Saying the words “Puritan” or “Pilgrim” does not readily bring to mind a carnally-minded, lusty or uxurious people. The only word less likely to conjure thoughts of indulgent sensuality would be to say “Huguenot.” We have been given, thanks to the Victorians, a lasting discomfort regarding the bedroom (or common room) antics and pleasures of our fore-fathers and -mothers. But in truth, the Puritans were closer to the Elizabethans in their perceptions of marital bliss than what the Victorians were willing to admit to having, and didn’t have the squeamishness regarding their lack of privacy or hygiene and sanitation that we more modern folk do.
The Puritans were a displaced western European people, used to living in the crowded press of large families and cramped towns and cities, who brought with them to the New World their accustomed way of dressing, eating, farming, etc. Until Cromwell took over the rule of England after the civil war, becoming Lord Protector, the courts of Charles I were brimming with elaborately staged pastimes, including the theater, bull and bear bating, and even executions, which were attended by entire families, including children. Many of the early settlers in America eschewed those sinful or over-indulgent practices, but neither sex, nor public executions, were included in the ban.
It’s hard to imagine the exemplary and estimable Ann Bradstreet becoming overly passionate, but her letters and poems often attest to her sighing over her oft-absent husband. The theologian, Thomas Hooker—his true name, honestly—wrote, “As a wife deales with the letters of her husband that is in a farre Country, she finds many sweet inklings of his love. . .The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves, he dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes. . .she lies in his bosom. . .that the stream of his affection, like a mighty current, runs with ful Tide and strength. . . .” (spelling from the original).
We can only imagine what was in Mr. Hooker’s mind when he wrote that sermon!
“In the morning, it was clear to Martha that the bed ropes weren’t the only things squeaking in the night.” From The Traitor’s Wife
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