Massachusetts

Timothy Dwight and the Pangs of Despised Love, 1676

[jpshare]Timothy Dwight began to act strangely in the summer of 1676 when he could not see the woman he loved.

He was the 17-year-old son of a Dedham ship captain and apprenticed to Joseph Hull, the father-in-law of Samuel Sewall. Hull was one of the most prominent merchants in Boston and the mintmaster of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Samuel Sewall

Samuel Sewall

Sewall and his new wife Hannah were living in John Hull’s Boston mansion, as were the apprentices Timothy Dwight and John Alcock.

Sewall would later serve as a judge of the Salem witch trials. He also kept a diary, in which he recorded young Timothy Dwight’s paroxysms of love.

 Saturday Even. Aug. 12, 1676, just as prayer ended Tim. Dwight sank down in a swoon, and for a good space was as if he perceived not what was done to him: after, kicked and sprawled, knocking his hands and feet upon the floor like a distracted man. Was carried pickpack to bed by John Alcock, there his clothes pulled off. In the night it seems he talked of ships, his master, father and uncle Eliot. The Sabbath following Father went to him, spake to him to know what ailed him, asked if he would be prayed for, and for what he would desire his friends to pray. He answered, for more sight of sin, and God’s healing grace. I asked him, being alone with him, whether his troubles were from some outward cause or spiritual. He answered, spiritual. I asked him why then he could not tell it his master, as well as any other, since it is the honor of any man to see sin and be sorry for it. He gave no answer, as I remember. Asked him if he would go to meeting. He said, ’twas in vain for him; his day was out. I asked, what day; he answered, of Grace. I told him ’twas sin for any one to conclude themselves reprobate, that this was all one. He said he would speak more, but could not, &c. Notwithstanding all this semblance (and much more than is written) of compunction for sin, ’tis to be feared that his trouble arose from a maid whom he passionately loved: for that when Mr. Dwight and his master had agreed to let him go to her, he eftsoons (Arch: soon afterward) grew well.

Photo: Detail from Samuel Sewall' by John Smibert - Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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