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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

John Wilson
(c. 1588-1667)
According to Cotton Mather, John Wilson, the learned and pious teacher and minister of the first church established in Charlestown, later the First Church of Boston, was beloved by many. In addition, he “had so nimble a Faculty of putting his Devout Thoughts into Verse, that he Signalized himself by the Greatest Frequency, perhaps, that ever Man used, of sending Poems to all Persons, in all Places, on all Occasions” and thus “was a David unto the Flocks of our Lord in the Wilderness.” Educated at King’s College, Cambridge, where he came into contact with Puritan ideas, Wilson sailed with the first group to come to Massachusetts Bay led by John Winthrop. In London in 1626 he published a lengthy poem for children entitled A Song or, Story, For the Lasting Remembrance of diuerse famous works, which God hath done in our time, better known as A Song of Deliverance, the title of the second edition published in Boston in 1680. In New England, he was prolific but published little, circulating most of his poems in manuscript. He especially excelled at composing funeral elegies based on anagrams of the name of the departed, sometimes squeezing up to six anagrams and elegies, in English and Latin, from the names of particularly eminent divines, such as his series on Thomas Shepard and John Norton. His anagrammatic elegy on Abigail Tompson, mother of the poet Benjamin Tompson, while conventionally pious, is notable for its use of the woman’s voice with its gentle critique of her minister husband’s inability to communicate the joys of heaven.

In the Heath Anthology
Anagram made by Mr John Willson of Boston upon the Death of Mrs. Abigaill Tompson, and sent to her husband in Virginia, while he was sent to preach the gospell yr (1640)

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Bringing The Celebration of Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Day to Colonial America
Historical article discussing Wilson's Song of Deliverance in terms of its revival upon a second printing in Boston, 1680.

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