Author: William C. Beecher
Publisher: Cosimo, Inc.
Release Date: 2006-06-01
Genre: Biography & Autobiography
A man in the city hotel, and not a little feared because of his brutality, had done something more brutal than usual, and, the facts coming to Mr. Beecher's knowledge, in his sermon on the following Sunday he expressed in no gentle terms his abhorrence of the act, and in very strong language rebuked the man.... As he passed the hotel there were several standing by, evidently waiting for some development. At that moment the man came down the steps with a pistol in his hand. "Did you say thus and so in your sermon yesterday?" "I did." "Did you intend those remarks for me, or were you meaning me?" "I most certainly did." "Then take it back right here, or by -- I'll shoot you on the spot." "Shoot away" was the reply... -from Chapter X Liberal preacher, abolitionist, social reformer, and proponent for women's suffrage, HENRY WARD BEECHER (1813-1887), brother of Uncle Tom novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, was one of the most fiery personalities in American public life in the 19th century. This stunningly comprehensive and frank 1888 biography-begun by Beecher himself and completed just after his death by his son WILLIAM CONSTANTINE BEECHER (1849-1928) and son-in-law REV. SAMUEL SCOVILLE (1834-1902)-omits not one moment of controversy in Beecher's life. From his arming of antislavery forces in the run-up to the Civil War with rifles that came to be dubbed "Beecher's Bibles" to the shocking sex scandal that dogged him in the 1870s, this is the no-holds-barred life of a man passionate of spirit and strong of will. OF INTEREST TO: students of American history, social activists, readers of biography
No one predicted success for Henry Ward Beecher at his birth in 1813. The blithe, boisterous son of the last great Puritan minister, he seemed destined to be overshadowed by his brilliant siblings—especially his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned the century’s bestselling book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But when pushed into the ministry, the charismatic Beecher found international fame by shedding his father Lyman's Old Testament–style fire-and-brimstone theology and instead preaching a New Testament–based gospel of unconditional love and healing, becoming one of the founding fathers of modern American Christianity. By the 1850s, his spectacular sermons at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights had made him New York’s number one tourist attraction, so wildly popular that the ferries from Manhattan to Brooklyn were dubbed “Beecher Boats.” Beecher inserted himself into nearly every important drama of the era—among them the antislavery and women’s suffrage movements, the rise of the entertainment industry and tabloid press, and controversies ranging from Darwinian evolution to presidential politics. He was notorious for his irreverent humor and melodramatic gestures, such as auctioning slaves to freedom in his pulpit and shipping rifles—nicknamed “Beecher’s Bibles”—to the antislavery resistance fighters in Kansas. Thinkers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Twain befriended—and sometimes parodied—him. And then it all fell apart. In 1872 Beecher was accused by feminist firebrand Victoria Woodhull of adultery with one of his most pious parishioners. Suddenly the “Gospel of Love” seemed to rationalize a life of lust. The cuckolded husband brought charges of “criminal conversation” in a salacious trial that became the most widely covered event of the century, garnering more newspaper headlines than the entire Civil War. Beecher survived, but his reputation and his causes—from women’s rights to progressive evangelicalism—suffered devastating setbacks that echo to this day. Featuring the page-turning suspense of a novel and dramatic new historical evidence, Debby Applegate has written the definitive biography of this captivating, mercurial, and sometimes infuriating figure. In our own time, when religion and politics are again colliding and adultery in high places still commands headlines, Beecher’s story sheds new light on the culture and conflicts of contemporary America. From the Hardcover edition.
""With our American Philosophy and Religion series, Applewood reissues many primary sources published throughout American history. Through these books, scholars, interpreters, students, and non-academics alike can see the thoughts and beliefs of Americans who came before us.""