Thursday, October 08, 2009
Taking a dim view of human nature
“Timothy’s mother, however, was a scandal and a disgrace. Three months after she married Richard Edwards, in 1667, Elizabeth Tuthill (or Tuttle) revealed that she was pregnant by another man. Richard nonetheless protected her by paying the fine for fornication himself and arranging to have the child raised by her parents. The problem proved to be much deeper. Elizabeth was afflicted with a serious psychosis. She was given to fits of perversity ‘too grievous to forget and too much here to relate,’ repeated infidelities, rages, and threats of violence, including the threat to cut Richard’s throat while he was asleep. The Tuthill family was evidence that New England was not the staid place that we might imagine, but rather one where humans suffered the same horrors found in any era. One of Elizabeth’s sisters murdered her own child, and a brother killed another sister with an ax. Jonathan Edwards is sometimes criticized for having too dim a view of human nature, but it may be helpful to be reminded that his grandmother was an incorrigible profligate, his great-aunt committed infanticide, and his great-uncle was an ax-murder,” G. Marsen, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale 2003), 22.