The Mayflower generation and the burden it bears

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The Mayflower. By Rebecca Fraser .St Martin’s Press; 384 pages; $29.99. Published in Britain as “The Mayflower Generation”; Chatto & Windus; £25.

THE story of the Mayflower and its passengers has been told so many times that one cannot help wondering whether the ship’s importance has been overstated. It is not that her journey from Southampton to New England in 1620, carrying dozens of English religious separatists from the Dutch city of Leiden (whither they had fled to escape an England they considered to be under a papist cloud), was not an important event. But it is scarcely possible to exaggerate how large a weight that one small, dilapidated cargo ship, sold for scrap less than five years after her historic voyage, has been asked to bear in America’s imagination. So famous is she that one needs to remind oneself that she was certainly not the first to make the voyage, that the colony at Jamestown in Virginia had existed for more than a decade when she arrived,…Continue reading

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Personal pronouns are changing fast

NOT so long ago a man could be jailed in Texas for sex with another man. In 2015 a county clerk in Kentucky was jailed for refusing to certify the marriage of two men. Gay rights in America proceeded at an extraordinary rate between Lawrence v Texas (2003), in which …

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Giorgio Vasari, the man who created art history

Vasari made craftsmen into stars The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art. By Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney. Norton; 432 pages; $29.95 and £23.99. TOWARDS the end of his life Michelangelo Buonarroti, the most famous artist of the Italian Renaissance, began burning his drawings. He did …

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Esther Kinsky muses on a river in England

Esther Kinsky goes with history’s flow River. By Esther Kinsky. Translated by Iain Galbraith. Fitzcarraldo; 368 pages; £12.99. To be published in America this autumn by Transit Books. IN HER post-war childhood beside the Rhine, the narrator of Esther Kinsky’s third novel learns that “every river is a border.” Flowing …