Friday, December 20, 2013

The Puritan Problem with Father Christmas

© Barbara Wells Sarudy
(Re-blogged from It’s About Time with permission of the author)

Those stubborn English were just not ready to give up Father Christmas in 1652, when the Puritans decreed that the nation would give up their traditional Christmas celebrations.  It is amazing how much like today's Santa looked in the middle of the 17th century.  Some claim that the English restored the monarchy, so that they could have their Christmas celebrations back. 
Father Christmas as pictured in Josiah King’s
"The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas"

The following declaration appeared at the bottom of this woodcut.

Behold the Majestie and grace!
Of loveing, cheerfull, Christmas face.
Whome many thousands, with one breath:
Cry out, let him be put to death.
Who indeede can never die:
So long as man hath memory.

Further reading on the Puritan ban of Christmas celebrations: 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reviews for Christy K Robinson's books

Many thanks to those who have read my books on the Dyers and have posted reviews in Amazon and Goodreads; thanks as well to those who have shared the links via social media, to the paperback and Kindle editions of the books.

This is the review by Canadian author Trudy J. Morgan-Cole:

Mary Dyer: Illuminated, by Christy K. Robinson

Mary Barrett Dyer was executed in 1660 for running afoul of the religious authorities in Colonial America (which, to be fair, wasn’t hard). If you know your Colonial America, you may know Mary Dyer’s name as a pioneer of religious liberty. She’s also an ancestor of writer Christy Robinson, who has spent the last several years researching the lives of Mary, her husband William Dyer, and the worlds in which they lived both in England and after emigrating to America.
This novel, which explores Mary’s early years, is as meticulously-researched a piece of historical fiction as I’ve read in a long time. It’s heavy on the history and light on the fiction in the sense that Robinson is not a writer who would knowingly contradict a historical fact or oversimplify the complex webs of colonial-era religion and politics. However, the fictional touch is required to bring the personal elements of the story to life, to flesh out Mary, William, and other people they knew (including Mary’s more-famous, but not martyred, friend Anne Hutchinson) into real people. Robinson does this skilfully, using everyday detail to, as the title suggests, illuminate a biographical sketch into the story of a vibrant and memorable human being. Reading this novel made me eager for the next volume, which will follow Mary through the later years of her life.

Here are some recent screenshots of other reviewers' thoughts on the book.

☼☼☼☼☼  5.0 out of 5 stars Christy weaves in excellent explanations of the nuances of the theological, July 27, 2014

By Grandpa B -

Christy has done an incredible job of bringing life in 1600s England and New England to life in her historical novel Mary Dyer Illuminated. I wish that she had written this book years ago when I was still teaching high school history classes. The depth of information that she weaves into her story-telling makes it easier for us to understand the struggles of life nearly five hundred years ago. Christy's gift includes bringing the issues of religious freedom and the rights of women to the center of her story.
For most of us, if we knew anything about Mary Barrett Dyer, our knowledge was limited to the fact that she was a Quaker who was hung in the Puritan-controlled Massachusetts Bay Colony. Her story is so much more than that, and Christy brings Mary's full story to life. Along the way, Christy weaves in excellent explanations of the nuances of the theological, political and economic issues of the day. She helps us understand the difficulties in creating a new civilization in New England. But none of this interferes with her telling Mary Dyers' story.

For those of us who have ancestors from the seventeenth century New England, Christy brings these people to life and gives us a chance to understand the issues that they faced daily. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the issues of religious freedom and the rights of women. Those who want a better understanding of founding of the colonies in New England will also be satisfied.

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars A most interesting and informative book.,
Anyone who has an interest in the early settlers of our country will find this book to be full of history. There were a few parts where many names were mentioned that I did not find interesting, but others probably would. The story line was extremely interesting, and to read of all those folks went through, well, you just have to read the book. I think you will enjoy it immensely.

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars high recomendation,
June 27, 2014 By roelle seamount
I enjoy reading historical fiction. I like reading about history with an author's freedom to give me some insight to what might have been going on in a person's mind which would put meat on the story. Christy K Robinson researched her subject in depth.

☼☼☼☼ 4.0 out of 5 stars medieval history at its best.,
May 29, 2014 By bessie
This was an engaging way to learn some history. I bought the book because the author and I attended the same secondary school and connected on an alumni site. I will recommend this book to others.

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story and an amazing amount of history and research!,
May 25, 2014  By Darlene
This review is from: Mary Dyer Illuminated (The Dyers) (Volume 1) (Paperback)
I had never before heard of Mary Dyer, but Christy brought her to life for me in this book. Besides an appreciation of Mary Dyer herself and her commitment to her beliefs, I now also have a much clearer understanding of life and politics in the 1600's in America. Mary's story is compelling and very well written. I can't even comprehend the amount of thought and research required to put together a book like this and make it an interesting read. Wonderful job!

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-engaging!,
March 20, 2014 By Gail Steel
Even though we know the end to Mary's story, I found myself tied to watching the events unravel with an anxious expectation. A belief worth having is one worth dying for. May we not forget the lesson taught by marrying the civil with the spiritual and appreciate the concept of freedom of conscience.

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars  History that Impacts Everyone Now July 19, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In Book Two, Author Christy K. Robinson once again breathes life into the characters of William and Mary Dyer as she expands the story of the start of religious liberty in the United States. Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, is a fascinating historical novel that brings to light the horrible persecution of people who didn't subscribe to the exact religious beliefs of those in power in the colonies of the 1630's. The Puritans, then in power in Boston, were quick to jail, whip and even destroy those who were Baptist, Quakers and/or even people of no religious beliefs. Mary Dyer's life and subsequent death shed light on their persecution and caught the attention of the Crown in England, resulting in those persecutions being ended, as well as opened the door for the subsequent separation of the powers of church and state in the Colonies, which, a hundred years later were written into our Constitution. Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about the history of the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. 

Reviews for The DYERS of London, Boston, & Newport 

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars Liberty & Law. Honor and Loyalty. Life Goes On With Truth July 22, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
I love these books. The series of the Dyers is very interesting. I enjoy history and family history. I get both in these books. I learned so many things that I wasn't taught in history classes at school. Mary Dyer was an amazing and strong woman. Her death was tragic and so unnecessary. I am so ashamed of the people who caused her death. She did not as far as I am concerned. Our personal liberties are so important. I am proud that she stood up with hers. The separation of church and state as explained through Mary's story is so different from what we are told in public schools. Maybe that is why I am an elected official at the Ramsey Conservation District in Minnesota as well as an ordained Minister. I hope that Mary finds pride in that. I am looking forward to many more books in this series. They are a wealth of information and pure enjoyment. The books are fairly think but once I started. I didn't want to put it down. I take mine every where and read whenever I get a chance. They are definitely full of mystery, intrigue and facts.

☼☼☼☼☼  5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful ! July 21, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Christy K Robinson's non fiction book about Mary Dyer and her family is an excellent edition to her historical novels , Mary Dyer Illuminated, and Mary Dyer, For Such A Time As This. Mary's extraordinary life and her contribution to the adaptation of our Bill of Rights is thoroughly explored by Ms. Robinson, who also happens to be her descendant. If you are a fan of 17th century history like me, and thought you knew Mary Dyer's incredible story, think again. This is a must read for fans of both nonfiction biographies and historical novels. Mary was an exceptionally intelligent, eloquent, and brave woman, and a light in the midst of a dark time in what would eventually become American history.

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend!,
January 1, 2012 By Nancy Boyce
This review is from: We Shall Be Changed: A Devotional from Quiet Hour Ministries (Hardcover)
If you feel rushed & harried by today's hectic, demanding lifestyle, this is the daily devotional book for you! It's an easy read, just spiritual enough to inspire you but not so theologically involved as to make you want to skim over its pages without investing in their messages! The author was skilled at combining humor, inspiration, and hope with God's word. I highly recommend! Its so affordable you can buy a copy for yourself, your family members, and your cherished friends.

☼☼☼☼ 4.0 out of 5 stars We Shall Be Changed: A Devotional,
December 31, 2011 By Carol Driver
This review is from: We Shall Be Changed: A Devotional from Quiet Hour Ministries (Hardcover)
At first I thought okay I am going to read as a favor to the author. But after I started to read it, I was no longer reading it because I had to but because I wanted to. This book really spoke to my heart and by reading it I truly felt that I had been changed in someway. Thank you for this book!

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars we shall be changed,
December 27, 2011 By PCA
This review is from: We Shall Be Changed: A Devotional from Quiet Hour Ministries (Hardcover)
I was looking for really different and I found it in this book. It kept me turning the pages and made me look at things differently. I would recommend it to others.

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars We Shall Be Changed,
☼☼☼☼☼ March 16, 2011 By Henry Miller
This review is from: We Shall Be Changed: A Devotional from Quiet Hour Ministries (Hardcover)
The daily devotionals were powerful, authentic, and applicable to today's living. Although all of the contributers have written useful devotinals, and it is well edited. The ones which Ms. Robinson personally wrote are truly outstanding. I highly recommend this accessable and relevant collectin of devotionals.

☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars Change and a sense of Humor,
January 16, 2011 By Madeline Hamilton
This review is from: We Shall Be Changed: A Devotional from Quiet Hour Ministries (Hardcover)
This is a book that I will use year after year and it is on point with me every day...I get food for my soul alone with a little laughter as well... life is worth living when I see I am not alone there is others that have their trials as well...I will order another and send it to my sister Shelli...

 Where to order the paperback books or Kindle e-books: 

Thanksgiving in New England--no parties or football

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony grew tobacco and brewed their own beer. So did the Puritan settlers of Boston, Salem, and the many new towns that dotted Massachusetts, Connecticut, Long Island, and Rhode Island. There was a “tobacco house” on the Dyer farm in Rhode Island. 

Gov.  John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay and his son John of Connecticut dispensed medicines, some of which were made with “aqua vitae,” also known as whiskey.

Gov. Winthrop, the father, had smoked tobacco until the late 1620s, then gave it up, cold turkey, as a sacrifice to God: he didn't want such a pleasant intoxicated feeling to interfere with his ascetic life before God. Winthrop also stopped the custom of toasting at his own table because it had overtones of pagan libations to the gods.

The Puritans loved their recreation (fishing, hunting, military exercises), but they didn't play football (soccer/kickball). At the time, English football was on par with the Afghan game of goat-head-polo! The teams of young men would kick a leather ball through village streets, down gullies, across hilltops, through fields of food crops--destroying everything, including one another, in their path to gain possession of the ball.

However, we can be quite sure that the Puritans did not hang around in a mixed-gender party boat, wearing undershirts, with the women showing cleavage and uncovered hair.

Here’s an article posted in this blog in 2012 about how New Englanders celebrated Thanksgiving in the early colonial years:

And this article shows some of the recipes for foods that would have been eaten in England at the same time period.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Christy K Robinson is author of these sites:  

and of these books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Bay Psalm Book, sung in the key of H-sharp

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

In New England, where the Dyers lived after 1635, there were no church organs—organs being related to the hated Catholic mass, and drawing attention away from God and to the skills of the performer. At Sabbath meetings of the Massachusetts Bay churches, they sang psalms without musical accompaniment.

Rev. John Cotton, Teacher of the Boston First Church of Christ (Congregational), disapproved of (though did not completely disavow) the use of instruments in worship.  Cotton said about music:
“We also grant that any private Christian who hath a gifte to frame a spirituall song may both frame it and sing it privately for his own private comfort and remembrance of some speciall benefit or deliverance. Nor doe we forbid the use any instrument therewithal: so that attention to the instrument does not divert the heart from attention to the matter of the song.”

He’s speaking of music composition and musical accompaniment in a private setting, not in public worship at the meetinghouse. At the meetinghouse, it was strictly a capella for many decades.

In 1640, three ministers published the first book in the American colonies: a psalter called The Bay Psalm Book that they approved for use in the churches of Massachusetts Bay. It was a text of psalms in rhyme, translated from Hebrew, without musical notation because almost no one was musically literate.

The three principal authors were Rev. Richard Mather (a very conservative Puritan minister), Rev. John Eliot (best known for his missionary work with Native Americans), and Rev. Thomas Weld (who wrote the lurid introduction to Gov. Winthrop’s book on Anne Hutchinson’s theology—the description of Mary Dyer’s “monster” baby, and he established the child-labor trafficking  scheme).

Rev. Cotton wrote in the 1647 tract, Singing of Psalms as a Gospel Ordinance,
“Wee lay downe this conclusion for a Doctrine of Truth. That singing of Psalms with a lively voyce is an holy Duty of God’s worship now in the dayes of the New Testament. When we say, singing with lively voyce, we suppose none will so farre misconstrue us as to thinke wee exclude singing with the heart; for God is a Spirit: and to worship him with the voice without the spirit were but lip-labour, which (being rested in) is but lost labour (Isa. xxix.13), or at most profiteth but little (Tim. iv. 8). But this wee say. As wee are to make melody in our hearts, so in our voyces also. In opposition to this there be some Anti-psalmists who doe not acknowledge any singing at all with the voyce in the New Testament, but onely spirituall songs of joy and comfort of the heart in the word of Christ.”
Like the subject and writing style of this article?
You'll love this Kindle book of 17th-century
life and times surrounding William and Mary Dyer,
written by Christy K Robinson, author of
this blog.

In a short time, congregations forgot the tunes, and each singer sang in his or her own key, melody, and rhythm. (Perhaps something like a “Happy Birthday” cacophony today.)

Thomas Walter wrote at the end of the 17th century: "The tunes are now miserably tortured and twisted and quavered, in some churches, into a medly of confused and disorderly voices. Our tunes are left to the mercy of every unskillful throat to chop and alter, to twist and change... No two men in the Congregation quaver alike or together, it sounds in the ear of a good judge like five hundred different tunes roared out at the same time with perpetual interferings with one another." Source: Puritans at Play: Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England, by Bruce C. Daniels, p. 54.

If you'd like to see a digital copy of the Bay Psalm Book, go to this link:

Read more: 
Let Bidding Begin for the Bay Psalm Book From 1640

Published: November 15, 2013  

David N. Redden recited the opening of the 23rd Psalm the way he had memorized it as a child: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

Then he opened a weathered little book and read the version it contained: “The Lord to mee a ∫hepheard is, want therefore ∫hall not I. Hee in the fold∫ of tender-gra∫∫e, doth cau∫e mee downe to lie.”

Those lines were in a volume published in Massachusetts in 1640 that amounted to the Puritans’ religious and cultural manifesto. It was the first book printed in the colonies, and the first book printed in English in the New World. The locksmith who ran the hand-operated press turned out roughly 1,700 copies. The one in Mr. Redden’s hands is one of only 11 known to exist.

Mr. Redden, who is the chairman of Sotheby’s books department and has auctioned copies of Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, among other historic and valuable documents, will sell that copy on Nov. 26. Sotheby’s expects it to go for $15 million to $30 million, which would make it the most expensive book ever sold at auction — more expensive than a copy of John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” that sold in December 2010 for $11.54 million (equivalent to $12.39 million in 2013 dollars), the current record. That beat the $7.5 million ($10.77 million today) paid for a copy of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” at Christie’s in London in 1998, and the $6.16 million ($8.14 million today) paid for Shakespeare’s First Folio at Christie’s in New York in 2001.

But the Bay Psalm Book, as it is known, has a special place in bibliophiles’ hearts, so much so that Michael Inman, the curator of rare books at the New York Public Library, said the auction was “likely” to set a record, even though the Bay Psalm Book was “not a particularly attractive book” and was “rather shoddily done.” (The library owns one of the other 10 copies.)

“It’s what that book symbolizes,” Mr. Inman said. “These 11 copies symbolize the introduction of printing into the British colonies, which was reflective of the importance placed on reading and education by the Puritans and the concept of freely available information, freedom of expression, freedom of the press. All that fed into the revolutionary impulse that gave rise to the United States.”

In its way, experts say, the Bay Psalm Book laid the groundwork for famous texts of the Revolution like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” It followed the first Gutenberg Bibles by more than a century and a half, and it was plagued by spelling problems. The word “psalm,” which is supposed to appear in capital letters at the top of each page, is spelled that way on the left-hand pages, but on the right-hand pages and on the title page, there is an “e” on the end:
“The WHOLE Booke of Psalmes Faithfully TRANSLATED into ENGLISH Metre.”
The volume also has a subtitle, as important to a religious book in the 17th century as to a 21st-century best-seller: “Whereunto is prefixed a di∫cour∫e declaring not only the lawfullne∫∫, but al∫o the nece∫∫ity of the heavenly Ordinance of ∫inging ∫cripture P∫alme∫ in the Churche∫ of God.”

The other copies are all held in libraries or museums. The Library of Congress has one. So does Harvard. So does Yale. And one copy made its way to the place the Puritans had fled — to England, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

The copy being sold by Sotheby’s, which the auction house will display in New York on Monday, belongs to Old South Church in Boston, whose long history includes the baptism of Benjamin Franklin when he was a day old. Old South became known as a meeting place for angry colonists before the Boston Tea Party and, more recently, as the church at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The Bay Psalm Book was printed on a press that had been sent over with 240 pounds of paper and one case of type. Like Mr. Inman, Mr. Redden said the workmanship was amateurish — it was, after all, the first book published in the colonies and only the third item to come off the press. “They were kind of learning on the job,” Mr. Redden said, and some of the pages were bound in the wrong order. At the bottom of one, someone wrote, “Turn back a leaf.”
A version of this article appears in print on November 16, 2013, on page A14 of the New York edition of the New York Times with the headline: For First Book Printed in English in New World, Let the Bidding Begin.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blog-hopping on behalf of the Dyers

Surrounding the releases of my novels (print and e-book) and nonfiction e-book on William and Mary Dyer, I've been writing guest articles for other authors' blogs.

Here are the links, which I'll edit and refresh as needed.

Hoydens and Firebrands, a blog about the 17th century, hosts my article, A mystery cloaked in the obvious, about Mary Dyer's letter to the General Court on October 26, 1659. Click this link:

Jo Ann Butler's Rebel Puritan website has an interview about the motivation and research for the novels and the nonfiction book, The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport. Find out what distinguishes this telling of the Dyer tale, from books and articles that have gone before. Click this link:

Christy English's blog, "A Writer's Life," carried my passionate plea for historical fiction readers to STOP in the seventeenth century, as they rush from medieval to Tudor to Regency novels. I gave lots of humorous and quirky factoids about the world the Dyers lived in. Click this link:

Christy English also posted her 5/5-star review of Mary Dyer Illuminated. Click this link:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

London as the Dyers saw it (video)

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Using maps and drawings from the British Library, a team of DeMontfort University students created a three-dimensional animation of what London was like during William and Mary Dyer’s lifetime, in the mid-1600s. (Except that the designers didn't put in enough filth, dead animals, and rubbish to make it more realistic.) The model focuses on the area around Pudding Mill Lane and the bakery of Thomas Farriner, where the Great Fire of 1666 started. This was in the old walled city.

The footprint of London's Great Fire of 1666.
The video shows the area around Pudding Lane,
near London Bridge.

They show streets, alleys, markets, a blacksmith forge, carcasses hanging from eaves at a butcher shop, the riverside warehouses, pub signs, and rooftops. A pall of coal smoke hangs over the city. The buildings are crowded so close that the sun never reaches the cobblestones in some places.  

There were outbreaks of plague every few years, including 1615, 1625, 1630, 1635… The epidemics seemed to hit harder at five-year intervals, but they never really went away. A mortality table from 1632 shows that there were eight deaths from plague, but the worst were in 1635, the year the Dyers sailed to America, and of course in 1665, the year before the Great Fire. In 1635, about 30,000 Londoners died of plague, but in 1665, about 100,000 died. After the Great Fire, the huge epidemics did not recur.

Mary Barrett may have been born in the London area in 1610-11, and she was certainly a resident before she married in 1633. William Dyer, though born in Kirkby LaThorpe, Lincolnshire, apprenticed in London for nine years in the 1620s and 30s. He and Mary were living in the borough of Westminster and were members of the St. Martin-in-the-Fields parish before they emigrated to Massachusetts.

Both William and Mary visited London again in the 1650s: William twice, on Rhode Island charter business, and obtaining his commission as commander in chief upon the seas in the First Anglo Dutch War; and Mary for almost five years until about January 1657.

Of course, Mary had been executed in Boston in 1660, and William was living in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1666. The flames of the Great Fire didn’t quite reach Westminster, where they had lived, though the area was threatened because of the heavy gale and resulting fire tornados.

Their second-eldest son, William Dyer the Younger, did visit England several times on business, and lived there for a year while his treason case was decided in courts (he was acquitted). The younger William is mentioned in the diary of Samuel Pepys.

Christy K Robinson is the author of two biographical novels (paperback and Kindle) on William and Mary Dyer, and a nonfiction anthology of her research into their culture: Mary Dyer Illuminated, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, and The Dyers of London, Boston, and Newport.  


Christy K Robinson is author of these sites:  

and of these books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The William Dyer who wasn’t Mary Dyer’s husband

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Over the last several years that I’ve researched William and Mary Dyer for the two novels* and nonfiction e-book* I’ve written about them, I’ve read through countless thousands of images and files, websites, books, PDFs, and sifted both scholarly papers and amateur genealogy pages. Multiply those factors by all the possible spellings of Dyer, Dyre, Diar, Dyar, Dire… and countless times countless equals some discernment and the beginning of knowledge about the Dyers and the culture they were part of.

This is NOT Mary Dyer's husband.
Notice he is identified as "Preacher
of the Gospell, 1662," which was not the
occupation of William Dyer, Gent.,
of Newport, Rhode Island.
 When my eyes lit upon a 17th-century publication written by William Dyer, my heart beat faster—for a moment. I had discovered “a” William Dyer, but not “the” William Dyer who was married to Mary Barrett in 1633 and widowed in 1660 when she was executed for intentionally and repeatedly disobeying her banishment orders. (I take this opportunity to remind you that she was not killed “for being a Quaker.”)

This other William Dyer was born in 1632 in England (23 years after our William), and would have been twenty, perhaps still at seminary, when our Dyers visited England after the Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of the realm. Young Reverend Dyer took up the nonconformist, Puritan, Calvinist mantle when he began his gospel ministry in Chesham and then Cholesbury in Buckinghamshire in the 1650s.

In 1662, with the Act of Uniformity that restored the Church of England to the state religion, thousands of Puritan ministers were expelled from their pulpits in the Great Ejection. The Book of Common Prayer was again used in church liturgy. Reverend Dyer likely lost his employment then and perhaps turned to writing instead of preaching. His best-known work is A Cabinet of Jewels, or a Glimpse of Sion’s Glory, published in 1663.  

After the 1665 bubonic plague epidemic killed 100,000 or more Londoners and continued ravaging the rest of the country, there was a massive fire that consumed the old, rickety, closely-built neighborhoods of London. Even St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its ancient monuments and tombs inside, fell to the fire.

In 1665, Rev. Dyer preached at St. Anne’s, Aldersgate Street, London, less than a thousand feet northwest of St. Paul’s. He claimed in his sermons that the plague was God’s punishment on wicked, licentious London, and the next year, obviously before the September 1666 fire, he published the sermons with the title Christ’s Voice to London. (The rest of the sermon was biblically based, logical and persuasive, I thought. What follows, though, is an excerpt where Rev. Dyer must have broken forth with shouting and tears.)
"Oh, London, London! God speaks to you by his judgments, and because you would not hear the voice of his Word, he has made you to feel the stroke of his rod! Oh, great city! how has the plague broke in upon you, because of your abominations! "They provoked the Lord to anger by their wicked deeds—so a plague broke out among them!" Psalm 106:29. Oh, you of this city! how is the wrath of God kindled against you, that such multitudes of thousands have died within your borders, by this severe plague, God's immediate sword! London! how are your streets thinned, your widows increased, and your cemeteries filled, your inhabitants fled, your trade decayed! Oh! therefore lay to heart, you who are yet alive, all these things, and turn from your wicked ways, that the cry of your prayers may outcry the cry of your sins, and be like the city of Nineveh, who believed Jonah's message from God, who humbled themselves, and fasted, and cried mightily unto the Lord, "The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust!" Jonah 3:5-6 Oh, let not the heathen outstrip professing Christians! Did Nineveh repent and turn from their wicked ways—and shall not London?"
What must he have felt when the 1665 plague was followed by a 1666 fire that burned 70,000 people out of their homes and incinerated several square miles of the teeming city.

A Puritan website describes Rev. Dyer as “a godly pastor” of “great piety, and a serious fervent preacher.” They’ve posted the text of some his sermons.

Reverend Dyer’s book Christ’s Famous Titles and a Believer’s Golden Chain (1678) has this paragraph that rings true today. One could apply it to anything that keeps them “busy” and distracted from what is truly important.   
“It is the great unhappiness of our age, that the greatest part of men busy themselves most in that which concerns them least. Look into the world among rich and poor, high and low, young and old, and see whether it appear not by the whole scope of their conversations, that they set more by something else than Christ and salvation. So they may have but some of the earth in their hands, they care for nothing of heaven in their hearts, though gold can no more fill their hearts than grass their purses.”

Other books followed, and Reverend Dyer died in 1696, aged about 64. He was buried in a Quaker cemetery in Southwark (London metro area south of the River Thames), so he may have embraced Quaker beliefs at the end.

The moral of my story here is that when you turn your attention to researching historical figures or ancestors, keep in mind that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who have the same surname, who are probably not closely related, or not related at all. Do some addition and subtraction and decide if dates are logical, or if a woman has given birth to her own grandfather when she was only three years old. (Yes, I found that in a genealogical page!) Until you’ve sorted them out and confirmed dates and locations, you should not make assumptions that this guy must be the same as that guy. 

Christy K Robinson is the author of two biographical novels (paperback and Kindle) on William and Mary Dyer, and a nonfiction anthology of her research into their culture: Mary Dyer Illuminated, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, and The Dyers of London, Boston, and Newport.  

Christy K Robinson is author of these sites:  

and of these books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The 17th century: World without end

© 2013 Christy K Robinson 
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Who was Mary Dyer? Very little has been known for sure, except that Mary was a 17th-century educated Englishwoman who married at St. Martin-in-the-Fields parish in Westminster; she gave birth eight times, including to an anencephalic fetus that was called a monster; she emigrated to New England’s wilderness and cofounded America’s first democracy, and she eventually was hanged in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1660 for her intentional civil disobedience to Boston’s theocratic government.
From 1607, the appearance of Halley's Comet
(before Halley's name was associated with it).
Note the total and partial eclipses, the comet,
soldiers, and death (probably plague).

While we don’t find much direct evidence of Mary’s life and thoughts, we can look at the culture, politics, religions, natural history, sociology, genealogical records of her associates, and journals and letters, of the friends and family—and enemies—surrounding her. All those pieces, when placed in parallel timelines and looked at with logic, create a painting of the woman only glimpsed in the journals of others or in court records of the day.

My two-part novel of the Dyers is not written for the religious or inspirational genre. It’s historical/biographical fiction based in fact. But because of the highly-charged atmosphere of the 17th century, the reader will understand that religious beliefs were paramount to every Western culture at that time. Such a thing as separation of church and state had been thought of, but not realized. Of the governments of that era, the Dutch showed the most tolerance for minority beliefs and practices, but their Reformed church (somewhat similar to Puritanism and Presbyterianism) was still state-sponsored.

·         The Separatists who became the Pilgrims fled the Anglican repression under King James I, first to the Netherlands and then to America.
·         The Great Migration of the 1630s from England to Massachusetts and Virginia was years in the making, but its crux was King Charles I’s re-publication of The Book of Sports which forced the Puritans to break with Anglicans, resulting in 21,000 people moving to Massachusetts and thousands more to Virginia Colony.
·         The English Civil Wars of the 1640s and ’50s were begun over Anglican (royalist)-versus-Puritan (Parliamentary) issues.
·         The Thirty Years War, between Catholics and Protestants, raged across Europe carrying plague and famine with it.
·         The Jews of the Iberian peninsula, even if they converted to Catholicism, were still burned as heretics if they couldn’t escape Spain and Portugal.
·         The Dutch West Indies Company which colonized the Caribbean, Brazil, and parts of New England provided their settlers and military forts with Dutch Reformed ministers.

In every comet, eclipse, earthquake, or plague, the priests, ministers, and rabbis in Europe and America saw the hand of God and they preached it to their congregations. There was no secular or sacred demarcation: all was one fabric, and that was sacred fabric. They believed that the short years they were on earth were a preparatory time for eternity. Religious issues and morals weren’t lifestyle choices, fairy tales, or myths, but eternal matters. Strict adherence to biblical law and punishment of heretics concerned the entire community. Religious dogma was worth killing for, and religious liberty was worth dying for.

While researching my Dyer novels, I found references to
·         Great earthquakes (approximately 7.0-magnitude quake in New England on June 1, 1638, and another great quake with tsunami in April 1658)
·         The largest hurricane ever to strike New England made landfall between Plymouth and Boston in August 1635
·         Hurricanes which caused tsunami-like tidal surges in southern New England
·         Comet (May 29-30, 1630 visible over Europe in daylight at time of Charles II’s birth)
·         Annular and total solar eclipses (April 1652 “Bugbear” eclipse in British Isles put the rich in fast coaches out of London and stopped the laborers at their work; also annular eclipse in November 1659 in Massachusetts)
·         A blood-red lunar eclipse in June 1638 was reported by my book’s characters (very satisfying to this researcher!)
·         Clouds of pigeons that darkened the sky ate both seed and sprouts of Massachusetts corn planting
·         A plague of black caterpillars seemed to fall from the clear sky, and destroyed crops and orchards in Massachusetts and Connecticut
·         The Little Ice Age was at its coldest in the 1640s and 1650s, freezing harbors in Boston, Iceland, and London’s River Thames, and ruining crops in summer
·         The Leonid meteor shower of November 1636 was an every-33-year spectacular fireworks show that was considered a sign of Christ’s imminent return
·         Unexplained booming noises that were probably meteorites

The people of the 17th century, of every social or economic stratus, believed that these signs and wonders were directly from the hand of God and that they were precursors to further disaster. A New Testament verse says that all these terrifying things were the beginning of birth pangs, leading to the end of the world. Yes, more to come! Even the Narragansett tribe of Rhode Island believed that earthquakes would be inevitably followed by hurricanes, blizzards, epidemics, failed crops, and other disasters. Art from Germany shows comets in the sky, with war and bubonic plague victims dying below.
From 1517: Comets, cities broken by war, bubonic plague
victims, a two-headed monster, and blood raining
from sky.

Most of those events, because of their importance to our ancestors who experienced them, were resurrected in my novels. I didn’t even have to make them up!

What do we think today of natural events? Storm chasers follow tornados and stand outside with microphones in hurricanes. We take lawn chairs out in the middle of the night to see meteor showers or the faint glow of a comet (did you know there’s a comet predicted for November 2013?), and we don protective lenses and we photograph crescents for a solar eclipse. We moan and groan at the “snowpocalypse” or rain deluge. People of faith celebrate the Creator. Others celebrate nature. But only suicidal cultists think that we’re riding off the planet on a comet’s tail.

Whether you practice a religion or denominational affiliation, or you believe that there is a universal spirituality, or you believe there is no god, you can thank Mary Barrett Dyer for giving her life to win religious liberty for all—the right to exercise your beliefs, and (perhaps surprisingly) the right not to practice religion or to have it forced upon you. You can thank her husband, William Dyer, the first attorney general in America, for codifying that right. These liberties are still under attack today, all over the world. When organizations seek to blend religion with politics or government, repression will inevitably be the result. That has been the case in every society, for thousands of years. It’s up to you to continue the struggle to allow but not require religious expression.

Next time you see a special event in nature (I’m partial to desert lightning shows), just enjoy it. No need to flee the city, start a holy war, or form a new nation. Neither Jehovah nor Zeus is hurling disaster after you! 

This article appeared first on Andrea Zuvich's blog, 17th Century Woman, on Sept. 26, 2013.  

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title): 

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)