The Romantic Puritan




by Cheryl Lassiter
Even though Sarah Story Cotton and her minister husband John Cotton were compelled to emigrate from an England increasingly hostile to Puritans, I still think she was a romantic, and maybe more than a little crazy. She was very pregnant when she set sail for America in the summer of 1633, and on August 12 of that year, on board ship in the middle of the Atlantic, she gave birth to a son whom she aptly named Seaborn. As his later writings show, Seaborn inherited his mother’s romantic nature.

While studying for the ministry at Harvard, and later, as Hampton’s fourth minister (1657-1686), he fed his own romantic nature by writing poetry and prose like the following:
Love is a cruel paine
Nay more a torment fell
They who have felt it say
Tis next the paines of hell.

Here’s his formula “for to make a handsom woman” (Dr. Frankenstein would have been impressed with the precision) –

Shee must first have a light browne hair, a full high fore head with a straite brow not
bending out, with narrow black eye brows. With a round full hazell eye, a white nose
straite not rising up nor flat, pure vermilion cheeks with a little mouth and Corral lips,
the under lip a little fuller than the uper, a pretty long white neck, straite back, her
shoulders of a middle breadth. Slender waste middle sised hipps a small leg and foot,
her hands and finger long and small. Her body must not be very tall but rather
inclining to be tall then short.
Cheryl Lassiter, 2010

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