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Excerpt from The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Margaret B. Moore (courtesy of University of Missouri Press, 1998)

Margaret B. Moore on Methodists and Methodism in Hawthorne's "The Seven Vagabonds"
There was a greater variety of churches in Salem now [the 1820s]. . . . The Methodists had some itinerant preachers but were not a force until 1822 when Jesse Filmore came. They bought land on Sewall Street and dedicated the church in 1824. The popularity of camp meetings or "protracted meetings" in this time aided the Methodists as well as the Baptist meetinghouse, where Rufus Babcock succeeded Lucius Bolles in 1826. A second Baptist church also had a minister, George Leonard, in 1826. The Free Will Baptists who previously had worshiped in English Street had a church on Herbert Street in 1828, very close to the Manning home. (113)

. . . [A] cause for religious friction in this period was the prevalence of revivals or camp meetings. George Whitefield (1714-1770), the English revivalist, had preached to about six thousand people on Salem Common in 1740, an event long remembered there. Dr. Bentley had been vigorously opposed to those he called "fanatics" who were of conservative bent but were also revivalists. Sarah Savage had written in Filial Affection (1820) of the "ranting visionaries" who roamed the countryside preaching their own conception of the gospel. These were often Baptists or Methodists who in that day did not require their clergy to be educated. Hawthorne had written of revivals with distaste at Bowdoin (CE 15:189). In August 1824 the Gazette spoke of a revival in Salem. The editor remarked that more than two hundred people attended the meetings, and "[a] much greater number than this are known to be anxious in the town." It was announced in July 1825 that a revival had added "about 85 souls each to Mr. [Brown] Emerson's church and to the Tabernacle, 35 to the Presbyterian [the Branch church under William Williams] and that Baptists and Methodists shared in the blessing." The papers and magazines continued to be full of stories either in favor of or in opposition to revivals or protracted meetings. . . (115-116)

It is clear that Hawthorne was not particularly fond of the approach of Methodists. He writes in "Sir William Pepperell" of "the Methodistical principles with which he was slightly tinctured. " . . . In "The Toll-Gatherer's Day" he describes a person who seems to be a Methodist: "Now paces slowly from timber to timber a horseman clad in black, with a meditative brow, as of one who whithersoever his steed might bear him, would still journey through a mist of brooding thought. He is a country preacher, going to labor at a protracted meeting." In "The Seven Vagabonds" Hawthorne describes seven very different people who intend to go to a camp meeting at Stamford. They are stopped when they see a man "sticking up in his saddle with rigid perpendicularity, a tall, thin figure in rusty black. . . a travelling preacher of great fame among the Methodists" who informs the assembled group that "the camp meeting is broke up. These descriptions sound very much like the one given by James F. Almy of Jesse Fillmore, who was the first Methodist minister in Salem. He depicts him as "tall, spare, and erect," "clad in well-brushed garments of faded black" with a "tall black hat of pattern old" and a face of "the Andrew Jackson type." Perhaps when the young Nathaniel first hoped to break the plaster head of John Wesley, he forecast his more mature reaction to the preachers somewhat like the Methodists. (116-117)



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