The subject of David Lindsay's Mayflower Bastard
is Richard More, a distant kinsman of Lindsay's. More, the 5-year-old, illegitimate offspring of a headstrong Shropshire woman and a man of "mean parentage," arrived in the New World on the Mayflower
. He would live long enough to witness the hysteria of the Salem witch trials--and see a friend, accused of wizardry, "pressed" to death by stones. More was a sea captain, merchant, and tavern keeper. He was also an adulterer and a bigamist, whose wives lived on both sides of the Atlantic, forcing him to appear a Puritan in one country, and anything but in the other. What emerges is an intimate portrait of a world hardly holy--far more venal, vindictive, complex, and, especially, litigious than is usually believed. Lindsay's account is a stylistic mélange of first-person, second-person, and third-person history sprinkled with a few present-day anecdotes, in which the author retraces some of More's journeys. While this unorthodox approach lends the subject matter a certain gravity, at times it is merely obfuscatory. --H. O'Billovich
From Publishers Weekly
Histories based on genealogy often suffer from tunnel vision. Lindsay commits the opposite offense in this tale of one Richard More, a Lindsay ancestor who sailed at age five to the Plymouth colony aboard the Mayflower. In using the story of "the Mayflower Bastard" (so-called because More was the illegitimate son of landed gentry) as a lens through which to view early New England history, Lindsay has created a sprawling tale that exhausts the reader's patience as a cast of thousands parades through dozens of familiar scenes most extensively treated elsewhere. Lindsay's strategy is understandable. Little documentation on More, a Salem seafarer and tavern keeper, has survived; even his date of death is unknown. In the hands of a deft writer, the resulting fictionalization and speculation can work brilliantly, but this author is, at best, workmanlike. Lindsay, whose previous books explore inventors and inventions, also falters when choosing a narrative voice. At several points, he addresses a mysterious "you" apparently the accuser who had the elderly More cast out of the church for "lasciviousness." In other places Lindsay lapses into the first person. One of those asides is a gross sexual escapade Lindsay shared with a sailor friend, which the author includes to prove that sailors then and now did not share the moral code of the God-fearing Puritans. Aside from questionable historicity of such a comparison, no reader picking up a book about this nation's origins should be exposed to such a gratuitously offensive interjection. Still, some Mayflower buffs may want this volulme.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.