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Judge Sewall's Apology


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The most evocative and richly contextualised account of the Salem Witch trials in print. / A fascinating and intriguing history of the Salem Witch Trials. / Hardback was Radio 4 Book of the Week. / Francis' last novel Prospect Hill was critically acclaimed on publication, showing him to be a writer of great talent and versatility.

About the Author

Richard Francis is a visiting lecturer at Bath University. He is a playwright, reviewer, biographer and novelist. Fourth Estate also publish `Ann the Word', the biography of Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, and his novels 'Taking Apart the Poco Poco' and 'Fat Hen'.


In this lively chronicle, historian Francis (Transcendental Utopias) offers a compelling portrait of the decline of Puritan ways in the late 17th century and the ascent of a secular spirit in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Although devout, Samuel Sewall (1652-1730) turned away from an early religious vocation to pursue a career in public office and married into the colony's aristocracy. He found himself catapulted into the limelight as one of nine judges who condemned the alleged witches of Salem in 1692. Francis calls this the turning point in Sewall's life and work. Never convinced that the condemned women were guilty, Sewall felt remorse; in 1697 he walked into a Boston church and offered a public apology, the only one of the three judges to do so. As a result, he was rebuffed by his social circle. Yet, according to Francis, Sewall's courage is magnified by his taking a stand he knew would result in ostracism. In his later years, Sewall wrote tracts opposing the colonists' treatment of Indians and slaves. Francis beautifully captures not only Sewall's personality and significance but also the shifting times in which he lived, when it was becoming no longer possible to "see the world as a simple allegorical struggle between... good and evil." B&w illus. Agent, Caroline Dawnay at PFD, U.K. (Aug. 16) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

'A marvellous book ! intelligent, funny and sympathetic.' The Times 'A timely and disturbing book. Francis draws no contemporary parallels but it is hard to ignore the implications of the early ingrained vision he explores here with such lucidity: a threat of nameless, invisible, omnipresent terror so menacing that it overrides the rule of law and legitimises extremes of violence or torture in the name of the invincibly righteous, pure, innocent American people.' Hilary Spurling, Daily Telegraph 'Francis's biography offers the most balanced and richly contextualised account of the Salem trials currently in print. And in following so closely the advances and turnings of Sewall's innermost thoughts, he takes us on a real-life pilgrim's progress that is both exhilarating and, at times, deeply moving.' John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph Praise for Prospect Hill: 'Readers will like this. What makes Francis's book so satisfying is his bracing mixture of cool observation of foibles with real tenderness for his characters.' Maggie Gee, Sunday Times 'An extremely readable and very funny book. This is a world where everything is known, even the unexpected ! it is reliable, warm and inescapable.' Sean O'Brien, Times Literary Supplement 'Francis has a fine knack of giving voice to the voiceless ! Stockport may not be the centre of the universe, but for Francis it s fertile soil and he seems happily rooted. Prospect Hill is further shining evidence that he has nowhere to stay but out.' Guardian 'The Prose combines observations, Northern slang and fizzing but unforced one-liners to winningly breezy effect ! A big, good-hearted piece of literary entertainment.' Sunday Telegraph

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