Catharine Maria Sedgwick

September 12, 2006


Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Daughter of federalist lawyer and successful politician, Theodore Sedgwick, who later became a judge of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Liked by Edgar Allan Poe – who hates everyone
Was very popular during her time but is not included in the Cannon
Mother went insane during her childhood
Taught by her father
Brought up a Calvinist, but converted to Unitarianism which led her to write a pamphlet denouncing religious intolerance that evolved into her first novel, A New-England Tale
In her later work, Married or Single, she put forth the bold idea that women should not marry if it meant they would lose their self-respect

Hope Leslie (1827)

Set in seventeenth-century New England
Forces reader to confront the consequences of the Puritans’ subjugation and displacement of the indigenous Indian population at a time when contemporaries were demanding still more land
Recounts a dramatic conflict between British colonists and Native Americans
Is a Historical Novel: not based on actual events but possible situations
Sedgwick describes in the Preface:

“Real characters and real events are, however, alluded to; and this course, if not strictly necessary, was found very convenient in the execution of the author’s design, which was to illustrate not the history, but the character of the times.”

Ideas to Explore:

The significance of eyes
Meaning of natural metaphors and symbols for both parties
Parallel between Mononotto and Fletcher
Narrator’s tone about religion, is it meant to be ironic?


“‘Caution Will against all vain speculation and idle inquiries- there are those that are for ever inquiring and inquiring, and never coming to the truth. One inquiry should suffice for a loyal subject. ‘What is established?’ and that being well ascertained, the line of duty is so plain, that he who runs may read.'” -Sir William Fletcher

“‘No man should be suffered to decline either on the left or on the right hand, from the drawn line limited by authority, and by the sovereign’s laws and injunctions'” -Sir William Fletcher

“Fletcher obeyed the voice of Heave. This is no romantic fiction. Hundreds in that day resisted all that solicits earthly passions, and sacrificed all that gratifies them, to the cause of God and of man- the cause of liberty and religion. This cause was not to their eyes invested with any romantic attractions. It was not assisted by the illusions of chivalry, nor magnified by the spiritual power and renown of crusades. Our fathers neither had, nor expected their reward on earth.”

“These are the men of genius- the men of feeling- the men that the world calls visionaries; and it is because they are visionaries- because they have a beau-ideal in their own minds, to which they can see but a faint resemblance in the actual state of things, that they become impatient of detail, and cannot brook the slow progress to perfection.”

“Never was a name more befitting the condition of a people, than ‘Pilgrim’ that of our forefathers. It should be redeemed from the puritanical and ludicrous associations which have degraded it, in most men’s minds, and be hallowed by the sacrifices made by those voluntary exiles.”

“‘Magawisca,’ she said in a friendly tone, ‘you are welcome among us, girl.’ Magawisca bowed her head. Mrs. Fletcher continued: ‘you should receive it as a signal mercy, child, that you ahve been taken from the midst of a savage people, and set in a christian family.’ Mrs. Fletcher paused for her auditor’s assent, but the proposition was either unintelligible or unacceptable to Magawisca.”

“Two young plants that have sprung up in close neighbourhood, may be separated while young; but if disjoined after their fibers are all intertwine, one, or perchance both, may perish.”

“‘She says, madam, the baby is like a flower just opened to the sun, with no stain upon it- that he better pass now to the Great Spirit. She says this world is all arough place- all sharp stones, and deep waters, and black clouds.'” – Magawisca, translating from Nelema

“She turned away, as one conscious of possessing a secret, and fearful that they eye, the herald of the soul, will speak unbidden.”

“‘They are a kind of beast we don’t comprehend-out of the range of God’s creatures- neither angel, man, nor yet quite devil.'” -Digby

“‘I think you have caught the fear, Digby, without taking its counsel,’ said Everell, ‘which does little credit to your wisdom; the only use of fear, being to provide against danger.'”

“‘You need not fear it; I can honour nobel deepd though done by our enemies, and see that cruelty is cruelty, though inflicted by our friend.’
‘Then listen to me; and when the hour of vengeance comes, if it should come, remember it was provoked.'” -Everell, Magawisca

“Magawisca crept to her bed, but not to repose- neither watching nor weariness procured sleep for her. Her mind was racked with apprehensions, and conflicting duties, the cruelest rack to an honourable mind.”

“‘Thank, thank you, Everell,’ said the little girl as she mounted her pinnacle; ‘if you knew Hope, you would want to see her first too- every body loves Hope. We shall always have pleasant times when Hope gets here.'” – Faith Leslie

“The scene had also its minstrels; the birds, those ministers and worshippers of nature, were on the wing, filling the air with melody; while, like diligent little housewifes, they ransacked forest and field for materials for their house-keeping.”

“‘You call me a bird of ill-omen,’ replied Magawisca, half proud, half sorrowful, ‘and you callt he owl a bird of ill-omen, but we hold him sacred- he is our sentinel, and when danger is near he cries, awake! awake!'”

“‘Oh!’ said Magawisca, impetuously covering her eyes, ‘I do not like to see any thing so beautiful, pass so quickly away.'”

“‘Ah, Magawisca! so I thought,’ said Jennet. ‘She knows everything evil that happens in earth, sea, or air; she and that mother-witch, Nelema. I always told Mrs. Fletcher she was warming a viper in her bosom, poor dear lady; but I suppose it was for wise ends she was left to her blindness.'”

“In the quiet possession of the blessings transmitted, we are, perhaps, in danger of forgetting, or undervaluing the sufferings by which they were obtained. We forget that the noble pilgrims lived and endured for us… No-they came not for themselves- they lived not to themselves. An exiled and suffering people, they came forth in the dignity of the chosen servants of the Lord, to open the forests to the sun-beam, and to the light of the Sun of Righteousness- to restore man- man oppressed and trampled on by his fellow; to religious and civil liberty, and equal rights- to replace the creatures of God on their natural level- to bring down the hills, and make smooth the rough places, which the pride and cruelty of man had wrought on the fair creation of the Father of all.”

“‘And I am a coward,’ replied Magawisca, reverting to her habitually calm tone, ‘if to fear my father should do a wrong, even to an enemy, is cowardice.’ Again her father’s brow softened, and she ventured to add, ‘send back the boy, and our path will be all smooth before us- and light will be upon it, for my mother often said, ‘the sun never sets on the soul of the man that doeth good.'”

“‘He has the skin, but not the soul of that mixed race, whose gratitude is like that vanishing mist,'” -Mononotto, in regards to Everell

“Everell sunk calmly on his knees, not to supplicate life, but to comment his soul to God. He clapsed his hands together. He did not- he could not speak: his soul was ‘Rapt in still communication that transcends / The imperfect offices of prayer.’ At this moment a sun-beam penetrated the trees that enclosed the area, and fell athwart his brow and hair, kindling it with an almost supernatural brightness.”

“‘Dear Everell,
This is the fifth anniversary of the day you left us- your birth-day, too, you know; so we celebrate it, but with a blended joy and grief, which, as my dear gaurdian says, is suitable to the mixed condition of human life.'”

“‘I hope you have not forgotten the autumnal brilliancy of our woods. They say the foliage in England has a paler sickly hue, but for our western world- nature’s youngest child- she has reserved hermany-coloured robe, the brightest and most beautiful of her garments. Last week the woods were as green as an emerald, and now they look as if all the summer-spirits had been wreathing them with flowers of the richest and most brilliant dyes.'”

“‘I seated myself on the foot-stool at his feet, so that I could look straight into his eyes; for many a time, when my heart has quailed at his solemn address, the tender spirit stationed in that soft hazle eye of his- so like yours, Everell- has quieted all my apprehensions.'”

“‘…Jennet is such an obstinate self-willed fool! I believe she will be willing to see Nelema hung for a witch, that she may have the pleasure of saying, ‘I told you so.’
Poor Nelema! -such harmless, helpless, lonely being- my tears fall so fast on my paper, that I can scarcely write. I plabe myself for bringing her into htis hapless case- but it may be better than I fear. i will leave my letter and try to sleep.'”

“‘However, the singularity of the case only served to magify their wonderr, without, in the least, weakening their faith in the actual, and, as it appeared, friendly alliance between Nelema, and the evil one. Indeed, I was the only person present whose belief in her witchcraft was not, as it were, converted into sight.'”


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