she deeply misses her husband and the two of three children who were taken away from her during the captivity period. Through the negotiations of her husband, Rowlandson and her two surviving children (one died in captivity) were released.
Rowlandson's story offers the first detailed account of a woman's experience of being captured by Indians. A tough-minded, independent woman, she never lost her faith in God while dwelling in a "lively semblance of hell." Her voice is singularone of the first strong voices of a woman writing about her experience in North Americaand her memoir became a model for later writers, who often wrote about periods of crisis that were also times of spiritual transformation.
FROM The True History of the Captivity and
Deliverance of MaryRowlandson
On the tenth of February came the Indians with great numbers upon Lancaster: Their first coming was about sunrise; hearing the noise of some guns, we looked out; several houses were burning, and the smoke ascending to Heaven. There were five persons taken in one house, the father, and the mother, and one sucking child they knocked on the head; the other two they took and carried away, and there were two others, who being out of the garrison upon some occasion, were set upon, one was knocked on the head, the other escaped, another there was who running along was shot and wounded, and fell down; he begged of them his life, promising them money, (as they told me) but they would not hearken to him, but knocked him in head, striped him naked, and split open his bowels. Another seeing many of the Indians about his barn, ventured and went out, but was quickly shot down. There were three others belonging to the same garrison who were killed; the Indians getting up upon the roof of the barn, had advantage to shoot down upon them over their fortification. Thus these murderous wretches went on burning and destroying before them.
At length they came and beset our own house, and quickly it was the dolefullest day that ever mine eyes saw. The house stood upon the edge of a hill; some of the Indians got behind the hill, others in the barn, and others behind any thing that would shelter them; from all which places they shot against the house, so that the bullets seemed to fly like hail; and quickly they wounded one man among us, then another, and then a third. About two hours (according to my observation in that amazing time) they had been about the house before they prevailed to fire it, (which they did with flax and hemp which they brought out of the barn, and there being no defence about the house, only two flankers at two opposite corners, and one of them not finished) they fired it once and one ventured out and quenched it, but they quickly fired it again, and that took. Now is that dreadful hour come, that I have often heard of, (in the time of the war, as it was the case of others) but now mine eyes see it. Some in our house were fighting for their lives, others wallowing in their blood, the house on fire over our heads, and the bloody heathen ready to knock us on the head if we stirred out. Now might we hear mothers and children crying out for themselves, and one another, Lord what shall we do! Then I took my children (and one of my sisters heirs) to go forth and leave the house: But as soon as we came to the door, and appeared, the Indians shot so thick that the bullets rattled against the house, as if one had taken a handful of stones and threw them so that we were forced to give back. We had six stout dogs belonging to our garrison, but none of them would stir, though another time, if an Indian had come to the door, they were ready to fly upon him and tear him down. The Lord hereby would make us the more to acknowledge his hand, and to see that our help is always in him. But out we must go, the fire increasing, and coming along behind us, roaring, and the Indians gaping before us with their guns, spears, and hatchets to devour us. No sooner were we out of the house, but my brother in law (being before wounded in defending the house, in or near the throat) fell down dead, whereat the Indians scornfully shouted, and halloed, and were presently upon him, stripping off his cloaths. The bullets flying thick, one went through my side, and the same (as would seem) through the bowels and hand of my poor child in my arms. One of my elder sisters children (named William) had then his leg broke, which the Indians perceiving, they knocked him on head. Thus were we butchered by those merciless heathens, standing amazed, with the blood running down to our heels. My elder sister being yet in the house, and seeing those woful sights, the infidels hauling mothers one way, and children another, and some wallowing in their blood: And her eldest son telling her that her son William was dead, and myself was wounded, she said, and Lord let me die with them: Which was no sooner said, but she was struck with a bullet, and fell down dead over the threshold. I hope she is reaping the fruit of her good labors, being faithful to the service of God in her place. In her younger years she lay under much trouble upon spiritual accounts, till it pleased God to make that precious scripture take hold of her heart, 2 Cor. 12, 9. And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee. More than twenty years after I have heard her tell how sweet and comfortable that place was to her. But to return; The Indians laid hold of us, pulling me one way, and the children another, and said, come go along with us. I told them they would kill me; they answered, if I were willing to go along with them they would not hurt me.
Oh! the doleful sight that now was to behold at this house! come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth. Of thirty seven persons who were in this one house, none escaped either present death, or a bitter captivity, save only one, who might say as he, Job, 1. 15. And I only am escaped alone to tell the news. There were twelve killed, some shot, some stabbed with their spears, some knocked down with their hatchets. When we are in prosperity, Oh the little that we think of such dreadful sights, to see our dear friends and relations lie bleeding out their hearts blood upon the ground. There was one who was choped into the head with a hatchet, and striped naked and yet was crawling up and down. It is a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some here and some there, like a company of sheep torn by wolves. All of them striped naked by a company of hell hounds, roaring, singing, ranting and insulting, as if they would have torn our very hearts out; yet the Lord by his, Almighty Power, preserved a number of us from death, for there were twentyfour of us taken alive and carried captive.
I had often before this said, that if the Indians should come, I should chuse rather to be killed by them, than taken alive: But when it came to a trial, my mind changed; their glittering weapons so daunted my spirit, that I chose rather to go along with those (as I may say) ravenous bears, than that moment to end my days. And that I may the better declare what happened to me during that grievous captivity, I shall particularly speak of the several removes we had up and down the wilderness.
The First Remove
Now away we must go with those barbarous creatures, with our bodies wounded and bleeding, and our hearts no less than our bodies. About a mile we went that night, up upon a hill within sight of the town, where they intended to lodge. There was hard by a vacant house, deserted by the English before, for fear of the Indians, I asked them whether I might not lodge in that house that night? to which they answered, what will you love Englishmen still? This was the dolefulest night that ever my eyes saw. Oh the roaring, singing, dancing, and yelling of those black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell: And as miserable was the waste that was there made, of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, calves, lambs, roasting pigs, and fowls, (which they had plundered in the town) some roasting, some frying and burning, and some boyling, to feed our merciless enemies; who were joyful enough, though we were disconsolate. To add to the dolefulness of the former day, and the dismalness of the present night, my thoughts ran upon my losses and sad bereaved condition. All was gone, my husband gone, (at least separated from me, he being in the bay; and to add to my grief, the Indians told me they would kill him as he came homeward) my children gone, my relations and friends gone, our house and home, and all our comforts within door and without, all was gone, (except my life) and I knew not but the next moment that might go too.
There remained nothing to me but one poor wounded babe, and it seemed at present worse than death, that it was in such a pitiful condition, bespeaking compassion, and I had no refreshing for it, nor suitable things to revive it. Little do many think, what is the savageness and brutishness of this barbarous enemy, even those that seem to profess more than others among them, when the English have fallen into their hands.
Those seven that were killed at Lancaster the summer before upon a Sabbath day, and the one that was afterwards killed upon a week day, were slain and mangled in a barbarous manner, by one eyed John and Marlborough's praying Indians, which Capt. Mosely brought to Boston, as the Indians told me.
The Second Remove
But now (the next morning) I must turn my back upon the town, and travel with them into the vast and desolate wilderness, I know now whither. It is not my tongue or pen can express the sorrows of my heart, and bitterness of my spirit, that I had at this departure: But God was with me in a wonderful manner, carrying me along, and bearing up my spirit, that it did not quite fail. One of the Indians carried my poor wounded babe upon a horse; it went moaning all along, I shall die, I shall die. I went on foot after it, with sorrow that cannot be exprest. At length I took it off the horse, and carried it in my arms, till my strength failed, and I fell down with it. Then they set me upon a horse, with my wounded child in my lap, and there being no furniture upon the horses back, as we were going down a steep hill, we both fell over the horses head, at which they like inhuman creatures laughed, and rejoiced to see it, though I thought we should there have ended our days, as overcome with so many difficulties. But the Lord renewed my strength still, and carried me along that I might see more of his Power, yea, so much that I could never have thought of, had I not experienced it.
After this it quickly began to snow, and when night came on, they stoped: And now down I must sit in the snow, by a little fire, and a few boughs behind me, with my sick child in my lap, and calling much for water, being now (through the wound) fallen into a violent Fever. My own wound also growing so stiff, that I could scarce sit down or rise up, yet so it must be, that I must sit all this cold winter night, upon the cold snowy ground, with my sick child in my arms, looking that every hour would be the last of its life; and having no Christian friend near me, either to comfort or help me. Oh I may see the wonderful power of God, that my spirit did not utterly sink under my afflictions; still the Lord upheld me with his gracious and merciful spirit, and we were both alive to see the light of the next morning.
The Third Remove
The morning being come, they prepared to go on their way: One of the Indians got up upon a horse, and they set me up behind him, with my poor sick babe in my lap. A very wearisome and tedious day I had of it; what with my own wound, and my child being so exceeding sick, and in a lamentable condition with her wound, if might easily be judged what a poor feeble condition we were in, there being not the least crumb of refreshing that came within either of our mouths from Wednesday night to Saturday night, except only a little cold water. This day in the afternoon, about an hour by sun, we came to the place where they intended, viz. an Indian town called Wenimesset, northward of Quabaug. When we were come, Oh the number of Pagans (now merciless enemies) that there came about me, that I may say as David, Psal. 27. 13. I had fainted, unless I had believed, &c. The next day was the Sabbath: I then remembered how careless I had been of God's holy time; how many sabbaths I had lost and misspent, and how evilly I had walked in God's sight; which lay so close upon my spirit, that it was easier for me to see how righteous it was with God to cut off the thread of my life, and cast me out of his presence for ever. Yet the Lord still shewed mercy to me, and helped me; and as he wounded me with one hand, so he healed me with the other. This day there came to me one Robert Pepper, (a man belonging to Roxbury,) who was taken at Capt. Beer's fight; and had been now a considerable time with the Indians, and up with them almost as far as Albany, to see King Philip, as he told me, and was now very lately come with them into these parts. Hearing I say, that I was in this Indian town he obtained leave to come and see me. He told me he himself was wounded in the leg at Capt. Beer's fight; and was not able sometimes to go but as they carried him, and that he took oak leaves and laid to his wound, and by the blessing of God, he was able to travel again. Then I took oak leaves and laid to my side, and with the blessing of God, it cured me also; yet before the cure was wrought, I may say as it is in Psal. 38. 5, 6. My wounds stink and are corrupt, I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long. I sat much alone with my poor wounded child in my lap, which moaned night and day, having nothing to revive the body, or cheer the spirits of her; but instead of that, one Indian would come and tell me one hour, your master will knock your child on the head, and then a second, and then a third, your master will quickly knock your child on the head.
This was the comfort I had from them; miserable comforters were they all. Thus nine days I sat upon my knees, with my babe in my lap, till my flesh was raw again. My child being even ready to depart this sorrowful world, they bid me carry it out to another wigwam; (I suppose because they would not be troubled with such spectacles) whither I went with a very heavy heart, and down I sat with the picture of death in my lap. About two hours in the night, my sweet babe like a lamb departed this life, on Feb. 18. 1675. it being about six years and five months old. It was nine days from the first wounding, in this miserable condition, without any refreshing of one nature or other, except a little cold water. I cannot but take notice how at another time I could not bear to be in the room where any dead person was, but now the case is changed; I must, and could lie down by my dead babe all the night after. I have thought since of the wonderful goodness of God to me, in preserving me so in the use of my reason and senses, in that distressed time, that I did not use wicked and violent means to end my own miserable life. In the morning, when they understood that my child was dead, they sent for me home to my masters wigwam: (By my master in this writing, must be understood Qunnaopin, who was a saggamore, and married K. Philip's wives sister; not that he first took me, but I was sold to him by a Narraganset Indian, who took me when I first came out of the garrison) I went to take up my dead child in my arms to carry it with me, but they bid me let it alone: There was no resisting, but go I must and leave it. When I had been a while at my masters wigwam, I took the first opportunity I could get, to go look after my dead child: When I came, I asked them what they had done with it? they told me it was upon the hill; then they went and shewed me where it was, where, I saw the ground was newly digged, and where they told me they had buried it; there I left that child in the wilderness, and, and must commit it and myself also in this wilderness condition, to him who is above all. God having taken away this dear child, I went to see my daughter Mary, who was at this same Indian town, at a wigwam not very far off, though we had little liberty or opportunity to see one another; she was about ten years old, and taken from the door at first by a praying Indian, and afterward sold for a gun. When I came in sight, she would fall a weeping, at which they were provoked, and would not let me come near her, but bid me be gone; which was a heart cutting word to me. I had one child dead, another in the wilderness, I knew not where, the third they would not let me come near to; Me (as he said) have ye bereaved of my children, Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin also, all these things are against me. I could not sit still in this condition, but kept walking from one place to another. And as I was going along, my heart was even overwhelmed with the thoughts of my condition, and that I should have children, and a nation that I knew not, ruled over them. Whereupon I earnestly intreated the Lord that he would consider my low estate, and shew me a token for good, and if it were his blessed will, some sign and hope of some relief. And indeed quickly the Lord answered, in some measure, my poor prayer: For as I was going up and down mourning and lamenting my condition, my son came to me, and asked me how I did? I had not seen him before, since the destruction of the town; and I knew not where he was, till I was informed by himself, that he was amongst a smaller parcel of Indians, whose place was about six miles off, with tears in his eyes, he asked me whether his sister Sarah was dead? and told me he had seen his sister Mary; and prayed me, that I would not be troubled in reference to himself. The occasion of his coming to see me at this time was this: There was, as I said, about six miles from us, a small plantation of Indians, where it seems he had been, during his captivity; and at this time, there were some forces of the Indians gathered out of our company, and some also from them, (amongst whom was my sons master) to go to assault and burn Medfield: In this time of his masters absence, his dame brought him to see me. I took this to be some gracious answer to my earnest and unfeigned desire. The next day the Indians returned from Medfield: (all the company, for those that belonged to the other smaller company, came through the town that now we were at) but before they came to us, oh the outrageous roaring and hooping that there was! they began their din about a mile before they came to us. By their noise and hooping they signified how many they had destroyed (which was at that time twenty three) those that were with us at home, were gathered together as soon as they heard the hooping, and every time that the other went over their number, these at home gave a shout, that the very earth rang again. And thus they continued till those that had been upon the expedition were come up to the Saggamor's wigwam; and then, oh the hideous, insulting and triumphing that there was over some English mens scalps, that they had taken (as their manner is) and brought with them. I cannot but take notice of the wonderful mercy of God to me in those afflictions, in sending me a bible: One of the Indians that came from Medfield fight, and had brought some plunder, came to me, and asked me if I would have a bible, he had got one in his basket, I was glad of it, and asked him if he thought the Indians would let me read? he answered yes? so I took the bible, and in that melancholy time it came into my mind to read first the 28th, Chap. of Deuteronomy, which I did, and when I had read it, my dark heart wrought on this manner, that there was no mercy for me, that the blessings were gone, and the curses came in their room, and that I had lost my opportunity. But the Lord helped me still to go on reading, till I came to chap. 30. the seven first verses; where I found there was mercy promised again, if we would return to him, by repentance; and though we were scattered from one end of the earth to the other, yet the Lord would gather us together, and turn all those curses upon our enemies. I do not desire to live to forget this scripture, and what comfort it was to me.
Now the Indians began to talk of removing from this place, some one way, and some another. There were now besides myself nine English captives in this place, (all of them children except one woman) I got an opportunity to go and take my leave of them; they being to go one way, and I another. I asked them whether they were earnest with God for deliverance, they all told me they did as they were able, and it was some comfort to me, that the Lord stirred up children to look to him. The woman, viz good wife Joslin, told me, she should never see me again, and that she could find in her heart to run away: I desired her not to run away by any means, for we were near thirty miles from any English town, and she very big with child, having but one week to reckon; and another child in her arms two years old, and bad rivers there were to go over, and we were feeble with our poor and coarse entertainment. I had my bible with me, I pulled it out, and asked her whether she would read; we opened the bible, and lighted on Psal. 27. in which psalm we especially took notice of that verse, Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart, wait I say on the Lord.
The Fourth Remove
And now must I part with that little company that I had. Here I parted from my daughter Mary, (whom I never saw again till I saw her in Dorchester, returned from captivity) and from four little cousins and neighbors, some of which I never saw afterward, the Lord only knows the end of them. Among them also was that poor woman before mentioned, who came to a sad end, as some of the company told me in my travel: She having much grief upon her Spirits, about her miserable condition, being so near her time, she would be often asking the Indians to let her go home; they not being willing to that, and yet vexed with her importunity, gathered a great company together about her, and striped her naked, and set her in the midst of them; and when they had sung and danced about her (in their hellish manner) as long as they pleased, they knocked her on the head, and the child in her arms with her: When they had done that, they made a fire and put them both into it, and told the other children that were with them, that if they attempted to go home, they would serve them in like manner. The children said she did not shed one tear, but prayed all the while. But to return to my own journey: We travelled about half a day or a little more, and came to a desolate place in the wilderness, where there were no wigwams or inhabitants before: We came about the middle of the afternoon to this place; cold, wet, snowy, hungry, and weary, and no refreshing (for man) but the cold ground to sit on, and our poor Indian cheer.
Heart acheing thoughts here I had about my poor children, who were scattered up and down among the wild beasts of the forest: My head was light and dissy, (either through hunger or hard lodging, or trouble, or altogether) my knees feeble, my body raw by sitting double night and day, that I cannot express to man, the affliction that lay upon my spirit, but the Lord helped me at that time to express it to himself. I opened my bible to read, and the Lord brought that precious scripture to me, Jer. 31. 16. Thus saith the Lord, refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall be rewarded, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. This was a sweet cordial to me, when I was ready to faint, many and many a time have I sat down, and wept sweetly over this scripture. At this place we continued about four days.
The Fifth Remove
The occasion (as I thought) of their moving at this time, was the English Army's being near and following them: For they went as if they had gone for their lives, for some considerable way; and then they made a stop, and chose out some of their stoutest men, and sent them back to hold the English Army in play whilst the rest escaped; and then like Jehu they marched on furiously, with their old and young: Some carried their old decriped mothers, some carried one and some another. Four of them carried a great Indian upon a bier; but going through a thick wood with him, they were hindered, and could make no haste; whereupon they took him upon their backs, and carried him one at a time, till we came to Bacquag River. Upon a Friday a little after noon we came to this river: When all the company was come up, and were gathered together, I thought to count the number of them, but they were so many, and being somewhat in motion, it was beyond my skill. In this travel, because of my wound, I was somewhat favored in my load: I carried only my knittingwork, and two quarts of parched meal: Being very faint, I asked my mistress to give me one spoonful of the meal, but she would not give me a taste. They quickly fell to cutting dry trees, to make rafts to carry them over the river, and soon my turn came to go over. By the advantage of some brush which they had laid upon the raft to sit on, I did not wet my foot, (which many of themselves at the other end were mid leg deep) which cannot but be acknolwedged as a favor of God to my weakened Body, it being a very cold time. I was not before acquainted with such kind of doings, or dangers. When thou passeth through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee. Isai. 43. 2. A certain number of us got over the river that night, but it was the night after the Sabbath before all the company was got over. On the Saturday they boiled an old horse's Leg (which they had got) and so we drank of the broth, as soon as they thought it was ready, and when it was almost all gone, they filled it up again.
The first week of my being among them, I hardly eat any thing: The second week I found my stomach grew very faint for want of something; and yet it was very hard to get down their filthy trash; but the third week (though I could think how formerly my stomach would turn against this or that, and I could starve and die before I could eat such things,) yet they were pleasant and savory to my taste. I was at this time knitting a pair of white cotten stockings for my mistress, and I had not yet wrought upon the Sabbath Day: when the Sabbath came, they bid me go to work; I told them it was Sabbath day, and desired them to let me rest, and told them I would do as much more tomorrow; to which they answered me, they would break my face. And here I cannot but take notice of the strange Providence of God in preserving the heathen: They were many hundreds, old and young, some sick and some lame, many had papooses at their backs, the greatest number (at this time with us) were Squaws, and they travelled with all they had, bag and baggage, and yet they got over this river aforesaid; and on Monday they set their wigwams on fire, and away they went; on that very day came the English Army after them to this river, and saw the smoak of their wigwams, and yet this river put a stop to them. God did not give them courage or activity to go over after us; we were not ready for so great a mercy as victory and deliverance; if we had been, God would have found out a way for the English to have passed this River, as well as for the Indians with their Squaws and children, and all their luggage. Oh that my people had hearkened to me, and Israel had walked in my ways, I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. Psal. 81. 13, 14.
The Sixth Remove
On Monday (as I said) they set their wigwams on fire, and went away. It was a cold morning, and before us there was a great brook with ice on it: Some waded through it, up to the knees and higher, but others went till they came to a beaver dam, and I amongst them, where through the good providence of God, I did not wet my foot. I went along that day, mourning and lamenting (leaving farther my own country, and travelling farther into the vast and howling wilderness) and I understood something of Lot's wife's temptation, when she looked back: We came that day to a great swamp, by the side of which we took up our lodging that night. When we came to the brow of the hill that looked toward the swamp, I thought we had come to a great Indian town. (Though there were none but our own company) the Indians were as thick as the trees; it seemed as if there had been a thousand hatchets going at once: If one looked before one, there was nothing but Indians, and behind one, nothing but Indians; and so on either hand: And I myself in the midst, and no christian soul near me, and yet how hath the Lord preserved me in safety! Oh the experience that I have had of the goodness of God to me and mine!
The Seventh Remove
After a restless and hungry night there, we had a wearisome time of it the next day. The swamp by which we lay, was as it were a deep dungeon, and an exceeding high and steep hill before it. Before I got to the top of the hill, I thought my heart and legs and all would have broken, and failed me. What through faintness and soreness of body, it was a grievous day of travel to me. As we went along, I saw a place where English cattle had been, that was comfort to me, such as it was; quickly after that we came to an English path, which so took with me, that I thought I could there have freely lain down and died. That day, a little after noon, we came to Squauheag, where the Indians quickly spread themselves over the deserted English fields, gleaning what they could find; some picked up ears of wheat, that were crinckled down, some found ears of Indian corn, some found ground nuts, and others sheaves of wheat that were frozen together in the shock, and went to threshing of them out. Myself got two ears of Indian corn, and whilst I did but turn my back, one of them was stolen from me, which much troubled me. There came an Indian to them at that time, with a basket of horse liver; I asked him to give me a piece: What (says he) can you eat horse liver? I told him I would try if he would give me a piece, which he did; and I laid it on the coals to roast, but before it was half ready, they got half of it away from me; so that I was forced to take the rest and eat it as it was, with the blood about my mouth, and yet a savory bit it was to me; for to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. A solemn sight me thought it was, to see whole fields of wheat and Indian corn forsaken and spoiled, and the remainder of them to be food for our merciless Enemies. That night we had a mess of wheat for our supper.
The Eighth Remove
On the morrow morning we must go over Connecticut river to meet with King Philip; two canoes full they had carried over, the next turn myself was to go; but as my foot was upon the canoe to step in, there was a sudden outcry among them, and I must step back; and instead of going over the river, I must go four or five miles up the river farther Northward. Some of the Indians ran one way, and some another. The cause of this rout was, as I thought, their espying some English scouts, who were thereabouts. In this travel up the river, about noon the company made a stop, and sat down, some to eat, and others to rest them. As I sat amongst them, musing on things past, my son Joseph unexpectedly came to me: We asked of each others welfare, bemoaning our doleful condition, and the change that had come upon us: We had husband, and father, and children, and sisters, and friends, and relations, and house, and home, and many comforts of this life; but now we might say as Job, naked came I out of my mothers womb, and naked shall I return: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. I asked him whether he would read? he told me, he earnestly desired it. I gave him my bible, and he lighted upon that comfortable scripture, Psal. 118. 17, 18. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord: The Lord hath chastened me sore, yet he hath not given me over to death. Look here mother (says he) did you read this? And here I may take occasion to mention one principal ground of my setting forth these few lines, even as the psalmist says, to declare the works of the Lord, and his wonderful power in carrying us along, preserving us in the wilderness, while under the enemies hand, and returning of us in safety again; and his goodness in bringing to my hand so many comfortable and suitable scriptures in my distress.
But to return: We travelled on till night, and in the morning we must go over the river to Philip's crew. When I was in the canoe, I could not but be amazed at the numerous crew of Pagans that were on the bank on the other side. When I came ashore, they gathered all about me, I sitting alone in the midst: I observed they asked one another questions, and laughed, and rejoiced over their gains and victories. Then my heart began to fail, and I fell a weeping; which was the first time, to my remembrance, that I wept before them; although I had met with so much affliction, and my heart was many times ready to break, yet could I not shed one tear in their sight, but rather had been all this while in a maze, and like one astonished; but now I may say as Psal. 137. 1. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. There one of them asked me, why I wept? I could hardly tell what to say; yet I answered, they would kill me: No, said he, none will hurt you. Then came one of them, and gave me two spoonfuls of meal (to comfort me) and another gave me half a pint of pease, which was more worth than many bushels at another time. Then I went to see King Philip; he bid me come in, and sit down; and asked me whether I would smoke it? (a usual complement now a days, among Saints and Sinners) but this no way suited me. For though I had formerly used tobacco, yet I had left it ever since I was first taken. It seems to be a bait, the devil lays to make men lose their precious time. I remember with shame, how formerly, when I had taken two or three pipes, I was presently ready for another; such a bewitching thing it is: But I thank God, he has now given me power over it; surely there are many who may be better employed, than to sit sucking a stinking tobacco pipe.
Now the Indians gather their Forces to go against Northampton: Over night one went about yelling and hooting to give notice of the design. Whereupon they went to boiling of ground nuts, and parching of corn (as many as had it) for their provision; and in the Morning away they went. During my abode in this place, Philip spake to me to make a shirt for his boy, which I did; for which he gave me a shilling; I offered the money to my master, but he bid me keep it, and with it I bought a piece of horse flesh. Afterward he asked me to make a cap for his boy, for which he invited me to dinner: I went, and he gave me a pancake, about as big as two fingers; it was made of parched wheat, beaten, and fryed in bears grease, but I thought I never tasted pleasanter meat in my life. There was a Squaw who spake to me to make a shirt for her sannup; for which she gave me a piece of bear. Another asked me to knit a pair of stockings, for which she gave me a quart of pease. I boiled my pease and bear together, and invited my master and mistress to dinner; but the proud gossip, because I served them both in one dish, would eat nothing, except one bit that he gave her upon the point of his knife. Hearing that my son was come to this place, I went to see him, and found him lying flat upon the ground; I asked him how he could sleep so? he answered me, that he was not asleep, but at prayer; and that he lay so, that they might not observe what he was doing. I pray God he may remember these things now he is returned in safety. At this place, (the Sun now getting higher) what with the beams and heat of the Sun, and the smoke of the wigwams, I thought I should have been blind. I could scarce discern one wigwam from another. There was here one Mary Thurston of Medfield, who seeing how it was with me, lent me a hat to wear; but as soon as I was gone, the Squaw who owned that Mary Thurston, came running after me, and got it away again. Here was a Squaw who gave me a spoonful of meal, I put it in my pocket to keep it safe, yet notwithstanding somebody stole it, but put five Indian corns in the room of it; which corns were the greatest provision I had in my travel for one day.
THE NINTH REMOVE
But instead of going either to Albany or homeward we must go five miles up the river, and then go over it. Here we abode a while. Here lived a sorry Indian, who spake to me to make him a shirt, when I had done it, he would pay me nothing for it. But he living by the river side, where I often went to fetch water, I would often be putting of him in mind, and calling for my pay; at last he told me, if I would make another shirt for a papoos not yet born, he would give me a knife, which he did, when I had done it. I carried the knife in, and my master asked me to give it him, and I was not a little glad that I had any thing that they would accept of, and be pleased with. When we were at this place, my master's maid came home; she had been gone three weeks into the Narraganset country to fetch corn, where they had stored up some in the ground: She brought home about a peck and a half of corn. This was about the time that their great captain (Naananto) was killed in the Narraganset country.
My son being now about a mile from me, I asked liberty to go and see him, they bid me go, and away I went; but quickly lost myself, travelling over hills and through swamps, and could not find the way to him. And I cannot but admire at the wonderful power and goodness of God to me, in that though I was gone from home, and met with all sorts of Indians, and those I had no knowledge of, and there being no christian soul near me, yet not one of them offered the least imaginable miscarriage to me. I turned homeward again, and met with my master, and he shewed me the way to my son. When I came to him, I found him, not well; and withall he had a bile on his side, which much troubled him: We bemoaned one another a while, as the Lord helped us, and then I returned, again. When I was returned I found myself as unsatisfied as I was before. I went up and down mourning and lamenting, and my spirit was ready to sink, with the thoughts of my poor children; my son was ill, and I could not but think of his mournful looks, having no christian friend near him, to do any office of love for him, either for soul or body. And my poor girl, I knew not where she was, nor whether she was sick, or well, or alive or dead. I repaired under these thoughts to my bible, (my great comforter in that time) and that scripture came to my hand, Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee, Psal. 55.22.
But I was fain to go and look after something to satisfy my hunger: And going among the wigwams, I went into one, and there found a Squaw who shewed herself very kind to me, and gave me a piece of bear. I put it into my pocket, and came home; but could not find an opportunity to broil it, for fear they should get it from me; and there it lay all that day and night in my stinking pocket. In the morning I went again to the same Squaw, who had a kettle of ground nuts boiling: I asked her to let me boil my piece of bear in her kettle, which she did, and gave me some ground nuts to eat with it, and I cannot but think how pleasant it was to me. I have sometimes seen bear baked handsomely amongst the English, and some liked it, but the thoughts that it was bear, made me tremble: But now that was savory to me that one would think was enough to turn the stomach of a brute creature.
One bitter cold day, I could find no room to sit down before the fire: I went out, and could not tell what to do, but I went into another wigwam, where they were also sitting round the fire; but the Squaw laid a skin for me, and bid me sit down, and gave me some ground nuts, and bid me come again; and told me they would buy me, if they were able; and yet these were strangers to me that I never knew before.
The Tenth Remove
That day a small part of the company removed about three quarters of a mile, intending farther the next day. When they came to the place where they intended to lodge, and had pitched their wigwams, being hungry I went again back to the place we were before at, to get something to eat; being encouraged by the Squaw's kindness, who bid me come again. When I was there, there came an Indian to look after me; who when he had found me, kicked me all along. I went home and found venison roasting that night, but they would not give me one bit of it. Sometimes I met with favors, and sometimes with nothing but frowns.
The Eleventh Remove
The next day in the morning, they took their travel, intending a days Journey up the river; I took my load at my back, and quickly we came to wade over a river, and passed over tiresome and wearisome hills. One hill was so steep, that I was fain to creep up upon my knees, and to hold by the twigs and bushes to keep myself from falling backward. My head also was so light that I usually reeled as I went, but, I hope all those wearisome steps that I have taken, are but a forwarding of me to the heavenly rest. I know O Lord, that thy Judgments are right and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me, Psal. 119.75.
The Twelfth Remove
It was upon a Sabbath day morning, that they prepared for their travel. This morning I asked my master whether he would sell me to my husband? he answered nux; which did much rejoice my spirit. My mistress, before we went, was gone to the burial of a papoos, and returning, she found me sitting, and reading in my bible: She snatched it hastily out of my hand, and threw it out of doors; I ran out and catched it up, and put it in my pocket, and never let her see it afterward. Then they packed up their things to be gone, and gave me my load: I complained it was too heavy, whereupon she gave me a slap on the face, and bid me be gone. I lifted up my heart to God, hoping that redemption was not far off; and the rather because their insolency grew worse and worse.
Table of Contents
|Mary Rowlandson (CA||1635-1711) from The True History of the|
|Captivity and Deliverance of Mary Rowlandson||23|
|Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) from The Life and Character of|
|the Late Rev. Mr. Jonathan Edwards||39|
|Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) from The Autobiography of|
|Elizabeth Ashbridge (1713-1755) from Some Account of the|
|Fore-Part of the Life of Elizabeth Ashbridge||63|
|Black Hawk (1767-1838) from An Autobiography||80|
|Harriet Jacobs (CA||1813-1897) from Incidents in the Life of|
|a Slave Girl||94|
|Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) from Eighty Years and|
|More: Reminiscences, 1815-1897||100|
|Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882) from Two Years before the Mast||110|
|Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) from Walden||123|
|Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) from My Bondage and My Freedom||135|
|Walt Whitman (1819-1892) from Specimen Days in America||151|
|U. S. Grant (1822-1885) from Memoirs||165|
|Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1824-1907) from Behind the Scenes;|
|or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House||174|
|Lucy Larcom (1824-1893) from A New EnglandGirlhood||185|
|Mark Twain (1835-1910) from Life on the Mississippi||197|
|Mary Ann Webster Loughborough (1836-1887) from My Cave Life|
|Henry Adams (1838-1918) from The Education of Henry Adams||219|
|Henry James (1843-1916) from Notes of a Son and Brother||228|
|Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) from Up from Slavery||242|
|W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) from The Souls of Black Folk||253|
|Emma Goldman (1869-1940) from Living My Life||262|
|Alexander Berkman (1870-1936) from Prison Memoirs of an|
|Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) from A Hoosier Holiday||289|
|Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) from The Autobiography of Alice B|
|Helen Keller (1880-1968) from The Story of My Life||312|
|Mary Antin (1881-1949) from The Promised Land||323|
|Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) from Dust Tracks on a Road||333|
|Pascal D'Angelo (1894-) from Son of Italy||343|
|F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) "The Crack-Up"||357|
|Mary Paik Lee (1900-) from Quiet Odyssey||370|
|Richard Wright (1908-1960) from Black Boy||381|
|Eudora Welty (1909-) from One Writer's Beginnings||389|
|Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) from Wolf Willow||401|
|Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) from Memories of a Catholic Girlhood||407|
|Thomas Merton (1915-1968) from The Seven Storey Mountain||426|
|Alfred Kazin (1915-1998) from A Walker in the City||435|
|James Baldwin (1924-1987) from Notes of a Native Son||441|
|Gore Vidal (1925-) from Palimpsest||450|
|Malcolm X (1925-1965) with the assistance of Alex Haley|
|(1921-1992) from The Autobiography of Malcolm X||466|
|Gay Talese (1932-) from Unto the Sons||480|
|Harry Crews (1935-) from A Childhood: The Biography of a Place||489|
|Vivian Gornick (1935-) from Fierce Attachments||495|
|Frank Conroy (1936-) from Stop-Time||501|
|Joyce Carol Oates (1938-) "A Letter to My Mother Carolina|
|Oates on Her 78th Birthday November 8, 1995"||509|
|Maxine Hong Kingston (1940-) from The Woman Warrior||519|
|Samuel F. Pickering, Jr. (1941-) "Son and Father"||526|
|Erica Jong (1942-) from Fear of Fifty||541|
|James Alan McPherson (1943-) from "Going Up to Atlanta"||549|
|Richard Rodriguez (1944-) from Days of Obligation||568|
|Paul Monette (1945-1995) from Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir||586|
|Annie Dillard (1945-) from An American Childhood||593|
|Scott Russell Sanders (1945-) "Buckeye"||599|
|Kathleen Norris (1947-) from The Cloister Walk||605|
|John Elder (1947-) from Reading the Mountains of Home||612|
|Julia Alvarez (1950-) "Picky Eater"||619|
|Bell Hooks (1952-) from Bone Black||627|
|Luis J. Rodríguez (1954-) from Always Running||632|
|Mary Karr (1954-) from The Liars' Club||650|
|Terry Tempest Williams (1955-) from Refuge: An Unnatural|
|History of Family and Place||657|
|Hilton Als (1961-) from The Women||668|
|Alane Salierno Mason (1964-) "Respect"||675|
|Sherman Alexie (1966-) from First Indian on the Moon||687|
|Elizabeth Wurtzel (1967-) "Parental Guidance Suggested"||692|