Wednesday, September 9, 2009

John Newton by Richard Cecil Updated by Marylynn Rousse

It is rare that I give up on a book. I slogged through this one to over half of the original (Cecil's) text and just had to give up. Newton's own narrative is interspersed with Cecil's biography. And then there are the Appendices placed at the end of each chapter. Reading this book is like reading a few paragraphs from one 18th century author, then another, then a few notes about the previous sections. It is very hard to follow. Some of the notes deal with people who knew Newton and are more about those individuals than Newton! I am very disappointed in Rousse's editing job. She could have done a much, much better job of rearranging the material to make it flow in a readable fashion. The language is awkward and hard to understand. A little editing in updating the language for today's reader would have helped also.Cecil"s "authorized" biography was written within a year or so of Newton's death. Perhaps, as it was published so soon, Cecil seems to have deliberately glossed over Newton's life while captain of a slave trading ship. Except for a minor allusion, one would have thought Newton's ship was one carrying spices or something. (One needs to remember his being captain of a slave ship was after his "conversion" during a severe storm at sea.)If you are a scholar and are looking for first sources, then perhaps you will appreciate this book. If you want a readable book on John Newton's life, by all means skip this one.
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